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Thread: Mandolins "Opening Up"

  1. #51
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    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
    It would be useful to have that information on the main Forum page. I have seen this tip posted numerous times in a variety of threads. Many of us think the availability of the search page is the intended mechanism to search the 1.7M posts.
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  2. #52
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Hopefully the new version of the forum software will have an improved search function. The Cafe runs on a customized commercial package.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  3. #53
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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.

    I too have a kentucky 150 ...about 8 years old . and Yes indeed it has opened up over that time to where I recently ordered a new Km 250 and was stunned at how much better the Km 150 sounded . Bigger , deeper , louder , if not quite as much ''edge'' ....but the 250 just sounds so thin and tight ( yes I've set it up ) comparatively that I can only attribute the very noticeable difference to playing time as the wood , to my understanding , is very similar ..For what my ear's opinion is worth ..

  4. #54

    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    2 years ago I bought a vitually unplayed 1990 Gibson F5L Fern, it looked for all the world brand new, not a mark on it, it didn't sound particularly good, 2 years on and quite a lot of playing and decent strings it sounds fabulous, now this has finally convinced me that instruments really do open up.

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  5. #55
    Still a mandolin fighter Mandophyte's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    For an in-depth look at this topic see this post: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...ght=perception
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    A local man took his instruments out of his car and placed them at the back of this car for whatever reason . For another unknown reason he decided to back his car up instead of pulling forward and guess what ? Both instruments opened up ! Not doubting anyone else's ears but I can't determine or hear any opening up of my mandolins over the years ! They sounded great when I bought them new and still sound great ! My playing has improved so I suppose they do sound better !
    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 !

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  8. #57
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    The difference from one instrument to another may be a factor. My 16 year old Eastman becomes more “open” after an hour or so of constant playing. Maybe it just needs to warm up to find it’s voice.
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    it takes time for your ears to get used to some things. Like a neighbor I know. Her voice! I think the husband's used to it?

    I think there is some science involved, but not likely to the extent that folks make it!

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  10. #59

    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by A-board View Post
    The difference from one instrument to another may be a factor. My 16 year old Eastman becomes more “open” after an hour or so of constant playing. Maybe it just needs to warm up to find it’s voice.
    Or is it that YOU have warmed up and opened up? Have you tried having someone else play it for an hour, then see how YOU sound?

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  12. #60
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    The first load of popcorn I'm having in years
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  13. #61

    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Bertram - you have new popcorn, right? The old stuff is slow to open up. Huh?

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  15. #62
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    I am not sure if my mandolins are opening up, but I realized that if I don't play one for a while and then come back to it, I hear mostly just the fundamental tones. As I play it more I begin to hear the harmonics (or a more fuller sound).

    Not sure if this makes any sense or not or if this is what people mean by opening up.
    I can only play half as much as I want, because I only play half as much as I would like.

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  17. #63
    Registered User Drew Egerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    We're on this again?! lol

    There are SO many factors. The instrument, the temperature, the humidity, the strings, the way you are playing that day, the amount of wax in your ears, the room you are in, the location of your ears, the location of Uranus (sorry lol).
    Does my 2016 Skip Kelley sound better now than ever? Yes it does in my opinion. Several people have made comments on the difference, but they hear it once a year too. I'd like to think my playing has something to do with it too....
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Sanderson View Post
    I’ll skip the pizza, but I’ll take another beer.
    I just had both. Spinato pizza with a couple San Tan Octoberfests.

    I can’t help the OP, being new to the mandolin. Primarily have been solid body electric guitar; my odd assortment of acoustics gave me nothing to go on.

  19. #65
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    F
    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    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
    I’ve found this to be true with most forums. I don’t know why.

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  21. #66
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by kookaburra View Post
    F

    I’ve found this to be true with most forums. I don’t know why.
    Probably most use the same underlying software pkg.


    Instruments that sit unplayed for any extended period will also benefit from being played; the sound character changes for the better after a while.

    The wood of new instruments is perforce altered by vibration. The fiber structure is altered by the mechanical forces involved in resonating, usually resulting in more flexibility. Whether or not this is desirable is a qualitiative issue.

  22. #67
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob A View Post
    The wood of new instruments is perforce altered by vibration. The fiber structure is altered by the mechanical forces involved in resonating, usually resulting in more flexibility.
    These are a couple of interesting declarative statements. I believe they are made sans definitive evidence. Not that they are false - perhaps they are correct - but I believe they rely on anecdotal evidence and reasoning. It is reasonable to imagine that mechanical vibrations will affect solid structures in various ways over time, but is there any scientific evidence of how wood cellular structure is affected? I'd be curious to see the definitive evidence. Expansion and contraction due to temperature shifts and, more importantly IMO*, relative humidity shifts will affect tuning and joinery over time, and I think it's reasonable to assume that vibration does as well to a lesser degree. But what exact effect does vibration have on wood cell structure, if any at all?

