Any mandolin builders out there that have any advise on how to tune the tops and backs of mandolins? This is new to me having only built 3. I sent an e-mail to Stephen Gilchrist asking
a similar question, part of his response was a warning that "the mandolin is a very inticing instrument
and has the potential of taking control of your life"

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Welcome back Paul/Howard. Please remember to turn off the caps key.

Have you been to Mandolin Cafe?

I think it is all in there heads. Been there and tryed that.Good luck Bill.''''''''''''''''''''''''''
I've read about builders that are looking for specific notes and such but I think I would have to build a LOT of instruments in the same way to learn this.

In my limited experience, tapping helps me feel how the carving ( or bracing ) is effecting the top of the instrument I'm working on but I've never figured out how to get a certain note AND get the graduation I want at the same time. I can hear that the sound has more focus and clarifies at certain points in the process and that it increase in pitch as I carve. I just can't figure out how to coordinate the clarity of sound (much less a specific note) with the thickness or flexibility I'm looking for. Maybe I just haven't done enough of it to know. It's ALL still pretty experimental to me.

I'm rebuilding a small parlor and adding X bracing to it. I noticed that it went from a profound wood block "thunk" to a nice ring when I added and carved the new bracing. Tapping helps me a lot as motivation but I have no idea if the note I'm hearing is good or not. I still have to glue in the bridge plate and the last sound brace and , frankly, I'm worried that I will loose the ring when I do. That sums up my relationship with tap tuning in a nut shell. I can't figure out how to predict what will happen until it has and I can't leave it as it is even if it does sound good when I tap. If it still sounds good when I finish fixing the damage on the top where the bridge was AND I glue in the plate and brace it will be pure luck on my part.

So far, I think it fun to tap and listen but it isn't very helpful to me.

Thanks Ned, One reason that I'm interested in this is because the last mandolin had 3 very hot notes e string 5th fret
a string 5th fret and d string 5th fret so when you fret these notes, the a, d and g notes they will ring that harmonic on 2 of the other strings unless you dampen the string with your hand, very annoying, other than that it sounds pretty good
I don't rely on tapping for anything other than trying to achieve a clear recognizable tone and so far for the shapes I cut for flattop mando family always seem to sound in the G-Bb range.I have no idea what to do with this info except to keep building.I do think they should have some distinct projection of tone whatever that tone is.Top or back....when all assembled it is usually another note altogether.Sound g00fy?
No Tim, that doesn't sound "g00fy" to me, it's pretty much what I experience too. I haven't tried to figure out what notes I get but I've never built the same thing twice either. What ever it is, it changes as I carve AND it changes as things are assembled.

I think this is one of the reasons that many archtop builders wait to do their final graduation and shaping on the recurve until the box is assembled. I still don't understand how someone like Dana Bourgeios can grade a top or adjust the sound of a guitar using this technique. I think I just don't handle enough material to do it.
I also think, at my level of experience, just getting a clear ringing tone is the best I can hope for.

It sounds like you have "wolf notes" on your mandolins. There have been a couple of threads here that have dealt with them and it seem that adding mass in certain spots can help.

If you are getting the same result on three builds, you might consider trying to change the note you are looking for. If you still have the mandolin and can determine where some mass can be added to mute the notes, you can leave a bit of material in that area in your next build. I seem to remember reading that the final note on a carve top should not be a specific note for just this reason. The idea being that a top tuned to a certain frequency is more likely to resonate too strongly when that note is played. Maybe it was Siminoff in his book on building mandolins, anyway it makes sense to me.



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