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Thread: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

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    Registered User Frankie D's Avatar
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    Default Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    I've had an Eastman MD 305 for less than 3 weeks and have been playing it very hard using two finger chords trying to get my finger tips used to playing a Mando, and trying to gain volume a long the way.

    So far basically beating on the strings is working very well bringing the volume up, but was wondering if there is something else that can also be done? Very much liking the Mando so far, but keeping it in tune is a bit hard, and maybe that will change down the road. Thanks.
    Eastman 515 Mando
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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    You already have an Eastman 515? It is pretty well known that the tuners on the 300 series are of lesser quality than the 500 series. If you want to upgrade the bridge, I would recommend Cumberland Acoustics...

    https://cumberlandacoustic.com/product/mandolin-bridge/

    I have put them on all previous Eastman mandolins that I owned with good results. Of course the fit to the top is crucial.
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    Ditto on the CA bridge. It improved the volume on my 615.
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    Registered User Frankie D's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    Thanks for the link Charley. I'm not sure if I want to change out a bunch of parts knowing that I might get the "Mando Fever" that's going around this forum, but a few changes might not hurt. Right? Ha. I don't have the 515 anymore, and have been too lazy to change out the photo, but still have the Banjo and Guitar.
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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    Quote Originally Posted by Frankie D View Post
    I'm not sure if I want to change out a bunch of parts knowing that I might get the "Mando Fever" that's going around this forum, but a few changes might not hurt. Right? Ha.
    I’d start with less invasive surgery, such as a heavier string (D’Addario EJ75) and pick (1.5 mm).

    P.S. Some players prefer a ToneGard on the back and even an armrest on the top so as not to mute the instrument. The benefit is that those accessories could be transferred to another mandolin should you succumb to the acquisition syndrome.
    Last edited by pheffernan; Oct-01-2021 at 9:24pm.
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    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    While you may be able to make the mandolin generally louder, technique tends to be the way to really make a mandolin loud. You can of course change setup, picks, strings, and/or parts, or add accessories which may or may not help, but primarily, volume control is in the attack angle of the flatpick as it hits the strings. And since this is mostly about how each person holds the flatpick -- because no two peoples' hands are exactly the same -- the best way to find what those angles do is to experiment with how you're holding the pick as you strike the strings.

    Just for example, for my picking hand, if I want raucous volume, I almost slap the string with the tip and full side of the flatpick, picking up leverage momentum by holding the rear end of the flatpick. For more sensitive volume, and also to get a nice double or triple stop tremolo, I allow the attack to be more at a 20 to 40 degree angle to the string, even to the extent of almost "bowing" the string with the pick. Again though, everyone's hand is different, and flatpick attacks and techniques are similarly different.

    If you really want to move into the accessorizing rabbit hole, as mentioned, for volume and tone the bridge is a good target, and while that work is being done, also try different strings. Also, if you hold your mandolin against your stomach, a ToneGard might be helpful, as well as an armrest and maybe a pickguard to keep your arm and fingers from muting the top of the mandolin. As mentioned, if you continue having tuning problems, nicer tuners might be helpful. Bridge and tuner replacement work is not something a beginner would be able to easily handle though, so you may want to take it to a mandolin specialist to have that work done.

    If it were me though, I'd be looking at flatpick technique first and foremost.

    (Transparency: Yes, I have a ToneGard, an armrest and a pickguard on both of my Gibson style mandolins. They were all installed before I really understood the nuances of flatpick angle. I like these accessories, but I can't objectively address whether they improve volume or tone. In contrast, flatpick technique can make a clear and obvious difference as you play.)
    Last edited by dhergert; Oct-01-2021 at 11:18pm.
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    Every mandolin I've put a tonegard on gets louder. You can argue whether they sound better or not but they do seem to sound louder.

    I've found Wegen and Clown Barf picks to be pretty loud. I like CT55 tone better but the other two have more volume.

    Worth experimenting with strings but I can't really tell ya which set is loudest. I like the new XS but more for feel and tone than pure volume.
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    Registered User Frankie D's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    I'm amazed at all the knowledge on this forum, and want to thank you all for this valuable information I'm getting here.

