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Subject: E and A Mandolin String

Q: Greetings, what do you think would be the most important thing to do to increase the volume on the e and a string,or would it be a combination of things to do?
The d and g are plenty loud. I've changed bridges using rosewood,ebony and bone and I can't hear much difference and I also installed a bone nut.
Your help would be
appreciated. Kirk

A: Heavier strings are louder. If your E string is a .010, try an .011. Or if you are already using .011s try an .0115.  I haven't ever heard of anyone using a .012, but stranger things have happened. The down side is that heavier strings are not much louder, and they produce fewer overtones. Human hearing is logarithmic, so for a sound to be perceived as twice as loud, it must actually be ten times as loud. So, a 5 or 10 percent increase in volume won't solve your problem. In the 40s and 50s heavy gauge guitar strings were popular. You can't even buy them anymore.

       In my experience the amount of bass you get comes from the weight of the top (the lighter the better). The amount of treble you get comes from the fit of the joints. You can increase the bass easily with a sharp knife. Improving the treble is normally not attempted. Maybe you could take the mandolin apart and improve the fit of the joints, but the cost of this endeavor would rival the cost of a new mandolin. And, it wouldn't necessarily work.

       Solid, non-adjustable, maple bridges seem to be the best. They certainly produce a richer bass (not your complaint). Holding the mandolin away from your chest works wonders, but again, mostly bass. Check the nut and bridge slots for the shiny spot, the string contact point. If the string is vibrating from the back of the slot it will be being muted by the front of the slot.

       Remember that treble is very directional. The bass drips around the sides a little, but most of your treble is headed toward the audience, and not up toward your ears. Everyone can hear your mandolin better than you can hear it. The beauty of the fiddle is that it is real loud and it is right under your ear, so while the guitar, and mandolin players are breaking their strings and getting arthritis, the fiddlers are in tall cotton.

       There is no quick easy, guaranteed solution to your problem. Compare your mando to others to see if it's your ear or your instrument. Maybe you should take up fiddle.

Steve Mason