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Thread: Would you sacrifice tone for playability?

  1. #26
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    Default Re: Would you sacrifice tone for playability?

    I think the reason the GHS pure nickel come in heavier wound strings is the lesser tension. Not sure, I was in the initial prototyping and trial and several of us ask to make the wound strings heavier.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  2. #27

    Default Re: Would you sacrifice tone for playability?

    The thread title caught my eye because I recently made a decision to go with maximising playability over maximising tone. My fingers can barely tell the difference between medium and light strings so I use mediums. My fingers can tell a lot of difference among neck and action variables. So I chose to put my money into the best neck I could find (according to my fingers) with good tone/volume and a pro setup. A recent pick grip change has opened my ears to how much control I potentially have over tone as my technique improves.
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  3. #28
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    Default Re: Would you sacrifice tone for playability?

    Marty, I totally agree. I currently own a Weber Yellowstone ĎCello thatís set up as well as it can be, but, dang it, I havenít been able to coax my hands into growing to Mike Marshall sized mitts yet, lol...

    Iíll sacrifice a little playability for excellent tone and volume, or, in the case of my RM-1, so I can play some slide (in complete privacy when no one else is home), but I tend to err on the side of playability as well. As Marty alludes to, the true gems are the instruments that manage to capture the best balance of both worlds.

    To the OP, if youíre playing for yourself and not worried about volume in an acoustic mix, do what you prefer!
    Chuck

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  5. #29
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    Default Re: Would you sacrifice tone for playability?

    “Tone” is a very elusive concept. What we refer to as somebody’s tone usually is something else.

    What I don’t want to sacrifice for “ease of playing” is a fullbodied sound when playing unamplified. I once tried a mandolin belonging to a very competent jazz/folk/etc. musician. I couldnt play it at a reasonable volume because it was set up too low — obviously with amplification in mind. Amplification is a necessary evil when playing in large venues or out of doors (and an unnecessary evil otherwise).

    If you can’t get a good, strong sound out of a mandolin then it’s not easy to play!

    Of course, there is, or used to be, the other extreme. When I went to see J D Crowe’s band in Lexington in 1969 I chatted bit with the band between sets, and tried to play Doyle Lawson’s mandolin (built by Homer Ledford). I couldn’t because it was set up so high. What happens when I try to play an instrument with such a stiff setup ideas simply stop coming.


    PS: Homer Ledford, I believe, is best known for his mountain dulcimers. He’s the old guy appearing at around 2.00 in this video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMYxoz1rPS8

  6. #30
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Would you sacrifice tone for playability?

    Thomastic strings are very enjoyable under the fingers!

    EXP74cm strings make a bolder sound.

    I like both.

    f-d
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  7. #31

    Default Re: Would you sacrifice tone for playability?

    For me,the Mandolin is not a one-size-fits-all kinda thing. My short fingers get along much better with narrower nuts (as mentioned before nut slots cut at correct height are critical).

    We all want great tone but if you cannot hit the notes efficiently what good is tone.

    So,yep,I choose playability over tone anytime.

    I have a mandolin that,arguably,has better tone than my #1,but I hardly ever play it because it
    is just harder for me to get around on. The better sounding mando is frustrating for me to play.

  8. #32
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    Default Re: Would you sacrifice tone for playability?

    Quote Originally Posted by V70416 View Post
    I have a mandolin that,arguably,has better tone than my #1,but I hardly ever play it because it
    is just harder for me to get around on. The better sounding mando is frustrating for me to play.
    I would have it setup so it plays well and enjoy it.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  10. #33

    Default Re: Would you sacrifice tone for playability?

    Pops,the Mandolin I do n't play much is set up very nicely and has routine checkups. Has really only had the frets levelled once and bridge adjusted as needed. It's in fine shape. It's fairly balanced and loud enough.

    The dimensions of the neck and string spacing are not as playable in my hands as the other one. Both have compund radiused boards.

    Some have suggested to me,and I tend to agree,that if you don't like the neck dimensions,just get a different instrument. Narrowing the nut and thinning the neck being a pretty radical procedure.

    Could just be my tin ears make playability more important to me.

  11. #34
    Registered User mcgroup53's Avatar
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    Default Re: Would you sacrifice tone for playability?

    One of the absolute best mandolins players I ever knew, three-time Winfield champ Dave Peters, had Thomastiks on his two Nugget mandolins back before hardly anyone knew anything about those strings in the US. My buddy Bob Gray and I were appalled he was using these kind of dead-sounding strings on two such amazing mandolins.

    When we asked why he used them, David just said, "What does it matter what it sounds like if I can't play what I want."

    When I play swing and jazz, I use Thomastiks on my Kimble for that same playability, but will swap out PB's for events like Bean Blossom, Lexington and IBMA. Just my two cents ...

