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Thread: Mandolins "Opening Up"

  1. #26
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    I'll add a tuppence cuz why not. I've never played a nice mandolin for long enough to know about "opening up" but my Kentucky did get way louder when I removed the pickguard. I will say that the brain and ears definitely can store and retrieve sound. I used to be able to recognize my dad's truck coming down the road to our house, and could pick it out from other trucks (until we got a new truck) and I can immediately tell when I hear Sierra Hull, or Del McCoury singing, and I can tell that it's not Sarah Jarosz or Bill Monroe. I personally would rather start a new topic to ask a question rather than scan the archive, because a new topic would be something I can reply to without people saying "you know this is a thirty year old thread right?" I've heard of enough people experiencing mandolins breaking in that I wouldn't discount it as a myth, but I also realize that the plural of anecdote is not data. If your mandolin sounds better after playing, great! You probably do to, but like someone else said, I wouldn't buy a lousy instrument hoping it'll sound better. Imho, ymmv, byop, etc.
    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

  2. #27
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar View Post
    I'll add a tuppence cuz why not. I've never played a nice mandolin for long enough to know about "opening up" but my Kentucky did get way louder when I removed the pickguard. I will say that the brain and ears definitely can store and retrieve sound. I used to be able to recognize my dad's truck coming down the road to our house, and could pick it out from other trucks (until we got a new truck) and I can immediately tell when I hear Sierra Hull, or Del McCoury singing, and I can tell that it's not Sarah Jarosz or Bill Monroe. I personally would rather start a new topic to ask a question rather than scan the archive, because a new topic would be something I can reply to without people saying "you know this is a thirty year old thread right?" I've heard of enough people experiencing mandolins breaking in that I wouldn't discount it as a myth, but I also realize that the plural of anecdote is not data. If your mandolin sounds better
    after playing, great! You probably do to, but like someone else said, I wouldn't buy a lousy instrument hoping it'll sound better. Imho, ymmv, byop, etc.
    A study that says the brain can't keep sounds in it's memory? If stated correctly that is a bunch of hogwash. As stated above we all do it, who can't recognize their mates voice, as well as other peoples that are important to us. I have a friend that plays mandolin that is blind. Several years ago he was in the audience of a church where my band was playing I didn't see him until we were on stage, so after we played I went over and spoke to him. First thing he said was what was I playing, I had a different mandolin. How did he know that if he couldn't remember the one I usually played. Now I know being blind he has sharpened his other senses but I don't think his brain has developed strange powers. Yes I believe a new instrument sounds different than one that has been played, but it just sounds more like itself if that makes sense. A sound you like will develop the same things you like to a deeper more balanced sound. That is "opening up" if there is nothing there to like sound wise then it won't get better, maybe a mandolin that sounds terrible will develop to a more terrible sound, I don't know because if the mandolin sounds terrible I don't buy it to find out.

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  4. #28
    Registered User Tom Sanderson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by T.D.Nydn View Post
    I can go for a pizza ...
    Iíll skip the pizza, but Iíll take another beer.

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

    Yes new will sound better-old will go to sleep so to say if not played regularly, I've owned way too many mandolins new and old, and I notice the difference! My Loar sat unplayed for much of its life and now its really came in, it was tight when I first got her not yet a year ago, My first mandolin that was new was a 2000 Gibson F5-G and it took awhile for the sound to come in, it sounded great at the start but after a year or so it was a beast! When new or breaking contact with the bridge from the top, the bridge has to settle back in "saying taking bridge off and re-fitting the stock or new bridge" I once bought a Very nice mandolin from the Dawg and had him ship with the bridge off as it was a very expensive mandolin and he even said he doesn't like to break the contact as it'll take awhile for the sound to come back" Well it came back, after awhile of play! Just my opinion as this has been gone over a million times-some believe others do not! I believe and maybe this all will help a new player/member?

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

    It’s a combined sense on a cold instrument, I can hear it as well as feel it as it’s warming up.

