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Thread: General Mandolin Post

  1. #26

    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    Hi Joe,
    You are correct. It doesn't have to be perfect to sound good or play ok. Nobody knows that better than professional musicians, who often neglect or delay maintenance on their instruments. I often see instruments in need of a refret or crack repair being used nightly on stage and sounding great. I think of an old 73 Cadillac I had that "used" about a quart of oil a week. I had to make a 1000 mile trip to Florida and had no other vehicle. My "logic" based on my experience with the car was as long as I stopped every hour to check the oil I would be fine and could make the trip. I took it easy and I got there ok. I also used about 10 quarts of oil (back when oil was 79 cents a quart) -- so certainly not a perfect vehicle for long distance travel, but I made it work. I think pros think this way. They have gigs and need their instrument and don't want to deal with the down time. Or, maybe just putting off expensive repair....

    I would say "hobbyists" probably maintain their equipment better than most pros do. It makes me want to scream when people on these forums talk about YEARLY fret jobs. I say (to myself) they don't know what they are talking about. But, it is part of the hobby for them and makes them happy. And, I'm sure their repairman is happy to get steady work.....

    Another, funny tale from my repair experience. I was setting up a guitar for an old timer and he says what are you doing? "adjusting your intonation." He replied, "In-TOW-nation? I guess we didn't have that back in the 60's?"

    In a sense, he is right. And, like you said a guitar or mandolin either played good or it didn't. Some sounded more "in tune" than others. We are basically talking about the same thing, just in more technical terms.

    My "boss" buys every new gadget StewMac offers. And some of them are great. But, I am "old school" and don't like to be burdened by technology or have it get in the way of my experience. Feeler gauges or just "eyeballing it" are plenty good for most instrument repair and maintenance, IMHO.

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  3. #27
    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    Man! I have enjoyed reading this! To my little feeble mind, it seems like the ever present tension between the objective and the subjective. I've seen the time, and still do, when I would obsess over some little thing to the omission of the whole thing. The "trees are important but so is the forest".

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  5. #28
    2TonCommon
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    IMHO, no.

    Amen! You're dead on with that one



    Just remember what Oscar Wilde said about the bagpipes: "Thank God there's no smell!"

    Amen! You couldn't be more correct!
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  6. #29
    2TonCommon
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    Quote Originally Posted by multidon View Post
    Joe, I’m the one who brought up thousands of an inch, and if that put you off I’m sorry. But the truth is that using feeler gauges to measure string action and relief has been standard operating procedure for many years now, in the factories and in repair shops. This includes all fretted instruments, not just mandolins. But the point was brought up in an earlier post about mandolins being much more finicky because of the size.

    I think you are spot on about taking care of problems for yourself, and not running to the luthier for every little thing. I believe every player should learn to adjust their own action and relief. If you get that set up e-book by our member Rob Meldrum, you’ll learn a ton. And it’s free, all you have to do is ask him for it.

    Naturally there was a time when very few people had feeler gauges. What did they do? Old timers used to say a dime at the first fret and a nickel at the twelfth. Truth is, though, that’s quite high. A dime is .053” and a nickel is .077”. Your first fret should be more like .020, or in that neighborhood. A business card is a good gauge for that. The twelfth fret should be around .060”. So a dime is too thin, a nickel too thick. Now, if the nickel just slips under the strings at fret 14, that might be good. Some use picks of different thicknesses for feeler gauges. They’re usually gauged in millimeters, so you have to convert. For example, a .5 mm pick (pretty thin) equals pretty close to the .020” you’re looking for at first fret.

    But why improvise at all, when a set of feeler gauges costs less than 10 dollars at any auto parts store, or $3.99 if you happen to have a nearby Harbor Freight? It’s an inexpensive item I believe every player should have if they want to adjust their own instrument, which they should. And it’s a good idea to record the measurements of your instrument when it’s the way you like it. That way, if something changes, you know where to go back to. You should record action at 1st fret, action at 12th, and relief at 7th.

    Different people like their mandolin set up different ways. I bought a Weber mandolin from a store where the luthier/owner messed with the factory set up and it was way too high for me. When I pointed it out he said he did that because “that’s how the bluegrassers like it”. I asked him to return it to factory specs, which he graciously did, and I ended up buying the mandolin. I would have passed on it otherwise.

