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Thread: set up defiined

  1. #1

    Default set up defiined

    I posted along these lines in another thread, but rather than take over that one I thought that i would start its own thread. As a newcomer to the mandolin, I play a very low end basic Savannah A-style. I am just about to upgrade, I have my eye on a specific mandolin and I am about 3/4's the way there savings wise. My local music shop doesnt do much business in the way of mandolins, he carries the model I have (cuz I bought it from him), but freely admits he is a guitar guy and doesnt have a lot of experience with mandolins. When I first joined this forum, several people said it will work as a starter as long as you get it set up, I mentioned this to him and he said define set up for me and I had no answer and after months of lurking I still dont have a real solid answer beyond replacing the nut and saddle. As there are several people here who have stated they have done setups I was hoping one of you could give me an answer. I am not too worried about setting this one up, but my upgrade is right down the road and I want to do it right. Thanks.....Kevin

  2. #2
    Registered User Ark Isle's Avatar
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    Default Re: set up defiined

    A good setup should also include checking and (most likely) adjusting the string height and the bridge placement for better playability and intonation, respectively. I'd imagine there's more to it than that, but I'll leave that for more experienced folk.

  3. #3

    Default Re: set up defiined

    There's a you tube mando set up video where the only thing done was lowering the bridge by turning the adjuster wheels. Worked for my samick made Galveston sycamore f style. Don't think it's as complex as say a banjo set up or tuning a piano. Some here make it sound more comPlicated than flying the space shuttle.

  4. #4

    Default Re: set up defiined

    If he is really a "guitar guy" he should not have to ask you what a set-up entails. Just like a guitar, it is all the items that effect the intonation, action and playability (bridge, saddle, nut, frets, tuners and strings) being checked and adjusted to bring them into the tight specifications and relationships that allow them to all work together for the instrument to play perfectly in tune, and requiring as little effort on the part of the player to do so as possible.
    But Amsterdam was always good for grieving
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    So I walked around with the Ft. Worth Blues

  5. #5

    Default Re: set up defiined

    Yeah well small town music store whatcha gonna do? He is a decent guy and makes his living selling guitars to college kids and band and symphony instruments to jr high and high schoolers. It's also one of 3 businesses he owns, and probably gets the least amount of his time. I actually appreciated that he admitted he didnt know, he could have just taken my money and fiddled with it, I would have never known the difference............Kevin

  6. #6
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    Default Re: set up defiined

    A setup done right begins with a knowledge of the instrument itself and how it is supposed to look, sound, and play. It is not a little guitar and the same measurements used on a guitar would be way off for a mandolin. He should know the "standard" measurements and how to achieve them. Relief is far different from a guitar as well. Nut slots are not the same as a guitar. In other words, a mandolin setup starts with a mandolin guy.

    Everything on the instrument is checked over during a setup. The frets are checked. Do they need dressing? Are they seated properly? Are the fret ends sharp or are they ok. Is the bridge the right bridge for that instrument (especially on used), does it need fitting to the top? Is it on right (you would be surprised how many bridges are mounted backwards), what is the condition of the nut? How about the tuners and the tailpiece and even the pickguard if it has one. Are these on tight and installed properly? Do the tuners need adjusting? What about the truss rod? Is it set right? Then you string the instrument and set nut slots, saddle slots, bridge height and location, and then double check everything again to ensure you did not miss something and that they all work together.

    A standard or basic setup would not necessarily include a fret dress, or major refit of the bridge. You may be charged extra for that depending upon the situation. However, on a new mandolin that should be considered part of the dealers job in the setup procedure. Each of these are a bit different from a guitar so a guitar guy that may be great on guitar might well find themselves way over their head when working on a mandolin. Not that they cannot learn, but it is so far different from a guitar that unless they really know what it is supposed to be when complete that they should not be trusted with your instrument to experiment upon.

    I am sure I forgot something in my list above, but that should cover a good share of it. Each instrument is its own character and there is no one size fits all setup. It must be done for that particular instrument to get the very best that instrument is capable of producing. Just because a person is a nice guy or a friend, that does not make them qualified to work on your instrument. You would not take your daughter to the vet you take your dog because he did a great job on your dog. You would take her to the pediatrician. The same for your instrument. Your buddy, or the guitar guy down the street or at the local store may be a great person or a good friend, but if he is not competent on mandolin setup or repair, you should not let them touch your instrument.
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    Joe Vest

  7. #7

    Default Re: set up defiined

    Quote Originally Posted by Kheath View Post
    ... When I first joined this forum, several people said it will work as a starter as long as you get it set up, I mentioned this to him and he said define set up for me and I had no answer and after months of lurking I still dont have a real solid answer beyond replacing the nut and saddle. ...
    I am not sure why you think a set up means you have to replace the nut and saddle. They may be fine the way they are or they may need some adjustment or they may need replaced.
    Determining what they need goes back to what Joe says about having an experienced mandolin tech doing the set up.
    Bill Snyder

  8. #8

    Default Re: set up defiined

    Its just what I have gleaned from conversations on here. Its why I asked because I dont know, and I thought it prudent to ask....Kevin

  9. #9

    Default Re: set up defiined

    Kheath, I think the general consensus is if the mandolin came with a plastic nut it is probably worth it to replace it. If it came with a good quality bone nut (or good pearl or good ivory) then it most likely would not need replaced but it might still need reworked. Likewise some mandolins come with a decent bridge, some don't. If it is of good quality then properly fitting it to the top of the mandolin, checking its position for proper intonation, adjusting the height, the nut slots and the ramps (compensation) would be called for. IF it is of poor quality (ie some mystery wood, cracked, etc...) then replacement would be called for.
    Inexpensive mandolins tend to have plastic nuts and lesser quality bridges which often leads to the suggestion that someone replace them.
    My first mandolin (a Johnson) came with an ebonized (dyed black) mystery wood bridge. I adjusted the action and played on until I came upon Red Henry's website and I proceeded to make a new bridge for it. I think it was some what of an improvement, but on an inexpensive, laminated mandolin a bridge is only going to do so much for tone. IMO the most important thing on these mandolins is setting the action up for good playability.
    Bill Snyder

  10. #10
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    Default Re: set up defiined

    KHeath, you could try finding someone in your community or within the college you mentioned who could improve the set-up to some degree or merely suggest what really needs to be done if it's extensive. Try posting index cards on community bulletin boards asking for help and/or advice
    Wye Knot

  11. #11

    Default Re: set up defiined

    Thanks Bill and Lee, I never thought of looking at SHSU's music dept............Kevin

  12. #12
    Registered User upnet's Avatar
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    Default Re: set up defiined

    What are you looking at for an upgrade?
    Your buddy, or the guitar guy down the street or at the local store may be a great person or a good friend, but if he is not competent on mandolin setup or repair, you should not let them touch your instrument.
    What Joe said.

  13. #13

    Default Re: set up defiined

    Quote Originally Posted by upnet View Post
    What are you looking at for an upgrade?.
    Collings MTO..........kevin
    Last edited by Kheath; Feb-29-2012 at 6:48pm.

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