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Thread: Better machines give better sustain?

  1. #26
    '`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`' Jacob's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    Nature abhors a vacuum, and, most probably, any loose connections in tuners.
    First response would be to firmly, but gently, tighten up all the adjustments on the tuning machines.
    Has provided a noticeably improved sound for me.

  2. #27
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jacob View Post
    Nature abhors a vacuum...
    So does my son's dog.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  4. #28
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    Thanks John - well, I wonder it's one of those things where a small weight difference just tips things enough to change them. I'm pretty sure there is a difference, although of course it always sounds better when it's just been cleaned
    The wood doesn't know what the metal weighs.

    Why do you think the difference you're hearing is because of the tuners and not the bridge?

    PS - I always sound better when I've been cleaned.
    Gibson A-Junior snakehead (Keep on pluckin'!)

  5. #29
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Buckingham View Post
    One night in the store where I used to teach, several musicians gathered to discuss banjos. Banjo players have the same types of discussions. The one person there who had lutherie experience finally said. "Your dog can probably hear the difference." I still think that is the truth.
    This^...

    There are plenty of half deaf old geezers who b!tch and complain about everything being," A whole lotta' nuthin'..." and cannot hear major changes to anything, so the whole rest of the world must be wrong.

    There are also plenty of people, myself included, who have excellent hearing and are very attuned to the nuances of the instrument who can hear very subtle changes to everything about a well made mandolin- the fittings, setup, fretwire, et cetera.

    I played with a world class fiddle player a while back who had hearing so fine that it was a curse for him. He spent 1.5 hours at the soundcheck for a small room in a manic tantrum before he literally jumped off the stage and chased the soundguy out of the venue...while me and one of our favorite pros around here spent the whole time alternating between amazement and falling down laughter....
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  6. #30
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    A Mandola will offer more sustain .. longer string that's heavier ..
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  7. #31
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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    The wood doesn't know what the metal weighs.

    Why do you think the difference you're hearing is because of the tuners and not the bridge?
    The standard way to mute a violin is to clip something heavy (a metal mute) or something lighter with low vibration transmission (eg a leather mute) to the bridge. That makes a huge difference.

    The Cumberland bridge I had fitted definitely made a difference to the tone, but not noticeably to the sustain. I can think of a few reasons why tuners might increase sustain - stiffer string posts, heavier metal (brass?), lower posts so the string pull angle is slightly different. I guess it all might make a subtle difference - whether it actually does it not is another question.

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  9. #32
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    I've replaced the tuning machines on several instruments. Some purely for cosmetic reasons, some because the originals didn't work well. I've also replaced lots of metal or pearloid buttons with wood, which usually reduces the overall mass screwed to the headstock.

    I've never experienced a difference in tone or sustain as a result. If you really want to experience a change in sustain, try a set of Curt Mangan "fusion matched" phosphor bronze strings. I use them on my mandolins, mandola, octave mandolin, mandocello and a few guitars. Compared to all the other brands I've tried (d'addarrio, la Bella, Martin, DR, Newtone, and many more) the Mangan's have noticeably better tone, volume and sustain.

  10. #33
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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    In case anyone wants to know either (a) that they are fooling themselves into thinking that they hear something that is not actually there, or (b) that they are becoming half deaf old geezers who can't discern something that actually IS there, there is a resource for you. Anyone can download Audacity for free (either PC or Mac), and perform tests that will either confirm or deny their conjectures. with Audacity installed and running, all you have to do is pluck a string and let your computer mic acquire the signal. It will look like a little tornado on its' side, and you don't have to process it or transform it or anything. Then you obtain a parameter called the characteristic time, aka decay time. Use the cursor to determine the onset (i.e., the time of the pluck, when the string leaves your pick or finger), then move the cursor to the point where the amplitude of the signal has decayed to 37% (actually 36.8%) of what it was at the onset. The time interval between those two cursor points is the characteristic time, a constant for that note on your instrument. Other intervals on the signal are not in general constants, but the characteristic time IS constant. There is one catch: you will need to repeat the measurements for every note on your instruments' fretboard, and you will find that the characteristic times vary significantly between the notes. That is because notes which are close in frequency to the frequencies of the instruments' body modes will lose energy to those body modes and decay more quickly, while notes which are not close in frequency to body mode frequencies will have longer decay times. So when you talk about sustain, you really have to specify "sustain for WHICH note?". In the end, most of you will find that you are not such half-deaf old geezers after all.

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  12. #34

    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    I don't know why, but after reading Dave's post above the words "mic drop" popped into my mind...

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  14. #35
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Cohen View Post
    ....all you have to do is pluck a string and let your computer mic acquire the signal. It will look like a little tornado on its' side, and you don't have to process it or transform it or anything. Then you obtain a parameter called the characteristic time, aka decay time. Use the cursor to determine the onset (i.e., the time of the pluck, when the string leaves your pick or finger), then move the cursor to the point where the amplitude of the signal has decayed to 37% (actually 36.8%) of what it was.....There is one catch: you will need to repeat the measurements for every note on your instruments' fretboard, and you will find that the characteristic times vary significantly between the notes....
    There's another, much bigger catch - unless you are sure you're picking each note with the exact same initial force, the data from one plucked note to another just doesn't correlate. When I did similar tests on dynamic systems as a mechanical engineering student we spent a lot of time on uncertainty analysis - simple square root of the sum of the squared products of the uncertainty in each input parameter and the partial derivative of the function describing the resonse with respect to that parameter. It was humbling to find that sometimes the +/- uncertainty in my results were greater in magnitude than the resultitself!

  15. #36
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    ...unless you are sure you're picking each note with the exact same initial force, the data from one plucked note to another just doesn't correlate...
    You left out this part of the quote:

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Cohen View Post
    ...The time interval between those two cursor points is the characteristic time, a constant for that note on your instrument...
    If I'm not mistaken, that means it doesn't matter how hard you pluck the string.

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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Cohen View Post
    In case anyone wants to know either (a) that they are fooling themselves into thinking that they hear something that is not actually there, or (b) that they are becoming half deaf old geezers.
    Well part b of your comment is undeniably true!
    David A. Gordon

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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    If you really want to experience a change in sustain, try a set of Curt Mangan "fusion matched" phosphor bronze strings...
    I've been wanting to try Curt Mangans after many recommendations here, but they appear to be 20 a set in UK rather than around 11-12 for D'Addario etc. Not quite Thomastik prices, but...

  20. #39
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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    The central point of my post above was that the characteristic time or decay time is a time interval for a fixed decay in amplitude, and that enables some indication of "sustain" in a string instrument. There certainly is scatter in such measurements, but not as much as described in Mandobart's post. For reference, see my chapter in "The Science of String Instruments", Ed. Thomas D. Rossing, Springer, 2010. Also see numerous locations in Fletcher & Rossing, "The Physics of Musical Instruments", 2nd Ed., Springer, 1998. Especially look at the chapter on pianos.

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  22. #40

    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cadger View Post
    I don't know why, but after reading Dave's post above the words "mic drop" popped into my mind...
    I really must qualify my earlier comment. The 'mic drop' was my judgement of the value of introducing actual science - something that wins almost every argument in my book.

    Rereading it I see how it could look as if I considered Dave's post to be arrogant, which would be just the opposite of what I meant. His post wasn't about scoring points, it was providing real information. I, on the other hand, was the one cheering in my head...

    You see, this is why I don't post often.

  23. #41
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cadger View Post
    ...my judgement of the value of introducing actual science - something that wins almost every argument in my book...
    I could be wrong, but I suspect that puts you (and me) in the minority if not close to it.
    There is a long tradition in lutherie for builders and players to make up stuff about how things work and explain their hypotheses as fact, often contradiction someone else's "alternate facts". The arguing, conjecture, expounding and so forth has gone on at festivals and jam sessions for years and years and has now moved on-line as well. People just love the back and forth, the half-baked conclusions, the anecdotes, the disagreements and the mystery of it all.
    We don't have to do that anymore because we actually do have some science to explain some of how musical instruments work, but many don't want any science injected into the discussion; they don't want to think that hard and it spoils their fun.

  24. #42

    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    I just replaced the stock machines on my Eastman 305 with something a little better (wouldn't be hard). They're decent quality Chinese 4 on a plate, sold in UK as 'Leader Banjo Co Deluxe Mandolin Machine Head' - a modest 35/$40 worth. Tuning is a lot less stiff and a good deal more precise as I hoped - but what I didn't expect is noticeably longer sustain. The old machines had the worm hanger brackets stamped and bent out of the base plate, the new appear to have separate worm carrier brackets welded onto base plates that are full width along their length.

    Now I've replaced the bridge and the machines (both worth doing), it's becoming apparent that the low and narrow OE frets are made of cheese and are starting to wear - next question...

    Max
    Yes those skinny frets wear grooves pretty quickly. Be prepared for sticker shock when you consider a refret. Hopefully you can get 1 level and dress out of them before they have to be replaced. When you do refret, consider EVO gold, especially if you want to stick with the narrow gauge.

  25. #43
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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Roy View Post
    Yes those skinny frets wear grooves pretty quickly. Be prepared for sticker shock when you consider a refret. Hopefully you can get 1 level and dress out of them before they have to be replaced. When you do refret, consider EVO gold, especially if you want to stick with the narrow gauge.
    The narrow gauge is just what it came with - I prefer the slightly wider and deeper frets on my Kentucky 250. What are the advantages of EVO Gold fretwire please?
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  26. #44
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    ...What are the advantages of EVO Gold fretwire please?
    Only one, really; longevity.

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  28. #45
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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    Without good technique (much of sustain derives from technique and set up, right?) adding all that mass just makes unbalanced instruments (I'm looking at you head heavy F5s!) more cumbersome to play. And does a slight incremental increase in sustain mean anything in a group setting or at a gig, especially if you're plugged in and sustain can be modified by an effect pedal or board? I've given up a lot of my notions on how mandolins can be improved or built better thanks to posts by Dr. Cohen and Sunburst.

    What I want out of better tuning machines is smoother adjustments (the nut and bridge affect that, too) and no slippage (depends on string material, age, how good I wound the pegs and how hard I play). You may hear some difference in sustain due to mass when changing out a stamped tailpiece for a cast one, maybe. But your audience isn't likely to discern a difference.

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  30. #46

    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    Hey, I know the answer to this one....or at least here's my two cents.....

    In the 90's a worked for a large vintage guitar shop where we sold around 200 guitars a month, mainly 40's - 60's Gibson J-45's and J-50's, etc. In most cases the tuners had been changed out over the years to Grovers or Schallers (or other sealed type tuners, which was the standard upgrade at the time.) My job was to locate correct period vintage tuners and install them back to their original design. IN EVERY CASE the guitars sounded worse with original type tuners. Less sustain with the original tuners. This was based on hundreds and hundreds of guitars I worked on personally.

    I'm not sure how this translates to mandolin tuners, as mandolins usually do not have high mass tuners installed as an upgrade. So.....

  31. #47
    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    Hey, I know the answer to this one....or at least here's my two cents.....

    In the 90's a worked for a large vintage guitar shop where we sold around 200 guitars a month, mainly 40's - 60's Gibson J-45's and J-50's, etc. In most cases the tuners had been changed out over the years to Grovers or Schallers (or other sealed type tuners, which was the standard upgrade at the time.) My job was to locate correct period vintage tuners and install them back to their original design. IN EVERY CASE the guitars sounded worse with original type tuners. Less sustain with the original tuners. This was based on hundreds and hundreds of guitars I worked on personally.

    I'm not sure how this translates to mandolin tuners, as mandolins usually do not have high mass tuners installed as an upgrade. So.....
    Just another anecdote…
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  32. #48

    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    Just another anecdote…
    It is sorta like politics -- even though the answer is clear, both sides feel their opinion is correct.....

    (notice how I cleverly mentioned the word politics without actually discussing any specific current events, which is not allowed, of course!)

  33. #49
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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    I think this just shows acoustics is subjective even though it can be measured. Bill noticed a consistent difference in HUNDREDS of guitars, so for him the difference was clear, whether it's measurable or not. So, like politics, perhaps the facts behind a statement about acoustics don't really matter - if the owner, the audience or the voters think they like the sound, or the sound of what a candidate says, they'll vote for it - and sometimes they'll vote for the anecdotes they like in defiance of the facts.

    Disclaimer - No part of this post refers to any politician alive or dead

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    Default Re: Better machines give better sustain?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    Just another anecdote…
    Probably because mandolin playing and lutherie are more of an art than a science. Would you rather play a Loyd Loar or a $100 pac-rim mandolin? The difference in sound is purely anecdotal.

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