    Again, I’m sorry if I came off as overly fussy. And of course I know perfection is not possible. But why not try to make your instrument the best it can be, especially when it’s not particularly expensive or difficult to do so?
    Don - under no circumstances should you apologize. In fact, it is me who should be apologizing for a very poorly written post. It was very much NOT about what you wrote- which was both informative and intelligent, if you think my post was directed at you, I feel ashamed of myself and want to assure you it was not. I'm not well-versed in expressing myself. Your post was very, very much appreciated as well as everyone elses. I have enormous respect for every person on this site, less respect for my inartful posts. This one falls totally on me and I'm immensely sorry for the misunderstanding. Please keep up your very excellent and immense knowledge, it is essential to this form.

    Many, many apologies,
    Joe
    "Of all the harm that ere' I've done,
    Alas, it was to none but me."


    Goodnight and Joy be to you all!

  7. #30

    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    Quote Originally Posted by 2TonCommon View Post
    Hello everyone.
    I was really reluctant about this post but decided to take a stab at it. Hopefully it will come out alright without me offending everyone in the Café.
    I've been an avid reader for some time now and am extremely impressed with the knowledge and expertise found here. Everyone has been very gracious, (with one rude exception), and helpful with their advice and opinions. All in all, an exceptional forum.
    I have never offered up an opinion/advice as I feel it is better left to the people who know what they're talking about. Well, here's my first and probably only opinion piece I'll ever write.
    Recently I posted a question in the Builders/repair section and was given very excellent advice by well-schooled and polite members. However, I've been giving a lot of thought lately to what appears to me as a collective attitude concerning Mandolins. NOTE: I may be totally off-base. So take this with some level of skepticism.
    When I started paying Guitar/banjo/mandolin in 1970 I never remember ever discussing the finer points of the instrument. If it sounded good and was fairly easy to play, well, you just went with it. Of course, there were no forums or computers for that matter back then. If there was a problem, we usually did our best to fix it ourselves and kept on playing.
    Now, I'm reading more and more of the need to have a "perfect" instrument. Measurements in the thousanths, tearing down and basically rebuilding the instrument etc. Granted, the instruments of today are pricey compared to the $800.00 I would pay for a new Gibson RB-800 5 string back then. Same with Martin.
    But,do you really need to have everything 100%perfect with a mandolin/guitar/banjo to have it sound good? What if, like me, you live in a climate that makes it impossible to ever have the perfect instrument. Or, there is no luthier within a reasonable driving distance to take care of tweaking. Franckly, I can't afford to send a mandolin out for adjustment every time there's a slight bend, bow, buzz etc. As we did 50 years ago, you took care of it the best you could. Yes, time changes things, but this leaves me scratching my head sometimes. If it sounds good, plays good and doesn't fly apart in your hands - is there really a need to sweat the small stuff?
    I hope this doesn't come across as negative(it's not) but I get terrified when I read about all the procedures you need done to have a "playable" instrument.
    Hell, I played Great Highland Bagpipes for over 25 years in upstate NY and Canada and remember using duct tape to hold things together for 5 mile parades. The pipes never sounded better. Same with flute, Uillean and Northumbrian pipes.
    Anyway, I absolutely enjoy and take to heart the advice here - it's insightful and useful.
    Just wondering how far to take it.

    Thanks for your attention and time,
    as always- warmest regards,
    Joe
    Well, you can't compare 1970 with 2019...its not even close in so many ways. You asked in the builders forum and sounds like you got alot of technical answers from people who "know what they are talking about"...well, yeah I would expect that in that sub-forum. I would expect measurements to be in the thousandths...I've built instruments and it matters.

    However, your idea - or mine - of perfect is most certainly not universally shared. You state you are "terrified" and concern yourself so much with what others think is "playable"...the only opinion that matters is yours.

    The Cafe is a great place, I've not experienced the "collective attitude" concerning the need to have a "perfect" mandolin...but heck yeah, a builder better concern themselves with the details...would you buy a sloppily made instrument...I sure wouldn't.