  8. #31
    F5G & MD305 Astro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    I had a guitar that dramatically opened up once right during the second set of a gig. I actually played through the first song noticing the guitar seemed quieter and off somehow. Once I removed the pick I had left in the strings it opened right up ...The funny thing is on starting the second set I was miffed I couldnt find my favorite pick so I broke out a spare. Senior moments...
    No matter where I go, there I am...Unless I'm running a little late.

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

    I think the main thing to take away is that some people believe it and some don't, which is OK, but don't spend a ton of money on an instrument that you think might get better. It might, or might not. You might learn to like it, or not.
    Buy something you're happy with from the beginning and if you think it improves, then even better. Buy one on a hope and you may be disappointed.
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  12. #33
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Mandoplumb, check post #18 of this thread. I've also seen the same thing mentioned in at least two other threads on this topic, which is why I addressed it. You stated pretty much exactly my opinion
    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

  13. #34
    Jerry Cobbs jerrycobbs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Thanks for everyone's thoughts. I actually did search the forum as suggested, and found this was quite a hot topic...back in 2011. I assume a few folks have joined since then who might have some thoughts to contribute. Maybe a way to respond to people who want to revisit a well-worn subject would be along the lines of, "In addition to this thread, you might also want to see what folks said back at (link)." If the answer to a question is always "Go read what's already been written," you no longer have a discussion forum, you have a library, which we've had since Alexander.

    Back to the topic, in perusing the dusty stacks what I didn't see was an answer to my second question. Has anyone been playing with someone else, and they were the ones to notice your instrument "opening up"? That would add a bit of objectivity to the equation, I would think.
    -- Johnson MA-100 Mando
    -- Eastman MDO-305 OM
    -- 3 Seagull Merlin dulcimers (2GDG, 1DAD)
    -- 1952 Harmony Roy Smeck guitar
    -- Ortega Lizzie Ubass
    -- Leigh Campbell electric violin
    -- Pfretzschner violin
    -- Glaesel viola
    -- Ibanez acoustic/electric guitar
    -- Misc: a cello, 2 cigarbox guitars, charango, djembe, slide dulcimer.

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  15. #35

    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Seems to be a popular topic for discussion. Things usually sound better after 20 minutes or so, but it might be my hands "loosening up!" Or, a combination......

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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by jerrycobbs View Post
    Back to the topic, in perusing the dusty stacks what I didn't see was an answer to my second question. Has anyone been playing with someone else, and they were the ones to notice your instrument "opening up"? That would add a bit of objectivity to the equation, I would think.
    When I got my mandolin I have had folks say my mandolin was nice except for the G string. I agreed, it had not been played and drove me nuts for a while. After a lot of playing the G string came to life and no one has said anything for years except that is a really nice sounding mandolin. Is that what you are looking for. I remember how the G drove me nuts and now I will change the key of a tune at home just so I can use it more, as it sounds so good.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  19. #37
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Well, I realize this isn't firsthand experience, but I read on here one person said they could always tell when their dad had taken his banjo apart, but other than that I don't have anything useful to add
    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

  20. #38
    Rush Burkhardt Rush Burkhardt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Thanks, Jerry!
    1. For revisiting the topic.
    2. For your comment regarding a good, positive way to respond when one sees a topic he or she believes has been exhausted.
    3. For reminding us that this should/could be a discussion forum, where we can participate or not, without prejudicing the discussions of others.

    At 77 years of age, starting at 8, with an old Gibson, L-30, my uncle took to Europe during WW2, I have had many experiences with vintage instruments.

    Recently, I've made a new observation.
    1. My daily (arm chair) players are a '23 Gibson A-Jr. and a "36-37 modded Gibson A.
    2. Shame-on-me, I rarely play my '37 F-12, converted by Randy Wood in "67 to full F-5 specs. (time for it to find a new care-taker!)
    3. I do play the F at a monthly jam.

    Having left it in the case, save for one 2+/- hour jam a month, for the past 90-days. I, and my friends at the jam, have observed,
    1. In the first few minutes of playing:a mandolin which has gone sharp and quiet.
    2. Over the first 30+/- minutes and increase in the volume.
    3. By the time we've played aggressive Bluegrass, for an hour-or-so, a return of the old woof and bark (y'know what I mean) is evident!

