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Thread: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

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    Question Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    Hey guys, about to order my first mandolin and had a few questions, so here goes:
    I saw reviews on the mandolin I am getting and a few people mentioned they changed the strings to better suit their style. If I need to do that, will I need any special tools for re-stringing?

    If so, could you guys link me everything I should get in order to re-string it (best strings to get would be good advice)?

    I saw a few reviews mentioning adjusting the bridge height. I know what they mean by that, but what is the purpose in doing that and why would I have to do that right when I get it? Why would the bridge be at the wrong height right out of the gate?

    One last thing- I ask about the tools because I play guitar and while you can restring a guitar without special tools, it is nice to have a couple tools that make it easier to do. If you guys could help, that would be awesome. Thanks!

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    Default Re: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    No special tools needed, and bridge height is a personal thing. You may want a lower action and lighter strings if you are just beginning. Then if you play guitar you may be just fine.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Default Re: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    what do you mean by lower action? new to this obviously lol.

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    Registered User Jake Biddix's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    You might want to invest in a string winder. You can typically find them less than $10 online (Amazon) or any music store if there are any open in Nashville right now. Have you gone to The Mandolin Store? I know they would treat you right, and it is in your home town! (NFI, just a happy customer!)
    Jake B.
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    Default Re: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    Who you buy it from matters will they prepare it for sale, doing set up?
    I got along for a decade with an A-440 tuning fork..
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    Default Re: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    No I have not, as I’ve really just gotten into it via the internet and watching a lot of videos about it. Haven’t really gotten out to any music stores. Thanks for the advice on the string winder. Any suggestions for strings?
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    not a donut Kevin Winn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    Hopefully not being too obvious, but the bridge on a mandolin is not attached to the top like it is on an acoustic guitar. Change the strings one or two at a time, as they are the only thing holding the bridge in place. Don't ask me how I know.

    D'Addario EJ74's are pretty much a standard set to try first. There are million places to go from there.
    "Keep your hat on, we may end up miles from here..." - Kurt Vonnegut

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    Default Re: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    Go to the Mandolin Store ! All questions will be answered and explained !
    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 !

  9. #9

    Default Re: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    Quote Originally Posted by yankees1 View Post
    Go to the Mandolin Store ! All questions will be answered and explained !
    Easy for you to say yankees1, how’s he going to do that?

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    Default Re: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    You can change strings one side at a time (4 strings) without disturbing the floating bridge.
    If you use a string winder make sure it's sized for the small pegs on a mandolin. Guitar-sized one is to large and can mar the side of your peghead.
    D'Addario EJ74 strings was good advice for first set. Popular for good reason.

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    Default Re: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    If you order your mandolin from one of the cafe sponsors it will come well set up, meaning the nut and bridge height will be comfortably low but not buzzing, the truss rod adjusted correctly, intonation set, and any fret issues addressed. If you buy from a big box store like Guitar Center, Musician’s Friend, or from eBay, you’re not guaranteed that set up, which is critical. I’ve bought several used instruments in the classifieds, and all came better set up than my first eBay purchase, but all except 1 needed some tweaking. So, my first recommendation would be to check out TMS and Elderly For on line shopping. If music stores are open, go to Gruhn’s and Carter’s and try a bunch (using appropriate caution, perhaps making an appointment), it’ll be worth the education, even if you opt for a $90 dollar Rogue. FWIW, the last time I visited Folkmusician.com (Robert Fear used to post here often) he had Rogue’s and some other cheap mandolins for sale, and he’s reputed to do an excellent set up.

    If you go the big box route or eBay, expect to have to spend an extra 25-200 dollars (depending on what’s needed) to get it playable. There’s also a Cafe member named Rob Meldrum who offers a free ebook on mandolin set up that’s very good and outlines inexpensive Options for tools if you’re handy enough to tackle it yourself.

    As for string changes, it’s just like guitar, except some of the guitar string winders won’t fit smaller mandolin buttons, and the bridge is floating, so don’t take all the strings off at once unless you Mark the bridge location and are comfortable resetting intonation.

    Welcome to the obsession!!
    Chuck

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  13. #12
    Gibson F5L Gibson A5L
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    Default Re: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    Yeah Go see Dennis at The Mandolin Store , by appointment only, 907 Rivergate Parkway Suite A-4 Goodlettsville, TN 37072 , (623) 933 – 8319 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM email sales@themandolinstore.com …. He will take good care of you. But then if you are from Nashville , Indiana that might be a little bit to far.....R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Default Re: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    Quote Originally Posted by NashvilleMan View Post
    what do you mean by lower action? new to this obviously lol.
    Action is how hard/easy the mandolin plays. Or how high the strings are above the 12th fret. Same as guitar, the action refers to playability.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Default Re: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    Listen to Kevin. I made the mistake of taking all of the strings off the first time I restrung a mandolin. It can be a real problem. Good luck and have fun.
    Last edited by Denny Gies; Jun-05-2020 at 8:23am. Reason: Additional thought

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    Default Re: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    Action is ... how high the strings are above the 12th fret.
    And how high the strings are above the 1st fret. Nut slots often need to be filed, just one area where Rob Meldrum's free e-book, noted above, is most helpful.

    BTW, most fretted instruments come with the action slightly high so that they may be adjusted to the buyer's personal taste. Cheaper fretted instruments come with the action too high, often WAY too high, because it's just that: cheaper. It's not unknown to see virtually identical instruments, o/t brand name & model #, selling for $150 and $350, the difference being the last hour or so of fine adjustment.
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    Default Re: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    I would say to jump in, get the mandolin, and start playing. Get the tools and accessories you find yourself needing along the way.

    I think that for many, adjusting and optimizing their mandolin becomes a separate hobby, which can severely cut into pickin' time.

    I sometimes think that the reason for this is that chasing picks and string gauges and set ups and pick ups and all the paraphernalia of it all, is easier than regularly practicing and jamming and getting good at the mandolin. FWIW YMMV etc.
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    Default Re: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    That's a good question - what else do I need when I get a mandolin? I think a headstock tuner is a must have item, but there are plenty of other options out there. I like the one in the link because it's small, inexpensive, and works well, but there are tons of options.

    A good cleaning cloth is nice to have so you can wipe off the dust when you change strings.

    As for the string winder, make sure the one you get is for mandolins, most of the guitar ones are too wide.

    Finally, you'll need some snips to cut the strings. You probably have those since you play guitar, but having a nice pair specific for changing strings is a joy to use.

    If you do have to take all the strings of for some reason, I use painter's tape to mark where the bridge goes. It doesn't hurt the finish, and makes it easy to get it back to where it belongs. Of course that's assuming it was right in the first place.

    For strings, the most popular are the D'Addario EJ74.

    Good luck. No one is born knowing this, we get better with practice.
    A quarter tone flat and a half a beat behind.

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    Default Re: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    To give you an idea of the differences in the winder sizes take a look at this. I made a mandolin winder out of a guitar winder.
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    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Austin Bob View Post
    ...If you do have to take all the strings of for some reason, I use painter's tape to mark where the bridge goes. It doesn't hurt the finish, and makes it easy to get it back to where it belongs. Of course that's assuming it was right in the first place...
    Yup, I do that and I mark both the bridge base and the saddle on the bass side underneath with a "B" in pencil so I don't make any mistakes putting it back on just to make it easier.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Buying my first Mandolin- Equipment questions

    Correction:

    I had the wrong link for string cutters above, this is actually the correct ones for cutting strings.

    They're close, but the string cutters are a bit beefier than the wire cutters.
    A quarter tone flat and a half a beat behind.

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