    As in everything else in life some do "sweat the small stuff" and others put their things away wet...you'll have to decide what works for you.
    Northfield F5M #268, AT02 #7

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  9. #31
    2TonCommon
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    Default General Mandolin Post - Re-dux and apologies

    Good evening everyone.
    Last night I started a Post with some trepidation. Truthfully, I'm glad I did, as I received exactly what I expected from the forum members - incite, truth and knowledge. For that I'm a much better person, Thank you.

    However, it is imperative that I offer my utmost apologies if I unintentionally offended ANY member of this forum. Einstein I am not and many times things come off as a little rough. My very most sincere apologies if this happened. I value everyone's opinion very much, and I DO definitely listen and learn. So please, forgive an old man's verbal awkwardness. I love this forum and it's members. You're a big part of my life.

    Very kindest regards,
    Joe
    "Of all the harm that ere' I've done,
    Alas, it was to none but me."


    Goodnight and Joy be to you all!

  10. #32
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    I just merged these threads.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  12. #33
    2TonCommon
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    I just merged these threads.
    Did you use Super Glue or Titebond Hot Hide Glue?":-)
    "Of all the harm that ere' I've done,
    Alas, it was to none but me."


    Goodnight and Joy be to you all!

  13. #34
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    Quote Originally Posted by 2TonCommon View Post
    Did you use Super Glue or Titebond Hot Hide Glue?":-)
    Threads are not glued, they are wound.

    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

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  15. #35
    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    ops

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  17. #36
    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post - Re-dux and apologies

    Quote Originally Posted by 2TonCommon View Post
    Good evening everyone.
    Last night I started a Post with some trepidation. Truthfully, I'm glad I did, as I received exactly what I expected from the forum members - incite, truth and knowledge. For that I'm a much better person, Thank you.

    However, it is imperative that I offer my utmost apologies if I unintentionally offended ANY member of this forum. Einstein I am not and many times things come off as a little rough. My very most sincere apologies if this happened. I value everyone's opinion very much, and I DO definitely listen and learn. So please, forgive an old man's verbal awkwardness. I love this forum and it's members. You're a big part of my life.

    Very kindest regards,
    Joe
    I was biting my lip. Thanks for seeing the other ways your post could be interpreted.

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  19. #37
    Registered User Pete Summers's Avatar
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    Quote Originally Posted by 2TonCommon View Post
    But,do you really need to have everything 100%perfect with a mandolin/guitar/banjo to have it sound good? What if, like me, you live in a climate that makes it impossible to ever have the perfect instrument. Or, there is no luthier within a reasonable driving distance to take care of tweaking. Franckly, I can't afford to send a mandolin out for adjustment every time there's a slight bend, bow, buzz etc. As we did 50 years ago, you took care of it the best you could. Yes, time changes things, but this leaves me scratching my head sometimes. If it sounds good, plays good and doesn't fly apart in your hands - is there really a need to sweat the small stuff?
    Joe
    All string instruments are imperfect by their very design and the laws of acoustics. And sounding "good" is entirely subjective. Certainly with mandolins perhaps more than other instruments, set-up is very important, the quality of the instrument itself less so -- much good music has been played on cigar box instruments. As the old saying goes, "it's not the arrow, it's the Indian."

    That being said, you naturally want the best instrument you can afford, but I think you should work with what you have and enjoy the process of learning. It's good for the brain.

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  21. #38

    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    The precision should apply only where it makes a difference to you in feel or sound. For people not used to working in thousandths of an inch it sounds like nitpicking. A human hair or a piece of paper is about 0.003 inches (3 thousandths of an inch). But in some areas that small difference has a noticeable effect.

    One of the places where it most definitely will make a difference are on the fret board. If you have a fret that is 0.005 inches high you will usually get a buzz which you will hear and bothered by. If the fret is 0.010 high it will drive you crazy. A fret mislocated lengthwise by 0.005 or 0.010 will play slightly out of tune. You may not know why but it will probably not seem right to you. I recently made a tweak on my truss rod taking relief from about 0.010 to 0.005. It seemed to play better. I do not have to work as hard to get a good sound. That is subjective and if you instrument plays fine then don't worry about it. Mine seemed to be more of a struggle to play so I checked. It creeps in gradually so you may not notice.

