Mando chords, ANTI-FLYING picks, how to position the floating bridge on a mandolin, (The Jim Coon method). 


 Click here to learn about some mandolin chords

This is how I keep picks from flying out of my hand and still be able to pick with a relaxed hand. I use a 1.0 mm or heavier pick. Take a paper punch and punch half way through a slippery pick. Then turn it over and do the other side alternating in the spaces where you punched before. This will put dimples instead of holes in the pick and give you an excellent hold on the lively little bugger without having to squeeze hard. A relaxed hand is best. No longer will the pick tend to fly off at odd moments or rotate in your hand. .....In a pinch, I have used a phillips screwdriver and a hammer to make the dimples instead of a paper punch. The only problem with that method is the x, since it has sharply difined ends, provides stress points on the pick (better the pick than you)and after a certain amount of use (several months) it may crack. Using a paper punch gives rounded cuts in the pickand reduces the stress points on the pick. I find that I get less string breakage with a new pick if I rotate it in my hand slightly so I am not digging in with the very tip of the point. I also pick with a slight angle between the pick and the strings so they will slide off the pick easier and not break. This seems to work for me. 


Even if you want to have someone else make the adjustments, it is a good idea for any mandolinist to know how to check the position of the bridge. To check if the position is correct, sound the harmonic at the 12th fret. Now play the fretted note at the 12th fret. They should be the same note. If they are not, the bridge position needs to be adjusted. If they do not match, you will experiance tuning problems and problems with any notes or chords played up the neck. The following method will work even if the action is high. If it is high, you will find that the position of the harmonic moves toward the tail piece instead of being directly over the 12th fret. It still has to match the fretted note for the mandolin to sound correctly. 

I find this easier to do by ear rather than a tuner, and then check it with a tuner later. Basically, I loosen the strings to the point the bridge is easy tomove. Then tighten the first or E string a little so it has a good ring to it, but not too tight. Do the same for the low G string. Next, touch E the string lightly over the twelfth fretand pick it with the other hand. This will give a ringing chime like tone that is one octave above the open string. Now fret the string at the 12th fret and play it. You should hear the same note. If the fretted note is sharp compared to the harmonic, the bridge is too close to the nut. Slide it back towards the tailpiece a bit and try it again. When the bridge is positioned correctly for the E string, do the same procedure for the 8th or G string. When both ends of the bridge are in the right place, the middle will be close enough. Next start bringing it back up to standard pitch. When you get it back up to standard pitch, double check it with the tuner. It should be OK at this point.

You may also want to adjust the height of the bridge while the strings are loosened up too, it is easier to turn the adjusting screws then. The final check for that will be done while the instrument is tuned to pitch because the tension can affect the string height a little on some instruments.

It seems to take a while for new strings to settle in, especially if they have been slack for a while. After you get it set to standard pitch (A=440 Hz usually), check it a few hours later and also the next day. Sometimes it can take up to 24 hours for it to settle down. If you are planning to play somewhere and you want to use a new set of strings, it is best to change them at least a day ahead of time, and change them one string at a time to minimize inadvertantly moving the bridge.

James Coon, PE