Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 28

Thread: Mandolin break in period

  1. #1
    Registered User Wolfmanbob's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Long Island
    Posts
    261

    Default Mandolin break in period

    I opened this thread first in the builders section because I was curious to hear what the luthiers had to say. Surprisingly, they seem to feel it is either non-existent or barely existent. I say surprisingly because the common feeling among most mandolin and guitar players seems to be that new intruments must be "played-in" and start to sound best after being played for a time. The time discussed varies but many seem to feel the process involves years! I'm interested in hearing from players that have experience with new and older instruments about their observations in this area.
    RB - (Wolfman Bob)
    Lawrence Smart - 2 Point
    Flatiron - F5 - Artist
    Gibson - F12
    Gibson - A-50
    Flatiron - Pancake
    Fender FM 60 E

  2. #2

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    I've been told it takes varnish five years to fully cure and wood fifteen years to fully season. The glue also cures I'm sure... playing in time varies by construction. Try to get one that sounds great and is well constructed and it should get better. The mandos I've played from the early nineties seemed well matured and might have sounded more like thirty years old to my ear so I feel it should be well seasoned, played in, cured, settled in, etc. and should be getting an aged tone by the twenty year mark.

  3. #3
    Resonate globally Pete Jenner's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Mt Victoria, NSW, Australia
    Posts
    3,546
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    If the wood isn't fully seasoned when you get the instrument, you're in a bit of strife old son.
    The more I learn, the less I know.

    Peter Jenner
    Blackheathen

    Facebook

  4. The following members say thank you to Pete Jenner for this post:


  5. #4

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    I don't think the builders are saying that it doesn't happen so much as saying there have not been enough tests to prove that it happens. Based on my own experiences, I am convinced instruments do change with age and play time (and generally for the better). Whenever I get a mandolin back in that was sold a year or two before, it will almost always sound better than a new version of the same instrument. The problem being, I will generally have no memory of how the instrument sounded when I originally sold it.
    Robert Fear
    http://www.folkmusician.com

    "Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don't.
    " - Pete Seeger

  6. #5

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    Oh man, 10-20 years? That hasn't been my experience... But then again, I haven't owned the same mandolin for more than 10 years, so I could have missed that magical 20 year opening up it does.

    There are a few schools of thought on this. Some builders think that an instrument don't necessarily get better over time, while others say the improvement is dramatic. I'm somewhere in the middle of those two.

    It seems that the cheaper the instrument, greener the wood and so on, the more room for improvement/ opening up there will be. A well built instrument with wood that's been cured don't offer quite as much of a change.

    What I have noticed for all instruments is that they don't have to "warm up" as they get older. Maybe that's a lot of what some people mean when they talk about a mandolin opening up...

    My experience on well built instruments is that you hear a change after a few days, a large change after 6 months, and another noticeable change after 1 year. If you play daily or almost daily, those are the time frames I expect. After 1 year the instrument may get somewhat better, but the most dramatic differences will happen within a year.

    Each maker is different, and each player is different, so I'm sure that someone can come in and argue for a different process. The fact is that its something that can't be judged consistently. Someone who plays soft, and only plays 3 hours per week won't have an instrument open up as quick as someone who is a powerful player and plays 3 hours a day. But in short, it has to be good already out of the box, and it has to be played consistently.
    Shawn Brock
    Free Mandolin and Guitar Lessons
    https://www.youtube.com/shawnbrockmusic
    www.shawnbrock.com

  7. #6

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackheathen View Post
    If the wood isn't fully seasoned when you get the instrument, you're in a bit of strife old son.
    There is a difference between being seasoned to the point of being workable without warping and cracking and being fully seasoned. Maybe I was told wrong and the wood continues to season for even longer than that but it's also the glue and finish; it's a package deal once it's assembled. I said playing in time(opening up) varies by construction and pointed out the 20 year mark as a time when it should be acquiring an aged tone. That's a good point, Shawn, about the older instruments not needing the warm up time but I think it's more than that which is why some of the best builders, like Don McRostie, flex treat and test their tops. I think there is a bit of a breakdown of some of the wood fibers on a molecular level like when you wear in a pair of shoes or a baseball glove. Remember sound can produce powerful physical effects as well and certain woods are better at transferring, absorbing or reflecting sound waves.