    I'm not an Acoustic Engineer, nor a luthier; there's a lot that can and does happen, much of which has been discussed in our forums.
    1. Having an adjustable bridge, the position, elevation and angle can change.
    2. Wood responds to the environment...humidification can allow/cause, the instrument to expand and contract, changing its configuration. I imagine, joints loosen and tighten.
    3. The strings grow older and change their responsiveness.
    4. I'm sure my ears change!
    5. My rattlesnake rattles can get dust covered.

    I'm sure I missed some stuff!

    We should/could remember:
    1. Even us old guys can learn if we hear something enough times! (We can ignore topics that bore us!)
    2. This Forum should be, and mostly is, a great place for discussion! (Thanks, again, Scott!)
    3. No one should be shamed for their curiosity!
    Rush Burkhardt
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by Caleb View Post
    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.
    As a woodworker, NOT a luthier, I favor old wood when I can get it. Generally, the grain is tighter and the wood is straighter. It is a pleasure to work with hand tools. So, my guess is that the old instruments started with better quality materials. This is less about opening up with age than it is about having the really good wood to start with.

  23. #40
    Registered User Ky Slim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    To the OP, kudos for figuring out how to use the advanced search feature. I haven't had a lot of luck looking up things thru there as much as just googling stuff. I always enjoy reading other players thoughts on - well, pretty much everything mandolin, but particularly on topics related to our tone and achieving better tone. There are an awful lot of variables that go into tone and IMO how "open" an instrument is at the time it is being played is certainly one of them.
    Thanks for re-asking important questions. Good Luck!

  24. #41
    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by T.D.Nydn View Post
    I can go for a pizza ...
    The Dahli Lama walks into a pizza place and asks if they can make him one with everything..
    Chris Cravens

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  26. #42
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    I've personally expierenced mandolins opening up,I'm a believer,,and so have other people,on my main Gibson I've had progressive comments over the years like; "sounds really good " to " that's very resonant" to "wow that's loud" to "is that thing electric,or plugged in?"...

  27. #43
    not a donut Kevin Winn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar View Post
    ... the plural of anecdote is not data...
    Love this.

  28. #44

    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    While there appear to be many factors with the physicality of the mandolin (or any stringed instrument) like the type and age of the woods, how it was built, finishes, set-up, changes in weather, strings, aging, etc., I've also discovered the process of how I personally "open up" to my mandolins - that is, how my ear subtly changes with time when playing my them (I'm fortunate enough to have several) and how my playing them with newer and better techniques, different picks and strings has a way of making them sound ever so slightly better.

    So, for me, I've established a partnership, a very real connection with my mandolins that "builds" continuously and ever so slightly and slowly. I open up as the instruments may also open. Zen-like? Maybe, but who cares. It matters only to me and these beautiful trees.

  29. #45
    Jerry Cobbs jerrycobbs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by slinds View Post
    While there appear to be many factors with the physicality of the mandolin (or any stringed instrument) like the type and age of the woods, how it was built, finishes, set-up, changes in weather, strings, aging, etc., I've also discovered the process of how I personally "open up" to my mandolins - that is, how my ear subtly changes with time when playing my them (I'm fortunate enough to have several) and how my playing them with newer and better techniques, different picks and strings has a way of making them sound ever so slightly better.

    So, for me, I've established a partnership, a very real connection with my mandolins that "builds" continuously and ever so slightly and slowly. I open up as the instruments may also open. Zen-like? Maybe, but who cares. It matters only to me and these beautiful trees.
    I was actually thinking of posting something along the same lines. I bought an Eastwood MDO-305 OM a few months ago and can hardly keep my hands off of it. But since getting it, I have changed the strings from EJ-80's to EJ-76's, and changed the tuning from GDAE to GDAD, which necessitated a host of changes in chord voicings, playing techniques, etc. Along the way I've also hopefully gotten a bit better with picking technique, etc. So to my ear the sound I have now is much better than what I had when I brought it home. Has the instrument itself "opened up" any? Who knows? We've both changed.

    I remarried about a year and a half ago, and that necessitated a series of adjustments on both our parts in order to share a home, but the end result is not "who changed more?" but what works for us. I look at the player/instrument relationship in a similar way, as a relationship. Maybe there are physical changes in the instrument, but there are also changes in me as a player, all of which factor in.
    -- Johnson MA-100 Mando
    -- Eastman MDO-305 OM
    -- 3 Seagull Merlin dulcimers (2GDG, 1DAD)
    -- 1952 Harmony Roy Smeck guitar
    -- Ortega Lizzie Ubass
    -- Leigh Campbell electric violin
    -- Pfretzschner violin
    -- Glaesel viola
    -- Ibanez acoustic/electric guitar
    -- Misc: a cello, 2 cigarbox guitars, charango, djembe, slide dulcimer.

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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    I recently began restoring an abused/neglected 1921 Bacon Artist that hadn't been played in ages -- decades, I'm guessing. When I put on new strings, it sounded almost muted on attack and had little sustain. But after playing a series of chords very loudly, the sound improved dramatically. When I say "loudly," I'm talking about nearly-Pete Townshend-windmilling. I've been doing that for several minutes (carefully) each time I pick it up, before playing. I guess you could call that "opening up."

  31. #47

    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    i'm shutting down. But, yeah, i believe especially new mandolins "open up" at least some. I might also believe that as they lose moisture over the years they become more resonant.

    * a couple of months ago i visited with a group of 5-6 players who came together to take a photo of their brand new F5's which are from the same batch out in Oregon. Anyway, after everyone but myself and the builder took off we both played my new F5. I was a bit surprised, slightly disappointed because it hadn't sounded quite like itself earlier. Basically, after we both played it for a few minutes something changed. We both look at each other and said, did you hear that? In a nutshell, it just blossomed, louder, better projection whatever you want to call it. I can't prove anything happened but two people noticed something right at the same moment.

    My personal scientific notion is this: It remembers it's not a tree anymore. And, they like to sing apparently.

  32. #48
    Jerry Cobbs jerrycobbs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by Old Growth View Post
    * a couple of months ago i visited with a group of 5-6 players who came together to take a photo of their brand new F5's which are from the same batch out in Oregon. Anyway, after everyone but myself and the builder took off we both played my new F5. I was a bit surprised, slightly disappointed because it hadn't sounded quite like itself earlier. Basically, after we both played it for a few minutes something changed. We both look at each other and said, did you hear that? In a nutshell, it just blossomed, louder, better projection whatever you want to call it. I can't prove anything happened but two people noticed something right at the same moment.
    That's exactly what I was asking about. Thanks!
    -- Johnson MA-100 Mando
    -- Eastman MDO-305 OM
    -- 3 Seagull Merlin dulcimers (2GDG, 1DAD)
    -- 1952 Harmony Roy Smeck guitar
    -- Ortega Lizzie Ubass
    -- Leigh Campbell electric violin
    -- Pfretzschner violin
    -- Glaesel viola
    -- Ibanez acoustic/electric guitar
    -- Misc: a cello, 2 cigarbox guitars, charango, djembe, slide dulcimer.

  33. #49
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    I'm pretty sure plenty of people in those dusty old stacks answered the question you say wasn't answered. It's certainly not a new question and certainly not one that doesn't elicit comments from just about everyone. There unfortunately will never be a definitive answer to the question, only the opinions of different people. Over the years we've had people swear that the answer was to put your mandolin on a stand and blast loud music at it for several days. There have been machines and processes developed to help open up mandolins. I'm sure some folks have noticed a difference and I hope they would after going to all that trouble, but to throw a wrench in are you talking about a mandolin opening up or waking up? There apparently is a difference and that too has been discussed with the same sort of answers. The Cafe is like a library. You can go to the library and read the current newspapers and magazines or you can research what else is stored there. Same thing here.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  35. #50
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by Ky Slim View Post
    To the OP, kudos for figuring out how to use the advanced search feature. I haven't had a lot of luck looking up things thru there as much as just googling stuff.
    The best way to search the Cafe is to not use the built in Search Function. It has limitations. It's actually better to search using Google. The syntax for the Google search would be:

    "Open up" site:mandolincafe.com
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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