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Thread: Tuning issues - Octave Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Tuning issues - Octave Mandolin

    Hi
    I have a entry level Octave Mandolin from Hora that has irish Bouzouki strings on it (so i'm told).
    This is standard here (in ireland).
    GDAE

    Anyway one of my A strings is constantly going out of tune, always trending sharp.
    The other A string goes sharp too, but not as much or as often as the other.
    Im thinking the problem string doesn't have enough wraps around the tuning peg, i can count 2 full wraps.
    Start there?

    I'm a newbie and i tune strings using an App on my phone and use the Chromatic setting within the App.
    It would be neat to tune using my ears and a guide note, but tbh, i can't quite get the sound waves to totally align when doing that.
    Does anybody know of a method of training one's ears to do this?

    Also even when i get all my strings in tune according to the App, many of the notes are a bit off on the finger board.
    For example: 2nd fret on A string is a B, but this B is always sharp, even when my open A string is reading 220hz.
    It sounds a bit off to my ears when i land on that B, and the Chromatic setting of the App confirm it's sharp.

    To remedy i've been trying to tune my E string using the App, and then tune all the other strings to match that E by placing my fingers on the fretboard to the nearest E.
    This usually pretty good, but infact i'm turning each string G,D,A a bit flat to accomplish this,.
    For example my A string is tuned to 219hz and sometimes a bit lower in order to have a good E while on the 2nd fret.

    Is this normal or does this suggest something is not right with my instrument?

  2. #2
    Resident Hack
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    Default Re: Tuning issues - Octave Mandolin

    How are the other strings at that same fret? Is it just that one fret on the A string or does your string get further and further out of tune, as you travel up the neck? If so, you need to get the instrument intonated. There's numerous resources for learning to do this, but it might be worthwhile to get it set up by a trusted luthier in your area. They will be straight if (worst case scenario) the instrument has misplaced frets
    that prevent it from being properly intonated.


    Quote Originally Posted by Bluey View Post
    Hi
    I have a entry level Octave Mandolin from Hora that has irish Bouzouki strings on it (so i'm told).
    This is standard here (in ireland).
    GDAE

    Anyway one of my A strings is constantly going out of tune, always trending sharp.
    The other A string goes sharp too, but not as much or as often as the other.
    Im thinking the problem string doesn't have enough wraps around the tuning peg, i can count 2 full wraps.
    Start there?

    I'm a newbie and i tune strings using an App on my phone and use the Chromatic setting within the App.
    It would be neat to tune using my ears and a guide note, but tbh, i can't quite get the sound waves to totally align when doing that.
    Does anybody know of a method of training one's ears to do this?

    Also even when i get all my strings in tune according to the App, many of the notes are a bit off on the finger board.
    For example: 2nd fret on A string is a B, but this B is always sharp, even when my open A string is reading 220hz.
    It sounds a bit off to my ears when i land on that B, and the Chromatic setting of the App confirm it's sharp.

    To remedy i've been trying to tune my E string using the App, and then tune all the other strings to match that E by placing my fingers on the fretboard to the nearest E.
    This usually pretty good, but infact i'm turning each string G,D,A a bit flat to accomplish this,.
    For example my A string is tuned to 219hz and sometimes a bit lower in order to have a good E while on the 2nd fret.

    Is this normal or does this suggest something is not right with my instrument?

  3. #3

    Default Re: Tuning issues - Octave Mandolin

    They are all Sharp, except for the E string

    Problem is more acute on the lower frets, as i go up the fretboard the notes are more and more where i expect.

  4. #4
    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuning issues - Octave Mandolin

    It is not going to go sharp if the string is slipping on the peg. It would go flat, so winding is likely not the problem. If the string is going sharp, the nut slots may be pinching the strings. You might try some graphite on the slots. Untune the string and pull it out of the slot. Rub the point of a pencil in the slot. Put the string back in the slot, tune up and see if that makes a difference. If it does, you may need to relieve the slot slightly. Also, know that when you change tuning on some strings, other strings may changed, because the tension on the neck has changed.

    For the notes being out of tune on the fretboard, you need to make sure your bridge is in the right position. Get the outermost open G string in tune. Compare that to the fretted note at the 12th fret. If the fretted note is sharp, the bridge has to come back, toward the tailpiece. If it is flat, the bridge needs to come forward. Go slowly. Work gently in small increments and then recheck, making sure the open string is always tuned correctly.Try not to let the other end of the bridge move when you are changing that end.Then do the same procedure for the outermost E string.

    Then go back and check the G again, because it may have moved while you were working on the E. If you get the outermost strings spot on, the ones in between should be as good as they are going to get. NOTE: There are all sorts of variations on that procedure. I am just giving you the simplest one. If you can't get satisfaction that way, a luthier can help.

    Tuning all your E's together is not really going to help.

    Do know that the Hora Octave is a super-economy instrument. I have had one. Some people have great luck with them, some not. They are capable of being decent instruments, but sometimes they need some work to get there. Mine did.

