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Thread: Tonegard alternatives

  1. #1

    Default Tonegard alternatives

    Are there any tonegard alternatives? I have received email confirmation that tonegard is limiting itself to standard mandolin sizes for their product (under the impression they do only one now), no longer doing custom sizes.

    I am thinking for an apple shaped Brazilian mandolin (bandolim).

    Thanks in advance for all suggestions.

  2. #2
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    Some folks believe that the ToneGard improves an instrument's sound by preventing the instrument from being in contact and being muted against the player's body. If that's the case, the potential Bandolim could benefit from being held away from the player's body by anything that doesn't itself mute surfaces that normally vibrate.

    That effect can also be at least temporarily duplicated for testing purposes by physically holding the instrument away from the body, probably most easily done by using a strap and arms combined with posture to cantilever the instrument away from the body while playing. Many videos show Bill Monroe doing this exact thing while playing his mandolin.

    That said, there may also be a sound related benefit from the added mass that the ToneGard provides. That could also be duplicated by a mechanism that similarly adds mass.

    Given the "apple" shape of the body of this particular instrument, I would suspect that there is little direct contact against a body anyway, so the muting effect might already be minimal, but testing is a good idea. Keep in mind that the actual effect of reducing muting contact may be best heard by someone other than the player.

    (Full disclosure, I use ToneGards with both of my F-style mandolins.)
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  4. #3
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    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    I did own a Tonegard years ago and due to the way I held my mandolin I saw/heard no benefit from it ! I had to wrap the prongs with microfiber to keep these prongs from marking my mandolin. Sold it !
    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 !

  5. #4
    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    To answer your question for an alternative for a tonegard to fit an oddly shaped instrument I will suggest that perhaps a shoulder brace for a violin or viola may work.
    Though you did not ask about the merits of a tonegard, I do use one on my Kentucky and my perception, though possibly flawed, is that I do get a little more volume. I should note that I am typically a light picker and have to concentrate on "digging" in.
    I did not use one on my Collings nor will I use one on my Stiver for fear of marking the finish. This could change after acquiring accidental road rash and I have moved beyond the trauma of my first scratch or ding.
    The effectiveness of a tonegard can arguably be related to size of a players belly. Just a thought.
    Last edited by Pittsburgh Bill; Nov-21-2019 at 1:11pm.
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  6. #5

    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    This picture might help understand what I mean by apple shape, as opposed to the regular pear shape (anyway, that's what the luthier calls the shape of brazilian mandolins):
    Click image for larger version. 

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  8. #6

    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    I would like to try out a toneguard, but can I find one in the UK ? No.


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    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    Dave - I bought mine; supposedly used, from a cafe member in Scotland. He was selling two and I should have bought them both!

  10. #8

    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    People will be tired of seeing this, but I made my own device for keeping the back of my F5 clear of my torso. I used scrap wood, pieces of cork table mat and viola chin-rest brackets. It certainly stops my stomach from muting the sound of the mandolin, is not obtrusive - and is very light.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  12. #9

    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    Ron, yours may be an improvement over the original Tonegard. Looks nice.

  13. #10
    Registered User bbcee's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    Nice alternative, @Ron! Judging from your response, you may have already posted a "How I did it" thread?

  14. #11

    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    Quote Originally Posted by bbcee View Post
    Nice alternative, @Ron! Judging from your response, you may have already posted a "How I did it" thread?
    There was really not much to it. The wood was a piece of scrap soft white wood I literally picked up from the side of the road. I spent quite a lot of time shaping it using a rasp and sandpaper. The gap between the device and the back of the mandolin is only a few millimeters, but it is rigid enough to never touch the back at any point when being used. I used viola chin-rest brackets because violin brackets would not be long enough. I finished it using a walnut wood stain; it took multiple coats with sandings in between to get it to look the way I wanted.

    I have only ever seen the Tone Gard in photographs. I know it is very popular, but its design always struck me as rather agricultural, and I'm fairly sure it must be a lot heavier than my amateur device, with little or no added effect. I will try to get one or two more photos up here later.

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    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron McMillan View Post
    People will be tired of seeing this, but I made my own device for keeping the back of my F5 clear of my torso. I used scrap wood, pieces of cork table mat and viola chin-rest brackets. It certainly stops my stomach from muting the sound of the mandolin, is not obtrusive - and is very light.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Now this is something I could use on my mando!
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  17. #13

    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    These pictures, despite the evidence of my lack of attention to cleaning and polishing my old 1970s no-name F5, should show roughly what the backrest device is all about.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Click image for larger version. 

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  19. #14
    Registered User Joey Anchors's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    Looks great! Now just need to find someone to make one for me.


    Quote Originally Posted by Ron McMillan View Post
    These pictures, despite the evidence of my lack of attention to cleaning and polishing my old 1970s no-name F5, should show roughly what the backrest device is all about.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Click image for larger version. 

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  20. #15
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    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    Ron - Nice and creative. Do you have to remove it when placing in your case?

  21. #16

    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    Quote Originally Posted by geechee View Post
    Ron - Nice and creative. Do you have to remove it when placing in your case?
    I should have mentioned that it never comes off; the mandolin easily fits in my Travelite case with the gizmo attached.

  22. #17

    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron McMillan View Post
    These pictures, despite the evidence of my lack of attention to cleaning and polishing my old 1970s no-name F5, should show roughly what the backrest device is all about.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Click image for larger version. 

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    This might be better than the tonegard solution, though I would suspect a violin shoulder rest approach might be more practical than a chin rest one, since it isn't clear from such a narrow piece of wood whether it would protect the instrument sufficiently without moving it around each time, I think.

    I guess I would have to figure out how to make it, since I don't have a wood shop or even a garage to work on such a thing, closest place would be the kitchen, hmm.

  23. #18

    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    Quote Originally Posted by Pittsburgh Bill View Post
    The effectiveness of a tonegard can arguably be related to size of a players belly. Just a thought.
    Time and circumstance happen to us all eventually.

  24. #19
    aka aldimandola Michael Wolf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    Don, unfortunately I can´t help with the tonegard solution for the bandolim. But would you mind to share some information about your bandolim?

    Btw.: I feel like the bandolim is not affected that much from being played without a tonegard, because I think the bigger body is easier held away from your belly. My impression is also that a carved back benefits more from the tonegard than a flat back. But maybe that´s just me.

  25. #20

    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    You did not say what information you wanted, but here is a picture:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    I find that avoiding any contact with the back of the instrument makes a big difference, especially with the lower strings.
    Made by Regis Bonilha, canadian cedar top, bocote wood box.
    I almost accepted the Douglas Fir top he offered since it is known for producing a nice clear sound, but I read it is also prone to cracking more easily than most.
    Last edited by Don Dv; May-13-2020 at 6:21pm.

  26. #21

    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron McMillan View Post
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Thanks for the pictures, this picture in particular seems to show a unique combination of standard U shape chinrest hardware and hill style, haven't found anything like that online just yet, did you simply salvage pieces of both types to make it work?

    Also, would you mind sharing pictures of what the hardware looks like from the front of your mandolin? I kind of hoped it would be less visible from the front, but I guess it is a reasonable compromise.

  27. #22
    Registered User Isaac Casas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hanson View Post
    I would like to try out a toneguard, but can I find one in the UK ? No.


    Dave H
    Being in Spain I'm always kind of scared of purchases in the US because of obvious customs surprises, but I bought two from Elderly Instruments a couple of years ago and they arrived with no problems at all!

  28. #23
    Registered User bbcee's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    As they say, Isaac, "Your mileage may vary"! I've had a couple of rude surprises when ordering things from the US . I think it depends on who is on duty at the Aduana that day.

  29. #24
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    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    Much the same in the UK. Order anything worth over £18 from the US and you can expect to be charged at least 20% + £8 when it’s delivered. Add currency exchange charges and shipping to this and the cost of whatever you’re buying can almost double; although I should add that I have found Elderly’s shipping charges quite reasonable.

  30. #25
    aka aldimandola Michael Wolf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonegard alternatives

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Dv View Post
    You did not say what information you wanted, but here is a picture:
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	picture.jpg 
Views:	31 
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ID:	185806

    I find that avoiding any contact with the back of the instrument makes a big difference, especially with the lower strings.
    Made by Regis Bonilha, canadian cedar top, bocote wood box.
    I almost accepted the Douglas Fir top he offered since it is known for producing a nice clear sound, but I read it is also prone to cracking more easily than most.
    Thanks Don, I know Regis Bonillas instruments from his youtube channel. Very interesting builder, he´s also doing these doubletops. I know a brazilian player here in Germany who plays a seven string guitar by him. That´s a very good instrument and beautiful woods, too.

    One reason why I have less of a desire for the tonegard with my bandolim seems to be the fact that in choro music I´m always sitting down and I have it sitting on my right leg. And because it has such a wide body, I have no contact to back in this position, only to the sides. But a tongard would be nice for playing standing up, for sure.

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