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Thread: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

  1. #1

    Default My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    Specifically the higher registerÖ A and E strings arenít giving any punch like they used to. Iím using the heaviest gauge strings I can find out there, and just got it set up recently so canít figure out whatís going on. Frets arenít very worn either bc Iím using evo gold fret wire. Yep, got myself a case of the mandolin blues 🙁

  2. #2
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    Weather change maybe? I certainly notice that in some weather (usually warm weather) my mandolin sounds more subdued.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    Maybe you could try a different pick? I've found they can make a pretty big difference in sound.

  4. #4

    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    As my old buddy Ivan used to say... If you want more punch, try DR MD-11s and a Primetone pick.
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    Registered User Rodney Riley's Avatar
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    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    Have you always used the “heaviest strings I can find”? Or were they put on when you had the set-up done?
    Does your set-up person have mando knowledge, or a guitar tech? With these little beasts, all info can help to isolate a problem.

  7. #6

    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    I would check the humidity level first. Then change the strings, clean the nut slots and bridge slots to make sure there isn't any accumulated grime stuck.

  8. #7

    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    Quote Originally Posted by LKN2MYIS View Post
    I would check the humidity level first. Then change the strings, clean the nut slots and bridge slots to make sure there isn't any accumulated grime stuck.
    Thanks for the insight! Well full disclosure Iíve been having a lot of issue with the A string falling out of tune midsong every time I play it and I think it has something to do with getting caught on the nut so my solution has been to apply big Benís nut lube before every showÖ Iím wondering if maybe Iím not cleaning it out enough when Iím reapplying and itís creating grime and buildupÖ But at the same time I think Iím cleaning it out before I reapply hmmm lol

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  10. #8

    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    My set up tech is more of a guitar tech and less of a mandolin tech but he has worked on mandolins many timesÖ A unique thing Iíve been doing recently is applying big Benís nut lube before every show because my A string seems to get caught on the nut mid song and fall out of tune regularlyÖ wondering if that might have something to do with it

  11. #9
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    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    I would check to see if the nut slot is cut for the heavier string gauge. Is it going out of tune sharp or flat? Heavier strings can also mute the top of the instrument, maybe try a lighter set. What gauges are you using?
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  12. #10

    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Gardina View Post
    Thanks for the insight! Well full disclosure I’ve been having a lot of issue with the A string falling out of tune midsong every time I play it and I think it has something to do with getting caught on the nut so my solution has been to apply big Ben’s nut lube before every show… I’m wondering if maybe I’m not cleaning it out enough when I’m reapplying and it’s creating grime and buildup… But at the same time I think I’m cleaning it out before I reapply hmmm lol
    I'd consider GENTLY running a nut file through the slots, or having a set-up guy do it.

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  14. #11

    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    Thanks for the insight! Well full disclosure I’ve been having a lot of issue with the A string falling out of tune midsong every time I play it and I think it has something to do with getting caught on the nut so my solution has been to apply big Ben’s nut lube before every show… I’m wondering if maybe I’m not cleaning it out enough when I’m reapplying and it’s creating grime and buildup… But at the same time I think I’m cleaning it out before I reapply hmmm lol
    If the string is catching and going out of tune, that suggests a problem with the slot which could also affect the sound. Was the setup done with the same gauge of strings?

  15. #12
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    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    In almost 60 years of playing fretted instruments, I’ve never resorted to any form of “nut lube”. If a nut slot is cut cleanly and correctly there’s simply no need for it although I’ve occasionally had recourse to cleaning the odd slot out - use a piece of sharply folded brown paper which is slightly abrasive. You might also like to bear in mind that strings which are too heavy can prevent an instrument top from vibrating properly so, constantly adding heavier strings, could be the cause of the problem. “A” strings, by the way, often suffer from tuning problems more than the others.

  16. #13
    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    I'd check:

    1. The age of the strings - if they are old, replace them first as many issues are really just old strings. If nothing else clicks and it still doesn't sound right, just change the strings - even if they are new (could be a bad batch or bad re-string etc)
    2. Before changing strings, check to make sure they are slotted correctly in both the nut and bridge. Pay attention to the differences in the G and D vs A and E since the latter two give you issues the former do not
    3. Connection between the Bridge and Face - if there are gaps, that can affect tone and etc which could produce what you are referring to
    4. If you're not using a tone-gard or similar, are you touching the backplate at all? If you hold the mandolin well away from your body while sitting, does it sound better?

    Last - if it sounded right before and now it does not sound right - did anything change? Are you keeping it in the same place? Did you change picks or string brand / type?
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  17. #14

    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    I’m currently using DR - Rare Phosphor Bronze Heavy, MD-12 Strings and a Wegen pick.