    If a tuner bushing hole is 0.001 larger than the post it will turn ok. If it is 0.001 smaller than the post it probably will not turn at all or be very tight. If you do not work with these things a lot you will not think in terms of the hole size, just that it works or does not.

    For some people it is easier to take it to a repairman. They don't want to be bothered with that stuff. Just make it play good. That is fine too if you pay him or her fairly to make it work. Just like a car or motorcycle. Some people love to tinker and worry about every little thing to make it run better. Some people just want to drive it and take it to a mechanic.

    The only time it is offensive is if someone does not want to be bothered to learn proper terminology, to use proper terminology or to be concerned with the precision but then they want to argue with and belittle the guys who do it for a living. That is arrogant and wrong. Not saying or implying you have done this but others have from time to time.

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  23. #39
    2TonCommon
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    The precision should apply only where it makes a difference to you in feel or sound. For people not used to working in thousandths of an inch it sounds like nitpicking. A human hair or a piece of paper is about 0.003 inches (3 thousandths of an inch). But in some areas that small difference has a noticeable effect.

    One of the places where it most definitely will make a difference are on the fret board. If you have a fret that is 0.005 inches high you will usually get a buzz which you will hear and bothered by. If the fret is 0.010 high it will drive you crazy. A fret mislocated lengthwise by 0.005 or 0.010 will play slightly out of tune. You may not know why but it will probably not seem right to you. I recently made a tweak on my truss rod taking relief from about 0.010 to 0.005. It seemed to play better. I do not have to work as hard to get a good sound. That is subjective and if you instrument plays fine then don't worry about it. Mine seemed to be more of a struggle to play so I checked. It creeps in gradually so you may not notice.

    If a tuner bushing hole is 0.001 larger than the post it will turn ok. If it is 0.001 smaller than the post it probably will not turn at all or be very tight. If you do not work with these things a lot you will not think in terms of the hole size, just that it works or does not.

    For some people it is easier to take it to a repairman. They don't want to be bothered with that stuff. Just make it play good. That is fine too if you pay him or her fairly to make it work. Just like a car or motorcycle. Some people love to tinker and worry about every little thing to make it run better. Some people just want to drive it and take it to a mechanic.

    The only time it is offensive is if someone does not want to be bothered to learn proper terminology, to use proper terminology or to be concerned with the precision but then they want to argue with and belittle the guys who do it for a living. That is arrogant and wrong. Not saying or implying you have done this but others have from time to time.
    Hi Carl. Thanks for the post. You hit it square on the nose. Rather than belittle, or be arrogant or even rude, I would rather put the instrument down and never play again. Which was my ultimate point. I was raised and have lived my life better than that.Thank you for the excellent post.
    Best wishes,
    Joe
    "Of all the harm that ere' I've done,
    Alas, it was to none but me."


    Goodnight and Joy be to you all!

  24. #40
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    some luthiers know how to be precise. Find those folks!

    f-d
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  26. #41

    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    Hey, the OP wanted opinions and got them. Nothing to apologize for.

    Now you could have derided those stupid individuals who went out and bought the new Schmergel 3000, when not six months ago the 2500 was touted as the all time greatest. Might offend those idiots foolish to think it's actually an improvement. As a proud Schmergel 1800 owner, everyone with a brain would recognize that the 1800 is the pinicle of mandolin craft.
    Silverangel A
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  28. #42
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    Yes, maybe a Schmergel 1800 is the pinicle, but that would logically leave the 2500 to be considered the pinnacle right?
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

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  30. #43
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    Personally one will never have a "perfect" instrument if you play it! That's the truth as I see it, they get flaws, need adjusted, set-ups etc...I wouldn't want something perfect and pretty if I couldn't play it, I'm flawed as a human is there anyone who isn't? All my instruments may be nice but flawed in certain areas be it a crack here a chip there a crazed crackled finish? If you want perfection buy the best newest thing you can afford and put it in a climate controlled glass case to look at because if you play it there will be flaws, oh yes there will be flaws!

    Now with set-ups yes if you play you want it to be as perfect as possible but then again you play em you'll be in the future making adjustments its just the way it is but well worth it for full tonal bliss!