  5. #5
    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuning issues - Octave Mandolin

    You should check the position of your bridge if you are getting the problems you are having. The aim is to get the fretted octave note (at 12th fret) in pitch with the same note played as a harmonic. The 12th fret is the midway point between nut and bridge so the string played there sounds an octave higher than the open string. The harmonic note (just touch the string exactly above the 12th fret, do not press it down, and play that note) and the fretted note should be at the same pitch. If the Fretted note is flatter than the harmonic, then the bridge needs to be moved very slightly forwards towards the nut. If Fretted note is sharper, bridge needs to come back towards the tailpiece. Doing this for each string will give you acceptable tuning accuracy. Remember the Mnemonic Fretted note Flat, bridge Forward. You will not get total pitch accuracy across all the strings at every position on the fretboard, but it is desirable to get as close as you can. To be totally accurate, you would need to have a compensated bridge, which you will see on many instruments, and each string can then have its own length. A repairer/luthier could do this for you.
    As far as string windings are concerned, too many is worse than too few. Your 2 to 3 turns round the post when the string is at pitch is fine - maybe an extra turn on the plain, unwound strings as they have less friction round the posts. When you first put new strings on then after tuning to pitch give each string a good tug to tighten the windings on the posts. It can surprise you to see how much a string you think is tuned can drop in pitch when you tug it!

    Hope this is of some help to you.
    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

    http://www.youtube.com/user/TheOldBores

  6. #6
    Registered User Cobalt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuning issues - Octave Mandolin

    Sounds like the slots in the nut are not cut deep enough. Result is strings very high above the fretboard, the effect is that pressing the string on the first few frets nearest the nut will increase the tension very much, making the note sharp. Further up, the angles are shallower so the increase in tension when fingering a note is much less. Check the nut first.

  7. #7
    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Tuning issues - Octave Mandolin

    Check the note at the 12th fret, if it is in tune at the 12th fret and with the open string, then the issue is the nut slot depth, as Cobalt has said.

    If it is not in tune at the 12th fret, then the issue is the bridge position. You may be lucky and have both .

    If you are handy enough, these are things you can fix, though you will need special width files for the nut (nut files), otherwise you will need to find someone who can do a setup. Proper nut slot depth (or height) will also make the instrument easier to play, well worth the investment.
    -Dave
    Flatiron A
    Way too many other instruments

  8. #8

    Default Re: Tuning issues - Octave Mandolin

    In fairness the nut and it's grooves don't look very good.
    The grooves look crudely done.

    I tried moving the bridge back a tad, like maybe 1mm and tuned, but the results are sort of all over the place.
    Mostly Sharp on all strings on the lower frets, then an area of goodness, say from frets 5-12, at least on on A and G strings.
    But the D and E are Flat on 12th fret.

    Sent an email to a luthier to see if they can help.
    Thanks for suggestions.

  9. #9
    Registered User
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    Default Re: Tuning issues - Octave Mandolin

    In addition to what others have said, one way to slightly enlarge the nut slots (and clean and polish them) is to use a piece of folded brown paper (e.g. from the inside of a manilla envelope) and it would be difficult to overdo things. One thing I have found though is that on every new instrument I’ve ever bought, regardless of price/quality, the nut has been too high; presumably on the basis that it’s easier to take it off than put it on, so Cobalt may well have a point.

    Not sure what you mean by “Bouzuki strings”. Strings are simply strings and, providing they’re long enough and the right diameter, you can use any string on any instrument that takes your fancy. If they’ve been on the instrument from the start, however, it might be worth starting out with a new set.

    Finally, bear in mind that you can seldom get away with tuning an instrument once. Tune each of the strings in turn and you’ll inevitably find that one or more of the ones you’ve already tuned has gone out again. I put it down to the effect changing tension on the neck, top and tailpiece of the instrument and you should expect to go through the tuning process two or three times before it’ll sound anything like.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Tuning issues - Octave Mandolin

    You've received a lot of feedback about setting up the instrument properly, and you should get that done. But also make sure you check your strings. Depending on how long you've had your instrument for, it could have been sitting with those strings in a warehouse or shop for years potentially. Strings get set and worn out even if they aren't played. I'd throw on a new set.
    Zachary Graft
    Celtic and Christian fiddle and mandolin music
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  11. #11
    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuning issues - Octave Mandolin

    Very simply the Hora Instruments don't have an intonated bridge. I swapped out the simple narrow bridge on a APC B305 Irish bouzoukiand put on one one that I made. Result intonation is perfect.

    Every nut slot should be so that the point of exit from the nut to the fingerboard or the bridge to the fingerboard section should be higher than the opposite side so that the string vibrates exactly at its designed length. The compensation grooves on the bridge have to be done accurately as well. I will post an example picture for an Irish Bouzouki for you to see what I mean.
    Nic Gellie

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