Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 61

Thread: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

  1. #1

    Default Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    What are your favorite mandolin tuning tips, and why do you use them?

    * Tune the heaviest strings first?
    * Tune the strings closest to the end of the headstock first?
    * Tune multiple times until just right?

    What works for you?

    I'll bet this has been done before, but it didn't come up in my searches. Please feel free to link prior conversations if you know of 'em.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Washington, DC
    Posts
    1,540

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    I just tune the thing. I don't mean to come across as snarky, but you just tune the strings until they're as in-tune as they'll get. Tuning one string can impact the tuning of other strings due to the changes in pressure on the mando top (or at least that's how I understand it) but really, you tune mando strings by just tuning mando strings.

  3. #3
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Key West
    Posts
    13,779
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Give it to someone else to tune, preferably someone with perfect pitch. That's the best, easiest, most reliable method. I do this every chance I get.


    Which is almost never.


    This is right on the money: Tune the heaviest strings first. Reason being, the thicker the string, the more pull is exerted on the neck. As the cumulative string tension increases, the string tension on the other strings decreases, and they go flat. This is why - yes, you will most likely have to make a couple of passes before you're finished. When changing strings, I always tune in order, low to high, inching my way upward until close. I may go a bit sharp with the G strings, knowing that tuning the other strings will make them go more flat, and if I've guessed right, just about in tune.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

    Furthering Mandolin Consciousness

    Blues Mando Social Group
    Gibson Mandolins Social Group
    North Florida Mandolin Players Social Group

    My favorite bluegrass band

  4. #4

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Thanks Alex, and of course I agree, except I have found a few variables that impact tuning, and I am guessing others have tips that may be useful to me. For example, heavier strings seem to impact how much the other strings swing out of tune more than the lighter strings do. The order might matter; I don't think I am asking too simple a question, but it is good to hear that tuning works simply for you. BTW I am referring to an Eastman 515 with stock tuners. I normally find that I have to go through 3 passes of tuning before the instrument is solidly in-tune.

  5. #5
    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    lower alabama
    Posts
    622

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Tune it, play it for a couple of minutes, maybe chop chords, then tune it again, and repeat. Everything changes when the strings warm up.

  6. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Guildford + Falmouth England
    Posts
    703

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    I tune starting with the As, then D G E, then go back and check the As, then readjust as necc. This is from standard violin tuning routine, and I guess it might bias the tuning towards the keys of ADG and E and relatives?

  7. #7
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Co. Mayo, Ireland
    Posts
    3,321

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    I've been around the cafe for something like 12 years now and can say that I can't recall ever reading any threads that recommend tuning strings in a different order or anything like that as a way to facilitating ease in tuning. If you're having issues with getting your Eastman in tune at the first attempt it could be down to other variables such as the age of your strings, or the technique used to restring the mandolin (in the event that the strings are slipping slightly on the tuning posts), or that particular set of tuners themselves.

    Not implying that you haven't looked at all those variables already, just throwing them out there in case any new players are following the thread. If I was having to tune and retune three times to finally get my mandolin in tune those would be the things I'd be ruling out rather than thinking that I needed to tweak the order of which strings I tuned. Also I'd be looking at any contrasting room temperatures, if I was bringing the mandolin and it's case from a cold room to a heated room or vice versa as that's something that can affect whether that first pass holds tune or not. But hey, as we say in Ireland, more power to your elbow - if you're convinced that the solution to the issue is to find the sweet spot of which strings to tune in which order, have at it and come back with your results!

    Just curious - do you have the issue regardless as to what type of tuner you use - Snark? Polytune? tuner app on your phone? etc.
    2018 Girouard Concert oval A
    2015 JP "Whitechapel" tenor banjo
    2018 Frank Tate tenor guitar
    1969 Martin 00-18




    my Youtube channel

  8. #8

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    If tuning strings relative to each other, start with a string that reduces the number of references.

    Ie do not start on G, then tune D from G 7th fret, A from D 7th fret, etc. This multiplies errors. Instead start with D and tune G from D 5th, A from D 7th, and E from D 2nd fret.

