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Thread: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

  1. #1

    Default I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    And it only took me only about 3 hours. I think this is only the fourth time I've ever changed my strings in the last 12 years.

    I positioned the bridge first by trying to use a ruler but the top of the bridge was very difficult to figure out where to measure to because it's shaped like __----__----. So I ended up getting it close to where it is supposed to be and then tuning it and playing the octave and nudging it until both the G and the E string were perfectly in tune according to my tuner.

    Also I put on light strings. I thought I would see what that is like. They are very very LOUD!! The box says "Elixir Nanoweb". This is the loudest my mandolin has ever sounded. People complain I'm too quiet. I think they will stop complaining.

  2. #2
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes View Post
    And it only took me only about 3 hours. I think this is only the fourth time I've ever changed my strings in the last 12 years.

    I positioned the bridge first by trying to use a ruler but the top of the bridge was very difficult to figure out where to measure to because it's shaped like __----__----. So I ended up getting it close to where it is supposed to be and then tuning it and playing the octave and nudging it until both the G and the E string were perfectly in tune according to my tuner.

    Also I put on light strings. I thought I would see what that is like. They are very very LOUD!! The box says "Elixir Nanoweb". This is the loudest my mandolin has ever sounded. People complain I'm too quiet. I think they will stop complaining.
    Are you really only changing strings once every three years?
    Perhaps your mando has been quite due to dead strings.

    Another thought, why did you take all the strings off? It works well, nay, better, to change one at a time. Keeps the bridge where you need it and top tension as close to normal the whole time.

    I change strings ever month or so, and it takes 15 min.
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    Registered User Mando Mort's Avatar
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    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    "Are you really only changing strings once every three years?
    Perhaps your mando has been quite due to dead strings."

    That was immediate thought as well.
    "All of us contain Music & Truth, but most of us can't get it out." - Mark Twain

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  5. #4

    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    Dead strings can cause all sorts of issues with intonation. Really you need to position your bridge using a tuner. You can download a Peterson into a smart phone. As long as you are going to go hog wild change strings, e mail Rob Meldrum and he'll send you his e book on mandolin setup.

    There are many videos on how to properly lock in your strings at the tuners so there is no slippage. Now keep the string package and write the date you changed strings on it. Time goes buy fast. Then buy a few sets from The Mandolin Store black Friday sale. If you have extra sets, you'll change them more often.
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  6. #5
    Front Porch & Sweet Tea NursingDaBlues's Avatar
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    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes View Post
    And it only took me only about 3 hours. I think this is only the fourth time I've ever changed my strings in the last 12 years.

    I positioned the bridge first by trying to use a ruler but the top of the bridge was very difficult to figure out where to measure to because it's shaped like __----__----. So I ended up getting it close to where it is supposed to be and then tuning it and playing the octave and nudging it until both the G and the E string were perfectly in tune according to my tuner.

    Also I put on light strings. I thought I would see what that is like. They are very very LOUD!! The box says "Elixir Nanoweb". This is the loudest my mandolin has ever sounded. People complain I'm too quiet. I think they will stop complaining.
    Congratulations! Going one-on-one with a mandolin and winning at re-stringing and re-setting intonation at the bridge is indeed something to brag about.

    Unfortunately you have no bragging rights with the amount of time it took. That’s my trophy. I believe the first time I did it I clocked in at maybe four+ hours.* Of course, I’m going to place the blame that there was no Mandolin Cafť to look for helpful hints, no Rob Meldrum book on set-up, no electronic tuners – just ear, and the fact that I was just really clueless about what I was trying to do.

    Good job!


    *Editing to add that I didn’t provide the complete story. I believe I quit at four+ hours out of frustration and took the mandolin to a luthier who patiently explained what I had not done while he fixed all that I had done incorrectly. He also threw a few eye-rolls in for good measure.
    Last edited by NursingDaBlues; Nov-29-2019 at 5:04pm. Reason: To be completely forthcoming

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    Three years for a set of strings, thatís crazy. Iíve had to change strings after three days! When I was playing out five to six nights a week with a night of rehearsal in there to boot.
    If I play, much at all, itís three months at most. You will note a vast improvement in touch and tone if you change at least annually. Trust me.
    Timothy F. Lewis
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  9. #7
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    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    Yeah I'm lucky if get more than 8 weeks out of strings...... on the mandolin (at least the one I play out with), not so much on the mandola or octave ( though the octave strings do need changing at least 3 or 4 times a year) the mandocello - just depends on how much I play it.

