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 good tone, the concept of doing a final tuning of the top after the mandolin is constructed makes sense since the top’s relationship to all the other parts is now set.  By removing minuscule amounts of wood at specific locations determined by tapping on the top, the pitch of the top can be raised or lowered.  Using self-designed hand tools, this is done through the sound hole(s) to increase volume and sustain, improve tone 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 Collings, 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.