    * I think the question of whether (1) temperature or (2) humidity has a greater effect on your instrument may depend on what region you live in.
    Last edited by Mark Gunter; Oct-01-2020 at 1:59pm.
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  23. #68
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Too bad the MC members have been provoked into going down this particular rabbit hole again. Sigh. But if you are going to discuss this topic, I urge folks to please try to be clear about what they mean. There are two very different time scales under discussion:

    (1) Improvements perceived in a mandolin's sound in response to playing, after playing the instrument continuously over a short time scale, for a matter of minutes to hours, especially after the mandolin in question hasn't been played for some period. The mandolin is said to have "gone to sleep," and the act of playing it "wakes it up." Many folks conflate this behavior with "opening up," (next item) but it's better described as waking up. The key point here is that the mandolin is thought to cycle between periods of somewhat less-great tone, which comes about from not being played, and somewhat better tone, which happens after the mandolin responds to being played for a short while. The time scale involved in waking up typically ranges, depending on the report, from minutes to hours. Presumably, this phenomenon has nothing to do with opening up, the next item, because it happens on such a short time scale. Also, the waking up phenomenon is thought to be reversible, because the mandolin goes back to sleep.

    (2) Improvements perceived in a mandolin's sound in response to ageing, or perhaps to periodic playing as well, over a matter of weeks to months, and even years. This phenomenon is referred to as "opening up." It should not be confused with going to sleep and waking up, which can happen in less than a day. The opening up phenomenon is said to happen (depending on the person doing the reporting) over a much longer time scale , for example, with brand new instruments that get "played in" over several weeks to months, or perhaps even for a few years. Others claim that opening up can happen with advanced age, particularly for vintage instruments. Some claim that it is a slow "acclimatization" of the instrument, allowing it to equilibrate, or "breathe," in response to local changes in humidity and temperature over a longer time. Some claim that opening up requires the vibrations that arise from lots and lots of human playing. Others claim that opening up can also be induced artificially, and potentially a whole lot faster, in response to forced vibrations, either by shaking the instrument mechanically (which is what a ToneRite does) or by exposing the instrument to loud vibrations coming from, say, a loudspeaker arrangement that bombards the instrument with various frequencies, causing it to vibrate sympathetically. This is said to be a form of "breaking it in."

    As many others have pointed out in the past, it is truly remarkable that we hear so many reports of "opening up" that result in an improved tone being perceived for the instrument, and so few -- if any! -- reports that an instrument ever sounded worse after a period of playing. Apparently, both waking up and opening up can only serve to make the mandolin sound better.

    Regardless of your current thinking about these topics, I would urge my fellow MC members to please draw a clear distinction between short-term and reversible effects, like "going to sleep" and "waking up," and much longer-term, irreversible changes in sound, like "opening up." These cannot plausibly be due to the same mechanism. Confusion reigns when some folks write about the mandolins "opening up" after minutes of play, while others write about the mandolins "opening up" after owning and playing the instrument for six months.
    Last edited by sblock; Oct-01-2020 at 2:26pm.

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  25. #69
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    These are a couple of interesting declarative statements. I believe they are made sans definitive evidence. Not that they are false - perhaps they are correct - but I believe they rely on anecdotal evidence and reasoning. It is reasonable to imagine that mechanical vibrations will affect solid structures in various ways over time, but is there any scientific evidence of how wood cellular structure is affected? I'd be curious to see the definitive evidence. Expansion and contraction due to temperature shifts and, more importantly IMO*, relative humidity shifts will affect tuning and joinery over time, and I think it's reasonable to assume that vibration does as well to a lesser degree. But what exact effect does vibration have on wood cell structure, if any at all?

    * I think the question of whether (1) temperature or (2) humidity has a greater effect on your instrument may depend on what region you live in.
    Vibration creates changes in structures. The nature and extent of the changes varies depending on circumstance. Simple engineering truth.

    If you want more specifics you'll have to seek them on your own, via experimentation.

    I can hear the differences in both long- and short-term situations.

  26. #70

    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    It's fun to think that a mandolin improves over time. Studies suggest fun is more fun than no fun. Therefore I believe my mandolin will improve vastly as it ages.

    Look here! It's all true!
    https://www.nytimes.com/1996/02/27/s...s-improve.html
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  27. #71
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob A View Post
    Vibration creates changes in structures. The nature and extent of the changes varies depending on circumstance. Simple engineering truth.

    If you want more specifics you'll have to seek them on your own, via experimentation.

