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Thread: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

  1. #1
    Registered User Uncle Brad's Avatar
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    Default Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    I was reviewing a training video on YouTube of Joe Walsh giving instruction of a song. I noticed the sound his mandolin makes is quite different than mine. His sounds more like he's picking (thumping) strings on a wooden box. Also, the ring of his strings seems short and does not make a big statement (my words). In comparison, my mandolin seems loud and shallow, and the ring of the strings seems much longer than his. I'm wondering what you think about this comparison? Below are links where I have provided a short snippet of Joe and me playing a similar part. Note that I have only been playing for six months.

    Brad: https://youtu.be/AJztIKYgZ40

    Joe: https://youtu.be/_lRKU_jVcTI

    I have no idea about his equipment. My equipment is as follows:

    Mandolin: Weber Gallatin
    Strings: D'Addario EJ73 Phosphor Bronze 10 14 24 38
    Pick: Hense Cream Speedy 1.4mm

    Thanks in advance for any analysis and advice you can provide.

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    Sounds like 25+ years of playing (and a $20k mandolin) vs. 6 months of playing (and a $1500 mandolin) to me....I think he is playing his Nugget in the video.
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  5. #3
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    It is mainly due to to the fact that he is a really great mandolinist playing on a super great mandolin.
    On your end, your picking is a tad timid.
    I think you might only be plucking one of the strings in each pair.
    A great deal of the tone of a mandolin comes from a solid pick stroke through the pair of strings.
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  7. #4

    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    Try using a rest stroke. As you pluck the note, push your pick inward and stop on the next string. That will bring out the best tone on your instrument.
    Look at the video, you are only playing on one of the strings instead of two. Only one string is vibrating.

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  9. #5
    Mandolin Player trodgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    I think your mando sounds just fine. I would agree with the previous posters. Don't be afraid to pick a little harder. It will come along with practice and confidence!
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  11. #6
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    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    Don't forget that differences in recording methods can make a big difference too.

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  13. #7

    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    I also associate Joe's tone with heavier picks as well, such as a Pro Plec 1.5mm.

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  15. #8
    Mandol'Aisne Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    OK.... Well aside form the fact that the question is just like, "Do these jeans make my butt look big?" I noticed something right off that would affect the tone of your playing.

    You're striking the strings with the flat of the pick. So what you're often getting is 2 note separated by milliseconds which will create a 12-string guitar kind of sound (though the two notes are the same rather than an octave apart).

    What you can do is angle the pick so that it strikes the strings with more edge than flat. This will drive it through both strings in each pair more cleanly, and you'll get a single fatter note.

    Watch how Mike Marshall addresses the mandolin with his right hand. He hits the strings at an angle rather than flat to the pick. This allows him to cut down the time difference between the two strings in each course, and he gets a cleaner, fatter, single note.



    Perhaps not what you were looking for, but I think it might help get you where you want to go.

    Daniel

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  17. #9

    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    Hi Brad,

    I've just seen your video and have a couple of observations to offer. First off - you have to realise that Joe K Walsh is an exceptionally accomplished player, with many years of experience behind him! And, with 6 months behind you, your fingering looks pretty good from the clip, including good use of the pinkie.

    Regarding the tone, as others have already pointed out, you seem to be "tickling" the strings with the pick - just touching very lightly with the pick, and mainly only hitting one string of the string pairs. Driving the pick through both strings will effectively double your volume. Also, you're only using downstrokes, but that could just be in this particular short clip.

    Just one other thing - you mentioned that you're using J73's. I think you'll find that an arched-top F-hole mandolin will sound much beefier with J74's. The Weber Gallatin should be able to handle J74's with ease.

    I remember a few years ago I was given some 10's to try out on my F5. They lasted about 30 minutes before I took them off and replaced them with my usual J74s. All the beef, richness and volume disappeared as soon as I put on the 10's, and reappeared when I when I put the J74's on.

    Hope this helps! Keep picking, and enjoy the journey with that Gallatin - they're a nice mandolin!

    John

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  19. #10
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    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    Some credit for the quality of Mr Walsh's recording may also go to the quality of his recording setup and the long experience of the ears 'producing' it. Having said that, Joe may now post that he recorded it on his phone and posted it as it was...

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  21. #11
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    The main differences I'm hearing are you having newer strings and probably a less sophisticated recording setup. Now, even if you had the same setup, your mandolin would still sound different than Joe's for the reasons mentioned above. There is nothing wrong with what you have. You could happily spend years playing that Weber professionally. It is an excellent instrument.

