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Thread: Mandolins "Opening Up"

  1. #1
    Jerry Cobbs jerrycobbs's Avatar
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    Default Mandolins "Opening Up"

    So I see people talk about playing a new mandolin, or one that maybe has been stored and recently put back into playing condition, and they talk about it "opening up" and the sound changing as it is played. Just wanted to put out a few questions and gather some opinions on the subject, just to get peoples' thoughts:

    1. What specifically are you hearing when you say it "opens up"?

    2. Have you ever had someone else listen and be able to hear what you're hearing?

    I ask #2 because I'm curious; is it really the mandolin changing, or is it the player "settling in" and getting used to how the instrument sounds? Or both?

    3. Is "opening up" basically a conventional-wisdom kind of thing, or has anyone ever tried to study the matter objectively?

    I realize that mandolins, like violins, guitars, etc., are made from natural materials that were once living, breathing organisms, and they are definitely affected by their environment. I'm fascinated by the idea that the act of playing itself seems to affect the instrument. Just wanted to see what people had to say about the matter.
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  3. #2

    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Play it like you mean it.

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  5. #3
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    While you're waiting for an answer here are approximately 2,280 past mentions of the term "open up" on the cafe.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Why isn’t there a “cracking a beer and ordering a pizza icon?”
    Not to be a complete jerk, ‘‘tis a subject that has been discussed “ad nauseum” with numerous links above.
    I agree some of it may well be “player acclimatization” as much as anything else but, it’s time for a pizza...
    Last edited by Timbofood; Sep-03-2019 at 3:50pm.
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by Timbofood View Post
    Why isn’t there a “cracking a beer and ordering a pizza icon?”
    Not to be a complete jerk, ‘‘tis a subject that has been discussed “ad nauseum” with numerous links above.
    I agree some of it may well be “player acclimatization” as much as anything else but, it’s time for a pizza...
    I like the term "player acclimatization" even though it has only been used a couple of times in the cafe and probably 1000 times less than "open up"

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    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    I can go for a pizza ...

  12. #7

    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by T.D.Nydn View Post
    I can go for a pizza ...
    Great. If you're buying, I'd like double cheese and pepperoni.
    Play it like you mean it.

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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Once they start talking about their feelings and schedule some time with a marriage counselor it’s time to list them here in the classifieds.
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    Astro 

  16. #9
    F5G & MD305 Astro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Some mandolins just have intimacy issues.
    Last edited by Astro; Sep-03-2019 at 7:46pm.
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    Scroll Lock Austin Bob's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    To the OP, it is a fascinating subject, that's why there are so many post about it. Most seem to fall into three camps:

    • Those who definitely believe it to be true. There are many prominent musicians and builders in this category.
    • Those who say: "Fine, if you say it is true, prove it."
    • Those who swear that's it's not true. This seems to be the minority camp.
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  18. #11
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    I think many feel it is true to some degree, but that the effect is very often overly exaggerated. And that it is relevant more for some instruments than for others. Many of the best instruments sound "opened up" from the get go but prob most new instruments will chill out more to some degree in the first few months. But never buy a crappy sounding instrument with the baited prediction that it will open up. Maybe it will, maybe it wont. But if it takes 50 years to open up, what do you care. You're playing it now.
    No matter where I go, there I am...Unless I'm running a little late.

  19. #12
    Registered User EvanElk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    I guess I shouldn't be surprised any more when someone new to the Cafe asks an honest question that you all think is old hat and rather than be kind to the guy, you turn into the worst kind of social media troll or the powerless nerdy IT guy at work who wields knowledge over people...it just drives people away from the forum. I think it's amazing that we have such a rich archive of information and it's awesome when folks point folks to earlier discussions, but it's like y'all are lying in wait to haze new members or something. Do a search for how many posts start with "I have been afraid to post forever and now I have gotten up the nerve..."

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  21. #13

    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Google:

    No results found for "I have been afraid to post forever and now I have gotten up the nerve...".
    "I play BG so that's what I can talk intelligently about." A line I loved and pirated from Mandoplumb

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    Registered User EvanElk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by FLATROCK HILL View Post
    Google:

    No results found for "I have been afraid to post forever and now I have gotten up the nerve...".
    You know what I mean

  24. #15
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    If instruments do not "open up," then why are the older ones so sought after for their sound (even electric guitars)? Age and play-time bring some kind of mojo to a guitar, mandolin, violin, etc. There would be no vintage market if this were not true.
    "The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly
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    Favourable conditions never come."
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  26. #16
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    ===================

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  27. #17

    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by EvanElk View Post
    You know what I mean
    Yes... I do know what you mean. And I know you meant well in making that point. But really...

    Quote Originally Posted by EvanElk View Post
    ...and rather than be kind to the guy, you turn into the worst kind of social media troll or the powerless nerdy IT guy at work who wields knowledge over people...
    ... that seems to be a bit of an overreaction.

    I don't think anyone meant to sound like "the worst kind of social media troll", even the guy who suggested ordering pizza!
    "I play BG so that's what I can talk intelligently about." A line I loved and pirated from Mandoplumb

  28. #18

    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    I am of the opinion that it is more of the person driving the instrument that opens up to the instrument (like 80/20). But yes, this topic is like flogging a horse that may be dead, is trotting to greener pastures, or running a quarter mile depending on who you talk to. Just like the audiophile forums where this is discussed to death and you can never prove either way.

