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Thread: Voicing information

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    Default Voicing information

    I have a prototype mandolin, original design. It's designed to fit a market niche that's not being addressed by any American makers. I've tested it with good players in the Midwest and on the East Coast, and gotten very favorable responses. It's more or less in the A5 family. It sounds great as is, but I'd like to adjust the grads and bracing, maybe f-hole size, to get just a little more "bark", before I settle on the final specs for production. I'd also like to offer an oval hole model at some point. I know how to get the sound I want out of fiddles, but don't know much about tonal adjustment on mandos.

    Do any experienced makers have a recommendation where to find the most reliable information on the principles of voicing mandolins? Any definitive publications or Web sources? Is anything useful published at all? I could make a lot more mandos and probably figure it out by cut and try, but I'd rather learn from other people's experience and save a few iterations. There's plenty more to learn as is.

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    In The Van Ben Milne's Avatar
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    Default Re: Voicing information

    Graham McDonald and Roger Simminoff's literature would probably be a good starting point.
    Hereby & forthwith, any instrument with an odd number of strings shall be considered broken. With regard to mix levels, usually the best approach is treating the mandolin the same as a cowbell.

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    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
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    Default Re: Voicing information

    I think it would be wise to test the deflection first. Bring it up to pitch and then put the deflection gauge on it, loosen the strings and see how much it deflects.

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    Default Re: Voicing information

    Some of the builders on here have commented that enlarging the FF holes will make the mandolin more trebely, a higher sound, I always thought it was the other was a round but after reading what they posted I am with them on this, I plugged part of one F hole and it did sound more bassy.....

    Shaving tone bars when possible will make a difference but I`ll let that up to the builders that can tell you more about that....

    Willie

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    Martin Macica M. Macica's Avatar
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    Default Re: Voicing information

    I agree with Willie's post. Also, if you want to get a lower tone out of your instrument (this is food for discussion I'm sure) you can put a large pickgaurd on which actually covers half of the lower F hole and creates a deeper tone, kind of like if you hit a jug and cover the hole.

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    formerly Philphool Phil Goodson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Voicing information

    Quote Originally Posted by M. Macica View Post
    I agree with Willie's post. Also, if you want to get a lower tone out of your instrument (this is food for discussion I'm sure) you can put a large pickgaurd on which actually covers half of the lower F hole and creates a deeper tone, kind of like if you hit a jug and cover the hole.
    Just HIDING the sound hole behind a big pickguard lowers the tone???????
    Phil

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    Martin Macica M. Macica's Avatar
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    Default Re: Voicing information

    Yes Phil.For instance. When Gibson made the H5 mandola they made the f holes considerably smaller than that of the f5.This was done to dampen air content inside thus bring out a deeper sound. (rather than tone to be more exact) So by putting a pickgaurd over the f hole this dampens air content.

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    Registered User bernabe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Voicing information

    There are too many variables at play that have to be considered before simply executing opening holes, adding large pickguards etc. Arching, recurve transition, tone bar placement-size etc, plate thicknesses and where, the back, the wood. etc. For instance, I believe if the top arching is too high, It will result in a tone characteristic that cannot be completely eliminated by other means mentioned. A lack of "Woofiness", if thats not what you desire, can be just one of those characteristics of a too high arch. You can open the f holes, it will change the resonant frequency of the air chamber, however, you can cover the f holes, open the f holes, shave tone bars, etc.,etc and it may not bark the way you want because of some thing else. Maybe the back is not thin enough or in the right places, maybe the tops too thin. If you deflection test a too high arched top and thin it, you may not have enough mass at the end of the day. You have to determine which it is, i.e. listing reasons on here doent help you understand exactly why you mandolin doesnt bark. Good luck

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    Resonate globally Pete Jenner's Avatar
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    Default Re: Voicing information

    Quote Originally Posted by bernabe View Post
    ...A lack of "Woofiness"...
    What's woofiness?

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    Default Re: Voicing information

    Woofiness is what you hear when your dog or perhaps your mandolin "barks". Unless it's not house broken or broken in, or if it's gone to sleep and you have to play with it a lot to wake it back up. Then it might bark, woof, or growl.. Perhaps it might ring like a bell. And play like butter............ and kill banjos!

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    Registered User Rob Grant's Avatar
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    Default Re: Voicing information

    About that pickguard dampening the tone... I'd have to disagree here.

    True, if you put the guard right down in direct contact with the top it will definitely dampen the tone (and the top for that matter!<g>) But I must admit that I've never detected a dampening effect from any of the dozens of guards I've made and installed on f hole mandolins over the years. One usually leaves a gap between the guard and the top (below photo).<g>

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Rob Grant
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    Default Re: Voicing information

    I agree with Rob. I have never noticed a change in tone after installing a pickguard on F hole nor on oval hole mandolins. The tone will change if you close off part of the soundhole, but a pickguard does not do that becasue there is always a gap so the effective surface area of the soundhole remains the same.
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
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  13. #13

    Default Re: Voicing information

    I have also always admired the delicate slender F-holes on the H5 mandola and have also come to believe that the standard F-hole dimensions of the classic F5 are a bit excessive in their sizing, both for tone and aesthetics.
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    Martin Macica M. Macica's Avatar
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    Default Re: Voicing information

    There are quite a few variables in the aspect of getting a better sound or lower tone out of a mandy.The pickguard is one of them. To have a large pickguard and to have it close to the f hole is ideal.The vintage Gibson style is great because it goes past the the bridge. A good way to test this so you can hear it, is to tap the top with your finger. The strings should be muffled. Then cover the f hole using a book or your hand. Depending on how much you move it to mimic a pic guard, you can hear the note changing lower.When I do this with a Gibson style or bigger pickguard on any mandolin I have around, the tone goes down over a half step,close to two in some cases . You can also do this by singing a note into the chamber. I think this is significant considering all the variables to take into account in voicing a mandolin. Plus I really like the look of a big fatty pickguard.

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    Registered User Bill Halsey's Avatar
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    Default Re: Voicing information

    Quote Originally Posted by woodwiz View Post
    Do any experienced makers have a recommendation where to find the most reliable information on the principles of voicing mandolins?
    Do a search for HoGo's mini-treatise on voicing. Don't worry too much about f-hole size -- just don't make them too small if you wish to serve present demand. Also, Steve Perry has given this forum a generous practicum on this subject.
    ~Bill~
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    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
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    Default Re: Voicing information

    Covering f-holes doesn't really do much except mute the sound. Any change you hear is likely due to the higher frequencies being muted. You can hear the same effect by covering the hole on a guitar.

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    Resonate globally Pete Jenner's Avatar
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    Default Re: Voicing information

    Quote Originally Posted by Dale Ludewig View Post
    Woofiness is what you hear when your dog or perhaps your mandolin "barks". Unless it's not house broken or broken in, or if it's gone to sleep and you have to play with it a lot to wake it back up. Then it might bark, woof, or growl.. Perhaps it might ring like a bell. And play like butter............ and kill banjos!
    Phew ...that's a relief I thought it might be something important ...like a pickguard:-)

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