Broken Bridge=Distortion of Sound

Great Ears

My son is visually impaired but his hearing is very good. We both enjoy playing music and I am thankful for this outlet which brings him so much joy. Since he cannot change the strings on his mandolin, he has four, I do all the string changing. It is not rocket science but it does take time. The mandolin bridge is not normally permanently attached to the instrument but the down pressure of the strings keep it positioned in the correct spot for maximum and correct in tune tones (scale would off otherwise) so whenever I change strings on his mandolins, I do so one string at a time. The E strings are the most difficult and are tuned to a standard 440 pitch. We have several Intellitouch chromatic tuners to help me arrive at the corresponding pitch for each of the eight strings and for the E this requires a lot of tension. It is not uncommon for the strings to sip around the tuning post so to prevent this from occurring, I double insert the E's.

Last week I changed the strings on his Gibson F5. It is a G series mandolin and was an expensive purchase. He has enjoyed this mandolin so much. When I had finished stringing up the instrument and tuned it to the standard tuning, I played a few chords and scales, it sounded perfect to my ear. My son did not know I had put strings on his mandolin but I left it in the case on his bed. Later in the afternoon he discovered I had changed the strings and came to the living room where I was sitting and thanked me. He began playing and went down the neck with the standard chords and suddenly he stopped. "What is wrong with my mandolin he asked as if he had been slapped?" Surprised I said ,"Nothing that I can see, what wrong?" He said the strings are hitting the frets when I go down the neck to the third position of a chord." Still I couldn't see anything amiss and told him, "It's just in your head" because I couldn't hear any difference.

It was later in the week when we went out to play a small gig I noticed he had added a second mandolin in my truck. He said," if we get time today, I want to take my mandolin to the luthier in Skyland to see if he can find out whats going on with my Gibson." Jack Dillon does our work now and is a great musician to boot but since we were on a short time schedule I told my son it would have to be put on the back burner.

Today I took a second look at Gary's Gibson and what I discovered came as a surprise. The adjustable bridge had separated on the treble side beside the adjusting screw which was allowing the E and A strings to touch the finger board when chord-ed in the 3rd position.Looks like we will still need the service of our friend Jack because a new bridge will require being slotted for the strings and fitted to his mandolin.

It always amazes me how well Gary hears and recently told me,"Dad, they need to have the piano tuned at church." I mentioned it to our pianist and sure enough, the piano was indeed out of tune. Our bridge problem will be easily fixed soon but with three other mandolins in the closet, Gary has enough instruments to keep me busy changing strings.

Tennessee Blues my son and his mandolin

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kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 5 years ago from North Carolina, USA

I used to have an autoharp--so many strings to keep in tune!

One of my sons is a sound engineer and another is a musician. I know what you mean about amazing hearing. They can hear a buzz or whine in a PA system that nobody else hears.

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