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Thread: Need to improve my tone

  1. #1
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    Default Need to improve my tone

    Hi, I don't know if it's me, or my mandolin (Eastman Md315), but when I start playing up the neck I find that my tone lacks any support and starts to sound very 'ice-pick-y' I was wondering if anyone here had some tips and tricks to sound better and have a better tone when playing up on the neck, when I think of mandolin the fullness of the high frequencies if what draws me in but I seem to be lacking this aspect, is there anything I can do to help with this?
    Ps I have wondered if this is just me playing the instrument and it projecting away from me, therefore I don't get the full tone, but I'm not sure that that is it.

    Thank you in advance
    -Ross
    Just a dude with a mandolin.
    rossdoesbass.com - my website

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Need to improve my tone

    It could be a little of both. One of the big differences between “budget” instruments and upper tier ones is their tone up the neck. Better mandolins tend to have more full, ringing tone as opposed to the “ice picky” tone you describe. I used to own a 315, though, and it was better up the neck than most budget mandos I’ve played. But, it wasn’t as good as my Kelley or Rigel. One trick to try from a technique standpoint is to actually pick closer to the bridge when you’re playing up the neck. That should give you more of of that round, ringing tone you’re after. If not, it may just be what it is...

    Good luck!

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    Default Re: Need to improve my tone

    Thank you, playing closer to the bridge is definitely helping quite a bit. It's exactly the opposite of what I was trying (coming from the electric bass world the exact opposite is true) so that got me a little closer to the sound in my head.

    This may just be mandolin acquisition syndrome manifesting in my ears.
    Just a dude with a mandolin.
    rossdoesbass.com - my website

  5. #4

    Default Re: Need to improve my tone

    Quote Originally Posted by Rossjcw View Post
    This may just be mandolin acquisition syndrome manifesting in my ears.
    The ears do evolve; with experience comes greater wherewithal and discernment: of tone/timbre, and of a given instrument's strengths and weakness.

    You need good technique up there - particularly with the fretting hand. But as CES pointed out, entry-level instruments are often not particularly inspiring - the higher registers often being where you really begin to notice the lack; the kind of balanced sound you desire typically involves an upgrade.

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    Default Re: Need to improve my tone

    Thanks to everyone that replied, had a socially distanced (gotta love the covid times, still in lockdown in the UK) rehearsal today and my band really thinks I improved my tone from last week, playing closer to the bridge is really helping.

    Unfortunately I think it is just my ears telling me I want a new mandolin as well. Might have to start saving.

    Thank you all for your advice, it's all been incredibly helpful.
    Just a dude with a mandolin.
    rossdoesbass.com - my website

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    Default Re: Need to improve my tone

    Lol, nothing wrong with upgrading! Glad it helped. Yes, that tip (from a violin player, actually), surprised me, too. I had a banjo before mando always pick closer to the neck the higher up the neck I get.

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    Default Re: Need to improve my tone

    I actually still have all my teeth. ...”before mando, and I always pick closer to the neck the higher up the neck I get.” Same for bass, as you noted. Variable on guitar depending on the effect desired...

  10. #8
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    Default Re: Need to improve my tone

    This is a timely topic. I've been wrestling with this lately. Tone is extremely important to me. If I do not like the tone, then I do not enjoy playing, and I'm not motivated to practice.

    I'm actually doing the opposite of the OP. I've increased the angle of the neck (more vertical) and I'm playing closer to the fingerboard. I'm getting better volume and I like the tone better. Time will tell if this is the fix for me.

    Whatever works for you ....
    Greg Fury

  11. #9

    Default Re: Need to improve my tone

    Once you have the opportunity to play something really nice, you will start saving for one. Many fine options. Many fine American builders.

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    Default Re: Need to improve my tone

    What thickness of pick are you using, Ross? Today I experimented with a mixed bag of Ebay UK 'extra heavy' 1.0-3.0mm affordable Jim Dunlop 'bass' picks on my MD305. The fullest sound was produced by a triangular shape Dunlop Ultex 1.14mm, possibly because it sounds 'woodier' than any other. The Dunlop Big Stubby 1.5 and 2.0 also worked well. The Big Stubby 1.0 has a good clear sound with lots of treble, but loses out on body to the heavier ones. I would say my mandolin produces a full enough sound up the neck, but a little 'closed' sounding. It's still only been played for a few weeks, so that might (or might not) open up a bit as it plays in.

