Unlike the fixed bridge of an instrument such as a guitar, a mandolin bridge floats. No glue or mechanical fasteners hold the bridge in place. String tension holds the bridge on the mandolin top. A poorly adjusted bridge hinders a mandolin's intonation and playability. Setting a bridge too high or low also affects string height. Strings that are too high can hinder fretting. If they run too low across the fretboard, the strings can buzz from touching higher frets. Proper mandolin bridge adjustment prevents tuning problems and ensures correct string height.
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Things you need
- mandolin bridge
Check the bridge for cracks and chips. If it is damaged, remove the old bridge and place a new one under the strings.
Ensure that the strings sit solidly on the bridge and do not move back and forth when played. Worn or improperly spaced string slots may require bridge replacement.
Note how closely the bottom of the bridge follows the shape of the instrument. The bridge should match the contours of the mandolin top. Sand the bottom of the bridge until it sits flush with the instrument.
Inspect the mandolin bridge
Loosen the strings of the mandolin to reduce tension on the bridge. Adjusting the bridge with the strings at full tension can break strings or damage the mandolin top.
Turn the adjustment wheels on the mandolin bridge counter-clockwise to raise the strings, if the action is too low. Turn them clockwise to lower the strings, if the action is too high.
Tune the mandolin and test the string action. The strings should be low enough to be fretted with ease and high enough to avoid buzzing on higher frets. Play each string from open to the twelfth fret. Re-adjust if buzzing occurs.
Setting string height
Tune the E and G strings with an electronic tuner. Leave the D and A strings loose to save time.
Play each string at the twelfth fret, one octave higher than the open string. The notes at the twelfth fret should be on pitch. The mandolin bridge needs no further adjustment if the open note and the twelfth fret are in tune.
Move the bridge away from the fretboard, if the twelfth string is sharp. Use small movements to avoid going to far. Check both the E and D strings to be sure the bridge is not slated across the mandolin top.
Move the bridge towards the fretboard, if the twelfth string is flat. Check the tuning on the E and D strings.
Tune the A and D strings once the E and A are in tune.
Tips and warnings
- Use a good quality tuner for the best results.
- A twisted or badly bowed mandolin neck will ruin intonation. This process takes time. Be patient and make small adjustments. Not all bridges have wheels for adjustment.
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