  12. #35
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    Default Re: Would you sacrifice tone for playability?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Tap Root View Post
    I have to believe that it is somewhat of a trade off. I can't imagine rubber bands on my mandolin, but I believe they would be easier to play....
    There may be some of that going on, I'd have to admit. For me though, strings that are too light bounce around too much, making them harder to play. Rubber bands would drive me nuts, let alone what the sound would be like . Light strings feel like rubber bands to me most of the time, feels like they are bouncing all over the place on me.

    What I really should have emphasized I think is just how critical a good setup is to the feel of an instrument. I'm not a pro at setups, but I can do it reasonably well, and the difference in how the instrument feels is really remarkable. If an instrument feels "stiff" to me, particularly near the nut, I take that as a sign that it needs setup work.
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  13. #36
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    Default Re: Would you sacrifice tone for playability?

    Quote Originally Posted by HonketyHank View Post
    Let's say I have $500 - $1.5k to spend on a mandolin. I would not buy one that sounds crummy. I would not buy one that has structural problems or design defects that render it impossible to play relatively well. My strategy would be to weed out all choices that don't sound good enough for me to enjoy playing. Then I would choose the one that I think could be rendered "playable enough" through routine set-up work. I would not expect it to play like a dream or sound like a dream. But I would expect it to be something I would be happy playing, at least until I have the financial means and playing skill to move up.

    Let's say I have $1.5k - $3k. I would expect "pretty darn good" tone and "pretty darn good" playability ("pretty darn good", of course, would be by my own standards depending on a combination of just about everything that is mentioned in previous posts). Not necessarily "excellent", but at least "real good". I don't want to be playing an instrument and thinking "gosh, this G-string always just sounds twangy" or "I really wish this had a little wider neck" or some such. An exceptional tone might make me favor that over playability to a small degree. A mandolin that just seems to "play itself" might make me give that a little more weight than tone. But they both gotta be "pretty darn good".

    Above $3K, I wouldn't compromise between the two. I would keep looking until I found what I wanted in both.
    What he said ^^^^^!

  14. #37
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Would you sacrifice tone for playability?

    I let nothing decrease the tone of my instrument to a point. An explanation of tone would be in order. I want a nice solid very good tone up and down the neck. I would not give up the great tone for angelic tone only on the first through fifth frets unless I had more than one mandolin and could afford to have one set up for five frets of angel voices and one with excellent tone up the neck. It depends on a lot of different factors and keeps in mind one mans perfect set up is another mans twice to high.
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  16. #38
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    Default Re: Would you sacrifice tone for playability?

    It seems to me that mandolins are inherently a mix of contradicting compromises. And It's not a fixed point. I would also add "Cost" into the evaluation. Since it seems to me that generally the more expensive instruments result in better compromises. And it kind of depends on what you mean by "tone" and "playability". For me I keep doing a Flying Wallenda's balancing act trying to get a satisfactory result. Yes, higher action projects somewhat better and doesn't buzz, but lower action is easier to play. But the question is: how much? Yes, J75's sound louder, but are harder to play so I compromise with the CTJ74's. So I keep moving things around. Picks, Strings, technique, bridge height, are all compromises. Sometimes I feel one way, sometimes another. And even then I still have a "practice" mandolin with light gauge strings and too low action, just cuz it's easier to work things out on light gauge. Then, once I have it, move it over to the performance mandolin.

  17. #39
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    Default Re: Would you sacrifice tone for playability?

    For anyone not being graded, or judged in a a contest, it’s up to the individual to decide. Let’s consider a solo- where tone is not buried in a mix of instruments.

    Do you want the audience to enjoy great tone, or anemic sounds? Yes, that’s two ends of the spectrum. The tone from my instrument is important whether in practice or performance. Tone matters to some of us.
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  18. #40
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    Default Re: Would you sacrifice tone for playability?

    Great setup, low action, normal 11-41 strings. Easy to play, great tone, Best of Both Worlds. Why would you settle for less. Ease of playing can be had with a good setup, I refuse to compromise on tone or ease of fretting. No buzzes, clear sound, effortless playing. I won't settle for less.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  20. #41
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    Default Re: Would you sacrifice tone for playability?

    Quote Originally Posted by yankees1 View Post
    I agree ! Whether we are talking about play ability of the instrument , type and brand of pick, choice of strings or the instrument we have is mainly for our ears as the audience will not have a clue if we are playing a Gilchrist or an Eastman !
    Couldn't have said it better myself, experienced musicians will notice the difference in picks, strings, the age/condition of the strings, the brand/year/model, and etc. but to the average listener, it all sounds the same! So I'd much rather go for play-ability!

    Although I have heavy fingers (if you haven't looked at my username, it's now time to do so), so when I restring my mandolin I usually have some heavier gauge strings, so I don't bend all the notes out of tune.

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