  8. #7
    Registered User dcoventry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Salinas, Ca.
    Posts
    1,671

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    Quote Originally Posted by OldGus View Post
    I've been told it takes varnish five years to fully cure and wood fifteen years to fully season. The glue also cures I'm sure... playing in time varies by construction. Try to get one that sounds great and is well constructed and it should get better. The mandos I've played from the early nineties seemed well matured and might have sounded more like thirty years old to my ear so I feel it should be well seasoned, played in, cured, settled in, etc. and should be getting an aged tone by the twenty year mark.
    So, somewhere between 5 and 20 years? I'm going to sound this bad for THAT LONG?! Dangit.
    2005 Rigel G5 #2196
    2005 Phoenix Jazz #400
    1988 Jeff Traugott Acoustic #4
    2012 Eastman 905 Archtop Guitar, BLOND!

    Remember to grin while you pick, it throws folks off!

  9. #8
    Destroyer of Mandolins
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    New Jersey
    Posts
    5,017

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    Quote Originally Posted by dcoventry View Post
    So, somewhere between 5 and 20 years? I'm going to sound this bad for THAT LONG?! Dangit.
    I know it's a joke, but I think you've hit on it. While the instrument may or may not change significantly over a few years, we do. Does the mandolin sound so much better because the glue dried or because you play it better?
    Dedicated Ovation player
    Avid Bose user

  10. #9
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Gilbertsville. New York
    Posts
    1,842

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    Like Tim, If you are worrying about how long it will take your mandolin to sound better you are worrying about the wrong thing... Why do we always assume the mandolin will sound better.... How can we be assured that after one year, or twenty years, it won't sound worse.

    The only thing we can control is our playing and with practice it might just sound better.
    Bart McNeil

  11. #10
    F5G & MD305 Astro's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Charleston SC
    Posts
    2,479

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    Funny. thing.

    I'll bet my mandolin would sound better...after I sold it.

  12. #11
    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Delran, NJ
    Posts
    2,915

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim2723 View Post
    I know it's a joke, but I think you've hit on it. While the instrument may or may not change significantly over a few years, we do. Does the mandolin sound so much better because the glue dried or because you play it better?
    I have a 2006 Breedlove Quartz OF that I bought new. It was a fine sounding mandolin when I bought it. However, its' tone has significantly changed over the last six years. Much warmer and a more full-bodied tone. Now, I have been playing for over 35 years and I don't think there has been much of a change in my playing over the last six years, so I'm pretty convinced it's the mandolin that has changed, not me.

    I also had a 1984 Kentucky KM-850 that I owned for over 17 years. I did some recording with it in the late 90's. Not too long after I came across a recording that I did with that same mandolin back in 1989. Stunning difference in tone. My playing style did change some during that time period, so it could account for some of the difference, but I still feel the mandolin tone changed quite a bit during that time.
    Larry Hunsberger

    2013 J Bovier A5 Special w/ToneGard
    D'Addario FW-74 flatwound strings
    1909 Weymann&Sons bowlback
    1919 Weymann&Sons mandolute
    Ibanez PF5
    1993 Oriente HO-20 hybrid double bass
    3/4 guitar converted to octave mandolin

  13. #12

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    This is to give an answer to the original question on something that is hard to perfectly pinpoint. The two I've had custom built sounded excellent from day one. Again, 5 years as the point when the varnish should be cured and by 20 years you should be getting an aged tone. Does the varnish need to be fully cured to sound good? No. Does the wood need to be seasoned 35 years? No. Does it help? Yeah, I think so but many sound good when new. It looks like you are 7 years in already, dcoventry. What good is worrying going to do, bmac? This is a discussion board, excuse me if I try to learn things on which my time is vested and of course construction quality and materials come before age or being playing in the pecking order of what makes a great instrument. If you want to test a theory, look to the extremes. To me this A3 not only sounds old, it sounds ancient http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sJdm...feature=relmfu, something has happened to it in the course of it's lifetime to change it's sound. As to what and when, we can discuss, I'm not sure I/We can pinpoint it but it's been through some stuff and has some stories to tell... I find it interesting. It's just coffee talk, no big whoop :.
    Last edited by OldGus; Sep-30-2012 at 10:29am.

