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Thread: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

  1. #1

    Default Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    Hi all,

    I am having an issue with something on my Northfield Big Mon rattling. It only happens when I play one of the G strings. I've tried cranking up the action on the bass side but that doesn't help. If I play hard on the G string from fret 2 and up (with it getting less bad after 8ish) I hear a rattle.

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    I've got the bass side of the bridge much closer to the fretboard in comparison to the treble side for proper intonation but I'm assuming that is largely due to having much higher action on the bass side.

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    It doesn't look like the string is hitting a fret further up the neck and I've checked the tailpiece/tuner pegs but they were fine. It seems like if I dampen the top of the mandolin, the issue is not as bad. Because it is the worst on the earlier frets, my initial instinct was to allow for more relief in the neck but I'm not sure how far I should push that considering the D,A,E strings are great. And ideas would be much appreciated!



    Thanks,
    Micah

  2. #2
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    Check the frets with short straight edges that will span 3 frets at a time. That will locate any high frets.
    Check the string slots in the bridge to see that the strings lay in the slots right to the leading edge.
    Try a different set of strings.
    Check for loose braces inside the mandolin.
    Check for loose tuner buttons, screws, tailpiece screws, tailpiece cover, all hardware.
    Check to see if the truss rod nut is at least snug.

    I might think of some other things to check, but you might find it by that time.

  3. #3
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    I just had a rattle on one of the D's on my octave mandolin. It was a slightly loose tuner button screw.

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    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    In addition to Sunburst's list, try it in a different room if you haven't already. Something in the room may be giving you a sympathetic vibration.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    Have you tried weaving some leather or shoe string through strings south of the bridge?

    Jamie
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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    The way you have your bridge angled are you sure the neck doesn't have a slight twist?

  7. #7
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    [QUOTE=The_Muppet_Meister

    "I've got the bass side of the bridge much closer to the fretboard in comparison to the treble side for proper intonation but I'm assuming that is largely due to having much higher action on the bass side".

    If anything, I think you would want the bass side of the bridge further away from the end of the finger board for proper intonation. Esp if you have raised the action.
    Last edited by Charles E.; Aug-14-2020 at 6:34pm.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    If you are the original owner of the mandolin, you should call Northfield before you do anything else. Attempting to repair the instrument yourself or having someone else work on it without Northfield's authorization will probably void your warranty. And you don't want that, especially if the instrument turns out to need extensive repairs to fix the problem.

  9. #9
    Registered User Russ Jordan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    Check that nut on truss rod is not loose
    Russ Jordan

  10. #10
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    I agree with Sunburst, especially check the braces.
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

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  11. #11

    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    Put on a new set of strings before doing anything else. If that doesnít fix it, the rattle could be from fretted strings behind your fingers, that is, between your fretting fingers and the nut, rattling against a fret. Also, check to make sure the wound strings at the peghead are not pressing against each other. This may happen where the inside G string passes the tuner post for the outside G string and lightly presses against the windings of the outside G string as it wraps around the post. Finally, it could be a loose truss today cover.

  12. #12
    Registered User MrMoe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    I just had a rattle on one of the D's on my octave mandolin. It was a slightly loose tuner button screw.
    Rattles and buzzes are like ticks and mosquito's. I always check every where.
    Last edited by MrMoe; Aug-14-2020 at 6:13pm. Reason: add `s

  13. #13

    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    Thank you all for your replies!

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    Check the frets with short straight edges that will span 3 frets at a time. That will locate any high frets.
    Check the string slots in the bridge to see that the strings lay in the slots right to the leading edge.
    Try a different set of strings.
    Check for loose braces inside the mandolin.
    Check for loose tuner buttons, screws, tailpiece screws, tailpiece cover, all hardware.
    Check to see if the truss rod nut is at least snug.

