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Thread: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

  1. #26
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Smile Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    My Carbon Fiber Mix A5, is not exhibiting that issue , FWIW..
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  3. #27
    Registered User Dan Adams's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    Iím currently not too far from where Sheila lives, just west about twenty miles. Last fall I spent ten weeks here, and the temperature varied from the hundreds down to the 30s at night over that span of time. I never noticed, or didnít pay enough attention, to note any changes in the tuning of my Flatiron. Iím here for about three months, so Iíll have to pay more attention to tuning changes after reading through this thread. It should be a good test, its raining today, and supposed to rain all day tomorrow, a rarity for the desert. I should also see some pretty good temperature variances in the next three months. Very rarely is the mandolin in a case, so it should be susceptible to the humidity changes.
    Play em like you know em!

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  5. #28
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    Like most stringed musical instruments, it's sometimes best to think of tuning a mandolin in terms of tuning strings that are resting on a bridge that sits on a bubble. Loosen one string, especially one that has higher tension than the others, and some of the others go sharp in mechanical compensation. Along those lines, a looser relatively thick string (like a G string) will result in higher tension on some of the other strings as the bubble compensates. On extremely sensitively built mandolins, this happens more.

    Add to this the effects of humidity changes, and you've got a pretty normal day in the tuning life of a mandolin.
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  7. #29
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    In my experience, two factors cause instruments to go sharp: increased humidity and increased temperature, both of which can cause wood to expand and stretch strings out a bit more. I keep most of my instruments in a basement room that has about the highest humidity in my house. When I take them out to play in other environments, I may have to tune some strings down to concert pitch. After they've "dried out" a bit wherever I'm playing them, I correct the pitch back up to "concert" as needed, and usually put them back in the basement at that level of string tension. When I get them out again, they may well be sharp -- sometimes by as much as a half-step.

    I've also played instruments outdoors in direct sunlight, and have had to tune them down as their wooden components heated up. I try to avoid this if possible, of course, since direct sunlight can fade or soften finishes.

    The possibility does exist that strings -- especially the wound ones -- may stick in too-tight nut slots, and the excess tension in the portion of the strings between nut and tuning pegs may "work through" the nut slots as the instrument's played, raising the pitch above the level to which they were tuned. This should happen while the instrument's played, though, and the strings are flexed and vibrated -- rather than between the times it's played (IMHO, anyway). Rubbing a pencil point in the nut slots will provide some graphite lubrication, and test this theory.
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  9. #30
    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    Oddly, mine went flat this morning, but typically is goes a bit sharp. Was a bit cooler overnight though.

    I figure it’s all par for the course, certainly don’t expect it to remain in pitch overnight.
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  11. #31
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Theo W. View Post
    It likely isn't due to linear expansion from body heat, as if you tuned it right when you picked it up, the strings would likely expand a miniscule amount, then when you put it back in your case they would return to their original tuned length. It also likely isn't bound strings, if a string was bound and released, it would "release" extra length making your string flat. It's likely, as everyone said, just humidity changes from your case to your play area making your mandolin's body expand. YMMV (source: my physics addled brain).
    I agree with most everyone here that the single most likely cause of strings going sharp between successive playing sessions is an increase in humidity, leading to an expansion of the wooden neck and body, which tightens the strings, causing them to go sharp. However, your logic about strings binding at the nut slot is incorrect -- sorry to say! -- and this binding can represent another reason that strings can go sharp. Here's the correct explanation of how that works. We generally tune up from below the desired note. If the string tends to bind a bit at the nut, it will tend to leave the segment of string between the tuner post and the nut at a higher tension than the rest of the string, with the nut's static friction supporting the small tension difference on the peghead side. If, while sitting a while in the case, that tension gets alleviated for any reason (leading to nut slippage), then all the extra tension in the peghead segment will become distributed over the entire string, raising its pitch. So yes, string binding at the nut can certainly lead to these eventually going sharp.

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  13. #32

    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    its just a natural occourance that happens a lot ... any bumbleling picker who thinks your instrument is going to stay in tune all the time must not pick very much. i have a $8000 apitius and when it goes out of tune ( which is often) it always goes sharp. thats just the way it is.

  14. #33
    Every day is a gift. Sheila Lagrand's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Adams View Post
    I’m currently not too far from where Sheila lives, just west about twenty miles. Last fall I spent ten weeks here, and the temperature varied from the hundreds down to the 30s at night over that span of time. I never noticed, or didn’t pay enough attention, to note any changes in the tuning of my Flatiron. I’m here for about three months, so I’ll have to pay more attention to tuning changes after reading through this thread. It should be a good test, its raining today, and supposed to rain all day tomorrow, a rarity for the desert. I should also see some pretty good temperature variances in the next three months. Very rarely is the mandolin in a case, so it should be susceptible to the humidity changes.
    Welcome, Dan, and I hope your stay is enjoyable. You're 20 miles west of me, yes? I don't think there's much apart from open desert (which is beautiful, but none too comfy for a three-month stay) 20 miles east of us. We have had a very mild winter out here--one of my blackberry canes is blooming. This weekend's storm is my first opportunity to observe what my mandolins do when it rains. I'll report back.
    Now, what was I after when I wandered in here?

