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Thread: Tuning issue

  1. #1

    Default Tuning issue

    Hi all, I'm a brand new Mandolin owner. I picked up a used Fender from a music store for a song.

    When I try to tune it, the lower frets across the strings play sharp, but the higher frets play flat, and it seems to even out around the 4th to 5th fret (i.e. D or E on the A string). I'm just wondering if there is something I can do. I've tried moving and raising the bridge but I don't know that I can get it to tune completely true.

    I'm also prepared to accept that maybe the instrument doesn't play true

    Thanks all for your insight and the opportunity to ask and learn!

  2. #2
    Registered User
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    Default Re: Tuning issue

    I suggest you get in touch with Rob Meldron here at the Cafe. He has a very good ebook on setting up a mandolin that is free to Cafe members.

    While you are waiting for it. Your problem sounds like a nut that is cut too high. The extra tension from forcing the strings down on the frets near the nut makes the notes high.

  3. #3
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuning issue

    Make sure the bridge is placed in the proper position and the top is oriented correctly while your at it. It most likely needs a good setup. Beyond that mandolin is Italian for "out of tune".
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  4. #4
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuning issue

    Quote Originally Posted by Nevin View Post
    I suggest you get in touch with Rob Meldron here at the Cafe...
    It's Rob Meldrum; read this recent thread, it'll give you an e-mail address to contact him. He'll send Cafe members a free e-book covering "DIY" mandolin set-up.

    Having a bit of trouble deciphering your language: "the lower frets across the strings play sharp, but the higher frets play flat, and it seems to even out around the 4th to 5th fret..." are you saying that the D and G strings are sharp when fretted, the E and A strings flat? Or are you saying that the first few frets on all strings sound sharp, but the frets above the 4th and 5th sound flat?

    The quick test for bridge location, is to compare the harmonic -- the little ringing tone you get when you touch a string lightly above a particular fret, then pick the string -- with the note you get when you fret the string, both at the 12th or octave fret. If the fretted note is sharp to the harmonic, the bridge is too close to the nut; opposite if the fretted note's flat to the harmonic -- then the bridge is too close to the tailpiece.

    Also, mandolin bridge saddles are compensated --i.e., the string length from nut to bridge saddle differs slightly for the various strings. Sometimes, especially on instruments you can "buy for a song," the saddles are reversed which can affect the intonation. This old thread may give some useful information.

    Mandolins require more set-up intervention than, say, guitars, because their bridges are adjustable. Probably wouldn't be worth your while to take the Fender to a instrument technician, since the set-up's price might exceed what you paid for it. Rob M's e-book is probably your best bet.

    Good luck!
    Allen Hopkins
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  5. #5
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuning issue

    Most likely problem is; strings too high at the nut and bridge out of place.
    A good set-up will include those adjustments, so as mentioned, get it set up and it will play as near to in tune as it can.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Tuning issue

    I apologies to Rob Meldrum for misspelling his last name.

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