    I might think of some other things to check, but you might find it by that time.
    Frets checked (3 at a time) and are level.
    Strings are laying in the slots to the edge.
    I had a pair of light strings 38's that I put on and the rattle is worse (likely just because the strings are more lively than the old). I've got a med/heavy set on the way that I will try. With the new strings I can get the rattle to occur fretted and also open if I play quite hard. Perhaps I just need to really lighten up on the right hand?
    I tapped around on the tap and didn't hear any loose braces but I'm no expert. Does it make sense to take a look at the inside with a mirror?
    I've checked tuner button screws, tailpiece screws, tailpiece, string interference on headstock, and the truss rod and cover but none of it is the culprit.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nevin View Post
    In addition to Sunburst's list, try it in a different room if you haven't already. Something in the room may be giving you a sympathetic vibration.
    I gave this a shot but no dice.

    Quote Originally Posted by William Smith View Post
    The way you have your bridge angled are you sure the neck doesn't have a slight twist?
    The neck doesn't seem to have a twist when inspected visually.

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    If you are the original owner of the mandolin, you should call Northfield before you do anything else. Attempting to repair the instrument yourself or having someone else work on it without Northfield's authorization will probably void your warranty. And you don't want that, especially if the instrument turns out to need extensive repairs to fix the problem.
    I am not the original owner.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    Quote Originally Posted by Russ Jordan View Post
    Check that nut on truss rod is not loose
    This is a good idea.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

  15. #15
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    ..

  16. #16
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    Quote Originally Posted by The_Muppet_Meister View Post
    ...With the new strings I can get the rattle to occur fretted and also open if I play quite hard...
    If you play "quite hard" on a mandolin the G strings will buzz/rattle. It is the nature of the beast because of the scale length/string gauge compromise that allows us 4 courses tuned in 5ths.

    I said I might think of something else and I did:
    If the strings that make up a pair (course) are too close together they can rattle against one another. If you can widen the spacing at the nut and/or bridge it can help that situation.

  17. #17
    Registered User bbcee's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    Hey Muppet:

    I see you have a James tailpiece. Looks like you checked it was seated, correct? I was recently having the same issue with my A string randomly rattling - definitely more if I played harder - which made me tear my hair out trying to locate it. Well, you guessed it, the TP cover had unseated, and was buzzing against the rest of the assembly. Needless to say, it was a cheap repair and a good lesson! Would that it would be something so simple in your case!

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    At this point, I would remove the truss rod cover and the tailpiece cover [if removable] and see if that makes a difference.
    Next, I would check all glue joints, including the joints between the sides and the plates, the fingerboard joints, and even the peghead overlay. A light and a mirror may or may not reveal a loose brace. Sometimes you can only find a loose spot with a probe, which is a job for a seasoned pro.
    I have seen hard to find rattles that were caused by a loose joint between back and sides, and even one that was caused by the truss rod rattling in its cavity. It could also be caused by a tailpiece that is within 1 mm. of the top-- when you play, the tailpiece and top vibrate against each other. I've seen that happen on violins.

    If all else fails, get thee to a luthier. With luck, it will be something simple that got by you.

  19. #19
    Mando-Afflicted lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    Sunburst has a really good checklist. My reaction was tuners or tailpiece. If it had a pickup, that would likely be the cause, but it doesnít sound like you have one. A pick guard will often cause a vibration.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    If the strings that make up a pair (course) are too close together they can rattle against one another. If you can widen the spacing at the nut and/or bridge it can help that situation.
    I always try the quick and easy things first, and this is one.

    Slacken one of the pair and park it to one side. Then play the remaining string as normal. If it still rattles, it's not the pair interfering.

    If the rattle stops, replace the slackened string and then slacken and park the original string. Repeat test.

    If rattle on both, then you've ruled out strings clashing and (probably) bridge slots.

    If one rattles but not the other, it has a faulty bridge slot or the string is defective.

    5 minute job to test this one ...

  21. #21

    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    Okay, thanks for the responses. I checked the truss rod nut and made sure the pair of strings weren't rattling on one another. Perhaps this is just to be expected when playing the G string on a mandolin? Here is a video of the the sound made when playing with a medium right hand.



    If this does seem abnormal I'll have to see what I can find for a mandolin luthier here in the Twin Cities.

