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Thread: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    I've known some very serious classical guitar players and when the get a brand new guitar they place it between two speakers and blast Led Zeppelin (I think because of the low frequencies) for 48 hours.

    My first mandolin is arriving today. The seller bought it new 15 years ago and it has sat in its case, virtually untouched, since then. It's a solid spruce/maple F style.

    Does anyone employ a break in procedure for new mandolins?

    I do have a new set of strings.

  2. #2
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    Get ready for a flood of strong opinions!
    Your mandolin isn't new, but has been neglected for a long while...
    Tonerite is a mechanical device to shake an instrument awake.
    I experienced a rapid break in on a new mandolin with a Tonerite...
    It might have been just as quick to put it in the case when I wasn't playing it those first few weeks, but I suspect not.
    The naysayers say I didn't experience any provable event, I just imagined it
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  3. #3
    Hack jeff_75's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Sequimte View Post
    Does anyone employ a break in procedure for new mandolins?
    Play it daily.

    "I'm a farmer with a mandolin and a high tenor voice."

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    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    Yup, you play the hell out of it, and eventually it starts to bloom and open up.

    There are many threads in the forum about various versions of what you are talking about.
    There is the Siminoff treatment. the Tonerite, and dozens best way to s of homemade ideas using everything from a fish tank pump, to power tools.
    The Siminoff treatment does work on as good mandolin to various degrees.
    The Tonerite can make a difference, but is less about breaking in and more about waking a mando up when it hasn't been played for a while, IMHO.

    The truth is that the best way to break in an instrument is to play it, and play it, and play it.
    A good instrument can turn into a great instrument.
    A lesser instrument might gain a little depth or richness.
    Sometimes it is subtle. and sometimes it is substantial.

    I wouldn't bother getting too caught up in trying to rush the instrument.
    It is a bunch of straight wood, bent into unnatural shapes, and it will settle in and find its voice.
    It just takes time.
    For now. just play the instrument and let it find its own voice.
    If in the end it is not sounding like you want it to, move on to a different mandolin.
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    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Sequimte View Post
    My first mandolin is arriving today. The seller bought it new 15 years ago and it has sat in its case, virtually untouched, since then. It's a solid spruce/maple F style.

    Does anyone employ a break in procedure for new mandolins?

    I do have a new set of strings.
    If you want I can break it in for you. Shouldn't take more than a couple months.

  8. #6

    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    I guess I'll play it for an hour or two each day and put the stand in front of a speaker. I had wondered if the break in effect was similar, despite the smaller and different structure of a mandolin and the consensus seems to be that it is. I believe in the effects of the Tonerite but I'm not looking for something other than a DIY method.

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    Bluegrass Mayhem marbelizer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    Caleb Klauder wrote in the description of a recent Mandolin Mondays, "The mandolin and I fought for about 8 years and then after beating it into submission it started reacting the way I wanted it to." https://youtu.be/ofma6FCHMCY

    You may not need to do that. Just play it as much as you can every day. It's a good idea to play it hard some of the time but you won't have to "beat it into submission", unless that's how you roll.
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  10. #8

    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    Play it everyday. Soon, you will bloom and open up. The instrument will remain the same, pleasing and capable lump of wood as it was on the day you got it.
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  12. #9
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    I agree with those above who say play it and play it and, while you are doing that, play it. Also, as Gary noted above: you will bloom and open up. Besides if you have to blast Led Zeppelin for hours at it every day I would switch to tuba.
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  14. #10

    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    I believe you have to blast Wagner at a new tuba.
    "I play BG so that's what I can talk intelligently about." A line I loved and pirated from Mandoplumb

  15. #11

    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    It is here, joining the Tacoma Guitar family. The Olympia solid wood series came and went in the blink of an eye. The OP20-SWM parlor in the photo is serial number 00001. The OM6-SW mandolin was longer lived, so I was delighted to see that this one is serial number 0002. The last photo shows a scalloped bump where the body joins the neck just below the last dot. Is this normal? I hadn't noticed it in photos of other mandolins.
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  16. #12

    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    Here's the nice thing about playing it every day:
    Either the mandolin will settle in, open up and find its voice
    or
    You will adjust your playing to draw the best tone out of that particular mandolin
    or
    Some combination of the two.

    Then it will sound better and you can attribute it to whatever you want
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    Registered User Kevin Stueve's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Sequimte View Post
    I guess I'll play it for an hour or two each day and put the stand in front of a speaker. I had wondered if the break in effect was similar, despite the smaller and different structure of a mandolin and the consensus seems to be that it is. I believe in the effects of the Tonerite but I'm not looking for something other than a DIY method.
    About the time your mandolin calluses will let you play 2 hours you will be broken in.
    2012 Weber Bitterroot F5.

