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Thread: Better Tone & Volume above the 12th fret?

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    Default Better Tone & Volume above the 12th fret?

    Hi all- I have been struggling to get decent tone (ringing!) and volume above the 12th fret on my Weber Gallatin. I have checked all parameters of setup, & they seem fine (it sounds great 12th fret & below!) I do have the action set pretty low, but within what Rob Meldrum recommends in his setup book.It sounds kind of muffled Any suggestions?
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    Default Re: Better Tone & Volume above the 12th fret?

    I can't see you play, and it would depend on what your normal right hand position and technique is, but one solution you might try is moving your right hand 1/2" - 1" closer to the bridge when you play in the upper registers.

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    Default Re: Better Tone & Volume above the 12th fret?

    Thanks. That does help a little, but the problem is present wherever I pick or fret a given note. It is lessened if I apply massive pressure to my fretting finger (IE the note rings more with more volume when fingered hard perfectly between frets... My other mandos do not have this problem, & sound pretty good above the 12th, in comparison.....

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    Default Re: Better Tone & Volume above the 12th fret?

    Is your fingerboard flat, i.e. no bowing? Sounds like too little height in those high frets, which occurs if the fingerboard rises. If there is bowing, "relief", the comfortable string height for the middle frets will be too low for the high ones.

    I ensure my fingerboards are perfectly straight. Sighting along the fingerboard (I look from bridge toward nut) will show any curvature.
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    Default Re: Better Tone & Volume above the 12th fret?

    Yes, could be a fret slightly high, but not high enough to buzz, or a fret not seated. If it is not seated it won't ring out right. It could also be string height is a little low. You could try raising slightly first and see if that helps.
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    Default Re: Better Tone & Volume above the 12th fret?

    Frankly, any stringed instrument has less volume the higher up the neck you go, because there's simply less string to vibrate. If the reduction in volume is smooth and continuous, then chances are nothing's wrong, that's just how the instrument is. (Note that the dropoff will probably increase steadily as you go up the neck.)

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    Registered User Ky Slim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better Tone & Volume above the 12th fret?

    Obviously the frets get smaller and smaller as you go up there. At a point there is really not enough room for the fingertip to fit between the frets as it can in the lower area. Is it possible that your fingertip is landing slightly past the fret you aim to play? This would mute the tone. Try to turn your fingertip to more of an angle (fingernail toward the bridge). It might help to slightly roll/slide the fingertip into place -roll/slide toward the fret you aim to play until you get used to that feeling. It will feel like it is the front of the callous near the fingernail.

    Disclaimer: I'm not a pro. I don't really try to go much past 15-17 because of the muting (and my lack of skill lol). Seems like I would have to use my fingernail to press some of those really skinny frets.

    Good Luck!

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    Default Re: Better Tone & Volume above the 12th fret?

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    I can't see you play, and it would depend on what your normal right hand position and technique is, but one solution you might try is moving your right hand 1/2" - 1" closer to the bridge when you play in the upper registers.
    I have found that while the mandolin in general is a finicky instrument, my experience is that it is even finickier up the neck. I need to pay all that more attention even more to finger placement, hand placement, picking, and all, when I venture into the nose bleed frets.
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    Default Re: Better Tone & Volume above the 12th fret?

    This has always been something that I've found improves as you get into higher quality builds. Some builders seem to specialize in creating mandolins that are just totally balanced across the fretboard.

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    Default Re: Better Tone & Volume above the 12th fret?

    Quote Originally Posted by NotACreativeName View Post
    This has always been something that I've found improves as you get into higher quality builds. Some builders seem to specialize in creating mandolins that are just totally balanced across the fretboard.
    That is worth striving for!

    I am also not a pro but I like exploring way up there, especially with things like FFcP it doesn't have to be a foreign territory. The more it sounds like the same mandolin up there, the better. If I go up the string to avoid changing timbre from a wound string to one not wound, I don't want an even greater change in timbre just for going up a few frets.
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    Default Re: Better Tone & Volume above the 12th fret?

    I think this quality of clarity and tone is true on other instruments too. I have tinkered with uke for years and have a few tenors. My best one starts to choke the higher you go but, it's better than many others I've owned and played. Cost is relative to this and perhaps 'skill level'. However, cutting a long story short, I was introduced to a beautiful koa kamaka a few years ago and, wow, it was ringing notes, with clarity and sustain in spots where every other uke I've played was 'ping ping ping', you know, high pitched banjo'y kind of decay with no discernible note. I would have expected mandolins to follow this paradigm. Unless people like Thile really are cheating?

  14. #12

    Default Re: Better Tone & Volume above the 12th fret?

    A breakthrough for me was practicing 2 octave scales starting on the G string and moving through the Circle of Fifths. So I would start with your classic open G 2 octave scale up an down and then to D (starting on the 7th fret of G). Eventually you are making your way up into those higher registers. If you find yourself struggling in any specific scales go back and slow it down. I also think it is helpful in comparison to keys/registers that are easier or you get better tone. I would add if you haven't done this before or know the circle of fifths very well you will develop many other skills as you grind this out.

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    Default Re: Better Tone & Volume above the 12th fret?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kinsho View Post
    I think this quality of clarity and tone is true on other instruments too. I have tinkered with uke for years and have a few tenors. My best one starts to choke the higher you go but, it's better than many others I've owned and played. Cost is relative to this and perhaps 'skill level'. However, cutting a long story short, I was introduced to a beautiful koa kamaka a few years ago and, wow, it was ringing notes, with clarity and sustain in spots where every other uke I've played was 'ping ping ping', you know, high pitched banjo'y kind of decay with no discernible note. I would have expected mandolins to follow this paradigm. Unless people like Thile really are cheating?
    Both my Kamaka long neck soprano (HF1-LD) and my Ko'Aloha Silver Tenor ring beautifully above the 12th fret, but these are the first two ukuleles (of many!) that play that way. Every other ukulele I've played dies off very quickly in the upper registers. I always assumed it was physics kicking me in the butt, but while it's true that tone and volume fall off when you're playing with less than half the string length, there are definitely ways for instrument makers to minimize the problem.

    When I picked my Northfield, I picked it based in part on how incredibly loud and clear the upper register is.
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    Default Re: Better Tone & Volume above the 12th fret?

    Thanks all! I have adjusted my upper register fingering, which does indeed make a difference & help, but does not totally solve this issue. Also I have thoroughly checked all setup parameters (string height, intonation, nut, bridge, & neck relief) and all is as it should be for a good mando (Weber Gallatin). As several of you have noted, some (better build / quality) mandos just resonate & sound better (sigh), which essentially confirms my thinking = it isn't just a set-up or skill/ability issue...😥🙄

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