    I can hear the differences in both long- and short-term situations.
    No one has ever suggested, to my knowledge, that subjecting materials to vibrations doesn't have the potential to change them. As you wrote, this is a "simple engineering truth," and it's practically self-evident. But it is also irrelevant, because it does not pertain to the question at hand. The question is whether subjecting the materials in a mandolin to vibrations -- and specifically, to vibrations of the amplitudes and frequencies associated with musical production -- can change the sound produced by that mandolin in significant ways. This is an entirely different question! There are many here who would say "yes," but also many who would say "no" -- or, "we can't say one way or the other."

    Those who say "yes" have mainly anecdotal evidence on their side, based on their personal experience, or on received opinion from other people whom they consider to be experts. That certainly doesn't make them wrong! But then again, it doesn't make them right, either. Sorry, but anecdotal evidence is not enough to convince folks like me, or many others with something of a scientific bent.

    You claim to be able to "hear the differences" in both long- and short-term situations. Aha! Then, let me play Devil's Advocate, and propose an actual, feasible, experiment to find out. Testing the possibility of opening up is technically hard and would take a long time, in principle. and a great many mandolins. Over the years, it has defied any easy determination, so remains controversial. However, testing the possibility of waking up should be very much easier to do in a scientifically controlled way. In principle, you can do a test over and over with the same set of mandolins, letting these "go to sleep" between successive tests. This greatly simplifies the design of a test and its analysis.

    You HAVE TO do this as a blind test! No peeking allowed. Also, you are not allowed to play the instrument yourself, nor to know whether the instrument has been "awakened" by someone playing it, or if it's "still asleep" with no one having played it for 24 hours (or whatever period you prefer). Arrange for several mandolins to be tested. Have someone else (another player, called Player One) take the mandolins out of sight, and play a fraction of them for 20 min or so, with the goal of "awakening" them, but NOT play the others, letting them "stay asleep." Have Player One tune all the mandolins, though. Then, have Player One return with the mandolins. Get a another player, Player Two, who does not know which of mandolins have just been played, to demonstrate all the mandolins for you, playing them behind a screen, so you can't tell which ones he/she is playing. See if you can guess which ones are "awake," and which ones are still "sleeping." All you need to do is listen for a short while, then declare whether each mandolin, in turn, is "awake" or "sleeping." Repeat this test a few times over a few days, with Player One changing out the mandolins that get "awakened" (played for a few min) and the ones that are allowed to "stay asleep" (not played for a few min), until all mandolins have been tested at least two or three times in each state (sleeping or awakened).

    Let us know how you do. I don't think you will be able to tell whether a mandolin has been "asleep" or "awake" with statistics any better than random chance. No cheating!

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  29. #72

    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    The opening up topic has been studied scientifically. Three Japanese published Effects of aging on the vibrational properties of wood with the following abstract.

    Vibrational properties of aged wood (121∼296 years old) were compared with those of recently cut “new” wood (8 years old). The aged wood showed higher sound velocity (VL) and lower mechanical loss tangent (tanδL) than the new wood. The ratio of Young's modulus and shear modulus (EL/GL) remained unchanged or increased slightly during the aging period. These results coincide with musicians’ empirical observations that the acoustic quality of wooden soundboards is improved by aging. In addition, the reduced tanδL of the aged wood indicates the qualitative difference between the naturally aged and heat-treated wood. The experimental results were explained by using a cell wall model when we assumed the following: increase in the volume fraction of cellulosic microfibrils; reduction in the shear modulus of amorphous matrix substances, and; reduction in the loss tangent of the matrix. These assumptions appear reasonable when we consider the crystallization of cellulose, depolymerization of hemicelluloses, and cross-linking in the lignin complex during aging.

    https://www.researchgate.net/publica...erties_of_wood
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  30. #73

    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    And why Stradiveri can't be copied by modern violin makers.

    Chemical distinctions between Stradivari’s maple and modern tonewood

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5224390/
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  31. #74
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    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    I think there is significant science to say that vibrations (thus tonerite) and age (this torrification) structurally change instrument wood at the cellular level. Aging however is not all about the wood losing moisture. Sugars break down and other gassed are expelled as well over time. I do wonder if fortified instruments will ope up like their non baked counterparts. I also wonder why no makers (that I know of) don’t torrify at least backs and braces. I have no comment on waking up. Just haven’t thought about enough to conclude anything. All the luthiers I know have said the same thing to me the day I picked up a new instrument from them...today is the worst this will sound. While not scientific, it is a better endorsement than my buddy telling me that my mando sounds better than it did last year.

  32. #75

    Default Re: Mandolins "Opening Up"

    I don't know if mine is opening up or I'm becoming a better player. There is only one way for me to go, I couldn't get any worse. I do truly believe chopping sounds better since I've been playing it more.

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