    I do agree, just change the A and E and then the D and G without moving the bridge (unless it needs moving) - now the mandocellos are different because of the tension the tailpieces are hinged, so you have to change all strings at once, being careful not to move the bridge, some folks use tape to mark the bridge (not to hold in place, but you may mar the finish) if it's an F style instrument you usually line the bridge up with the points in the middle of the F holes. Standard Mandolin scale is 14 inches so you can go by that too, but some mandolins may be slightly longer or shorter than that.

    I have yet to find a string winder that fits on a mandolin tuner though.

    Mostly winding while holding the string tight is the challenge for me, but an hour is more than ample for most instruments, still nothing wrong with taking your time and being precise.
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    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    Quote Originally Posted by Mando Mort View Post
    "Are you really only changing strings once every three years?
    Perhaps your mando has been quite due to dead strings."

    That was immediate thought as well.
    That was my thought too. Then I thought of something Randy Bachman said on his radio show. He never puts on a fresh string set because it ruins his tone. "What?!!" I thought."I wish someone had told me that." Years ago I got an old Stromberg Voisinet, one of those with the "Hawaiian" scene on the top. It arrived with what I think were (at least some) 1920's strings. Boy, what a sound! Cleaned her up, and put on fresh strings, and my son asked, "What did you do? You ruined it." Months later the sound started to improve.

    I know mandos and guitars, apples and oranges.

    Bachman did say that if he was after a certain sound in the studio he might use a guitar with fresh strings. He didn't say what he does when a string breaks.

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    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes View Post
    and it only took me only about 3 hours. I think this is only the fourth time i've ever changed my strings in the last 12 years.

    I positioned the bridge first by trying to use a ruler but the top of the bridge was very difficult to figure out where to measure to because it's shaped like __----__----. So i ended up getting it close to where it is supposed to be and then tuning it and playing the octave and nudging it until both the g and the e string were perfectly in tune according to my tuner.

    Also i put on light strings. I thought i would see what that is like. They are very very loud!! The box says "elixir nanoweb". This is the loudest my mandolin has ever sounded. People complain i'm too quiet. I think they will stop complaining.
    yikes !!
    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 !

  12. #10

    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    I don't notice any degradation in the tone even with all those years of not changing them. In fact, with my first mandolin I didn't change them for about 10 years and never noticed anything. With my current mandolin, one G string broke so I replaced it but it didn't match the other. I noticed that the new one was light and the old one was heavy and that it had a totally different timbre and the light one was somewhat louder. So I thought I'd try all light strings and they do seem a lot louder. I'm not sure I like the timbre that well. We'll see how it settles in though.

    I actually did change them one at a time, but I loosened them up specifically so I could remove the bridge. The whole mandolin was so dirty. The bridge was dirty and all this crud was able to be wiped off with the bridge removed. I don't know what all that crud was but it was sort of like dust and dirt and dead skin and there was an astonishing amount of it. Very gross.

    I wanted to reposition the bridge because I think over time it was not in the right place anymore. It sounded to me like the octave was not in tune. Now it's in tune.

    Also, I was able to lower the action a bit, or it seemed that I did, because once I took the bridge off the little screws got turned when I cleaned it off so I was going to have to adjust the action anyway. And the light strings seemed to require it. I got it as low as I could go.

    It's all clean and new and sounds new and different. It's like having a new mandolin.

    I wish I knew how to repair or fix the scuffed up parts of the wood. There's scuffed up parts on the head from clipping the tuner on. There's scuffed up spots from letting a friend play who scratches the pick on the body. There's scuff marks on the back from pressing against my body.

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    Registered User DoubleE's Avatar
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    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    I wouldn’t worry about the scuffs. To me that’s honest playing wear. Good Mojo!
    String changes are a matter of preference, though three years seems like a long time. But that’s just me.
    My concern would be the fretboard. Have you oiled it at all in the past twelve years? It’s probably thirsty.

  14. #12

    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    I've never oiled it. I didn't know you did that sort of thing. What do you oil it with? Can I use coconut oil?

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    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself


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    MandolaViola bratsche's Avatar
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    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    For me, a string change every three years is quite normal, but I use Thomastiks and don't play exclusively on any one instrument, so they last quite well that long, or even longer. If I'm not changing one string at a time because I think the fretboard needs cleaning, I remove the middle two courses (holding the bridge in position with the outer two courses), clean the middle of the fretboard, and replace the middle course strings. Then I take off the 4th strings, clean under them, replace, remove 1st course strings, clean under them, and replace. Takes about a half hour.

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  17. #15

    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    Well done!

    I'm getting a new bridge soon and have no idea how to place it. (The mando came without a bridge.) I like your method.

  18. #16
    Registered User DoubleE's Avatar
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    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes View Post
    I've never oiled it. I didn't know you did that sort of thing. What do you oil it with? Can I use coconut oil?
    I use 3-in-one oil at least once a year when I have all the strings off. A few drops on a cloth and work it into the fretboard. I like to do the bridge too.