  14. #13
    Registered User J Mangio's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Spring Hope, NC
    Posts
    403

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    If it don't sound good right out of the box, just keep walking.

  15. #14
    Resonate globally Pete Jenner's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Mt Victoria, NSW, Australia
    Posts
    3,546
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    It sounds to me like there is reverb on the recording (or it was recorded in a 'live' room) which gives a haunting lilt to the music. The E string is sweet and the playing is excellent. Other than that it has a sort of clacky, thin sound - could be my headphones. How do you know it hasn't always sounded like that?
    The more I learn, the less I know.

    Peter Jenner
    Blackheathen

    Facebook

  16. #15

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    All the old A3 whitefaces I've heard had a haunting old tone, the recording may also add to that in this case. I can explain what I think and show what I consider reasonable grounds for forming my opinion but as to whether you agree or what you think, you decide. Old Waves are considered to be of similar construction and quality to the old Gibson ovals. Here is one of those http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLCSykCGUoo and a little cleaner recording of an A3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYsJ9kzxmA0. Like I said opening up or playing in time varies by construction. The A3 here has a more aged tone vs. the Old Wave in my opinion but both sound great. If you can dig up a video or sound clip on an A3 new I'd like to hear it, until then I/We can speculate on why/when it happened or if it happened, I say it did. My point is not to argue which mandolin is better but that the A3 has acquired an aged tone.

  17. #16
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    0.8 mpc from NGC224, upstairs
    Posts
    9,948

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    "Do not try and break-in the mandolin. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth."
    "What truth?"
    "There is no break-in."
    "There is no break-in?"
    "Then you'll see. It is not the mandolin that breaks in, it is only yourself"

    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

  18. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Bertram Henze For This Useful Post:


  19. #17

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    .... Actually it's both. Practice tends to improve the player and playing tends to improve the instrument save wear and tear. Ask Willie, he'll tell you. I am impervious to nonsense BTW.

  20. #18
    Registered User Wolfmanbob's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Long Island
    Posts
    261

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    One interesting thing is that my new mandolin, the Lawrence Smart, sounds much different from in front, where the sound is mainly projected, than it does when I'm holding it and playing. Several players commented o this fact this weekend. My other mandolin, an old Flatiron F model, sounds pretty much the same either way. My theory, is that with newer wood, or a newly built instrument, the sound mostly projects outward, but as the wood starts to vibrate more freely, more sound starts to radiate from the back and sides as well. What do you think?
    RB - (Wolfman Bob)
    Lawrence Smart - 2 Point
    Flatiron - F5 - Artist
    Gibson - F12
    Gibson - A-50
    Flatiron - Pancake
    Fender FM 60 E

  21. #19

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    This guy asks the same question...maybe he just needs more practice.


  22. The following members say thank you to TEE for this post:

    OldGus 

  23. #20
    Stop the chop!
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    europe
    Posts
    1,394
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    Quote Originally Posted by bmac View Post
    Like Tim, If you are worrying about how long it will take your mandolin to sound better you are worrying about the wrong thing... Why do we always assume the mandolin will sound better.... How can we be assured that after one year, or twenty years, it won't sound worse.

    The only thing we can control is our playing and with practice it might just sound better.

    I believe as long as the discussion focuses on such elusive concepts as "sound" or "tone" we are getting nowhere. The general theory is that stringed instruments over the years become more responsive, which is a good thing. There is great agreement among builders that this is true of guitars and I've noticed this phenomenon to a varying extent in my own instruments.
    Whatever adjustment on the player's part is involved it's got to be immediate, otherwise it would not occur, given the fact that most of us switch back between several instruments. I can't say that I've noticed much development in my mandolins, but then I don't play them much and haven't kept any mandolin for very long.

