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Thread: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

  1. #1
    Registered User chuckhorton's Avatar
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    Default science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    Lately I’ve been wondering what is actually happening when an instrument “opens up.”

    I have now seen a few posts that refer to mandolins (or other acoustic instruments) “opening up” after they have been played for a while. I imagine this has something to do with the science of tone wood maturing over time, developing a new or different sound.

    Does anyone know the science behind this? Why does wood sound different over time? What I am even more interested in, is how an instrument can not only change sound over time, but that this feature may be increased or sped up through playing. For example, if we take two identical mandolins, and play one incessantly and not play the other at all – will they sound different after a given length of time? I’m guessing some will say yes – but is there a reason for this?

    I have a Vega 201 from 1920 that I have had for about six months and a Kentucky KM-805 from 2007 that I have had for about five years. It would be hard for me to definitively say if either of these mandolins sounds any different from the day I bought them.

    Any insight is much appreciated!

    Thanks,
    Charlie

  2. #2
    Registered User David Rambo's Avatar
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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    There have been quite a few threads on this in the past, and no definitive answer has been reached. Some have put their instruments in front of speakers and played loud music to vibrate the top, others have used devices that rest on the top and vibrate. some believe it works, some don't. Check some of the other threads using the search feature, and prepare for a wide variety of opinions.
    "Put your hands to the wood
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    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    Yeah, I don't know of anyone has actually been able to put a true scientific formula or method to what happens, but most seem to think that an instrument absolutely changes in volume and tone after it's been played for a while. Not just new instruments, but those that are older and have just been sitting unplayed for a period of months.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    There is no science to back it up, that I know of, only anecdotes and speculation on what might be causing something that may or may not exist.
    I hope I'm wrong and there is some science that I don't know about and some evidence one way or the other...

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    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    I haven't seen any science (peer reviewed articles) on this. I've read many threads where an instrument is played a lot and then the tone or volume changes, always for the better. I have read threads where people have presented ideas on why this happens. Folks have also expressed that this phenomenon is transient, i.e., an instrument can fall back to sleep if you take the bridge off or change strings or leave it be for a while. I remain skeptical to the phenomenon but am not invested enough in it one way or the other to say it does or doesn't happen and people don't hear a difference. But as far as I know, there has been no large study to quantify how or if it happens.

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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    Ah yes, a subject that people feel so strongly about they managed to get themselves locked out of the forum over it. Don't look for scientific proof, there isn't any but there are a whole lot of people that "know" it happens. I'm most impressed by the guy that will leave his instrument on the stand in front of his speakers and blast Black Sabbath at it for 3 weeks and then swears there is a difference. There might be but why put your family and neighbors through that? Buy the Tonerite. That might not do anything either (and then again it might) but it will only annoy your wallet if you can't hear a difference when it's done.

  8. #7

    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    Here you go.

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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    I'm most impressed by the guy that will leave his instrument on the stand in front of his speakers and blast Black Sabbath at it for 3 weeks and then swears there is a difference.
    Deffinately. The mandolin becomes evil.
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    Every mandolin is different. Some are naturally very open; others will open up gradually after forming trusted friendships; others require individual counseling and group therapy; and still others are incorrigibly introverted and never really express their true feelings.
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    Registered User dcoventry's Avatar
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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    Re: Coupling - in layman's terms.



    This is from a previous post about coupling, and effect of the top and back working in harmony. I think this post also applies to this topic, and if not, it's just funny.


    "As I am juvenile in my attitudes, I'm having a really tough time not commenting on COUPLING and LAYMAN.

    There are many books on coupling and quite a few videos. Coupling works best when the top and back love and care for each other, and use the space between them to best advantage.

    Phew. I feel better, and more relaxed. "


    How this applies is that a mandolin is one glued together unit, and it MAY take some time for the woods of different density and stiffness to start working together and in harmony. It may also be that the player has to warm up!
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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    Science would mean there is a Thesis paper written by someone who set up a reproducible test apparatus
    that any one else can perform , and compare results, and there has been a Peer review of their findings.

    IDK about even any universities doing that sort of acoustic/ mechanical, analysis .. so back to Opinions.
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    To me, my mandolin opening up is something to be enjoyed like a starry sky. I accept it for what it is. But, if I sit around and analyze it, it ruins the experience.

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    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    The Breedlove Quartz OF that I own now is the only mandolin that I have ever owned that I can say without a doubt that the sound changed greatly since I first bought it. It is a 2006 model and I bought it new. When I first played it I was impressed by the volume and remember thinking that it was a little on the bright side compared to what I normally like. Well, the brightness has tamed quite a bit and the instrument has developed a wonderful, warm tone and much deeper and fuller tone than when I first played it. I have some recordings that were made shortly after I bought it and it sounds totally different now. I had a Kentucky KM-850 that went through a similar change, only not as dramatic, and over a much longer period of time - nearly 20 years.
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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    this is the loudest mandolin I own.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    11?

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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    I've had my new mandolin for ten months now, have played it every single day for an hour or more, and am delighted with the way it is opening up. Who'd have thought that the 'science' could apply equally to the molecules of carbon fiber and resin on my Mix A4?

    Or is 'opening up' something to do with me becoming a better player?

    ron

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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    Quote Originally Posted by fatt-dad View Post
    this is the loudest mandolin I own.

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    f-d
    Duuuuuude!

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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    Don't fool yourself that a consensus of the scientific community on this matter will end the debate.

    Just sayin'.
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    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    Quote Originally Posted by blueron View Post
    I've had my new mandolin for ten months now, have played it every single day for an hour or more, and am delighted with the way it is opening up. Who'd have thought that the 'science' could apply equally to the molecules of carbon fiber and resin on my Mix A4?

    Or is 'opening up' something to do with me becoming a better player? ron
    Good point! I think most opening up is happening in the players ears not the mandolin. That's my opinion and I am sticking to it.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    Quote Originally Posted by JonZ View Post
    Don't fool yourself that a consensus of the scientific community on this matter will end the debate.
    Also, never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    How about "shutting down" as a consequence of being played? Yo Yo Ma's cello, which is called the Davidof and is a Strad, can only be played for about 15 minutes before closing up and actually sounds worse after being played rather than better. You could look it up!

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    Heck, he oughta get him one of them big old amps and open the thing up for good.

  28. #23
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    I think (no facts) that it takes time for a player's ear to get accustom to a new instrument. I think instruments may actually need to "wake up" after not being played for a spell. I think aged wood may harden or some other such effect may take place slowly over time.

    I don't think much about the, "Played the snot out of it for 2 weeks and Bam" idea.

    f-d
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  29. #24
    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    Quote Originally Posted by chuckhorton View Post
    Does anyone know the science behind this?
    Yes.

  30. #25
    F5G & MD305 Astro's Avatar
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    Default Re: science behind a mandolin "opening up"

    I just use Adolf's Meat Tenderizer. Applied liberally, it opens them right up without all the waiting. And it brings out the natural flavors of the toughest mandolin. Works on violins too. I heard Itzhak Perlman uses it before each performance. Makes him a little hungry though. Doesnt work on banjo's. Use gasoline on those. Wait 30 seconds and then add a match.

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