Why doesn’t my mandolin sound very good?
- As with all stringed instruments, it is important to make sure your mandolin is tuned correctly. Just one or two strings ever so slightly out of tune can make your chords and playing sound unpleasant. It’s always best to tune your mandolin with an electric chromatic tuner before playing. Find out more about mandolin tunings HERE
- It is important you change your mandolin strings frequently. Old and worn strings will have a detrimental effect on the way your mandolin sounds by deadening its overall tone and volume. Dirty and oxidised strings also won’t allow your fingers to glide over them easily, so your mandolin will also feel unpleasant to play. We generally recommend changing your strings around every two months if you’re someone who spends an average amount of time practicing.
- Keep an eye on your bridge and nut. Although it takes a long time, bridges and nuts can wear and drop over time. These vital components play a key role in delivering individual string articulation and an overall balanced tone and can be a pesky culprit if your mandolin starts to sound bad. As a mandolin features eight strings spaced closely together in sets of two, it’s easy for your strings to become unseated from the grooves in your bridge and nut and to start buzzing or cutting out.
- Check your intonation. Without getting into the extensive specifics of what exactly intonation is (we could be here a long time!), poor intonation is a common cause of why your mandolin can suddenly sound bad. Essentially, intonation refers to the relationship between the position of the bridge in relation to the overall length of the string (scale length). If your bridge isn’t positioned incorrectly – and remember, mandolin bridges aren’t fixed to the body like guitars, so they can easily move – it can cause chords to sound odd despite the mandolin being in tune. A good way to test whether your intonation is correct is to play chord shapes higher up the neck. If they don’t sound as they should, this is an indicator that your intonation is out, and that your mandolin isn’t ‘in tune with itself’. You’ll need to make some small adjustments to the position of your bridge until you hit the sweet spot. Remember that your bridge should be positioned at the same distance from the 12th fret as the nut is from the 12th fret in the other direction at the top of the neck. If your mandolin has f-holes, these act as handy guides as you’ll want to locate your bridge in line with the notches in the f-holes.
- Remember to wind your strings the correct way. It sounds simple but you will be amazed at how easy it is to make this mistake as a beginner. Make sure that you wind your strings around the tuning pegs at the headstock from the inside to the outside – so that the top two strings are wound anti-clockwise, and the bottom two strings are wound clockwise.
- As with all wooden instruments, changes in temperature and humidity can affect the moisture content in the tonewoods and therefore affect how your mandolin sounds and plays. Although not such an issue in temperate climates, it is something to pay special attention to if you live somewhere with a particularly hot or cold climate. It is always a good idea to store your mandolin in its case or gigbag with a humidifier when not being played, no matter where in the world you live. Make sure not to leave it too close to something hot like a radiator or outside in the cold.
It’s important to consider that adjusting any instrument without suitable knowledge and experience can cause permanent damage and we therefore always advise you to take your mandolin to a trained luthier for any extensive set-up work.
To ensure your mandolin reaches you in its optimal playing condition, each instrument is inspected and set up by our expert technical team in the United Kingdom before making its way to our retail partners.