    I have to say that I'm not a good player by any measure, and when I played several years ago, all I did was play my own songs with two finger chords and very limited single string playing with little stretching if any.

    This time around I want to learn all I can and will have to take some on line lessons. I even need to learn the correct way to hold a pick! I use my thumb, index, and middle finger!

    I do know that I will have to get a Tone Guard and Arm Rest, and already planned on that part. Too much is lost without those items.

    I will be re reading all that was posted here, and will be trying all tips including pick angle etc., although I don't think I will be going to heaver strings just yet until my fingers and skills are ready. Very nice people here!
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    Only suggestion I would make is work on tone first. Are you playing with drums and electric guitar? Why pound the you-know-what out of the instrument? Make it sound nice. And while the $$$ items suggested above have value and work for the most part, I would concentrate on playing technique before investing large sums for hardware. Take the money and buy yourself some lessons with a good teacher first. My 2 cents!
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    Question Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    pick harder .. play into a mic, & Amp, so that amplification makes it louder .
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    Agree with Jim Garber above. Playing and practicing with proper tone will be more beneficial than banging away for more volume. If it's volume you want amplify it with a pick up, mic or whatever. IMHO the mandolin is not, by its very nature and design, meant to be a volume instrument. Much more nuanced like its kin, the fiddle / violin.
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    Two people can play the same mandolin, one will be much louder than the other because of technique. I agree with Jim get some lessons specifically about pick technique.
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    There is a way to determine if a ToneGard will be of any benefit. Sit or stand facing into a corner of the room, like you were being punished. This way you hear more of what the audience hears. Play into the corner the way you usually do. Then deliberately pull the mandolin away from your body so that the back is is free to vibrate. (If you already play this way, the ToneGard will not change anything.) If when playing away from your body the volume is louder, then yea, the ToneGard will be a an advantage.

    I am built more or less like a bowlback, and often find myself holding the mandolin against my body, especially when I am tired. So the ToneGard has made a huge difference for me.
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    Registered User Frankie D's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    Believe it or not banging on the 305 has brought up the volume much better to my ears compared to the way it was when I received it.

    I still need to get it set up/fine tuned, and I might have to replace the tuners, but I'm hoping lubing the nut slots might help? Won't stay in tune and I don't really want to return it.

    Thanks again for all the thoughts and advice, and yes, lessons are on my list, that is if I can stop playing my old songs and trying to add licks....
    Eastman 515 Mando
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    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    That’s great to hear, Frankie. I’m a believer, as I’ve experienced it happen too.

    Some mandolins seem to perk up quite easily, and some seem to need 20-30 minutes of consistent playing. I had a mandolin I loved that I would take to a three-hour weekly jam. Although I was playing a ton back then, every week I would experience it’s transformation from the first song to the last. By the end it seemed I barely had to touch it and tone would just burst out of it. It was great. I’m sure the tone also changed/opened up over the weeks and months I went to that jam although that’s a little harder to notice.

    As far as your tuning, I’m surprised your Eastman is going out of tune so much. I’ve owned two and that was not an issue. Getting it set up by someone who knows mandolins should definitely help. Other than that, how old are the strings? If they’re more than a few weeks old they could be the culprits, if you’ve been banging the heck out of them you could wear them out in a week or less. Some people change strings a few times per week depending on how many gigs they have.
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    Quote Originally Posted by Frankie D View Post
    I've had an Eastman MD 305 for less than 3 weeks and have been playing it very hard using two finger chords trying to get my finger tips used to playing a Mando, and trying to gain volume a long the way.

    So far basically beating on the strings is working very well bringing the volume up, but was wondering if there is something else that can also be done? Very much liking the Mando so far, but keeping it in tune is a bit hard, and maybe that will change down the road. Thanks.
    Banging on the mandolin will result in a banged up mandolin. Efforts to make the mandolin get louder are, in my opinion, a ridiculous waste of time. Itís simply not going to magically grow loud. Efforts to make the mandolin player a more technically refined player will with absolute certainty generate not only more volume but a much more pleasant sound. The mandolin soundboard will achieve its resonant potential either way, so work on your technique.

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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    Good points have been made here, I won't repeat. But I will say pick thickness is an easy variable to experiment with and can make a significant difference. I wouldn't use anything thinner than 1.1mm / 45mil. Personal preference is 1.4-1.5mm / 55-60mil.