    Some like to use lemon oil. There are pros and cons for anything you use.

    I think most would agree that coconut oil is a no go, along with most kitchen oils like olive, corn, peanut, and avacado.

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    I donít think Iíd use 3-in-1 on a fingerboard under any circumstances! But, thatís just me it strikes me rather like pennzoil to season a cast iron skillet!
    Tung oil, Watco Danish oil, yes but never 3-in-1, then again I donít think Iíd use coconut oil either.
    Dang, I feel old!
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  21. #18

    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    The easy method is:

    1. Measure the distance from the nut (top end of the fretboard) to the 12th fret
    2. Place the bridge approximately centered on that distance, but measure it out from the 12th fret. The distance from the nut to the 12th fret is- theoretically - the same as the distance from the 12th fret to the bridge.
    3. Install the lowest G and highest E string. Tune them to pitch. With only these two strings installed, you can easily move the bridge in any direction, including adjusting the thumbwheels, to get optimal placement without scratching the top or having to exert a lot of force.
    4. On the G string, position the bridge so that the 12th fret is in tune with the open string. Repeat for the E string.
    5. Play every fret on the G and E strings. Ensure that there are no popped frets and that action is good (use a quarter if nothing else, but ideal action is 1mm on the E course and 1.5mm on the G course, or around there. If the action on the E course is over 1.5mm or 2mm on the G course, the instrument will be hard to play and may not play in tune even if the bridge is in the right place).
    6. Install the rest of the strings.

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    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes View Post
    And it only took me only about 3 hours. I think this is only the fourth time I've ever changed my strings in the last 12 years.

    I positioned the bridge first by trying to use a ruler but the top of the bridge was very difficult to figure out where to measure to because it's shaped like __----__----. So I ended up getting it close to where it is supposed to be and then tuning it and playing the octave and nudging it until both the G and the E string were perfectly in tune according to my tuner.

    Also I put on light strings. I thought I would see what that is like. They are very very LOUD!! The box says "Elixir Nanoweb". This is the loudest my mandolin has ever sounded. People complain I'm too quiet. I think they will stop complaining.
    I really, really despise changing my strings, but after 3 months or so I finally break down force myself to change them. 3 years is a whole new level of procrastination

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    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    Many loathe changing strings, but I actually enjoy it. It not only feels good to be competent enough to do things for myself, but it’s part of the pride of instrument ownership to me. Kind of like washing my own car, mowing my own lawn, etc. There can be great satisfaction in such simple things. YMMV.
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  26. #21
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    Get a job at a music store and teach ten rookies a day how to change strings, you learn! I used to tell people Iíd do the first two changes for free after that, it was going to be ten bucks each time, they learned after two! Or daddy had deep pockets.
    I agree with you Caleb, the pride of getting the strings nicely aligned on posts, graphite in the slots, then the twenty minutes of ďgetting the new offĒ is a very satisfying use of time.
    Like washing dishes after a big, well received, feast or finishing the last window, getting the last streak off the windshield!
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    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    Quote Originally Posted by Caleb View Post
    Many loathe changing strings, but I actually enjoy it. It not only feels good to be competent enough to do things for myself, but it’s part of the pride of instrument ownership to me. Kind of like washing my own car, mowing my own lawn, etc. There can be great satisfaction in such simple things. YMMV.
    I think "loathe" is a good word to use to describe how I feel about changing strings (and washing the car and mowing the lawn), but, I do enjoy how the mandolin sounds after new strings

  29. #23

    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    Drats. It looks like I will have to loosen everything to raise the action a little more. Too much buzzing on the G string. Add another half hour.

  30. #24
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    I don’t understand what is giving some trouble with string changes? If you have bad technique, learn how to do it properly. It only takes a half hour even if you take your time. Thinking that strings hold their tonal qualities for years is , unless you have a mando.

    Pushing the narrative that strings don’t need changing will drive up the price
    Nice mandolins, fresh strings, nice picks, priceless.

    You can read whatever tone to this you like, but my intentions are friendly and motivating.
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  31. #25

    Default Re: I put new strings on and positioned the bridge myself

    I think others already covered it, but congrats on doing that. I remember my first time, playing with a tuner and getting my intonation up the neck right, I own more accurate tuners now, but the idea is the same.

    As far as tone, don't know what's up there, lighter strings can give more sustain (albeit less power). New strings can be brighter and give the illusion of louder, once you play around some more with strings it will likely become apparent what is going on there.

    Have you tried picks yet? That is a while journey on its own too. :-)
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