    If using a tuner, strike through one string and land the pick resting on the other string. Like an upside down rest stroke. Tune with the tuner. And then tune the other string by ear.

    At least this works for me... and also may be obvious.

  9. #9
    Resident Hack
    Join Date
    Jul 2020
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    200

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    I use a tuner every time (recommendation 1).
    First round, I come through from lowest to highest, not going for perfect but good enough. If anything is a little sharp, I leave it. Tuning the other strings will fix it for me. Then I come through a second time to fine tune.
    Don't introduce slack into your windings (recommendation 2). If a string is a little sharp, I pull it out away from the body to try to pull slack from the windings or else tune down to below the note and then tune back up to it. I Always tune up, never down.
    What I play
    2021 Skip Kelley Two-Point
    Eastwood 'Ricky'
    Morgan Monroe RT-1E
    Epiphone Genesis guitars
    Various Basses

  10. #10

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    As a recent guitar player convert I'll say tuning this mandolin is a pain. Kind of have to play it into tune. I don't get satisfactory results just with a tuner and I've tried a few as well as PC aps. I get the final tweaking more by playing a chord and picking out the bad note, or playing a scale on one course leading up to the open note on the string I'm working on. I like using the side of my thumb on the string instead of a pick for tuning.

  11. #11
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
    Location
    Jupiter FL
    Posts
    17

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mitch Stein View Post
    I use a tuner every time (recommendation 1).
    First round, I come through from lowest to highest, not going for perfect but good enough. If anything is a little sharp, I leave it. Tuning the other strings will fix it for me. Then I come through a second time to fine tune.
    Don't introduce slack into your windings (recommendation 2). If a string is a little sharp, I pull it out away from the body to try to pull slack from the windings or else tune down to below the note and then tune back up to it. I Always tune up, never down.
    I agree always tune up as it takes out any slack.

  12. #12
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Key West
    Posts
    13,779
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jill McAuley View Post
    If you're having issues with getting your Eastman in tune at the first attempt it could be down to other variables such as the age of your strings, or the technique used to restring the mandolin (in the event that the strings are slipping slightly on the tuning posts), or that particular set of tuners themselves ... If I was having to tune and retune three times to finally get my mandolin in tune those would be the things I'd be ruling out rather than thinking that I needed to tweak the order of which strings I tuned.
    I respectfully disagree, albeit not in all situations. I'm thinking in particular after changing strings, when more than the usual adjustment is necessary. As I said above, I tune from the bottom up, thicker strings exerting more pressure. And it's virtually impossible in this case to succeed in one pass; three passes seems right.

    But not for day-to-day tuning, I would think, by and large. I'll agree with you there - something else might be going on.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

    Furthering Mandolin Consciousness

    Blues Mando Social Group
    Gibson Mandolins Social Group
    North Florida Mandolin Players Social Group

    My favorite bluegrass band

  13. #13
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Key West
    Posts
    13,779
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    I'll share a horror story I just survived. I've been working on a recording project, and the final track gave me fits. My partner had sent me what she'd recorded, to which I was to add my track. But instead of sound files in the recording program, she'd sent me an mp3 file, presumably mixed down from multi-tracking. And it was double-tracked - two inseparable takes, voice and guitar, with slight variations. And it included her playing slide guitar on both tracks. And she'd tuned down half a step (Why do guitarists do this? Drives me crazy.). And she'd done so by ear, apparently, as the guitar wasn't exactly a half-step flat. As you may have surmised, this presented me with a little slice of hell on earth. Oh, I forgot to mention - there was no point in this where she held a single steady note long enough for me to tune to it.

    I was going back and forth trying to get it right. If I got one string right on the mark, tuning the other strings knocked it off. It seemed like it took forever, though it was probably just an hour or so, but a very frustrating, infuriating, exasperating hour. I finally seized on the little oopsie just after the track, where removing her hand made her open E string ring for half a second. I used the program to copy that segment and repeated it, which gave me a note I could finally tune to. But it did mean making at least a couple of passes tuning all strings to get them just so. I believe this could have been avoided if my Snark hadn't gone missing a while ago. I think there's an option to tune the tuner a little bit sharp or flat. If I could have dialed that in, it would have made the process so much simpler. The online tuner I've been using doesn't seem to have that capability, and my Boss TU-3 stage tuner is acting really weird. Well, anyway, I did meet this challenge and solve it, but I hope never to have to do that again. Not that I'll have any control over that!
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

    Furthering Mandolin Consciousness

    Blues Mando Social Group
    Gibson Mandolins Social Group
    North Florida Mandolin Players Social Group

    My favorite bluegrass band

  14. #14
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    23,963
    Blog Entries
    55

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    I would tune the strings that are out of tune. Just sayin.

    Seriously, when installing new strings for example, I always change one string at a time, remove - replace, next string remove - replace. That is to avoid relaxing the neck and keeping the set up I have.

    I have always subscribed to the superstition of alternating bass side, treble side, outside to inside. So first the bottom G string, then the outside E string, then the other G string, then the other E string, etc., till the inside D string and the inside A string are last.

    So if I were doing a massive comprehensive tune up, I would follow the same pattern.

    The superstition says that always tuning from bass to treble or the other way introduces a tiny bias, and that after many years this will pull the neck to one side or the other. I have no idea if there is anything to this, and I strongly suspect not, but when it doesn't matter, I do alternate as described.

    OK yea, I always use a tuner, and fine tune the unisons by ear at the end. I always tune up, i.e. if I over shoot the pitch, I deliberately undershoot and bring it up again more slowly.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

    The entire staff
    funny....

  15. #15
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    23,963
    Blog Entries
    55

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Just a side note, I have held many "string changing parties" where I put an old blanket on the dining room table, invite friends over, usually a mandolin or two, several guitars, maybe a 12 string, and sometimes, despite the futility, a banjo.

    I put up some chili and corn bread for dinner and adult beverages for after we are all in tune, and then we jam until late in the evening.

    Its a way to try and make string changing into something fun.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

    The entire staff
    funny....

  16. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to JeffD For This Useful Post:


  17. #16
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Guildford + Falmouth England
    Posts
    703

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    You'll see quite a lot of guitarists tune to the key centre chord of their next piece. UK Folk guitarist Martin Simpson tends to talk while tuning between pieces, and I suspect the talking is just there to cover his impeccable tuning. I've also seen classical guitarists do this. So, say you're about to play a bluegrass tune in D Maj, why not tune the Mando to that chord (no, I don't either...)?

  18. #17
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Key West
    Posts
    13,779
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Just a side note, I have held many "string changing parties" where I put an old blanket on the dining room table, invite friends over, usually a mandolin or two, several guitars, maybe a 12 string, and sometimes, despite the futility, a banjo.

    I put up some chili and cornbread for dinner and adult beverages for after we are all in tune, and then we jam until late in the evening.

    It's a way to try and make string changing into something fun.
    Also, if you should happen to prick a finger with a string end (nearly unavoidable), there'll be someone handy to apply first aid.

    For my last string-changing session I chose a Saturday morning so I could listen to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" on the local NPR station at the same time. Something to occupy my mind.

    BTW, I also leave some strings on while putting on the others. Not only does it keep strings in close proximity to their operating tension, it keeps the bridge in place. Don't want to have to fuss around with that! But I still put them on in order, low to high.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

    Furthering Mandolin Consciousness

    Blues Mando Social Group
    Gibson Mandolins Social Group
    North Florida Mandolin Players Social Group

    My favorite bluegrass band

  19. #18
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2020
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    1,059

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Just a side note, I have held many "string changing parties" where I put an old blanket on the dining room table, invite friends over, usually a mandolin or two, several guitars, maybe a 12 string, and sometimes, despite the futility, a banjo.

    I put up some chili and corn bread for dinner and adult beverages for after we are all in tune, and then we jam until late in the evening.

    Its a way to try and make string changing into something fun.
    Sounds really fun.
    In general, the two times I've done it , I did not find changing strings to be particularly fun. I was happy to be providing service to my instrument, but fun, not so much.
    Your party method sounds fun

  20. #19
    Registered User Ky Slim's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Kentucky
    Posts
    473

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Here's one tip that I haven't seen mentioned yet:

    When you tune a string always tune from flat of the desired pitch (below the desired pitch) up into the desired pitch.

    If you go to far and end up sharp of the desired pitch (above the desired pitch) turn the knob back to where you are flat of the pitch and then try to come back "up" into the pitch.

    Don't tune from sharp (above) down to the pitch. Always tune up to the pitch.

  21. #20
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    23,963
    Blog Entries
    55

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    I played in an orchestra where we were told last minute, on the stage, before the curtain opened, to tune to A=442.

    What surprised me was that nobody was surprised. Everyone seemed to have a tuner that could dial it in, or used their neighbors, nobody even sighed, much less moaned or complained. Very sophisticated pro behavior entirely unphased by changes in plans.



    Maybe because it was mostly mandolinners, guitars a small minority, and no banjos.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

    The entire staff
    funny....

  22. #21
    Playing on the porch
    Join Date
    Apr 2021
    Location
    A Hilltop in Central Texas
    Posts
    62

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    I like your question. Although I started violin in 1963, i've only been playing mandolin for about five years. And, as I was told early on... Mandolinists spend half their time tuning their instruments, and half their time playing out of tune. (Just kidding, kind of.)

    My way of tuning is only that; my way. But, here it is:

    I use the Violin Tuner app on my iPhone. It has four buttons: G, D, A and E. I start by pressing the G button. The appropriate pitched sound last for only a second or two, but it sticks in my head and I tune each G string separately to the tone in my head. I then check to see if both strings sound the same. If not, I hit the G button again and fine tune. I always "tune up", not down. If the string starts out "high", I loosen the tuning machine a bit and then tighten to correct pitch. If the two G strings sound like one, then I go to the D button. Again, I tune each string on its own and then compare. Then, I go to the A string, rinse and repeat. Then, to the E.

    Before playing, I listen to the courses of strings again to make sure that all sounds as it should. I am then ready to play. The whole process probably doesn't take me but a few seconds per string.

    New strings require more frequent tuning. Like violin strings, I find they often go out of tune for a few days before the winding and the string have stabilized.

    Often, I find myself doing some fine tuning after perhaps 45 minutes of playing. I don't retune during practice sessions unless I hear the strings sounding a bit wacky.

    Welcome to you and your mandolin. Enjoy!
    ---
    2021 Ellis F5 Special #564 mandolin
    1928 Roth (Amati) violin
    2017 Eastman MD515 mandolin
    1907 Foltz (Strad) violin

  23. #22
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    23,963
    Blog Entries
    55

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    Also, if you should happen to prick a finger with a string end (nearly unavoidable), there'll be someone handy to apply first aid.
    Yes. I always have my diabetes kit nearby, to measure my blood sugar should I draw blood. Never waste an opportunity.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

    The entire staff
    funny....

  24. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to JeffD For This Useful Post:


  25. #23

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    One good tip is: the more you drink, the less you need to tune.

  26. The Following 8 Users Say Thank You to OldSausage For This Useful Post:


  27. #24
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    1,125

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    I played fiddle for years before I started mandolin. Both have the same tuning. When I began, people around me tuned their violins: A first, then E, D, and G, in that order, using the sound of two strings at once to test proper pitch, based on getting the A right. There was much more ear tuning in those days. When I started mandolin, people around me tuned their strings: G, D, A, E, in that order. Now, I tune my fiddle, A, E, D, G, and my mandolin, G, D, A, E. There's no logic to this, just custom. I'm not recommending anything. By the way, I usually sing best in the key of D, and can find a D note (not perfect pitch, mind) in my head by singing the open-string notes of a mandolin or violin, a skill I developed after ears of tuning my instruments. And, as someone mentioned, the "V" for violin on your electronic tuner is set up for the notes of a mandolin as well.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

  28. #25
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    S.W. Wisconsin
    Posts
    6,416

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    One good tip is: the more you drink, the less you need to tune.
    Nice to have your wit and wisdom back David.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  29. The following members say thank you to pops1 for this post:


Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

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