Monday, December 7, 2009

Mandolin Sound Bad? Could Be Good News

A few weeks ago I was doing some recording and I started to notice there were some things I really didn't like about how my mandolin sounded. I wondered what the cause was. After all, I used to like the way it sounded, so what had changed? I thought at first maybe it was a setup issue, but couldn't find a real problem there. Maybe it was the way I was playing, or maybe I just needed a better mandolin? Fortunately, as you may know I've been doing quite a lot of recording, so I was able to go back and listen to recordings I made at a time when I felt quite satisfied with this mandolin's sound. Now I didn't really like the tone on those older recordings either.

I started to realize then that it was my ears that had changed. Gradually over the next couple of weeks I began to find my pick grip evolved very subtly, and without really consciously trying to do it, I was improving the tone and making it fit more closely to what I wanted to hear. I guess subconsciously I gradually fixed the problem, because it sounds a lot better to me now on new recordings, while I still don't like the sound on the older recordings.

So, if you notice your mandolin doesn't sound quite how you want it to, it could be a sign that you're about to make an improvement. It's an optimistic way of looking at it, at least.

Note: do bear in mind that in some cases if your mando sounds wrong it could well be a setup issue - I have found I usually need to make minor setup adjustments every 6 months or so. If you're handy you can do a lot of this yourself, but if you have any doubts at all, always take it to a luthier. Oh, or it might just be time for some new strings.

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