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  32. #44
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    2TonCommon, like others, thank you for your comments.
    It strikes me that we often spend more time worrying over chips, scratches, dings, the expenses of our instruments, how many we own, when we should be practicing and improving our playing. Cosmetic flaws won't hinder us from working on arpeggios and scales and tunes. Poor set up will. My main hobby is building bamboo fly rods and I'm mentored by one of the living "grand old men" of rodmaking. He's been making rods for 45 years now. He goes to his shop and works every day. Except when he's off fishing. As you might expect there's a website similar to the Cafe devoted to bamboo builders. Often one could substitute the word(s) "mandolin" for "bamboo fly rod" and the discussion posted about fly rods would sound like many here. I asked this guy one time if he ever frequented the rod builders site. He responded that his daily work was more instructive and productive than spending time (like I am doing here) reading and posting to a website. Now I don't want to diminish the value of this great place online. But maybe we believe that having the "perfect instrument" will play itself while we get the credit for what comes out of the box. Personally when I read the description of a "players instrument" that excites me more than a museum piece. Maybe the player is really the one to own.

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  34. #45
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    As in everything when talking to builders and luthiers and mandolin fan boys people will always get beat case I d empty how to make it perfect advice. In the end it is up to the individual to take it as far as they want. If you get it to a point you are happy with tone and playability and no know future Seuss with they way it is then all is good. But if you don’t know all the steps how can you beat judge how far you want to take it? When I fixed medical equipment the saying was knowledge is power and bleach is my friend. At least half of that applies when working on instruments.
    I have a distinct feeling, John, that your autocorrect is invading your post above:
    "people will always get beat case I d empty how to make it perfect advice" ?
    "no know future Seuss with they way it is" ?

    Green Eggs and Sam Bush I am? Sorry. I sometimes get some odd autocorrections, too.
    Jim

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  36. #46
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    I play all my instruments until i realize that there are things that bother me about them which may includes, buzzing or oddball sounds or structural problems like cracks that may foretell even more problems down the line. Then I take them to the doctor.
    Jim

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  38. #47
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    Learning to setup your instrument means you are your own doctor. You can be fussier and correct things sooner and have a consistently good playing instrument. I am fortunate to be my own doctor, however it seems to mean I am more anal about my setup. I can correct it very quickly tho from doing it often, as it is less to do when done so often. I know I have heard I would rather be playing than adjusting, but if you are familiar with the adjusting it is literally minutes and the pleasure of playing a well adjusted instrument all the time is, well..... oh so enjoyable.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  40. #48
    Americana in France? Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    If we didn't discuss the minutiae what would we say to each other?

    Take all this advice with a grain of salt and use according to your situation.

    For example, I have NEVER humidified my guitars and mandolins. I have lived in dry climates, perfectly even climates, and changeable climates.
    My Vessel F5 did need some adjustment after I moved from central California to England. The UK is cooler and wetter than the Great Central Valley. But since then it has been just fine.
    My SCGC Dreadnought went through the same process.


    Daniel

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  42. #49
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Nestlerode View Post
    If we didn't discuss the minutiae what would we say to each other? ...
    Truth.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  44. #50
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    Default Re: General Mandolin Post

    Quote Originally Posted by 2TonCommon View Post
    I started paying Guitar/banjo/mandolin in 1970 I never remember ever discussing the finer points of the instrument. If it sounded good and was fairly easy to play, well, you just went with it.
    A couple of things are going on. The first is that like many of us, you're an old fart and like many of us, when you got into music we didn't have internet. So when the guitar and banjo wonks got together to talk about the details of their instruments, there weren't 200 million people to listen to them and kibbitz.

    The second thing is that you're right. I never heard guitar or banjo players obsess over the minute details of everything guitar or everything banjo. The closes they come is (in my experience) arguing which fingers you can use for Travis picking or whether Earl would'a done it that way. I can't tell you how many time's I've seen THAT on the banjo sites.

    The third thing is that this forum is unique. Sure, there are areas for people playing various kinds of music. But its focus is builders. I can assure you, if you're building or setting up or making changes, this is the place to be. And it is mostly free of IAs.
    belbein

    “Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

    See my latest blog post: http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/en...lay-for-People

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