Clark JM Jazz Mandolin
Tips & Tricks Mel Bay Mandolin Sessions








Sage Wisdom

"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

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September 11, 2008 | Tools of the Trade: Five Tips

We'd like to make this a regular feature, five simple ideas involving basic equipment improvements and suggestions for making your mandolinning more effective and enjoyable. We'll start with five now, and if you want to suggest more, we'll post another five in future articles, "More Five Tips."

Getting into the groove: pencil lead in the string slots. This is an old fiddler's trick, but sometimes you get a string that just doesn't want to settle in when you're fine tuning. It jerks high, jerks low, and sometimes that's because of friction in the nut slot near the top of the strings. Simple pencil lead in the nut grooves can give you the minimal lubrication necessary to smooth the settling of the string.

Gold James Tailpiece: a string-changer's dream Trumpet slide grease on the grommets: lubing a Bill James Tailpiece. If you have a Bill James Tailpiece (highly recommended!), you might have heard sometimes the tailpiece won't stay closed or it had lost its "burp" when you softly tamp it down. This could be because of a small angle adjustment (loosen the strings and bend the tailpiece slightly upwards), or simply because the neoprene gaskets have dried or lost their friction. Pros will tell you a tiny dab of Vaseline will help lock this down, but we prefer a brass player's trick--trumpet slide grease, particularly Schilke Slide grease with Lanolin. This doesn't dry out and flake over time like petroleum jelly.

Protect your investment! Silkweave a day: keep the finish its best. A cloth in the case along with a daily routine of mere seconds of wiping grime and sweat of your instrument's top, back, and fingerboard will pay you back in spades preserving the finish over time. It's a good habit like brushing your teeth, and if you do it every time you put your ax back in the case, you'll probably never need polish. We all have different body chemistries that impact our instrument in diverse severity, but a good cloth and polish routine is a hedge against cosmetic deterioration. Ultimately a seller's personal "Mojo" is a customer's depreciation. Check these out: Jupiter Silkweave Cloth.

A McClung armrest: better hand position, control, and comfort. We've raved about these before in a new item: read archive. Traditionally, much attention is paid to pickguards and tone-guards, but a simple armrest not only protects the front finish, it helps put the arm in better posture and frees the top vibration. Try one; you'll never go back.

Click for closeup of McClung Armrest

Crimping your style: marking your string length with a bend... You're not likely to meet anyone who actually enjoys changing strings, but after you've done it a few times you start to develop your own personal tricks. The key to a good lock in the headstock is the initial bend you put on the string, and most of the time you're worried about the loop end. We suggest locking the loop, holding the string into place with your forearm on the finger board and pulling the string all the way through the tuner. Now pull it back 2-1/2 to 3 inches and pull a bend upwards with extra end. This is your reference point for where the string will land after completely tensioned. Get it right the first time; a properly positioned lock is the key to a securely tuned string.

Let us know your tips: Contact

Posted by Ted at September 11, 2008 6:14 AM

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