Results 1 to 12 of 12

Thread: Mandolin Bridge Woes

  1. #1

    Default Mandolin Bridge Woes

    Hi all

    First time poster and mandolin newbie. I'm a guitarist that recently fell in love with the mandolin and I knew I had to have one. The trouble is that here in Madrid Spain where I live it's an extremely limited market. While visiting family back home in the States over the holidays I picked up a second hand Kentucky KM1500, a beautiful instrument.

    Now that I am back in Madrid I took the Kentucky to my luthier here in town for a setup. He adjusted truss rod and filed the nut down a bit and now it's much easier to play. HOWEVER, I noticed that the intonation is really awful on the middle two sets of strings, D and especially A... the higher I go the flatter it gets and on the 12th fret it's just unbearable for me, the contrast between a fretted A on the E strings versus a fretted A on the 12th fret of the A strings is stark. I mentioned this to my luthier. He told me that he would have to redo the bridge, possiby working on the original, or possibly having to carve a new one (expensive and at least two or three weeks with my mandolin in the shop). Does this sound reasonable? My concern is simply that out here there aren't a whole lot of mandolinists and so while my luthier really knows his stuff with regards to the guitar, with the mando I assume he has much less experience. Is there a simpler explanation for this problem I'm having? (The intonation is fine on the outer sets of strings)

    Also, he's trying to convince me to switch to a lower string gauge. I've currently got what the previous owner was using, which is a medium heavy set (D'Addario EJ75). I feel a bit reticent to do this and I would love some guidance as I have no mandolin community to draw upon locally.

    Thanks in advance for your help!

    David

  2. #2

    Default Re: Mandolin Bridge Woes

    My first suspicion is that the bridge saddle is on backwards (easy mistake for someone not familiar with mandolins). Try flipping the saddle and retuning and also you may want to get Rob Meldrum's ebook to learn how to properly set up a mandolin. Best regards.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  3. #3
    Registered Muser dang's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Omaha, NE
    Posts
    1,051

    Default Re: Mandolin Bridge Woes

    Len could be onto it, post a pic or compare your saddle compensation to an online pic and let us know, that does sound a little off.
    I should be pickin' rather than postin'

  4. #4

    Default Re: Mandolin Bridge Woes

    I've taken a photo of the bridge.

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1LX0...w?usp=drivesdk

    Hopefully that link works.

    Does it looks like it's on backwards? The deeper slots on the bridge are on the side of the G strings and the thinner slots on the right hand side.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Mandolin Bridge Woes

    No, the compensations look fine....hmmm gotta give it some more thought.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  6. #6
    Registered Muser dang's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Omaha, NE
    Posts
    1,051

    Default Re: Mandolin Bridge Woes

    Looks like it is on correctly to me...

    No idea why you are having issues, but I would try a new set of strings before I spent any more money at the luthier?

    I am going for the easy answers but this may be more complicated.
    I should be pickin' rather than postin'

  7. #7
    Registered User Steve Sorensen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Santa Clarita, CA
    Posts
    2,278

    Default Re: Mandolin Bridge Woes

    1. Purchase a new set of strings. I suggest switching to DAddario Mediums EJ74.

    2. When you replace the strings, take a piece of folded paper and lightly buff the nut slots -- part of your problem may be that the AA or EE strings are sticking in the new nut slots.

    3. Make sure your saddle looks like this --
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Loar era saddle.jpg 
Views:	50 
Size:	15.4 KB 
ID:	183319
    (Top of picture is facing neck)

    4. Measure the distance from the Fretboard end edge of nut to the front edge of the saddle (where the EE strings first touch the saddle, and were the saddle is not cut back on the DD side.
    Distance should be double the distance of front edge of nut to the 12th Fret center.
    0 to 12 distance = 176 mm
    0 to saddle = 352 mm

    Steve

  8. #8
    F-style Apostate
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Tallahassee, FL
    Posts
    1,079

    Default Re: Mandolin Bridge Woes

    Lighter gauge strings may help if the issue is binding at the nut. The mandolin may have originally been set up for light strings, and heavier strings don't fit the slots.

  9. #9
    Registered User amowry's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Bend, OR
    Posts
    2,023

    Default Re: Mandolin Bridge Woes

    The compensation on those stock bridges is often pretty bad, in particular the A strings are often too long. That certainly looks to be the case on yours. A lot of manufacturers just approximate the old Gibson compensation (just assuming that it was correct) without testing it with modern strings. I find that the A strings only need to be a bit longer than the D when using J74s or J75s.

    Probably a new saddle is in order, but your luthier might be able to glue an ebony filler on the A and possibly D ramps and recut the compensation.

  10. #10
    Registered User amowry's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Bend, OR
    Posts
    2,023

    Default Re: Mandolin Bridge Woes

    Here's the compensation I use for J74s. As you can see, it only bears a passing resemblance to the old Gibson compensation (and your Kentucky compensation), yet the bridge is perpendicular to the centerline of the top and all the strings intonate within a few cents at the 12th fret.

    You may want to shop around if you decide to have someone make a new saddle. It should just take a few hours and cost less than $100. Your luthier may not want the job if he is telling you it will take multiple weeks .
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

Name:	compensation.jpg 
Views:	61 
Size:	110.6 KB 
ID:	183320  
    Last edited by amowry; Feb-01-2020 at 3:22pm.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Mandolin Bridge Woes

    1st, check the height of the bridge. Too high an action can cause issues like you're having.
    2nd I'd take a file to the nut side of the E string section of the bridge and move it back some.
    Then set the intonation at a best for all 4 sets, which might need some compromise. Lots of folks only set the intonation for a single E string and G string and then bring the instrument up to pitch. That is, at best, an approximation of good intonation. It is a good starting point, but the shape of the neck and top change as all strings are brought to tension. Work on fining the best bridge position so that all the strings are as close as possible to true. It will take some time but your ears will thank you!
    Best, Stevo

  12. #12

    Default Re: Mandolin Bridge Woes

    If the intonation was not bad before the nut was filed you might want to take a look and see if the strings are in contact at the front of the nut or if it is ramped and touching back a little. Usually this would buzz also.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •