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Mandolin Lessons: Adjusting Your Action

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I'd like to talk a little bit about set
up, and particularly,
adjusting your action on your mandolin.
And that's something that some people are
afraid of, and if you are,
I would of course recommend that you go to
your local luthier or
a good, good acoustic music shop and have
them do it for you.
But I do it myself, in terms of raising
and lowering the bridge.
And it changes a lot as I travel around
the, around the world.
For instance, I was just in Colorado and
it's a very dry climate there.
Whenever I go to a dry place, it seems
like the action goes down.
I guess the water the moisture inside the
wood goes away cuz of
the dry climate and that makes everything
sink, and the bridge goes down and
the strings start buzzing on the
fingerboard because of that.
So, when I go to a place like Colorado
have to raise the bridge up just a little
So, I'm gonna attempt to demonstrate for
you, how I do that.
After years and years of playing this
thing I've developed a little system.
What I do is I turn the outside pairs of
strings, the outside E and the outside G.
And I do seven miniature turns, one, two,
three, four, five, six, seven.
Just exactly the amount that your fingers
would do doing that,
and then I go to the next pair and do the
same thing.
Two, three, four, five, six, seven,
one, two, three, four, five, six, seven,
one, two, three, four, five, six, seven.
This is enough relief of, of pressure on
the bridge,
that you can then turn these wheels such
that you can bring it up.
Cuz, obviously with all the, all the
tension on the strings, you would never be
able to turn this up, cuz it's like 40
pounds of pressure or something.
So, typically, in a climate change like
difference between a very humid place like
San Francisco and the Rocky Mountains,
I would do two turn, two miniature turns.
Like that much, maybe two and a half.
One, two, and a half.
And that's about it.
And that's gonna bring your action up just
about the height, like the width of
a string, maybe, maybe a little bit more
than the width of your G string.
And that's enough to relieve that
And then, you go, of course, bring the
tension back on.
And I go up six times, with each string,
rather than seven.
Four, five, six, you can feel the tension
starting to get,
it get's a little harder to turn.
Two, three, four,
five, six, two, three, four, five, six.
And it seems like, the difference between
raising the strings, and
going six rather than seven, brings you
almost exactly to pitch.
You're really close to
pitch at that point.
thing you have to be careful of, is that
the bridge hasn't moved this way.
And you can determine that by looking at
the outside pairs and
seeing that they're really centered on the
outside edges of the fingerboard.
It looks like something may have moved a
tiny bit.
So I'll actually push the bridge a little
bit to get
those strings really centered on the, on
the bridge.
And then bring it back up.
You'll notice I'm using a footstool, my
case, to do this work.
Again, the, and I wanna get my leg up.
If I was doing it on the ground, things
would be kinda too low and
I'd be hunching over.
So, once again I love having my left leg
up for this work.
Couple of other pointers about set up is
that I like to have a little piece of foam
here behind the nut to deaden those
strings so they don't ring out.
If they ring out and you play a bluegrass
chop chord
you'll hear them sort of pinging after a
muted, a muted chord.
And, I like to mute these behind the
bridge, as well.
This kind of tailpiece actually does that
with these rubber
grommets that fit under the strings, so as
they come over the loops, they're muting.
I mean, there's all kinds of ways you can
do that.
You could wind a piece of leather through
the strings.
Or if you have the kind of tailpiece that
slips on and off this way, you could put
a little piece of foam in there as you, as
you slide the, the tailpiece cover on.
The piece of foam is gonna mute that.
So, I hope this helps all of you in your
pursuit of the perfect action.
And remember, I like it a little bit lower
rather than a little bit higher.
Good luck.