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  15. #34
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    Quote Originally Posted by hermdawg View Post
    its just a natural occourance that happens a lot ... any bumbleling picker who thinks your instrument is going to stay in tune all the time must not pick very much. i have a $8000 apitius and when it goes out of tune ( which is often) it always goes sharp. thats just the way it is.
    Let me be the first bumbleing (sic) picker to note that I don't think my instrument is going to stay in tune all the time.
    Now, what was I after when I wandered in here?

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  16. #35
    not a donut Kevin Winn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    I noticed that peculiarity when I started on the mandolin, too. My guitars and mandolins sit right next to each other, and when I tune them, it's always bringing the guitars up to pitch, and the the mandos down.

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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    I frequently take my mandolin from Reno (high desert elev. ~4000ft and dry) to the Calif. coast (sea level and much more humidity). Every time, I spend the entire time in Calif. tuning down my instrument. When I return to Reno, it usually takes 5-7 days of tuning back up to stabilize. I have an octave, but for some reason it stays in tune much better than the mando.
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    Iíll be the 2nd Sheila.....

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  20. #38
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    I, half-jokingly, tell my mandolin students that unless you want everyone to know you’re a beginner before they hear you play, don’t take your mandolin out of it’s case and begin playing without first checking to see if it’s in tune.

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  22. #39
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    I'm definitely a bumbling player, but my Stradolin has been in tune three days running now (yes, I checked before I started playing)

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  24. #40
    Registered User Dan Adams's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    We’re in south Chandler. We sure enjoy hiking in San Tan Regional Park. Anything musical, like a good old fashioned social distancing outdoor jam, going on around here in the winter/spring months?
    Play em like you know em!

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  26. #41
    Every day is a gift. Sheila Lagrand's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Calley View Post
    I frequently take my mandolin from Reno (high desert elev. ~4000ft and dry) to the Calif. coast (sea level and much more humidity). Every time, I spend the entire time in Calif. tuning down my instrument. When I return to Reno, it usually takes 5-7 days of tuning back up to stabilize. I have an octave, but for some reason it stays in tune much better than the mando.
    Ah, and we haven't even begun to consider whether elevation might play a role. I'm at 1,500 feet, and it's dry here.
    Now, what was I after when I wandered in here?

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  27. #42
    Every day is a gift. Sheila Lagrand's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Adams View Post
    We’re in south Chandler. We sure enjoy hiking in San Tan Regional Park. Anything musical, like a good old fashioned social distancing outdoor jam, going on around here in the winter/spring months?
    Not that I have found, Dan--and my husband and I (he's on mountain dulcimer) aren't up to jamming speed yet (see what I did there?). We're a great audience, though. I don't know how many make up your "we," but it's just the two of us here and a pack of 3 friendly dogs. Always open to a gathering of other callus-fingered folks.
    Now, what was I after when I wandered in here?

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  28. #43
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sheila Lagrand View Post
    Ah, and we haven't even begun to consider whether elevation might play a role. I'm at 1,500 feet, and it's dry here.
    It's not the altitude that changes the tuning, but the moisture. Higher elevations in the Nevada mountains tend to be drier. Wood will shrink. Take the mandolin down to the California coast (hint: that's a seashore!) and it will be much more humid. Wood will expand. The effect of humidity is vastly more important, with respect to keeping a mandolin in tune, than any of the changes in pressure associated with an elevation difference.

  29. #44
    Every day is a gift. Sheila Lagrand's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    It's not the altitude that changes the tuning, but the moisture. Higher elevations in the Nevada mountains tend to be drier. Wood will shrink. Take the mandolin down to the California coast (hint: that's a seashore!) and it will be much more humid. Wood will expand. The effect of humidity is vastly more important, with respect to keeping a mandolin in tune, than any of the changes in pressure associated with an elevation difference.
    Yup! I grew up by that seashore, and we're actually there now, on an unscheduled trip due to a family emergency. Brought the mandolin. I'll pay attention.
    Now, what was I after when I wandered in here?

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  30. #45
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    My teacher gave me a humidifier for my case last week. Maybe someone has already suggested trying one, but just in case. . . .
    At Jon Hall's suggestion I bought a hygrometer for my home office/practice room. The humidity here seems to stay (these days, at least) at about 30%. With the case humidifier, I hardly have to make any tuning adjustment before playing.

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  32. #46
    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    Just accept it: Mandolin is Italian for "out of tune". You will spend 3/5ths of your life tuning so that you can play out of tune the other 50% of the time!

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  34. #47
    Registered User Ash Telecaster's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    Hi Sheila,

    I see that happen in the case for obvious reasons but I haven't noticed it on my guitars out of case. It might be happening and I didn't realize it. I just got the md305 as my first mandolin and I will pay attention to this.

    BTW: I'm already itchin to get the Eastman octave mandolin!
    Last edited by Ash Telecaster; Feb-01-2021 at 1:08pm.

  35. #48
    Every day is a gift. Sheila Lagrand's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin goes sharp between sessions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ash Telecaster View Post
    Hi Sheila,

    I see that happen in the case for obvious reasons but I haven't noticed it on my guitars out of case. It might be happening and I didn't realize it. I just got the md305 as my first mandolin and I will pay attention to this.

    BTW: I'm already itchin to get the Eastman octave mandolin!
    Has your MD 305 been delivered yet? And if so, are you in love with it yet? Keep an eye on the classifieds here to find that MDO--reverb.com might also be a good spot.
    Now, what was I after when I wandered in here?

    2020 Eastman MD 305
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