Friday, April 1, 2011

Part 2: Mandolin Bridge Adjustment - A Note with Imre

I just spent a little time contemplating what additional material I could include in this post, but I realized there is't a whole lot. After all, it's not very complicated to adjust the position of the bridge and I'm quite satisfied with how my video turned out, so I'll do a quick summary along with a note about string height. And before moving on I want to mention a couple of things. First, I'm not a luthier (instrument builder) so the material below is based mostly on my research and second, if you don't feel comfortable adjusting things on your instrument then I recommend you seek out a professional who can do this. Also, do be careful if you choose to undertake this operation, because there is a chance you could damage the mandolin, especially the finish.

I'm a fan of numbered lists, so here's what I did to adjust the bridge on my mandolin, which, in case you're wondering, is an Epiphone MM-50:
  1. Determine if you need to replace your strings. If they sound alright then by all means leave them on. In my case, I restrung my mandolin as the strings were quite old and sounded a bit dull. As mentioned in the video, if you need to restring then allow time for the new ones to adjust by playing rigorously for about an hour or letting the instrument sit for a few hours.
  2. Loosen all of the strings to a point where the bridge can be moved around easily enough that it won't scratch the finish and yet stays put when not nudged.
  3. At this point, you can not only shift the position of the whole bridge, but also the strings on the saddle (generally, the saddle is the raised portion on the bridge the strings run across; the bridge is the part touching the top of the instrument. But there are some mandolins where the bridge basically plays both roles and I've seen this simply referred to as the bridge). As you saw in the video, I positioned each pair of strings into the middle of their respective sections (except for the bass pair as they kept slipping back into their original grooves).
  4. Then I looked down the neck of my mandolin from the head to the tailpiece. This allowed me to quite easily see if the bridge and strings were roughly centered in comparison to the fret board. Plus, this is also a nice way to determine if the spacing between the strings are even or not (each string in a pair and distance between string pairs).
  5. If the notes you're fretting get sharper (higher in pitch) then you need to shift the bridge down towards the tailpiece and if the notes get flatter (lower in pitch) then shift the bridge towards the head. Because thicker strings need to be a little longer to provide the correct intonation, you might very likely need to lower the bass side of the bridge.
  6. Since it's difficult to know where exactly the bridge needs to be, you'll probably have to tune up, loosen the strings and shift the bridge a few times, but in the end I have a feeling you'll love the "new" sound. Now I would like to add that you might know what the scale length of your mandolin is, but based on my experience, that value might not be exactly right. For instance, the treble side of my bridge is about 13 7/8" and the bass end is about 14 1/8", but according what I've seen, Gibson/Epiphone mandolins have a scale length of 14" (er... I've also seen references to 13 7/8" though).
Now as you're adjusting the position of the bridge, you might also want to check the action and set that to a comfortable/appropriate level is needed (I left mine as is; was at a good height in my opinion). On most mandolin bridges there are two screws that can be turned on each end of the bridge, so when you're strings are loosened up, give them a spin if desired.

That concludes this post. For those wondering where the photography is, fear not! The next episode will be on the topic of time lapse and is due for late next week or so. L8r!

Web Resources

No comments:

Post a Comment

You may comment, but if it's spam or advertising, I'll be deleting your comment and blocking your arse!