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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    What's your goal in trying to increase volume? Unless you have a particular need to hold your own as a prominent melodic instrument in unamplified sessions in noisy spaces, it probably isn't your best priority at this point. As a double bassist I spent a few years going down the rabbit hole of trying to maximise my projection above all to try and jam unamplified in as many situations as I could, and in retrospect I feel like my playing at that time lacked a lot of finesse. Certainly I'm enjoying those situations a lot more now by focusing on musicality and trying not to stress if I'm low in the mix!

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    Registered User Frankie D's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    Thanks for the tip on changing out the strings Kevin. I had no idea that the strings that came on the 305 EJ74's (?) had to be changed out to help keep the tuners working properly.


    I have a set of 74's that I ordered with the Mando, and will be putting them on, and that will also give me a chance to lube the nut slots.

    As far as banging on the Mando, I think I used the wrong wording. There isn't a scratch on it because I keep the pic strictly on the strings only, and the volume has ramped up nicely. I only play at home and for myself.

    Right now I'm basically just trying to get my finger tips used to a Mando, (sliding is the worst) and can only play for maybe 20 min.? before they get too sore to continue. I'm very grateful they heal over night, or 24 hrs.

    I am using thicker picks now, but what I call think is a Fender medium, but need to obtain some 1.2's. If all else fails, follow directions. Right? Ha

    Btw, every bit of advice you guys (all) are giving me is taken in as fact, and this time around it will be followed. My way ended up in my quitting Mando all together....
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    Great to witness your journey!

    Slight tweak… changing the strings doesn’t keep the tuners working well. It’s the strings themselves. They have a lifespan and eventually don’t stay stretched to where we want them. It’s usually the first murder of considering changing strings.

    Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t suggest these glorious picks, lol. 1.3 mm:
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    I maybe in the minority, but I like a pick thinner than 1mm. I get better sound out of all my mandolins with a thinner pick. A BC 35 is not thin enough and I don't like how my G string sounds. May be just me, but seems to work on old Gibson ovals and my newer ff holed mandolins as well.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    My guess is you are striving for a regular volume, not some banjo killing volume with which to dominate a jam. I would think a properly set up and properly played 305 is perfectly capable of this. And I believe the 305 has f holes, so it will have the more focused projection typical of f hole instruments.

    I think that managing volume involves managing expectations. Chop chords are going to be louder just because they are more percussive. In an ensemble everyone should know their role in each song or tune, and manage their volume accordingly. So when it is time for a sweet mandolin solo, the responsible banjo and/or guitar player backs off a bit, to let the mandolin ring.

    In a large jam without individual solos, I been to a few, just forget about it. A large jam can be an acoustic, and often musical, compromise. A ton of fun playing with the folks, but don't count on being all that appreciated for your subtle tone quality.

    I guess, in summary, if you can get the mandolin to deliver regular mandolin volume, allowing you to solo when others cooperate, I think you then have enough volume to manage most reasonable situations, and those that cannot be managed could very likely be because others are not cooperating. It is not unheard of.


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    Dan Sampson mando_dan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    Keep playing the ever living heck out of it and if you believe the folklore, resting it against the front of a speaker with Black Sabbath set to 11 for a day or two may help as well.
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    Registered User Woody Ukepicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    Quote Originally Posted by Frankie D View Post
    So far basically beating on the strings is working very well bringing the volume up, but was wondering if there is something else that can also be done?
    Beating on the strings ??? Have you tried caressing the strings and trying to get a pleasant sound? That is where I would begin.

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    Registered User Frankie D's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on getting more volume out of a 3 week old Mando?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    I maybe in the minority, but I like a pick thinner than 1mm. I get better sound out of all my mandolins with a thinner pick. A BC 35 is not thin enough and I don't like how my G string sounds. May be just me, but seems to work on old Gibson ovals and my newer ff holed mandolins as well.
    I'm sort of in the same boat as you liking the brighter sound using Dunlop 71mm, Pro Grip Brited 60mm, and 73mm on the Mando and my guitars, but will have to change my ways using thicker picks.
    Eastman 515 Mando
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