  24. #21
    F5G & MD305 Astro's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Charleston SC
    Posts
    2,479

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    The effect is real. The effect is small. The effect is...real small.

    This topic is a classic example of taking a real truism and extrapolating beyond significance and into nonsense.

    I think it is perpetuated by salespeople who can then say..."it just needs to open up a bit and in a few years you will have something really special."

    Bottom line: If it sounds good new, buy it. It will even sound better for your grand children. The thinner, more dried out top, now fixed in its curves rather than held under tension, will resonate more.

    If the tone is underwhelming new, it may sound a little better for your grandchildren but it still wont sound as good after 50 years as the other instrument did new.

  25. #22
    George Wilson GRW3's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    San Antonio, TX
    Posts
    1,335
    Blog Entries
    8

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    Don't take any wooden nickels. If the instrument doesn't sound good to you now, don't believe it will change significantly. I won't 'upgrade' unless the new instrument sounds better new than my current instrument.

    Sound is #1 followed by price and esthetics. It's no bargain if cant beat what I have and you can't hear looks. Conversely, money talks (sometimes saying "You can't afford this") and ugly may only be skin deep but there it is.

    Since I've had the Bighorn, I've only played a couple of mandos that have turned my head. Fortunately, they were out of my price range.

  26. #23

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    as a fiddle player, I can tell you that playing on an older instrument is much mellower than playing on a new one. I don't know if it is because of the quality of wood, maker, varnish or what have you, but my 80+ yo fiddle sounds much mellower than my mid 90's (20+ yo) version....

    I own a 12 string guitar I bought in the 70's while living in Germany. It has a much mellower tone than my late 90's Yamaha...

    I'm sure that my early 80's flat iron has a much mellower tone than my new Kentucky when I get it off lay away....

    Wood continues to change as it ages...

  27. #24
    Registered User Justus True Waldron's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Schuylerville, NY
    Posts
    564

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    I have to wonder sometimes about the people that say there is no change in sound over time. Do they just not play enough to notice, or do they lack critical listening skills, or are they just skeptical about everything? I get that it's a hard thing to measure in any concrete way, but I've come across it so many times just in my short life that I can't doubt that it happens.

    My personal experience mostly echos what others have seen on this thread: "Opening up" is never going to make a bad mandolin sound good... but it might make a good mandolin even better. Things like a slightly weak "E" string might get louder. The tone gets drier and more immediate. I think the biggest increase tends to come after a month or so of playing really hard on a new instrument - it really does feel like it's "waking up" to me. After that initial jump I don't usually hear any significant sudden increases in tone, but then looking back over time it is very obvious. I have experienced this with my Martin guitar, my Kentucky mandolin, and my Macica, with the biggest initial jump in tone quality going to the Macica, which also sounded the best brand new. I think it just comes down to buying the best sounding instrument you can get, play it as much as possible, and it will pay you back by sounding even better. Don't ever buy a lousy instrument and think it will magically improve - but even my kentucky sounded way better after 2 years than when new
    - 2004 Macica A
    - 1952 Selmer Centered Tone
    - Eastwood electric mandola
    (and lots more)

  28. The following members say thank you to Justus True Waldron for this post:


  29. #25
    Registered User Pete Summers's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Missouri
    Posts
    637

    Default Re: Mandolin break in period

    Quote Originally Posted by oneeyeross View Post
    as a fiddle player, I can tell you that playing on an older instrument is much mellower than playing on a new one. I don't know if it is because of the quality of wood, maker, varnish or what have you, but my 80+ yo fiddle sounds much mellower than my mid 90's (20+ yo) version....

    I own a 12 string guitar I bought in the 70's while living in Germany. It has a much mellower tone than my late 90's Yamaha...

    I'm sure that my early 80's flat iron has a much mellower tone than my new Kentucky when I get it off lay away....

    Wood continues to change as it ages...
    How do you know the older instruments aren't just better instruments to start with?

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •