Tap Tuning Mandolins

Tap tuning is often regarded as synonymous with Lloyd Loar as he is highly respected for applying the concept to Gibson mandolins.  Lloyd spoke of Stradivari’s plate tuning on violins and using a similar process he creating some of the finest sounding mandolins available today.  Both would tap on and adjust the wood thickness of the top and back plates to produce a more resonant primary tone and more over tones.  Constructing the instrument with these tuned pieces resulted in exceptional sound.

Even though the tops on most good quality modern mandolins are hand graduated and tap tuned to produce a reasonably good tone, the concept of doing a final tuning of the top after the mandolin was constructed makes sense since the top’s relationship to all the other parts is now set.  By removing miniscule amounts of wood at specific locations determined by tapping on the top, the pitch of small sections of the top can be raised or lowered to be compatible with the A400 pitch standard.  Using self-designed hand tools, this is done through the sound hole(s) to improve volume and sustain, increased overtones and make the mandolin more responsive.  I tap tune the top of every TKD mandolin.  I’ve also tap tuned the top on other brands like Weber, Gibson, Eastman and Kentucky with great results.  I always find myself saying WOW as I hear a tap tuned mandolin come alive with sound.

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  1. Scott C

    Hi Kyle,

    Great looking Forum Website! Congrats on your launch!

    I want to take this opportunity to say how pleased I am of the tap tuning and set up you did on my Derrington signed Gibson FL-Fern. It is a beautiful example of Charlies work and had a wonderfully balanced tone, very clear highs and mids and great play-ability however I felt it was “closed up” a bit and the volume, sustain and rich deeper tones were lacking.

    When I received it back from your bench and played it all I really could say was … WOW!!..a super improvement on an already great instrument..!!

    Keep up the great work, Kyle!


    Scott C.

  2. Dan Maitland

    Hey Kyle,

    After I found my ’02 Weber Gallatin F on Craigslist, I almost made the mistake of taking it to my local music shop to get set up! But something told me to do some more research and I was able to come across your name on another forum and you were highly recommended. After I called you on the phone I knew you were the right guy for the job! I had never shipped an instrument of mine before so many firsts here! Anyways, you talked me into the tap tuning (I had never heard of it before) and you were right! My mandolin is noticeably louder and richer in tone! Also the sustain is stronger, much stronger. Very happy and would highly reccomend anyone getting a new or old mandolin to get this done! Thanks!

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