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Thread: Mandolins at rest

  1. #1
    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Mandolins at rest

    Detuning? If you will not be playing an instrument for a day or two or three do you detune?
    If I'm traveling for an extended period of time I always detune instruments a couple of steps that are not going with me.
    But do you detune a step or half step for those short spans of non play? Perhaps my OCD concerns me about things most people may or may not think about.
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Mandolins at rest

    Detuning your E strings from an E to a C drops the string tension roughly in half.
    I would argue, however, that most wear and tear which detrimentally impacts playability would be hastened from tuning/detuning repeatedly. Tuner wear, nut slot wear, bridge movement (a little of which is inevitable - if detuning/tuning up frequently, the bridge tipping over can easily happen if you aren't taking care to keep it upright). Basically everything except fret wear, you're exacerbating.
    If you are keeping the instrument between 50F and 95F and between 35%-75% RH, there is no reason why it being strung up for decades when not in use would cause harm.
    Instruments are designed for string tension. There has been no study done on the cyclical loading of the musical instrument as a structure. You are the test pilot on that one for yourself. It might be fine, but I don't know that the benefits are worth the effort, much less the potential risk.

    Oh yeah... don't ever detune a violin-family instrument before transporting. String tension is what keeps the soundpost in place! The soundpost may fall, will probably need to be repositioned, and might even wedge in and cause the top to split, as in the case of my cello (which I got for $150 because of this).
    I ship my mandolins tuned up to pitch, or within a step... don't want the bridge coming off. No problems so far.

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  4. #3
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins at rest

    never. Never! NEVER!!

    I just don't do it at all! I fly at pitch, I ship at pitch, I store at pitch. My A3 has been to pitch for over 35 years. Same with my 1930 L-1.

    f-d
    ˇpapá gordo ain’t no madre flaca!

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  6. #4
    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins at rest

    I just received two mandolins via shipping last month. Both had been detuned to ship - one just a half step and the other a couple.

    Neither sounded that great the day I tuned them up, it seemed to be the mandolin's sound got much richer and louder for a day or two after getting them back up to pitch. I don't know what the cause [bridge settling in?] but it seemed clear to me and a bandmate noted how significantly better the instrument that was tuned down multiple steps sounded a few days after arrival.

    Given that [and the concerns Martin notes], I wouldn't. If you're leaving it for a very very long period or expect it to have to handle extreme swings in humidity then it might make sense to detune, but I would not do it on a regular basis or just for a few days.

    JMO.
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  8. #5
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins at rest

    fwiw, i've never detuned my mandolins and some I haven't played in four or five years. They sit in their cases so they're fairly well protected from extremes of weather/humidity. I haven't detuned for travel, either. That doesn't mean some of them don't detune themselves over time, but i haven't had any problems even with my cheaper instruments (say, the Rogue). YMMV, of course.
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  10. #6
    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: Mandolins at rest

    Thanks to all that replied. One more OCD behavior I can scratch.
    Keith Edward Coleman A style, oval hole Mandola
    Collings MT
    Weber Gallatin A Mandola "D hole"
    Kentucky KM-950
    Harley Benton A style (Current campfire tool)
    Rogue 100A (Spare canoe paddle)

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  12. #7
    Dan Brooks lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins at rest

    I think that you have every reason to want to do this, and depending on the weather, you will notice your instruments rise in pitch slightly as they sit unplayed in colder weather due to contraction, and in warm weather they will relax a bit and grow flat in pitch as a result of expansion. My philosophy with mandolins and guitars is that the structure of the instrument remains in a constant stable condition when it lives tuned to pitch. The neck and top have a memory and are accustomed to the string tension and climate conditions, so they are able to adapt to changing conditions when they are presented when traveling to perform, etc. This has worked for me for decades, though I wouldn't say that my way is best. Just the right answer for me and my instruments. Ideally, an instrument should live and sleep in the case when not being played. When I sell an instrument, out of courtesy for the buyer I tune down at least a full half note relative pitch. I don't think this is generally necessary but it is widely held to be needed so I do it out of respect and in order to provide good service to the buyer. Great thread, Bill!

