Results 1 to 11 of 11

Thread: Unwanted string noises with mandolin and mandola

  1. #1

    Default Unwanted string noises with mandolin and mandola

    I recently got my first mandola and it has raised an issue regarding both dola and mandolin technique (I'm a beginner with both instruments). When playing dola I keep hearing unwanted string noises that weren't there when playing a mandolin (not quite so audible atleast). What I mean is those tiny vibrations of strings that happen when another string is plucked. I know that guitarists try to avoid this problem by muting/damping the strings they don't want to ring out at any given moment. They do this by palm muting the lower strings and using the index finger to lightly touch the higher strings.

    Now I'm wondering whether this is something that players of mandolin family instruments do or should do as well. Or perhaps the players of certain mandolin family instruments. As I said, I don't hear as much string noise with the mandolin as I do with the mandola, possibly because the higher string tension of the mandolin more effectively resists the unwanted vibrations of strings.

    So, do you have the habit of muting the strings that are not supposed to ring or do you just live with the string noise? I would like to hear both from mandolin and mandola players. I'm dreading the possibility of having to anchor my palm on the strings, however lightly, because I can only imagine the technical destruction it would cause to my right hand playing. I'm so used to letting my wrist move freely above the strings.

    A little clarification: I am here talking about muting while playing melody, not playing chords which would be a topic of its own.

  2. #2
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Alvarado/Mansfield, Texas
    Posts
    4,089

    Default Re: Unwanted string noises with mandolin and mandola

    Palm muting technique on guitar as you describe (muting bass strings & plucking melody on treble strings with fingers) is not done for the purpose you stated, it is done for the thumping bass effect in contrast with the melody ringing out. It’s true though that on fretted stringed instruments, muting with fretting hand digits or picking hand palm can be done for various reasons, but most folks do not get a lot of unwanted noise from sympathetic string vibrations to warrant worrying about muting all unplayed strings. Sympathetic string vibrations usually compliment, enrich & fill out the sound but if they cause a problem for you, then make whatever adjustments are necessary in your technique to mitigate them.

    Usually, a more common problem is sympathetic vibrations occurring on the strings between the tailpiece & the bridge, or between the nut & the tuners, and these are usually dealt with by placing a piece of felt, or a leather thong, or rubber grommets in those areas.
    WWW.MARKGUNTER.NET
    ----------------------------------
    "Life is short. Play hard." - AlanN

    ----------------------------------
    HEY! The Cafe has Social Groups, check 'em out. I'm in these groups:
    Newbies Social Group | The Song-A-Week Social
    The Woodshed Study Group | Blues Mando
    - Advice For Mandolin Beginners
    - YouTube Stuff

  3. The following members say thank you to Mark Gunter for this post:


  4. #3

    Default Re: Unwanted string noises with mandolin and mandola

    I mute the unwanted bass strings on electric guitar and banjo-mandolin, sometimes on acoustic guitar. It doesn't seem to be as big an issue on mandolin.

    "Palm muting" for that pizzicato effect that Mark Gunther describes is something different.

  5. #4
    Confused... or?
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Over the Hudson & thru the woods from NYC
    Posts
    2,634

    Default Re: Unwanted string noises with mandolin and mandola

    Yet one more reason for playing with others: We tend to not hear those unintended sounds!

    Additional good news: While YOU might hear your mistakes, the other folks probably won't.

    Thinking seriously a bit further, I realize that, whether on mandolin or guitar, I've gotten decent at muting adjacent strings with the fretting fingers. On mandolin, chopping on open-string chords (of course the BG Police would disapprove!) works well with either the fretting-hand pinky OR the picking hand heel.
    - Ed

    "Then one day we weren't as young as before
    Our mistakes weren't quite so easy to undo
    But by all those roads, my friend, we've travelled down
    I'm a better man for just the knowin' of you."
    - Ian Tyson

  6. #5

    Default Re: Unwanted string noises with mandolin and mandola

    Is the size of the instrument a factor? On my newly acquired mandocello, the other strings vibrate sympathetically far more easily than on my mandola, or on the mandolin I used to have. The mandocello is also a superior instrument.

    I agree that these "unwanted" sounds seem to add resonance and richness rather than being a problem.