    I read an interesting article once and I wish I could find it again, but alas I cannot. It stated that the human ear and brain was not developed to store and retrieve sounds, making objective comparison of sounds impossible. It is all subjective, whether a mandolin sounds better at one point or the next. Too many variables, from the strings settling in under tension, the days' weather and humidity, the listener's ears being stuffy, the barometric pressure being low, the finish hardening up..

    But I would imagine if it was just time and playing, then we all could save a lot of money and simply buy a 60$ rogue and play it a decade or two for it to sound better. A well made instrument will sound good straight off the bench, and probably even better years down the road with someone taking proper care of the instrument and tweaking the setup, intonation and whatnot. This isn't related to just this instrument, there are several hundreds of years of experience with all types of instruments that we could use as a study. I bet for every single instrument that opens up and sounds better over the decades, there are 4 similar instruments that have been kicked to the curb and tossed out.
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  29. #19
    Registered User KrittMoore's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    I joined the cafe back in 2002. Since then I have greatly benefited from the vast volume of knowledge in this forum. I would have to agree with Evan on this one and assume that his “overreaction” was not necessarily entirely addressing this single post, but years of newcomers (and old alike) getting smart Alec responses. If bluegrass jams I attend had some of the regular rude cafe posters I’d be hesitant to attend. Might just be that I need thicker skin...who knows.

  30. #20
    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Leonard View Post
    I am of the opinion that it is more of the person driving the instrument that opens up to the instrument (like 80/20). But yes, this topic is like flogging a horse that may be dead, is trotting to greener pastures, or running a quarter mile depending on who you talk to. Just like the audiophile forums where this is discussed to death and you can never prove either way.

    I read an interesting article once and I wish I could find it again, but alas I cannot. It stated that the human ear and brain was not developed to store and retrieve sounds, making objective comparison of sounds impossible. It is all subjective, whether a mandolin sounds better at one point or the next. Too many variable speeds , from the strings settling in under tension, the days' weather and humidity, the listener's ears being stuffy, the barometric pressure being low, the finish hardening up..

    But I would imagine if it was just time and playing, then we all could save a lot of money and simply buy a 60$ rogue and play it a decade or two for it to sound better. A well made instrument will sound good straight off the bench, and probably even better years down the road with someone taking proper care of the instrument and tweaking the setup, intonation and whatnot. This isn't related to just this instrument, there are several hundreds of years of experience with all types of instruments that we could use as a study. I bet for every single instrument that opens up and sounds better over the decades, there are 4 similar instruments that have been kicked to the curb and tossed out.
    With all due respect, this is oversimplified, from my perspective. I do appreciate the very clear view though, and I have wondered if some of what you are saying is true from time to time.

    I agree all variables and what not should be considered, like weather, strings, and whatever else. But, where I diverge is in the physiology of the wood, with respect to the physiology of the finish as well. Wood decays or changes quickly. Is a physical process, cellular, if you will. It happens. It can also be manipulated. Depending on where wood is, it can decay or stay preserved. So, if we have a dead piece of wood slathered in oil or plastic, it’s protected, but still exposed to the elements to sone degree, and a person is also striking it thousands of times to make it vibrate a certain way, which impacts it too. Change is inevitable, and we can impact how it changes.

    I know there’s no scientific way to show it, but science isn’t all there is. In fact, science is pretty new compared to luthiery, at least empirical science. In fact, scientific experimentation may not be able to solve this riddle, because it is likely impossible to control the conditions of the variables. Even two instruments built side by side by the same luthier using the same tree, during a moderate time of year, while the luthier is in good mental health, etc. won’t be considered controlled conditions.

    So, we can happily ditch the “can’t prove it” argument because in fact it can be proven by simply using our ears. In fact, there are other forms of research that are entirely based on perception, which is decidedly incapable of being fixed or unchanging. With those styles, the best we can ever do is try to piece together someone’s experience (i.e. hearing a mandolin over time), knowing it will definitely be different each time. So, I’m that sense, human perception is all we have to go on, just like the days prior to empirical science.

  31. #21

    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Leonard View Post
    A well made instrument will sound good straight off the bench
    Actually, it won't (compared to how it will)
    But Amsterdam was always good for grieving
    And London never fails to leave me blue
    And Paris never was my kinda town
    So I walked around with the Ft. Worth Blues

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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    ........
    Last edited by ColdBeerGoCubs; Sep-03-2019 at 10:31pm.
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    I don't hear an "opening up " as a lot of players refer to. I guess they have much better ears than I do! My Ellis and Girouard mandolins sounded great from the first time I played them and still sound great but I don't hear any improvement or opening up as they refer to.
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

  34. #24
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by FLATROCK HILL View Post
    Yes... I do know what you mean. And I know you meant well in making that point. But really...



    ... that seems to be a bit of an overreaction.

    I don't think anyone meant to sound like "the worst kind of social media troll", even the guy who suggested ordering pizza!
    It was definitely an extreme reaction in defense of newbies, but I think new people are looking to engage with the group as well as get factual information and most of the time this community is awesome and welcoming..but too many times you see people get razzed and told to go look it up in the archive when what they want is to get into a dialogue with some of the knowledgable folks on this board. I've learned a ton from this group.

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  36. #25
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    Great. If you're buying, I'd like double cheese and pepperoni.
    Tuna and onions here, please.
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