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Thread: Changes Day to Day

  1. #1
    Registered User Mike Scott's Avatar
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    Default Changes Day to Day

    As a tangent to the "Trade Down For Better Sound" thread and Stephen Perry's post there, I am curious as to whether anyone else has a similar experience to the following:

    I have a Silver Angel A, a KM 1500 and a Big Muddy. The two carved top instruments get the most play-the Big Muddy is at a vacation house and gets played only when we are there. I can play the SA one day and it will sound exceptional (at least with my hack abilities). The next day - same pick, after tuning and just strumming it to "wake" it up, it will sound like crap. Same with the KM1500, but not as drastic. I am wondering if it is just my "ear", my playing or ??? or are there tonal differences in instruments day to day. Would temperature and humidity changes affect the tone to this degree? It just seems odd to me. I don't seem to notice it with guitars-well maybe a bit , but at a much more subtle level. Hmmm..............
    Thanks

    Silverangel F5
    Big Muddy MW-O
    Eastman 305

  2. #2
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Changes Day to Day

    I've had this experience. One day I'll tune it up, wake it up, and play it, and it will sound exactly like what I'm looking for, tone-wise. Next time, repeat all steps, and it'll sound dull and uninteresting. But my guitars tend to always sound the same, with the exception of the string age. I've come to the conclusion that mandolins are just finicky little rascals, and like people they have good days and bad days.

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  4. #3
    Registered User Charley wild's Avatar
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    Default Re: Changes Day to Day

    Quote Originally Posted by Caleb View Post
    I've had this experience. One day I'll tune it up, wake it up, and play it, and it will sound exactly like what I'm looking for, tone-wise. Next time, repeat all steps, and it'll sound dull and uninteresting. But my guitars tend to always sound the same, with the exception of the string age. I've come to the conclusion that mandolins are just finicky little rascals, and like people they have good days and bad days.
    I experience about the same thing. Mine takes about ten or fifteen minutes to wake up. I can play the same thing when I get it going one day and it will sound great, same next day, not so great the next day. I think it's me as much as the mandolin.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Changes Day to Day

    I suppose it could be atmospheric changes but I suspect it is primarly your "ear" which is responding to changes perhaps within your own day to day chemistry weather caused or something else.
    Bart McNeil

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  7. #5
    MandolaViola bratsche's Avatar
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    Default Re: Changes Day to Day

    Some days I can pick up an instrument for the first time, and just play a piece through with no warmup at all, and it will be darn near perfect. I will just be "in the zone", and even the really difficult passages will breeze right by, and come out sounding easy - authoritative, even - and I will think, "Wow! I wish I'd recorded that!" (Of course, actually recording something never yields results like that, because there's too much planning, setting up, and other anxiety-producing factors involved!) Other times, I can start playing the same piece, and stumble around like an idiot, even on the easier passages, as if I haven't touched the instrument in weeks. Those two examples are extremes, and most of the time my experience falls somewhere between them, but both have in fact been known to happen. The point is that even though I try to play for at least an hour or two every day (although it's often broken up into smaller periods), there are good days and then there are not-so-good days. It's definitely me, though, not the instrument. Such are the inconsistencies of life, I guess. I do try to treat all of it as a learning experience.

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  9. #6
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    Default Re: Changes Day to Day

    I find that instruments with a thinner top will vary more from day to day than those with thicker tops, you can take one out of the case and tune it up and play for two minutes or so and then check the tuning and it will be a tad flat on the ones with the thin tops, that is what is making it sound "crappy" when you first play it...Play it for say 10-15 minutes and re tune it and I think you will find that it sounds like it should...I deal with this issue a lot when doing set ups and small repairs for people that mostly have inexpensive instruments...It is something that can`t be corrected so you just have to live with it...

    Willie

  10. #7
    Still warmin' up afhusband's Avatar
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    Default Re: Changes Day to Day

    Could it be the instrument age (not broken in)? I find my well played BRW sounds great after a few wake-up chop chords, consistantly. Where my virtually new Morris takes a while to "wake up." It will eventually come around & sound like it should, but it does take significantly longer. Sometimes to the point I just pick up ol' Grizz (BRW).
    Just wondering if this may have something to do with it.?. Iv'e been tempted to try a Tone Rite on the Morris & see if it helps.

  11. #8
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Changes Day to Day

    I've posted several times on here regarding exactly what you're experiencing. Mandolins certainly react to changes in temp. & humidity. When cold,mine go sharp & sound 'tinny',when warm they go flat but sound more 'full' tonally.This seems to be far more noticeable during our colder months in the UK. This year we've had a good long spell of warm weather & both my instruments which are stored in their cases, have been remarkably stable re.staying in tune. During the colder months,when i have my home heating on,they warm up to room temp. & tend to go flat.Not only that,but exposing them to a warm room temp.makes them 'open up'. By that i mean that the whole instrument responds,sounding more full,with a deeper bass & added volume. I posted in a thread on here a couple of weeks ago about how i keep several picks of different thicknesses & shape in my wallet, because from day to day,i find that one pick will sound 'better' than another depending on the way the mandolin reacts to it's environment ie. - if it's cold & the mandolin sounds a bit on the tinny side ,i'll use a round pointed pick to kill some of the brigtness.If it's warm & the mandolin sounds more open & full,i'll choose a pick that gives me the best tone. So to the OP - you're not imagining things,it does happen all the time. A Cafe member who hasn't posted on here for a long time had a Weber Fern like mine. He e-mailed me one time when he'd had a couple of mandolin player friends of his round at his home. They'd been doing a lot of playing, & as he lives in Alaska,they'd had the heat turned up a bit. He e-mailed to tell me that he suddenly noticed that his mandolin was sounding
    wide open,full toned & more powerful that he'd even known it to be - it had literally 'warmed up',
    Ivan
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  13. #9
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    Default Re: Changes Day to Day

    If anyone is bothered doing this, and i don't reckon a lot of us would be, it might be educational to keep a record of just what you were doing before you started your practice/playing.

