Nut width


#1

I am not much of a mandolin player, but I have been thinking about putting a little time into it. In another thread, someone suggested checking out Red Valley redvalleymandolins.com/. One of the options they list is a slightly wider nut width (1 1/4" as opposed to the normal 1 1/8"). I have never played a 1 1/4" mando, but at some levels, that sounds appealing. I don’t have particularly large hands, but I find a mando fingerboard kind of cramped. As I see it there are pros and cons.

Pros: More room and less unintentionally muted strings. It’s more like the spacing on a typical guitar (which I play most).
Cons: Most mandos are 1 1/8" and it might make things difficult if I change instruments down the road. It would be harder to span multiple strings with a single finger when desired.

Anyone have any thoughts?


#2

Mike, I’m more of a guitar player also & on guitar I like a little bit wider string spacing with borh E strings fairly close to the fretboard edge. My hands are just average size, but I know what you mean when you feel cramped.

I took up mandolin a little over a year ago & bought a Breedlove with 1 3/16" nut (in between 1 1/8 & 1 1/4) & a radiused fretboard & it feels very comfortable. The 1 3/16" width may solve the problem you’re trying to avoid. I’m coming along fine (still prefer guitar) & I really don’t feel a need to make any changes. Of course I may have just gotten used to it too.

I’m enjoying the mandolin & with Ben’s site, it’s fun to work out some of the same songs with guitar or mandolin.

These are my thoughts , hope this helps. I’m sure someone who’s been playing Mando for a long time will be able to better help you.

God Bless… Jeff


#3

Thanks Jeff!


#4

I don’t have any answers but I do have a theory. I believe in the past when mandolins were invented, They didn’t play them with any sustain, So they didn’t worry about muting the strings. They just used tremolo when they wanted Sustain. So I think that it is okay to get a wider nut width, with today’s playing styles that require sustain. I think mandolins originally had such narrow necks because they were trying to be similar to violins. These days, that is no longer a concern.


#5

Thanks Julian. I played violin when I was a kid. I still have it here, and one of these days, I might pick it back up. It’s just brutal to hear myself on it :slight_smile: I guess that would be one reason to go with the smaller neck (to stay consistent with the fiddle). With that said, I am kind of liking the idea of a little more room on the mando.


#6

Hi Mreisz,

I am actually the one who recommended that, and I can give you my thoughts. I am a guitar player, and I found that mandolins are very tiny creatures for us guitar players. So basically, a wider neck mandolin (what they call “Wide-nut mandolins”) is a bread of mandolins that have slightly larger neck widths. Many places build them as an option. The advantages is that its easier to chord and navigate for those with fat fingers or who are used to guitars and bigger beasts.

I also recommend banjo frets. Mandolin frets are very small and tiny and a lot of places will use banjo frets instead (fact I believe big players like Gibson do as well). It offers advantages to sustain and chording over mando frets. Banjo frets are not as large as guitar frets and are still thin and tiny enough that they actually fit a mandolin better than mandolin frets in my opinion.

It basically comes down to feel. The wider necks are really not that much wider than a normal mandolin, but it allows enough wiggle room where you don’t accidently get your finger in the way. In other words, i find wider necks a bit more confortable.

What i can do tonight is take a picture of my fingers on a standard neck and then on a wide neck to give you an idea of spacing. Its really not a huge difference, comes out to maybe an extra string length or two between the strings


#7

Thanks Brenton. I have a “normal” neck mando I think it would be nice to have some extra room.


#8

it is nice. Yes.

I play both, I have a standard neck cheapy Epiphone that I started on, then I have my flat top which is a widenut, but I just bought me a standard neck F Style that’s coming this weekend (which I will be posting).

I hope this helps:

This is my wide nut. I placed a white piece of paper which is the exactlength of my standard width mandolin. Yu can tell the wide nut is really only a tad bit wider maybe half a CM (half a pinky nail)
http://brenton.us/mando/img/WN.jpg

Then, here is my standard neck mandolin. The Orange lines are the string spacing on my widenut, so gives you an idea of about how spaced the strings are on the widenut vs. the standard.:
http://brenton.us/mando/img/SN.jpg

again, the overhang of the piece of paper is about half a pinky nail or so.


#9

Thanks Brenton. That helps a bunch!
I am guessing since you are getting another standard width, you can go back and forth without too much trouble.
Thanks again.


#10

Yes, I don’t have a problem going between the two. The only thing to keep in mind, is that if you have small hands or short fingers, then wide nut may not be the best bet for you, because a wide nut makes it a bit harder to form the 4 finger chords, like the G-Chop. Because you have to stretch a tad bit more and a lot of people have a hard enough time getting their pinky up there on standard necks. I don’t have a problem myself, but some folks I have heard, do. Realistically, it just gives a little bit more room between the string pairs, so your fingers aren’t so bunched up but it is not a drastic increase.