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  14. #11
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    Default Re: Need to improve my tone

    I have found if the intonation is just a little off the G strings can get less resonant and the E strings can get brighter. A little humidity difference can move the top, changing action slightly and if action changes so does intonation. Tuning can also pull the bridge saddle forward over time and that will definitely change intonation.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  16. #12

    Default Re: Need to improve my tone

    Absolutely do everything with technique to achieve the tone you want, always. Experiment widely. Music is very special because it gives us exactly what we put into it - you are the one who hears.

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  18. #13
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    Default Re: Need to improve my tone

    The more you know the more you know you don't know..... add to that as time passes tastes change. A good rule of thumb is to buy the best you can afford. Then start saving money. You will eventually need it. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

  19. #14
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    Default Re: Need to improve my tone

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    I have found if the intonation is just a little off the G strings can get less resonant and the E strings can get brighter. A little humidity difference can move the top, changing action slightly and if action changes so does intonation. Tuning can also pull the bridge saddle forward over time and that will definitely change intonation.
    This one hundred percent. It is true that higher quality instruments help get to higher quality of the sound, sometimes... The other times it comes down to how instruments are set up. It takes me almost a month or so with a new instrument to find it's own sweet spot for intonation, especially living here in the desert southwest. If it don't have proper humidification, then the sound quality is changed pretty dramatically.

    In my opinion an Eastman MD315 is not a "low quality" instrument. If it is properly set up, it could really shine.
    Washburn Americana M118SWK
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  21. #15
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    Default Re: Need to improve my tone

    Thanks again to everyone who replied, I've been experimenting with pick thickness and where I play throughout the week, I made the switch from a .88mm to a 1mm pick and that made a huge difference (sorry for all of you in imperial land, I don't know what mm are in freedom equivalents).
    I have also checked my setup and intonation, and unfortunately looks like I might need to make a lot of adjustment to my bridge, as my G string has some poor intonation up the neck, weirdly the other three strings have perfect intonation, so it may be already as good as I can get it with this bridge.
    As someone who spent a lot of their life, before mandolin, playing electric instruments this topic is absolutely fascinating to me, the variation in tone from just how I play as well as where I play is incredible, its a much larger and more prominent than on the bass guitars I'm used to (hand positioning is still important there, but compression and amps make up so much for poor placement.).
    All the advice from this thread has had me going back to basics and really focusing in on my right hand technique, so thank you all for the amazing advice.
    Just a dude with a mandolin.
    rossdoesbass.com - my website

  22. #16
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    Default Re: Need to improve my tone

    Quote Originally Posted by Rossjcw View Post
    I have also checked my setup and intonation, and unfortunately looks like I might need to make a lot of adjustment to my bridge, as my G string has some poor intonation up the neck, weirdly the other three strings have perfect intonation, so it may be already as good as I can get it with this bridge
    I'm just a player, not a tech, but...Have you tried changing the G strings for new ones or a different make or material? I think the Eastman 305 comes with 11-40 D'Addario phosphor bronze. Mine currently has that gauge D'Addario Monel, and tuning seems fine up the neck on the G. Also, any chance your bridge or bridge saddle has rocked far enough that the G strings are releasing from the back edge of the bridge rather than the front, or that the G saddles are cut badly? My 305 has surprisingly wide 'lands' on top of the pre compensated bridge saddle and it looks like the Gs just rest on fine notches in those, not 1/2 the string width deep or anything like that. Last, it seems from another post that there are at least two of us here on the Forum with 305s on which the bridge saddles have tilted on one side of the bridge but not the other (the knurled adjustment wheels aren't parallel to each other). That appears to suggest the bridge saddle has twisted. Could that put the tuning of some pairs of strings out with others? Also, might be worth checking the action height - mine changed significantly in the first 8 weeks or so, I had to raise the bridge saddle to bring it back to Eastman spec, given on their website (apart from neck relief) at https://www.eastmanguitars.com/md305

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