  18. #15
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    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    A trick I learned from an old violin repairman is to make an angled cut at the back of the nut slots to prevent the strings from catching on a sharp corner at the back end of the slot. This fixes a lot of catching and slipping problems. Most repairmen do not know this trick.

    Sometimes a heavy string will kill tone.

    If a problem still exists when all of the setup options have been exhausted, have the instrument checked for loose braces and loose seams.

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  20. #16
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    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    Why did you choose to go with the heaviest strings possible? Seems counter intuitive to me. I would think lighter strings would produce a brighter tone. I have never used anything heavier than medium, and in fact now use medium light gauge on my bluegrass instruments. A little easier on these aging fingers and I like the tone just fine.
    Good point mentioned by others about the nut and bridge slots being properly sized. Were the slots sized for heavy strings originally? If not that could be the problem. However I'd be hesitant to make that change because once you make that cut wider going back may require starting over with a new nut or bridge.
    And of course using heavy gauge strings could cause permanent damage to your instrument. I did that many years ago with an acoustic guitar.
    My two cents of advice, try some medium or medium light strings and see what happens. You may find your instrument wakes up.
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    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    You wrote that your mandolin has just been set up recently. Does action or trussrod where adjusted ? Those can impact the sound significantly on a guitar and even more on a tiny instrument.like the mandolin.

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    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Gardina View Post
    Specifically the higher register… A and E strings aren’t giving any punch like they used to. I’m using the heaviest gauge strings I can find out there, and just got it set up recently so can’t figure out what’s going on. Frets aren’t very worn either bc I’m using evo gold fret wire. Yep, got myself a case of the mandolin blues ��
    You might reconsider the heavy gauge strings. The mandolin scale length is short and as you play higher pitches the string length gets even shorter. Thicker strings with short vibrating length are quite a bit stiffer in comparison to thinner strings of the same length so they don’t ring nearly as clearly or as long. Thicker strings damp faster as well.
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    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    Quote Originally Posted by Alban Havidson View Post
    You wrote that your mandolin has just been set up recently. Does action or trussrod where adjusted ? Those can impact the sound significantly on a guitar and even more on a tiny instrument.like the mandolin.
    I second this. The tiniest tweak of a trussrod can make all the difference in the world. Bruce Weber had a post on his site at Montana Lutherie discussing it and advising mando owners not to shy from tweaking the trussrod. That was when I tried it when my instrument started sounding off and sure enough, it did the trick.

  24. #20

    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    What kind of mandolin do you have? What strings does the manufacturer recommend?
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    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Gardina View Post
    My set up tech is more of a guitar tech and less of a mandolin tech but he has worked on mandolins many times… A unique thing I’ve been doing recently is applying big Ben’s nut lube before every show because my A string seems to get caught on the nut mid song and fall out of tune regularly… wondering if that might have something to do with it
    How does an A string get caught on the nut mid song? Anyway, I would check the diameter of the A string and verify the nut slot is cut the correct size for the string.

  26. #22

    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    Hey everyone! :-)
    Just wanted to say thanks for all the awesome advice! This discussion has been really good therapeutic counseling for my mando, body, and soul haha. I finally think Iíve solved the issueÖ Three strategic moves that has ushered my mandolin into a much higher performance playability. I finally decided to adjust my truss rod for the very first time because I was 99% certain that it was the humidity that had screwed me. Then I adjusted the action slightly on my bridge. And lastly I moved away from my heavy gauge DRs onto medium plus Monels by díaddario. Gotta say Iím a huge fan of these Monels. Never even knew they existed. Life is good once again! Thank you!

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    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    You are welcome.

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    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    Thanks for the followup and nice to know that the solution was relatively easy.
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    Default Re: My mando sounds muted/dulled :-(

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    In almost 60 years of playing fretted instruments, I’ve never resorted to any form of “nut lube”. If a nut slot is cut cleanly and correctly there’s simply no need for it although I’ve occasionally had recourse to cleaning the odd slot out - use a piece of sharply folded brown paper which is slightly abrasive. You might also like to bear in mind that strings which are too heavy can prevent an instrument top from vibrating properly so, constantly adding heavier strings, could be the cause of the problem. “A” strings, by the way, often suffer from tuning problems more than the others.
    There may not be a need per se, but I using an pencil (8B preferably) and lubing the nut and bridge slots helps saddles and nuts last longer if nothing else. I've been doing this for 25 years at the recommendation of a master luthier. It's highly recommended for violins, and certainly can't hurt with mandos either. Since I started doing this on my fiddles, I've never once had to tilt a bridge back after a string change, which is normally required. I've also found that my mandolins are easier to make fine tuning changes, even with more pedestrian tuning machines. The best to use is an 8B pencil since these have the highest graphite content.

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