    Thanks

  22. #22
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    The various suggestions made earlier in this thread are all excellent. Be sure to rule out the obvious candidates, and do that carefully. But you also could benefit by hearing a "baseline" for what the G-string should sound like. Perhaps your playing technique is mainly responsible for the buzzing you hear? (I notice you only played downstrokes, and that your right hand position seems a bit off to me). Please try to get someone else's mandolin to try out -- one that's well set up -- and see if you hear a similar buzzing. If so, then maybe the problem is not your mandolin, per se, but the way you're attacking the G-string? If you don't have friends with mandolins, I'm sure you can find a music store in the Twin Cities with some mandolins to test.

    Also, please be sure to try that heavier set of strings you mentioned (medium gauge), not just the light ones you have on now. It's possible that the slots in your bridge and/or nut were originally cut for thicker strings, and are therefore a bit too wide for the 0.038" strings you have on, allowing these to rattle. This effect can be particularly significant for the thicker, wound strings. Also, heavier gauge strings are under higher tension, and will be displaced less laterally as you pick. This will diminish any tendency to buzz against the frets, fretboard, or adjacent strings (assuming that's the problem).

  23. #23

    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    Your tailpiece cover is most likely the culprit. Itís metal on metal. Try playing it with the cover open. If thereís no rattle, check the washers that are under the cover. You might also try placing a piece of felt or cork under the tailpiece cover between it and the strings.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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  25. #24

    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    The various suggestions made earlier in this thread are all excellent. Be sure to rule out the obvious candidates, and do that carefully. But you also could benefit by hearing a "baseline" for what the G-string should sound like. Perhaps your playing technique is mainly responsible for the buzzing you hear? (I notice you only played downstrokes, and that your right hand position seems a bit off to me). Please try to get someone else's mandolin to try out -- one that's well set up -- and see if you hear a similar buzzing. If so, then maybe the problem is not your mandolin, per se, but the way you're attacking the G-string? If you don't have friends with mandolins, I'm sure you can find a music store in the Twin Cities with some mandolins to test.

    Also, please be sure to try that heavier set of strings you mentioned (medium gauge), not just the light ones you have on now. It's possible that the slots in your bridge and/or nut were originally cut for thicker strings, and are therefore a bit too wide for the 0.038" strings you have on, allowing these to rattle. This effect can be particularly significant for the thicker, wound strings. Also, heavier gauge strings are under higher tension, and will be displaced less laterally as you pick. This will diminish any tendency to buzz against the frets, fretboard, or adjacent strings (assuming that's the problem).
    I do have an eastman MD315 but it doesn't have the slightly larger body that the big mon does. I have 41s one the G string in this video. I am playing in way to really exaggerate the rattle in this clip! In much of my playing you wouldn't really hear this rattle, especially because I go pretty light when I play the G string on the lower 10 or so frets to avoid it!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    Your tailpiece cover is most likely the culprit. Itís metal on metal. Try playing it with the cover open. If thereís no rattle, check the washers that are under the cover. You might also try placing a piece of felt or cork under the tailpiece cover between it and the strings.
    I have checked with cover open. I'll have to investigate the washers you speak of. There are rubber pieces in this tailpiece between it and the strings.
    Last edited by The_Muppet_Meister; Aug-30-2020 at 10:36pm.

  26. #25
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ideas for what could be rattling on Mandolin!

    James tailpieces, like the one found on your Northfield Big Mon, rarely rattle. And their covers are hinged, not removable. But they do have small O-rings in them that fit into some oval-shaped grooves just below the emerging strings on the lower part of the unit, which act as built-in string dampeners. Make sure you're not missing these O-rings, and that they are down into the grooves. Also, make sure that the emerging strings are touching the O-rings and not resting directly against the tailpiece metal. You can also try opening the tailpiece cover halfway (~90 degrees) and see if the rattle goes away.

    EXPERIMENTS to try: You can also try resting the palm of your free left hand against the strings between the bridge and tailpiece as you pick the two open G strings to see if the rattle is coming from anywhere near there. Also try placing the fingers of your free left hand against the tuner posts, tuner bushings, pickguard, trussrod cover, nut, bridge saddle, fretboard extension, and various other parts as you pluck the open G string. If the rattle goes away or diminishes, then you have found your culprit! Also, try removing one of the two G strings altogether and see if the rattle goes away: maybe your G strings are colliding with one another?

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