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  14. #8
    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: Mandolins at rest

    Quote Originally Posted by lflngpicker View Post
    I think that you have every reason to want to do this, and depending on the weather, you will notice your instruments rise in pitch slightly as they sit unplayed in colder weather due to contraction, and in warm weather they will relax a bit and grow flat in pitch as a result of expansion. My philosophy with mandolins and guitars is that the structure of the instrument remains in a constant stable condition when it lives tuned to pitch. The neck and top have a memory and are accustomed to the string tension and climate conditions, so they are able to adapt to changing conditions when they are presented when traveling to perform, etc. This has worked for me for decades, though I wouldn't say that my way is best. Just the right answer for me and my instruments. Ideally, an instrument should live and sleep in the case when not being played. When I sell an instrument, out of courtesy for the buyer I tune down at least a full half note relative pitch. I don't think this is generally necessary but it is widely held to be needed so I do it out of respect and in order to provide good service to the buyer. Great thread, Bill!
    As per your comment on keeping them in a case: I have seen this discussed many times here. I still fail to see the importance of me keeping them in a case when I am at home. No children and no pets. My wife respects a healthy distance from the instruments. Temperature and humidity are controlled. I keep each on an Ingle violin stand (the most secure stands I have found). If we have guests I do put all in a case except that which I may be playing. Having them out prompts me to play through out the day. Is there something I am missing?
    When traveling in our RV where I have less control over temperature and humidity I do keep them in their case and in a case cover when not being played.
    Keith Edward Coleman A style, oval hole Mandola
    Collings MT
    Weber Gallatin A Mandola "D hole"
    Kentucky KM-950
    Harley Benton A style (Current campfire tool)
    Rogue 100A (Spare canoe paddle)

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  16. #9
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins at rest

    Quote Originally Posted by Pittsburgh Bill View Post
    ...I still fail to see the importance of me keeping them in a case when I am at home...Is there something I am missing?....
    You seem a very careful person, and probably are incurring the minimal amount of risk, keeping your instruments "out." Still, they are in somewhat greater danger than if cased. I once sat in a rocking chair, practicing for a gig where I was backing up a singer who did Hawaiian-style music. While working on a steel guitar part on my Dobro, rocking back and forth, I heard an ominous "crunch" as my Martin Style 0 ukulele had worked its way under one of the rockers. About a $100 crack repair, plus a loaner uke for the gig, ensued.

    This, I'm sure, will never happen to you. But there's still more exposure to a "naked" mandolin et. al. than to one it its case. Room temp and humidity may be generally controlled, but there's still much more control over the in-case environment. And even the most careful, painstaking person may have a moment of inattention or clumsiness; knocking over a mandolin in its case is less likely to cause damage, than knocking one off a stand.

    Plus, I don't understand the often-repeated point of view that one's less likely to spontaneously play an instrument, if it has to be taken out of the case, and put back afterwards. As far as I can determine, that may add 30 seconds to each end of the session, which isn't really that much of a deterrence, IMHO.
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  18. #10

    Default Re: Mandolins at rest

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    As far as I can determine, that may add 30 seconds to each end of the session, which isn't really that much of a deterrence, IMHO.
    Huge deterrence for me. The case is out of sight, out of mind. The wall is in sight, plugged in, ready to go. I'll wipe the dust off, it's worth it. The only real risk is that my kids will play them (and they do... but they're getting to the point that they know Dad gets mad if they're too wild with their picking, or careless handling.)

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  20. #11
    Struggle Monkey B381's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins at rest

    I know from working on my intonation the other day that you can't detune and retune but so many times....the E strings grow tired from the stretch and relax and eventually pop....smh.
    "It doesn't matter how much you invest in your instrument until you invest in you and your ability..."

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  22. #12
    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins at rest

    I fully admit to being very OCD about having flat necks on all of my instruments . . . and in recent years my singing voice has dropped a half-step. Consequently, I have dropped the tuning on all of my instruments from E to E-flat, and now my necks always stay exactly the way that I like them, and I never have to worry about whether or not I have played them in quite some time, or not.
    I recently finished a new homemade 4-song EP of original solo acoustic songs; (sorry, no mandolin content this time). If you are interested in a FREE copy, feel free to send me your address via Private Message, and I will be glad to send you one. Trust me, it will be worth the price!


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  24. #13
    Dan Brooks lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins at rest

    Quote Originally Posted by B381 View Post
    I know from working on my intonation the other day that you can't detune and retune but so many times....the E strings grow tired from the stretch and relax and eventually pop....smh.
    B381, I totally get the breaking E strings while working on intonation thing! I know this is true-- the A's hang in there, but if you want to keep from scratching the lacquer on the arch top, you must be disciplined enough to detune and retune before and after you move the bridge, or you scar it. Great point! Bill is on to something though. I think there is a good time to detune, and I know a lot of buyers request that the seller detune the strings. It can't hurt while in flight or ground transport to the next destination, either. Each player knows what is best for them. Great to share ideas and experiences with each other!

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