  7. #6

    Default Re: Unwanted string noises with mandolin and mandola

    Thank you for the replies everyone! I've been now sort of re-listening to the sympathetic string vibrations trying to decide whether I find them to be obtrusive noise or something that enriches the sound of the instrument as some have suggested in this thread. For some reason I think with the mandola the sympathetic vibrations sound somewhat disruptive whereas with the mandolin I find them quite pleasant to listen to. Perhaps it has got something to do with the scale length, body size and their relationship to the fullness of the sound. Mandolin with its razor sharp sound may benefit from some extra vibrations. Whatever the case may be, I'm going to focus on other things with my instruments for now.

    A side note: yes, I seem to have used the term "palm muting" in an incorrect way. I was referring to the technique of merely muting the strings with the touch of one's palm - not the technique of striking the muted strings for the percussive/staccato effect.

  8. #7
    Registered User Drew Egerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Statesville, NC
    Posts
    972

    Default Re: Unwanted string noises with mandolin and mandola

    My wife is always complaining about unwanted noise from the mandolin, but I keep playing anyway....
    Drew
    2020 Northfield 4th Gen F5
    2016 Skip Kelley Vintage F5
    2003 Flatbush V4
    2015 Eastman MDA815 (mandola)
    2019 Northfield Flat Top Octave
    https://www.instagram.com/pilotdrew85

  9. The following members say thank you to Drew Egerton for this post:


  10. #8
    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    lower alabama
    Posts
    622

    Default Re: Unwanted string noises with mandolin and mandola

    Sympathetic vibration is a much bigger problem on electric than acoustic instruments. I don't think you need to worry much about it for mandolin, until you plug it in.

  11. #9

    Default Re: Unwanted string noises with mandolin and mandola

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    Palm muting technique on guitar as you describe (muting bass strings & plucking melody on treble strings with fingers) is not done for the purpose you stated...
    In fact, it is common to use the palm for this purpose stated by OP - particularly when playing slide.

    As you mentioned, Knoppa, larger instruments do tend to resonate more for several reasons: longer string scale length, larger body cavity, more surface area, etc. The lingering resonances in the lower ranges do tend to "muddy" the sound (if unwanted). Use your hands and fingers in whatever ways you can to mitigate unwanted vibrations, as Mark pointed out. This is part and parcel of playing stringed instruments; string dampening is required technique. Generally, the larger the instrument, the more number of strings - the greater the need for dampening.
    Last edited by catmandu2; Nov-17-2021 at 12:04pm.

  12. #10

    Default Re: Unwanted string noises with mandolin and mandola

    My G string resonates when I hit my E string. Drives me nuts.

  13. #11
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Alvarado/Mansfield, Texas
    Posts
    4,089

    Default Re: Unwanted string noises with mandolin and mandola

    Quote Originally Posted by Knoppa View Post
    A side note: yes, I seem to have used the term "palm muting" in an incorrect way. I was referring to the technique of merely muting the strings with the touch of one's palm - not the technique of striking the muted strings for the percussive/staccato effect.
    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    In fact, it is common to use the palm for this purpose stated by OP - particularly when playing slide.
    Yes, there is nothing at all wrong with what you described, Knoppa, the first paragraph of my first response in this thread resulted from my own misunderstanding of what you wrote. I read through your original post only once and quickly, and I misunderstood when you wrote "They do this by palm muting the lower strings and using the index finger to lightly touch the higher strings." I thought you were writing that they mute the lower strings while plucking the treble strings with the fingertips ... obviously NOT what you'd actually written, so you can disregard what I wrote in that first paraqraph, it really has nothing to do with your question.

    The palm muting I was describing is not for the purpose of muting sympathetic vibrations, but that was obviously not the palm muting you described in your original post, I mistakenly thought it was.
    WWW.MARKGUNTER.NET
    ----------------------------------
    "Life is short. Play hard." - AlanN

    ----------------------------------
    HEY! The Cafe has Social Groups, check 'em out. I'm in these groups:
    Newbies Social Group | The Song-A-Week Social
    The Woodshed Study Group | Blues Mando
    - Advice For Mandolin Beginners
    - YouTube Stuff

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •