Mandolin Information

If it's not a guitar or a bass guitar discussion, and it's got strings, put it here.
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Gordon Bellerose
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Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 11:47 pm
Location: Edmonton AB. Canada

Mandolin Information

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

I have never played or had anything to do with mandolins, and now I have one on my bench!! :shock:

I have a few questions, and they are really basic so please bear with me.
1. What is the tuning?
2. What should the string spacing at the nut be? (It doesn't have a nut so I have to make one)
3. What is a good measurement for action at the 1st, and 12th?

Thanks in advance.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!

Chris Reed
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Re: Mandolin Information

Post by Chris Reed »

Tuning is GDAE.

I'd separate the string courses by around 1.5mm, and space the courses to fit the neck width. It's high tension and players don't usually bend notes, so you can go closer to the edge than on a guitar.

Low action if a bluegrass mandolin (2mm at the 12th or less), probably 2.5mm if a bowl back, As low over the 1st as possible (i.e. if fretted between 2 and 3, barely clear the 1st).

But all this is from being an occasional player, rather than experience repairing the things. I do know that they are really finicky though - worth checking the frets are level before you do anything else, otherwise it *will* buzz.

David King
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Re: Mandolin Information

Post by David King »

Same tuning as a violin if that helps i.e. tuned in fifths.

Mario Proulx
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Re: Mandolin Information

Post by Mario Proulx »

EADG, high to low.

My default action setting is .060"(1/16") at the 12th fret, all strings. My personal mandolin is lower, some players want a bit higher.

The nut on a mandolin is critical...! Most important is to get each pair(course) exactly the same depth, or it will never intonate correctly. Go as low as possible at the nut! The little things are a beast to fret cleanly, and high action is murder.

Make the nut, but don't slot it yet. String up the mandolin, set the courses about .060" apart, and eyeball the courses until they are close to evenly spaced, then take the calipers out.... Or do the math and mark a layout.

Gordon Bellerose
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Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 11:47 pm
Location: Edmonton AB. Canada

Re: Mandolin Information

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

Thanks for that info guys. Yeah, I've been looking at it, thinking about how important string spacing at the nut must be.
Too wide and your finger would have a hard time pressing both strings down.
Too close and they would buzz against each other.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!

Mario Proulx
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Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:08 pm

Re: Mandolin Information

Post by Mario Proulx »

Actually, the spacing isn't too critical. Some players even have all 8 strings spaced evenly..!


But the string height at the nut will make or break the intonation, which is already frustrating on the wee beast.... <lol>

Brian Evans
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Location: Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia

Re: Mandolin Information

Post by Brian Evans »

The first time I tuned a mandolin up to pitch I was almost ducking, waiting for it to explode from the high tension. But that is what they are.

Greg Steil
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Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2012 7:54 pm

Re: Mandolin Information

Post by Greg Steil »

somewhere, there is a picture that makes spacing strings for mandolin family....let me check BluestemMandoStringSpacingGuide.dcd
pretty handy. If it does not show up, let me know and I will scan and post

Arnt Rian
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Re: Mandolin Information

Post by Arnt Rian »

There are many different methods for laying out the string spacing on the mandolin. I like to start with one string from each course, and as with guitars, you can choose between even string centres , even string space between each string, or you can use a string spacing rule, which gives you something in between. Likewise, the space between each string in the pairs can be wide, narrow, or graduated, typically with a bit more space between the thicker strings. Anywhere between 1,5-3 mm is normal, depending on playing style.

The distance between the edge of the nut and the outmost string slot can be pretty small, but not so much that the strings fall off the edge of the frets when fretted. You have to consider this total string spacing when you lay out the rest, so plan accordingly.

As Mario says, equal string slot bottoms are important for intonation. The string action depends an playing style, generally lower action works well for high speed and a light touch, higher action may be needed for heavy "chopping" and more volume.

Compared to guitars, tolerances are very tight, so grab your Optivisors and go slow ;-)

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