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Thread: weak 'E' strings

  1. #1

    Default weak 'E' strings

    Every mandolin I've owned, both expensive and inexpensive have had weak/tinny 'E' strings. Any suggestions: expand sound holes, thin the top, thin the back, reduce bridge size...?

  2. #2
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: weak 'E' strings

    I don't see that, for sure we're all searching for the ultimate in tone, and never getting there, but there are plenty of great sounding mandolins around that aren't weak at all in that area. I've even had a teens F4 through here which was actually over-strong and woody in that department (though still arguably the best of those I've played).

    Make sure you're using a decent pick though.... nothing will make a mandolin scream like a banshie faster than a too-thin-and-flexible pick.

  3. #3
    Ursus Mandolinus Fretbear's Avatar
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    Default Re: weak 'E' strings

    I tried putting 11.5's on my brother's mandolin to fix that problem and it just killed the response and felt tight.
    They feel just right on my mandolin and sound better than the standard 11.00". Every mandolin will respond differently.
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  4. #4

    Default Re: weak 'E' strings

    Thanks, I use Blue Chips 60's, 8o's even 100's... Siminoff's book talks about tweaking the tone by removing wood but that's in the building process... Thanks

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    Default Re: weak 'E' strings

    I don't like heavy picks on my mandolins. I have Wegen's made less than the 1mm, which is the thinnest they offer.
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    Registered User Kirk Higgins's Avatar
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    Default Re: weak 'E' strings

    I use John Pearse Phosphor Bronze 12-40 on my Kimble F5 and my 80’s Kentucky KM 650. I find it fattens up the trebles and I do not find 12’s any more difficult to fret than 11.5’s.
    Kirk

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  7. #7

    Default Re: weak 'E' strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Fretbear View Post
    I tried putting 11.5's on my brother's mandolin to fix that problem and it just killed the response and felt tight.
    They feel just right on my mandolin and sound better than the standard 11.00". Every mandolin will respond differently.
    Yes, heavier strings tend to excite the wood and bring out tone and volume in many or most cases. Also, one can play lightly with a heavy pick but that doesn't work in reverse. Thanks

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    Registered User Bill Bradshaw's Avatar
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    Default Re: weak 'E' strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Laocoon View Post
    Every mandolin I've owned, both expensive and inexpensive have had weak/tinny 'E' strings. Any suggestions: expand sound holes, thin the top, thin the back, reduce bridge size...?
    I'm not being a smart ass here. have your hearing checked. it made a world of difference once i got programmable hearing aids. i literally shed tears when i heard what i was missing.

    i don't know how many times i asked folks to play my stiver a, or kimble f to "see" if they thought the e strings were tinny.

    they never did.

    and of course there is the element of your expectations about what you want e strings to sound like.

    cheers and good luck getting the sounds you want.

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  10. #9

    Default Re: weak 'E' strings

    Thanks, I am not a luthier but... I believe it has a lot to do with the tone bars, thickness and placement. (Some mandolins have 2x4's as tone bars and sound like 2x4's) Also, thickness of top and back are important. Roger Siminoff had a lot to contribute on that topic.

  11. #10

    Default Re: weak 'E' strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Laocoon View Post
    Every mandolin I've owned, both expensive and inexpensive have had weak/tinny 'E' strings. Any suggestions: expand sound holes, thin the top, thin the back, reduce bridge size...?
    Don't thin anything. IME, weak, "tinny" E strings are just as often the result of a top thinned too much (ask me how I know). Those strings are under a lot of tension and need some mass to push around.

    Thinning the back will have no affect on the E strings. It may make the lower notes more warm and growly with less punch.

  12. #11

    Default Re: weak 'E' strings

    Good info to have - Thanks

  13. #12

    Default Re: weak 'E' strings

    OK Plausable.
    Thanks

  14. #13

    Default Re: weak 'E' strings

    Perhaps they are being strangled by snakes.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laoco%C3%B6n

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    In all seriousness, Roger Siminoff made a great contribution to the mandolin world both in reviving Gibson mandolin production and writing his construction book. However some of his ideas on tuning and voicing are controversial at best. More current research and understanding have superseded most of his tuning ideas. Today any truly expensive mandolin ,from a custom luthier or even good factory instrument, has had some effort put into voicing it when it was made. At the time Siminoff wrote his book mandolin manufacturing was at a low point in the world. Gibson was owned by Norlin and making fine instruments was not their skill set. There were a lot of instruments reworked by people like Randy Wood at the time and greatly improved because they were overbuilt. Today is a golden age of acoustic instruments with a lot of fine small shop builders and decent factory instruments being produced. Going inside and shaving braces is usually not productive. Anyone who does really should know what they are doing. You can do a lot of damage.

  15. #14

    Default Re: weak 'E' strings

    Good information. As with most things, 'it's complicated' and the debate rages as it should concerning the variables that determine ‘good’ sound. 100 years ago Lloyd Loar was uncovering secrets that may have since been lost. Roger Siminoff revisited the topic and contributed greatly. Those more interested in marketing than science simply took measurements and mass produced a lot of decent sounding instruments. I believe that mediocre instruments can be tweaked but that requires labor and that adds to the price. Often sound is sacrificed for glitter – fancy inlay etc. contributes nothing to sound. Returning to the original question – have folks had any luck by changing bridges or nuts?

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    Default Re: weak 'E' strings

    I guess I would go thru the setup first and check to see they aren't pinching in the nut or saddle. I am curious of the mandolins you have had. Do others think the E strings are weak?
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: weak 'E' strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Laocoon View Post
    Every mandolin I've owned, both expensive and inexpensive have had weak/tinny 'E' strings. Any suggestions: expand sound holes, thin the top, thin the back, reduce bridge size...?
    I wonder if you are looking for the same E string sound that a flattop guitar has. Obviously the tone would be an octave higher plus a carved instrument would have different overtones.

    This example of excellent playing by Sierra Hull on her modern Gibson was posted in another thread. To get some idea do her E strings sound weak or tinny? I don’t mean to be confrontational but just curious about what you are hearing. I look for balance in tone and projection across the strings and the better mandolins I have played have that.

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  18. #17

    Default Re: weak 'E' strings

    I think another consideration is tone quality. A while back I did a setup on a friend's Eastman 515. When I got it dialed in, it was one of the loudest mandolins I've ever played, almost to the point of being hard to control. The tone was loud and brash, no subtlety or dynamics to work with. The E string was killer powerful but there was no sweetness to be had. When you listen Sierra play, it's obvious that balance across the strings and a palatable tone are present.

    The suggestions for getting the set up dialed in should be the first move. Those high E strings are under so much tension that you can get the action way down low without a buzz, but volume and tone suffer at that level. For quite a while I was plagued with a pinched and quieter sound on the E strings, and it took me a while to figure out that the E strings need to be up higher than you'd think to sound good.

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    Default Re: weak 'E' strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Berto Boy View Post
    The suggestions for getting the set up dialed in should be the first move. Those high E strings are under so much tension that you can get the action way down low without a buzz, but volume and tone suffer at that level. For quite a while I was plagued with a pinched and quieter sound on the E strings, and it took me a while to figure out that the E strings need to be up higher than you'd think to sound good.
    My E strings are extremely low, like 1/32". They are plenty loud and carry well in a jam.They are also sweet and not harsh. You don't need string height to get volume and I am guessing you are too high if the setup is brash on the E strings.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  20. #19

    Default Re: weak 'E' strings

    The OP has disappeared. I suspect he read Siminoff's book and wanted to show off his knowledge more than anything.

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    Default Re: weak 'E' strings

    If the issue is across string gauges and a few instruments, I would suspect as mentioned above, it's in the ear of the beholder and the info not transferring from ear to brain (i.e a structural hearing deficiency or loss).

    Jamie
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