    It would be my contention that the ear and brain need to warm up and into listening carefully - after all the brain spends the better part of the day filtering out all but what it might deem the most important or relevant noises and it requires effort to move from a mode of passive listening to one of active listening.

    It has been proposed that listening to 'complex' music jazz or classical* can excite the parts of our brains that are responsible for recognising and creating patterns and can therefore be an aid to study or problem solving activities. It is recommended that listening to music before study can help prepare for the tasks ahead.

    Likewise i imagine that some of more simple pattern exercises, such as scales, that are normally placed at the start of practice act in the same manner - they not only warm up the fingers and muscles but they also start to fire those pattern centers of the brain and wake or active listening.

    While not discounting that there will also be various conditions acting on the instrument it might be also posited that the activity a player was engaged in immediately prior to practice/playing might help to shorten the amount of time it takes to 'warm up the ear', so to speak.

    For instance, if the player was already engaged in a similar type of active listening/pattern forming activity - such as listening to music - before playing it might then prove easier to find and react to their instrument and playing.

    Perhaps this also works in reverse, if immediately prior to practice/playing a person was engaged in actively blocking out extraneous noise that it will take longer to switch from that filtered listening into an active mode of listening.

    I am not saying that such activities beforehand need always be deliberate - though they can be - but i am saying such activities need to be considered when discussing the perception of change in our instruments.

    Anyone who takes such things seriously, or perhaps over-seriously, might just benefit from keeping a log to record what activities benefit for easing into practice and which may hinder it.

    Something simple such as listening to music for five - ten minutes just before playing may help unlock your listening and as a result your playing quicker than just arriving cold.

    * The piece i read stated classical and jazz as its examples but i don't see why other musical types would not also be valid.

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    Default Re: Changes Day to Day

    Phew ....I feel so much more 'sane' reading the comments in this thread . I've experienced this syndrome with several mandos now and I've been baffled by the 'mystery of the shifting tone' . Is it me ? ...Is it the instrument ? What the...?? One day it will sound like the best mandolin I've ever heard ...next day I 'm asking myself " Was I drinking ..?? ...this is the crappiest low end I've ever heard in a mandolin " ....and back and forth it seems to go . I'm happy to learn that others have also had this experience with their mandolins .

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    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Changes Day to Day

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie View Post
    I find that instruments with a thinner top will vary more from day to day than those with thicker tops, you can take one out of the case and tune it up and play for two minutes or so and then check the tuning and it will be a tad flat on the ones with the thin tops, that is what is making it sound "crappy" when you first play it...Play it for say 10-15 minutes and re tune it and I think you will find that it sounds like it should...I deal with this issue a lot when doing set ups and small repairs for people that mostly have inexpensive instruments...It is something that can`t be corrected so you just have to live with it...

    Willie
    Mike, Your Silverangel has a thinner top than most mandolins- hence it's deeper sound. It will react more to changes in humidity. I agree with Ivan that depending on environmental conditions one need to use a different pick, go to a different room, change one's attack, etc. to get her to sing. I think one you are used to these changes, you can sense how to play your mandolin to make her sound the best.
    Nic Gellie

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  19. #12

    Default Re: Changes Day to Day

    Just make a recording of it when it sounds great, and one when it sounds lousy, then you'll know. I have. The difference is all in my head.

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  21. #13
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    Default Re: Changes Day to Day

    Old Sausage....I played five different mandolins and had my band members listen to them and they all agreed that they each had a different sound, then I recorded all five of them again using the same pick and playing the same song and after that they couldn`t tell one from the other listening to the recording...So, I just don`t believe it is in a persons head, some people do hear different things so I am not saying in your case you are wrong, just saying what happened in my case....I guess also it could depend on the recording equipment....

    Willie

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    Default Re: Changes Day to Day

    A lot depends on the playback equipment, not just the recording equipment. Music heard through speakers sounds a lot different from music heard in person as it is played.

    One experiment to try is to have a person around (often a spouse or significant other or child who is willing) who hears you day after day, and ask them on a bad-sounding-to-you day if they notice a difference in your mandolin's tone. Most of the time their answer will be "no." My wife's a classical violinist (I'm primarily a trumpet player, although I play and teach all the woodwinds and brass as well as guitar, and I'm a newbie to the mandolin world) who frequently asks my opinion on her sound. Most of the time it sounds the same to me but she's noticing a difference. In the trumpet world it's a widely recognized fact that what we hear from the mouthpiece end of the instrument while playing is different from what a listener hears. I wonder if the same isn't true of mandolins as well -- the sound may be different to us but not different to our audience.

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  24. #15
    Registered User Mike Scott's Avatar
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    Default Re: Changes Day to Day

    Quick follow up to all of this. I did have someone else listen and had no luck with that, but last night I played both carved top mandolins and although both have distinctly different tone patterns, went back after playing both every ten minutes and re-tuned. I seldom do this (normally tune up after a few minutes and that's it). I was surprised that neither stayed in tune perfectly. Usually it was one or two strings that were off and in all cases after the re-tune both of them sounded really good considering my ear. Prior to the re-tune one or the other would sound like "crap". Humidity here has been "off" due to record rainfall the past few days, so time will tell.

    Thanks for all the replies. I am glad I'm not alone in this. I must say that this has always seemed to me to be a finicky little instrument.
    Thanks

    Silverangel F5
    Big Muddy MW-O
    Eastman 305

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