Bruce Bernhart Mandolin Websites


Bernhart Mandolin Websites

Original articles, lessons, plus the "best of the web" on Mandolin lessons, purchase and set up by Mandolin player/teacher Bruce Bernhart

New!  Mandolin Tabs for Popular Fiddle Tunes:

"Draught of Ale"

Bernhart Mandolin Websites

In Minnesota, Bruce Bernhart has been a mandolin player/enthusiast since the mid-1980's

Updated May 26, 2013

Bruce Bernhart's Tips on Buying and Setting Up Your First Mandolin

The Bernhart Mandolin Webpages offer beginning instruction, tabs, explore the history of the mandolin, buying and building mandolins, basic chord structures, the different styles of playing and the various makes and models of mandolins  available on the market

Look for additional Bruce Bernhart mandolin articles 

Bruce Bernhart on some important things to know when you purchase and set up your first mandolin:

One of the most important things to look for is a straight fingerboard.  A curved or bowed fingerboard will set you up for all kinds of trouble when you play higher notes up the neck.
Place a ruler or some other straight edge on the fingetboard and check to see that it is straight.  It may not be perfect, but you'll be able to tell if  the fingerboard is concave or convex.  If you detect a small curve or bowing, the "buzz" test, next, will determine whether you will still able to play it OK.
Check the "action" of the strings, or in other words, the distance between the strings and the fingerboard.   You want that distance to be as small as possible without any buzzing or string rattling.   This is especially important for beginning mandolinists because the higher the action is, the more force it is going to take to press on the strings.  Sometimes it is necessary the adjust the nut, which is the small piece that separates the strings from the peghead.   Press each string from the bottom to the top of the fingerboard and make sure each note is clean without any buzzing.
The bridge needs to be in its proper place.  Check that the harmonics  at the 12th fret are exactly the same as the fretted note at the 12th fret.   Otherwise, the mandolin will not be playing in tune when fretted in the upper reaches of the neck.
When you first buy your mandolin, you should change the strings. Those strings have probably been on there for a long time and often strings that are supplied by the factory are of less quality than strings you would buy at the music store.  I would recommend you start out with light strings, as it will make it easier on your fingers.
Next, buy an electronic tuner.  There are plenty of good ones on the market.  I like the ones that you can clip on the peghead, and you can just leave it on the peghead while you play (turn it off, of course, while you are picking!)
You might want to pick up some instrument polish and a cloth to keep it clean.  The finishes on less expensive mandos are very thin, so rub lightly.  Keep your mando away from substances that will harm it, such as household cleaners and mosquito repellent.
Finally, I would recommend you buy a strap.  The strap will give the mando extra support when you play sitting down, and of course you'll need it whenever you play standing it.
Choose a pick that is at least 1 mm in thickness.  One of the big mistakes beginners make is buying a pick that is too thin.
If your pick is too thin, you will lose volume and it will be more difficult to tremelo and play at speed.  I prefer picks that have a pointed corner, but many players prefer picks that are more rounded.  Try each and see what you are comfortable with, but be sure he mandolin is at least 1 mm thick.

When playing a brand new mandolin:
  1. Use new(ish) clean strings.
  2. Make sure the bridge is in its optimum position and that the saddle is not tilted.
  3. Ensure that the strings are not binding excessively in the nut and bridge slots. (They always bind to some extent.)
  4. Tune each string accurately, using an electronic tuner. The notes are E A D G , 1st pair to 4th pair, the two strings of a pair being in (exact!) unison.
  5. Play a range of chords in the first position, and adjust the tuning so that all of the chords sound as harmonious as you can get them. Compare 12th fret harmonics with the corresponding notes at the 5th fret, e.g. third string harmonic at 12th fret compared with second string stopped at the 5th fret.
  6. Play the mandolin solidly (chords and melodies) for a few minutes. It will probably go out of tune.
  7. Adjust the tuning, then keep playing and adjusting, using the tuner to ensure that it does not drift sharp or flat.
  8. After a time the tuning should settle down, providing environmental conditions remain constant (no changes in temperature, humidity or air pressure).
  9. Keep it clean.  I always wide down my mandolin with a clean dry cloth. After every several uses, I take a moist washcloth and put a very small dab of dish soap on the cloth, and wipe it rapidly over the mandolin.  Then I wipe it dry.  Do not use too much soap.  A very, very small drop is all you need.
  10. Buy a case that will protect the mandolin in case it falls.  You can pick up a good case for as little as $25.  Make sure the fasteners close properly! Sometimes they come bent, so  test all of them to make sure they work properly before you purchase the case.

Thank you for visiting the Bruce Bernhart mandolin websites!

Bruce Bernhart Mandolin Websites

Be sure to visit the other Bruce Bernhart Mandolin Websites:

Bruce Bernhart mandolin rock tabs

Bruce Bernhart mandolin lesson on scales, meter, using a metronome

Bruce Bernhart mandolin purchase tips

Bruce Bernhart mandolin orchestras, tuning

Bruce Bernhart mandolin lessons- chord groups and intervals

Bruce Bernhart on mandolin family history

Bruce Bernhart on string and saddle adjustment

Bruce Bernhart beginning mandolin lessons one and two

Bruce Bernhart on more chord triads, blues patterns, and self-tuning

Bruce Bernhart on the mandolin family tree

Bruce Bernhart mandolin chord diagrams

Bruce Bernhart on temperature considerations

Bruce Bernhart lessson on mandolin flats and sharps

Bruce Bernhart lesson on chromatic scales, circle of 5ths and meter

Bruce Bernhart on mandolin chord theory

Bruce Bernhart mandolin C and G major chord diagrams

Bruce Bernhart on emergence of the modern mandolin

Bruce Bernhart on two finger mandolin chords

Bruce Bernhart on whole and half steps on the mandolin

Bruce Bernhart perpetual motion practice excercises

Bruce Bernhart on playing waltzes on the mandolin

Bruce Bernhart on majors, minors and sevenths

Bruce Bernhart Mandolin Websites

Also, check out the Bruce Bernhart RV Websites and Blogs:

Solar power for your RV

The care and feeding of your RV battery

The sport of "geocaching" and RV refrigeration basics

The basics of RV power inversion

RV travel tips and tire care

Advanced discussion on power inversion

Tips on buying a house battery and cold weather maintenance

RV Insurance basics

Buying the right generator for your RV and portable power

RV television reception options

Care and maintenance of the RV air conditioner

Top RV destinations

RV long-term supplies and weight considerations

RV Insurance- Road protection and bodily injury coverage

RV battery types and winter charging considerations

Deep cycle battery basics

Website Builder