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  23. #12

    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    Way, way more experienced mando players than me here chiming in but yeah...you do have light strings on as opposed to mediums which will make a difference and yeah it does appear on the single note licks that you're playing that you're only picking one of the strings as opposed to going through them and plucking the pair at the same time.

    Good luck!

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  25. #13
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    Another detail to work on…you are only using down strokes in the video. Learning full up/down pickin technique will change your tone too.
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  27. #14

    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    Hi Brad,

    No, I don't think your mandolin sounds cheap. Weber makes nice instruments and that one should satisfy you for quite a while as your playing progresses, especially when you consider that the next step up will run you several thousand. Most beginners start with much more basic instruments than yours.

    You've already gotten several good suggestions here (isn't this a great place!). I would echo that as long as your Weber is well set up, it will sound fuller with medium gauge strings without being harder to play. One other subtle difference (beyond the fact that he's playing a world class instrument) is that Joe isn't playing phosphor bronze strings, which does affect his tone. You have a very nice mandolin and a great teacher. All that's left is practice, practice, practice (and then practice some more)

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  29. #15
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    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    As a kindred mandolin beginner, I'd like to add that your practice of attending to the details when listening and watching other people play the mandolin will serve you in good stead.

    Random thought: I wonder how many of us are in AZ?
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  31. #16
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    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    This is 100% the correct answer!!! :


    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny60 View Post
    Hi Brad,

    I've just seen your video and have a couple of observations to offer. First off - you have to realise that Joe K Walsh is an exceptionally accomplished player, with many years of experience behind him! And, with 6 months behind you, your fingering looks pretty good from the clip, including good use of the pinkie.

    Regarding the tone, as others have already pointed out, you seem to be "tickling" the strings with the pick - just touching very lightly with the pick, and mainly only hitting one string of the string pairs. Driving the pick through both strings will effectively double your volume. Also, you're only using downstrokes, but that could just be in this particular short clip.

    Just one other thing - you mentioned that you're using J73's. I think you'll find that an arched-top F-hole mandolin will sound much beefier with J74's. The Weber Gallatin should be able to handle J74's with ease.

    I remember a few years ago I was given some 10's to try out on my F5. They lasted about 30 minutes before I took them off and replaced them with my usual J74s. All the beef, richness and volume disappeared as soon as I put on the 10's, and reappeared when I when I put the J74's on.

    Hope this helps! Keep picking, and enjoy the journey with that Gallatin - they're a nice mandolin!

    John

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  33. #17

    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    Your mandolin sounds fine. Agree that you may be just picking one string. I would imagine Joe is using 11-40 guage strings, not to mention the high value mandolin. I'd say strings is the quickest fix. Use 11-40 phos bronze and that will fatten up the sound.

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  35. #18

    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    Thanks Barry!

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  37. #19
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    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    Sounds like years of experience, if you don't get the sound you want then I'd advise you to just take an in depth study of what you are doing with your right hand and work on getting the sound you want out of your instrument, a good player can get at least a decent sound out of anything and you seem to have a good mandolin so working on your right hand should be able to get the sound you're looking for, I'd start by playing a little harder.
    Hope that helps,
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  39. #20
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    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    Also, you can change your tone by drying different pick materials, thickness and shape, as well as the way you are attacking the strings.
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  41. #21
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    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    As mentioned by Montana Matt it appears you're only playing downstrokes. Try practicing a four note half scale using down up down up. For instance start on the D note (3rd string open) and work up to G and back down to D. Slowly and rhythmically. Much like a fiddle player's motion with a bow. Once you feel comfortable playing the half scale move up to the full eight note scale. This will require you to switch to the second string then back to the third string, again maintaining down up and solid rhythm. Then try this with other scales, arpeggios, etc. It should become second nature fairly quickly. Playing downstrokes only will hinder your progress IMHO.
    Different strings, picks, etc all part of exploring your instrument. Enjoy the ride.
    And I think your instrument sounds just fine. Certainly a quality mandolin that will take you a long way.
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  43. #22

    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    John Suhr, who makes awesome electric guitars, has a pretty great quote, something like: Most tone problems can be cured with practice.

    Tone is an ongoing journey, and you’re at the beginning of it. Email Joe and ask him if he’s satisfied with his tone. I bet you he says he still tries different picks and doesn’t feel he’s quite there yet. Ask Adam Steffey the same thing, etc...

    Enjoy the journey, and as suggested above, try some thicker strings.

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  45. #23
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    Default Re: Does my mandolin sound cheap???

    Let's not forget this gem


    There's plenty more good authorities providing advice on the tubes, as well
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