#11

Thread creep alert!!!
Brenton, I talked to Jim at Red Valley, he was happy to hear you were pleased enough to be bringing him some more business. I am looking at getting one much like yours. Since I hadn’t played one I asked Jim about the sonic qualities of his versus some other arch-tops I am familiar with. He said probably the biggest difference was in the punch of a chop. The flat top is more geared to a warmer, sustained sound. He said the Maple is going to be closer to the “typical” bluegrass mando than the mahogany. With that said, I really like the sound of the mahogany in the demo video. Now that you have had time to spend with yours, what are your thoughts on mahogany versus maple? By the way, he is out of the figured mahogany that he built yours with, but he has some that he said wasn’t too far off visually.
Thanks in advance,


#12

Cool deal,

Jim is a good guy, I actually found his mandolins when visiting the mandolin store (brenton.us/mando then the neck wood is probably what you would be looking at. Granted necks are thin so its hard to get a more flat-back image in your mind but you can kind of gather the color and pattern of the wood from the neck. I saw the block of wood and it was a decent chunk, so he should have plenty of that. When I was in his shop I saw some of his Curly Maple mandolins that he was finishing up, and they were a very nice piece of wood too, very curly and wavy, I am tempted to get one of those too. I do say that my mandolin has a very good sustain. It rings like a bell. It is quite loud too, I really like it a lot. I don’t know if there is much of a difference between the Mahogany and Maple sound, I guess perhaps the Mahogany might be more bright? I don’t have a way of judging really, but I do like the Mohagany on mine and it has a nice sound. It’s quite a loud little guy. I went with the blood wood binding and veneer, and it was my preference to have double diamond on the 3rd fret, so just so you know, if that is not your taste, it was not his doing :smiley: it was mine, but the Diamond Inlays are a very nice piece of Abalone, it glows in person, I like them a lot. I don’t think you can go wrong with the Mohagany or the Maple, both look really nice.

I have never been big on dot inlays myself, (granted I just bought a mandolin which has dot inlays), but my preference, i like to add a little ZAZ to an isntrument than the old fashion Dots. So that is a preference as well.


#13

Thanks Brenton!


#14

Mreisz,

Actually, to answer your question regarding wood sounds. I just got my new F Style in the mail today and after playing both I would say the Maple seems to have a little bit of a woody-throaty sound, little deeper tone while the Mahogany seems like a little crisper-brighter tone. I would imagine Mahogany would be a harder wood so it would be more bouncy? I am not sure how hard maple is but I would imagine it’s a little softer wood than Mahogany? (I am no expert, so just my 2 cents). And I realize that the flat top vs. carved top may have an effect but overall I would sort of classify the sound in that manner if it helps any? That might be where Jim was going since the Maple / F Styles are used a lot in bluegrass that may be the most distinctive sound with most folks. Vs. other woods? But playing both side by side, I can tell a difference in sound and that would be my critique.


#15

Glad you got the new one in and thanks for the update. That’s just the kind of description I needed to hear. Jim has a backlog, and I’ll be busy next week, so I am going to think about it at least week or so before I order it. If you have any further opinions as you play the two, keep 'em coming.
Thanks again!


#16

To answer my original question… I got a wider nut, and it is much more comfortable. My left hand doesn’t cramp as much. Noting is easier. It’s great. For the right hand, there is a little more space to cover, so I suspect top end speed is sacrificed a bit, but I can live with that. Maybe a wide nut with a standard bridge spacing would be the ultimate for me (and an appropriately tapered neck), but I wouldn’t know it until I tried it.


#17

I was watching a Wayne Benson video last week and he was showing how he makes a C5 power chord on mando. He barred strings 1 & 2 at fret 3 with his index finger and caught strings 3 and 4 at fret 5 with the tip of his ring finger. Try as I might, I could not manage to span 2 string courses with 1 finger tip. The best I could do was get good tone on string 3 and a partially muted sound on string 4.

I’m sure it’s just my poor technique slowing me down, and I may never figure it out, but I got to thinking a wide nut would make that chord even tougher.

Sounds like you are finding the positives outweight the negatives for you, though. I haven’t played a mando with a wide nut, but it does seem like it would be more comfortable. I have a hard time working with the small mando fretboard.


#18

It does make single finger barres harder just due to the space, but I find I can do some. For example, an open A chord of 5-0-2-2 works for me with my pointer finger barring the D and G strings. I might not get all four strings noted well, but the notes are all represented by at least one string. The odd thing was that I found the G chop to be easier. I figured it would harder, but I found the opposite.


#19

— Begin quote from "mreisz"

I am not much of a mandolin player, but I have been thinking about putting a little time into it. In another thread, someone suggested checking out Red Valley redvalleymandolins.com/. One of the options they list is a slightly wider nut width (1 1/4" as opposed to the normal 1 1/8"). I have never played a 1 1/4" mando, but at some levels, that sounds appealing. I don’t have particularly large hands, but I find a mando fingerboard kind of cramped. As I see it there are pros and cons.

Pros: More room and less unintentionally muted strings. It’s more like the spacing on a typical guitar (which I play most).
Cons: Most mandos are 1 1/8" and it might make things difficult if I change instruments down the road. It would be harder to span multiple strings with a single finger when desired.

Anyone have any thoughts?

— End quote

I find the Mandolins that have the strings so close together unplayable for me it almost seems they ware just made for people with skinny fingers I do not think the sound would be hurt if the fret board was a bit wider and the nut width more like a guitar . I don’t mean so wide they look out of place but wide enough for normal fat fingers LOL . it is a challenge to play one of the cheaper ones for sure


#20

I ended up getting a wide board mando, and I do love it. For me, it’s a much better fit.

I guess I’ll never get a Lloyd Loar F5, as I doubt I’ll find one with a wide fingerboard. :smiley: