Page 2 of 3 FirstFirst 123 LastLast
Results 26 to 50 of 61

Thread: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

  1. #26

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    First of all, make sure the bridge is in the right place. If the mandolin was set up right, this will not be a problem. To check the bridge placement, compare the pitch of the harmonic at the 12th fret to the pitch of the string fingered at the 12th fret. They should be the same. If the harmonic is lower, the bridge needs to move towards the tail. If the harmonic is higher, the bridge needs to move towards the nut. Test all four strings, and don't be afraid if the bridge ends up slightly off from an exact 90 degree angle vs. the strings.

    Once I am sure of that, I tune each string using a tuner or pitch pipe. Then I "fudge" each one if necessary so that each of the three octaves between an open string and the 5th fret on the next string up sounds like a perfect octave to my ear.

  2. #27
    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    lower alabama
    Posts
    620

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    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!

    Wow, that story gave me a headache. They do it because SRV did it?

    Yes, the Snark tuner will adjust from 430 to 450 I think. It will definitely go to 442, and don't ask me how I know.

  3. #28
    Adrian Minarovic
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, Europe
    Posts
    3,048

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    From viewpoint of a maker I would add few notes. Tuning up to pitch is good adviceespecially when your instrument may have problems with tight nut slots or binding tuner gears (more common than one would admit). BUT even if your mandolin is setup perfectly nut slots are perfectly smooth and lubed and tuners perfectly lubed etc, there is ALWAYS some residual FRICTION in the nut slots so when you tune up, the part of string between tuners and nut is under slightly greater tension than the playing string and this tend to get evened out after picking few notes... So your tuning WILL go sharp. Some folks slightly depress (or just caress it gently) the part of string above nut to even out the tension. If you depress too much you will reverse the tensions. I've seen some classical violinists caress the played part of strings in one direction from nut towards bridge presumably to even out the tension after tuning.
    I prefer tuning up to pitch and not tune above the desired pitch but stay few cents below for the initial tuning, never above. This helps especially on a and d courses which are more prone to binding in nut slots and have longer upper part above nut.
    Adrian

  4. #29
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Co. Mayo, Ireland
    Posts
    3,319

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    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.
    I was just sat down playing my mandolin this morning - one pass through with the Polytune tuner, starting with the G course and working my way down, and it was all good. Sometimes I need to go back to check the A course again but that's usually only when my strings are really old and need to be changed. Granted my mandolin has Rubner tuners, but when I think back on other mandolins I've had, the only ones that were problematic to tune were 1) My '27 A-jr when it still had the original tuners on it, they were nearly impossible to turn. My luthier cleaned them up and got them working much better and after that no issues. 2) My MT-O - it had that batch of Golden Age tuners that were reported as problematic by a lot of folks - similar issue in that the tuners were very difficult to turn. My luthier swapped them out for Rubners and it was like night and day. Aside from those two, I've found my mandolins no more difficult to tune than any of my other stringed instruments which by and large are tuned up with one pass of the Polytune. Maybe I'm an outlier and have just lucked out with the all the mandolins I've owned.

    Now tuning up immediately after I restring the mandolin would be another matter - in that instance it would take a couple of passes through to accommodate strings stretching as they settle in. I usually take a few passes through with the Polytune, then play it for about an hour, and when I check the tuning before putting it back in the case it's right on the money.


    I would also consider that I have a pretty good ear for hearing when strings are flat or sharp, so I don't think it's a case of me settling for "good enough" tuning - years of playing in bands made me very sensitive to any of the stringed instruments being even slightly out of tune.
    2018 Girouard Concert oval A
    2015 JP "Whitechapel" tenor banjo
    2018 Frank Tate tenor guitar
    1969 Martin 00-18




    my Youtube channel

  5. The following members say thank you to Jill McAuley for this post:


  6. #30
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Key West
    Posts
    13,752
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by lowtone2 View Post
    Wow, that story gave me a headache. They do it because SRV did it?
    I don't know why. Did he? Probably to accommodate his voice. I don't think it does anything for the tone. And I sure wouldn't do it on a recording. Especially not by ear. I assume my friend just picked it up and started to play, and didn't think about it. Oh well! Anyway, I figured it out. Just took some doing. OK, a whole lot of doing.

    And yes - if my Snark hadn't gone out for a pack of cigs and never come back ... Where is the consarned thing?

    PS: Yes, Jill, for everyday tuning one pass ought to be enough. Well, make that 1+. Once I get the G strings in tune, tuning the rest may knock the Gs a little flat, due to the increased string tension. The little bit of adjustment to the Gs shouldn't be enough to bother the others. But it always pays to check.
    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

  7. #31

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    And what did the pianist do, other than get up and leave?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    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.

  8. #32
    Registered User oldhawkeye's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2021
    Location
    Alpine Alabama
    Posts
    41

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    And what did the pianist do, other than get up and leave?
    Maybe just put a couple of pennies under the legs to raise it a few cents?
    My Avatars' Indian name was - Snakes in Head
    Mine is - Runs with Beers

  9. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to oldhawkeye For This Useful Post:


  10. #33
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Key West
    Posts
    13,752
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Ha ha ha!!! Excellent use of the double entendre - plus the absurdity of the premise - makes this a triple threat joke. Well done!

    Though to be clear, I believe JeffD was talking about a mandolin orchestra - no piano. But without the setup, we wouldn't have the punch line. Thanks!
    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

  11. #34
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Outer Spiral Arm, of Galaxy, NW Oregon.
    Posts
    16,728

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    BITD, I Used an A-440 tuning fork .. so I got the A string in tune with the fork ringing the bridge.
    then tuned the others by fretting 5ths & unisons..
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

  12. #35
    Resident Hack
    Join Date
    Jul 2020
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    200

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    And what did the pianist do, other than get up and leave?
    Awesome jokes aside, the pianist (or their instrument, rather) was probably the issue. They have the one instrument you can't just adjust.
    Back when I was playing in church, my group had to tune to A=435 anytime a pianist joined us because the piano (which had just been tuned) was a little flat.
    What I play
    2021 Skip Kelley Two-Point
    Eastwood 'Ricky'
    Morgan Monroe RT-1E
    Epiphone Genesis guitars
    Various Basses

  13. #36
    man about town Markus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Posts
    1,954
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    As others have stated, always start below the desired pitch and tune up to it. If you are sharp, loosen the string to flat and tune back up.

    If I am going for precision, I always tune my strings from low to high pairs and always the `top' of a string pair right up to pitch and the `bottom' of the string pair just a hair flat. Once I go through all 8 strings once, then I go through once more - tuning the `top' of the pair to my tuner and the `bottom' of the pair by ear to match the first. I find this esp helpful at the dry/wet times of the year when I find the instrument completely sharp or flat due to humidity changes and tuning it onto pitch alters the tension and thus requires multiple times through the strings to get all on pitch. Might as well save the time matching strings that first go-round if you are assured to revisit it later.

    The only other thing I will note that with my instruments that have pickups on them I always use my trusty tuner pedal vs. a clip on as it registers faster, has less issues in noisy spaces, and is remarkably accurate compared to a clip on [less time pair matching as they start out much closer to perfect]. It seems weird to go to the acoustic jam and pull out my pedal tuner and plug in to tune ... but when it sounds glorious in little time and I'm not fiddling all night my fun is increased.

  14. #37
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Key West
    Posts
    13,752
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    I'm with you on that. My Boss TU-3 tuner is a great help. (Plus onstage, it mutes while you tune.) I've used it while recording, leaving my mandolin plugged into it even though recording on a microphone. It's malfunctioning now, though, not sure why. It reads sharp. That is, its A reads as 446 on my online tuner. I haven't been able to correct it. Do you know how?
    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

  15. #38
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    23,960
    Blog Entries
    55

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    And what did the pianist do, other than get up and leave?
    No pianist. LOL
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

    The entire staff
    funny....

  16. #39
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    NC
    Posts
    4,253

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Just tune often

    I, too, tend to tune the heavier strings first and agree with tuning up to pitch; just seems to get there faster and holds better. I usually use my Strobotune phone app at home. When playing out I’ll use a Snark or
    D’Addairio and dial the individual courses in by ear.

  17. #40
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Outer Spiral Arm, of Galaxy, NW Oregon.
    Posts
    16,728

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Church Pianos are notorious for being out of tune because the heat in the building is off the rest of the week.
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

  18. #41
    man about town Markus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Posts
    1,954
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    I haven't been able to correct it. Do you know how?
    Nope. I have a different brand and got it stuck displaying #'s instead of letters for a while until I searched the manufacturer website and eventually found the instruction manual. Gave me all sorts of stress at the gig I discovered it at, thankfully I learned to always have a backup everything and the clip on saved my bacon.

  19. The following members say thank you to Markus for this post:


  20. #42
    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    near Boston, MA
    Posts
    664

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Several good answers here. However you do it, you want your mandolin to be in tune, simple. One way to tell is strum all your strrings open. You should hear a flat tone, no pulsations at all. Same with your pairs. Get one in tune and bring the other up until their perfect, easy peasy. SRV and many others tune down for several very good reasons. But thier not off pitch, that is wrong, on every level. IMHO

  21. #43
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    Augusta, Maine, USA
    Posts
    1,221

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Snark.
    Gibson A-Junior snakehead (Keep on pluckin'!)

  22. #44
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Key West
    Posts
    13,752
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    That was just a wee bit snarky.

    Quote Originally Posted by Frankdolin View Post
    But thier not off pitch, that is wrong, on every level. IMHO
    Yeah, I really don't understand how my friend could have been so careless. She is a for-real world-class artist who was signed by EMI, toured Europe as support for The Black Crowes and Chris Isaak, has been on Letterman, Leno, and Oprah, and has put out seven or eight albums. She's slumming a bit with me. But I'm able to adapt, and did. So all is well, and when kids try to play along with our EP, they're going to be a bit puzzled. We'll be in good company. There are lots of examples of off-pitch songs from the 60s, possible before, but definitely while The Beatles and others were experimenting with varying tape speeds and other studio trickery. So I had to struggle a bit; so be it. I survived. As Dave's True Story said, "The measure of a man is in the way he can adapt." I'm a flexible man.

    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

  23. #45

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mitch Stein View Post
    ...the piano (which had just been tuned) was a little flat.
    At times, the piano tuner may have to tune the whole deal a tad flat. Not for any artistic/musical reasons, but structural ones.
    "I play BG so that's what I can talk intelligently about." A line I loved and pirated from Mandoplumb

  24. #46
    Registered User nultylynch's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    31

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Use a good tuner (I like the TC Electronic Unitune). I think good headstock tuners are great for acoustic instruments as they tend to ignore overtones, room noise, etc...
    I then tune low to high. Then, if time allows, retune low to high. I always tune up to the note, not down to the note.
    Next, check each pair to make sure that they are in tune to each other. Play them together, if there's a warble...they're not in relative tune.
    Then I play a scale or two across all the strings to see if everything sounds right.

    After a few minutes of playing, I check everything again.

    All of this goes out the window when I'm playing with accordions, concertinas, pianos, etc...then I tune to them (usually to the A) and then tune the rest of the strings using the 7th fret and my ear.

  25. #47
    working musician Jim Bevan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    San Francisco de Limache, Chile
    Posts
    743

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Pluck the string that you're tuning at the 12th fret – your instrument will produce less overtones, making it easier for your tuner to read the fundamental.

  26. #48
    working musician Jim Bevan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    San Francisco de Limache, Chile
    Posts
    743

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by lowtone2 View Post
    They do it because SRV did it?
    Singing-range advantage aside, they can put heavier strings on the guitar and still bend 'em like normal.

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    I don't think it does anything for the tone.
    A guitar with heavier strings at 415.30 will have more output than one with normal strings at 440 (heavier strings at 440 can actually produce less output 'cuz the higher string tension equals less string amplitude).
    Increasing the output means more (and more natural) preamp overdrive, and it also sounds, I dunno, "janglier".

  27. The following members say thank you to Jim Bevan for this post:


  28. #49
    man about town Markus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Posts
    1,954
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    Give it to someone else to tune, preferably someone with perfect pitch.
    I have the feeling perfect pitch people dislike mandolins and other doubled string instruments.

    I played in a trio with a guy on acoustic, a guy on archtop electric, and myself on mandolin. The electric player never used a tuner of any sort as he could just do it in his head.

    Between songs, he would tell the acoustic player things like `your D is flat'. I feel like a mandolin was just a lost cause in his eyes :D When I'm tuning I wish I had his skill but every time I visit a jam I am so thankful that I do not.
    Collings MT2
    Breedlove OF
    Ellie eMando
    Schmergl Devastator

  29. #50
    Registered User Elliot Luber's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Long Island, NY, USA
    Posts
    4,125

    Default Re: Your favorite mandolin tuning tips?

    Put your strings on carefully and correctly or, better yet, pay for a pro set-up. It's far too easy to break a new set of strings and far to difficult to tune a badly strung instrument. My guitar teacher used to teach me shortcuts for putting on strings but with a mandolin, you need all the advantage you can squeeze from the tuners.
    Eastman 605, Strad-o-lin, and Kentucky 300e mandolins.

    Member, Long Island Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra
    Visit my YouTube page

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
  •