  18. #14
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    We have lots of anecdotes, but I only know of one bit of science on the subject of "break-in", more specifically, effect of a mechanical vibrating device.
    You are, of course, free to form your own opinions based on whatever information you choose, but if you are at all scientifically inclined you may find this interesting, and if so this abstract van lead you to the full article:
    https://www.savartjournal.org/index....rticle/view/22

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  20. #15

    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    I appreciate it, sunburst. My favorite class was Physics and I try to keep learning.

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    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    Did you buy it to play it? Well then, play it!

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    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Sequimte View Post
    I've known some very serious classical guitar players and when the get a brand new guitar they place it between two speakers and blast Led Zeppelin (I think because of the low frequencies) for 48 hours.

    My first mandolin is arriving today. The seller bought it new 15 years ago and it has sat in its case, virtually untouched, since then. It's a solid spruce/maple F style.

    Does anyone employ a break in procedure for new mandolins?

    I do have a new set of strings.
    I was talking with Emory Gordy, Jr. a few years ago and he said he uses the same type of method. I don't recall it being Led Zeppelin. However, it was something heavy on the bass. I'm certain he had the necessary bass equipment because he was in Emmylou's original Hot Band and played bass for Elvis, Neil Diamond, Billy Joel and many others.
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  23. #18

    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    There are people whose opinion I respect who swear by the Tonerite, so my skepticism remains guarded.
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  24. #19
    Registered User tbown's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    I had a famous brand, high end model mandolin at one point that was one of the most beautiful instruments I've owned. I tried lots of things to get it to open up -- played it ALOT, bought a tonerite and kept it running for weeks, had the tonebars/top tuned, kept it hanging on a wall in my studio to receive sympathetic vibrations from music in the room. I bought it thinking it would open up and develop the way other mando's I've owned have done and tried my best to make it work. In the end, while its beauty was a thing to behold, it never developed the depth of tone and volume I was hoping for.

    Most instruments I've owned have developed tonally/sonicly over time whether or not that is due to physics, wood expanding/contracting, my adaptation to the instrument, or some other mystical factor, I don't know. I know it happens and it is a beautiful thing!

    P.S., I have an early model Mandolin Tonerite I'm willing to let go for $50 plus shipping if anyone is interested. :-)
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  25. #20

    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    Poplar is famous for changing properties over time. Pre-plywood, it was used for roofing because it became tougher and gripped the roofing nails tighter as the years went on. It is a primary wood in most "vintage" drums, particularly Ludwig and Slingerland.

    It may turn out that vibrating wood, possibly combined with other factors, releases moisture faster and that the resulting lighter mass causes increased resonance. Or it may be that certain microscopic structural elements fracture and become more flexible. Whatever is going on is going to vary depending on type and grade of wood, pre-build aging and drying and type of finish.

    It stands to reason that physical change from movement and age is continual and also that subjective experience is sometimes exaggerated or misperceived. The scientific study cited shows that this type of change does not occur in every instrument in every environment and we may thus conclude that there is no certainty that any amount of vibration will give results in every particular case.

  26. #21

    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    Why do people buy instruments that need to “open up”? Is it common to buy instruments that don’t sound good and hope the sound “develops” to match the beauty of the finish as mentioned above? Seems more than a bit odd to me.

    Of course, ymmv
    Play it like you mean it.

  27. #22
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    Why do people buy instruments that need to “open up”? Is it common to buy instruments that don’t sound good and hope the sound “develops” to match the beauty of the finish as mentioned above? Seems more than a bit odd to me.

    Of course, ymmv
    Bill, I have two mandolins that were custom made for me...the only way to know their sound was to wait. Both are from master builders who I was happy to trust, and it’s proven to be a good choice. Both mandolins are the builders top of the line, so I wasn’t waiting for a miracle, just waiting for progress in due time. I wasn’t waiting for a lump of coal to magically shine.
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  28. #23

    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    Frank Ford once gave me sage advice. Never buy an instrument for what you think it will be, buy it for what it is.
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  30. #24
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    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    It's been said. Play it.
    I have no experience with the vibration enhancement devices, but I did try leaning a guitar on a speaker many years ago. It fell over which did not improve it's sonic capacity any...
    But there is this really subtle thing that happens when getting used to a new instrument. If you have a half decent ear you can make small changes to your hand position, picking style, picks, favorite strings, and a thousand other small things to make the instrument sound the way you want it to. I'm not sure it's even a conscious thing. You just do it. And the instrument sounds better to one's own ears. Does the wood "open up"? Who is to say?

    The more valuable the instrument, the more likely you are to stick with it until it sounds right.

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  32. #25
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking in a brand new mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    Frank Ford once gave me sage advice. Never buy an instrument for what you think it will be, buy it for what it is.
    How will our cherished and revered builders ever sell a new mandolin? Is it only to suckers like me? Should they only be sold like wine, after it's been aged? If that was the norm, do you think perhaps all builders would employ mechanical devices to make their aging products actually age?
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