My E-string is unusable


Why can’t I play properly on the E-string? The other strings work OK!

I seem to pinch the mandolin between the base of my pointer finger and my fretting finger(s) while I play. I’m holding the neck with my left hand instead of having the left hand float up and down like it does when I play my guitar or banjo.

Do you all do the same thing? Is there something I can do to hold the mando without clenching its neck like I’m trying to strangle it? Is it the shape of my style of mandolin, or does this happen with all mandolins? Thanks!

BTW, is it possible to embed youtube here?


I’m probably not the best person to answer this, but I’m going to try anyway. For the longest time, I had trouble with my left hand cramping up on me when I played mando, and I think it was caused by exactly what your describing - trying to support the weight of the instrument with my left hand while I fretted. Doing this put my hand in an awkward position that became painful after only a short while. From your description it sounds like your E-string problem may have the same underlying cause.

I minimized my problem by getting a strap adjusted to the right length for me, and always using it even when sitting down, but even now I have to be aware of slipping back into the bad habit of supporting the mando with my left hand.

With your round backed mandolin, though, I’m not sure of the best way to hold it. Seems like it would be even more unstable than my f-style. Maybe a more accomplished player will come by and answer that for us.


I am NOT a knowledgable mando person, but I did get trained on violin as a kid. The necks are similar size, and I was repeatedly told I had to leave space for a frog to hop through my left hand between the thumb, the palm and the neck. I would guess that “proper” mando holding might require a similar position.

If you need me to send a frog, just PM your address :slight_smile:

BTW, I watched the vid and I love that hornpipe. Nice job!


I have to constantly remind myself not to “choke” the neck. It really doesn’t take much pressure on the strings to make a clean tone, try just playing a note and then slowly let off pressure and play it again until you find the point where the least amount of pressure is needed. After a while of doing this I can relax my hand some and not get cramped as fast.
I’m sure Ben will jump in when he gets a chance.


— Begin quote from "jiminkansas"

I have to constantly remind myself not to “choke” the neck. It really doesn’t take much pressure on the strings to make a clean tone

— End quote

That’s good stuff, Jim. I’m right with you. If I don’t stay aware of my left hand position, I’ll wind up supporting the mandolin’s weight with the palm of my hand, which really forces my fingers into a curled position and then I’ll start using more finger pressure than is required to get a clean tone. About 15 minutes like that and my practice session is over until my hand stops cramping.

I like what Mike said about “frog” space. I caught me a frog and tried it, but unfortunately I ended up squishing him between the palm of my hand and the neck of my mandolin.


Looks like you all hit the nail on the head. I need to maintain that frog space between the neck and my hand. Easier said than done though. Here’s another thing – this mandolin has tiny little fret wires. So to fret a note cleanly, I have to bear down a lot harder than I would if it had larger frets. Woe is me!


I’m glad to hear it’s coming along. On the tiny fret wire… I’m just trying to stay positive here, so just think how strong your fingers will be :slight_smile:
I don’t play mando since my wife casually mentioned that I was rather annoying with it, but mine is a cheapie ovation. Even though the action is pretty low, I found playing the mando hurt my tips different than guitar. I assumed it was just because of the different geometry. The short scale instruments have a stiffer feel, and I suspect I was probably pressing pretty hard. I just pulled mine out to measure it and the fret height is about 0.027", so that’s pretty low by guitar standards. I think you might be on to something. I looked at stewmac and they show “standard”, “low” mando fret wire with a crown height of .037" and medium as .040.