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Thread: fretless, anyone?

  1. #1
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    Did anyone ever make fretless mandolins, or other instruments in the mandolin family, fretless?
    Hambonepicker
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    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    This has been discussed a few times here. I'm sure someone, somewhere has tried it, but as someone pointed out words to the effect, "Just try playing a fiddle with a pick and see why it's not a good idea." With the short scale of a mandolin, you would have no sustain and little volume. The fiddle can do it only because of continuous action of the bow. Also, you probably wouldn't want paired strings, you would have real intonation problems. It might work as a 4-string electric mando, but I have never heard of one. It also might work as a 4 string mando-cello or mando-bass.




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    I guess the fretless banjo works decently due to the longer neck scale, the percusive sound, and the single strings.
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    I think Steve Perry talked about the necessity of the sound post to transmit the energy better as in violins for the fretless mando.
    The bango brige - skin head tranduces this energy better to the air (and they have a much different sound than even an open back fretted banjo - to my ear).

    Search of threads on Fretles mandolins.

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    Sound post is something else; the way i understand it, it couples the vibrations of top and back, something that is considered desirable for fiddles but not for mandolins. As Mando Johnny said, lots of previous discussions, just search for them. Pay attention to what David Cohen and Paul Hostettner say. (I probably butchered both of their names, for which i apologize.)

    The instrument you may be looking for is the oud. It is fretless and has (mostly) doubled strings. Our guitars seem to have descended from the oud back when it still had frets, then the oud evolved into a fretless instrument, probably because of the melismatic ornamentations of Arab music.

    There is also an Oud Cafe, of course.
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    Does anyone have a dulcimer cafe?

    Hambonepicker
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    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Try this. I can't personally vouch for it, but I found it online.
    http://www.everythingdulcimer.com/discuss/index.php

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    Quote Originally Posted by (glauber @ Aug. 13 2006, 06:15)
    Sound post is something else; the way i understand it, it couples the vibrations of top and back, something that is considered desirable for fiddles but not for mandolins. As Mando Johnny said, lots of previous discussions, just search for them. Pay attention to what David Cohen and Paul Hostettner say. (I probably butchered both of their names, for which i apologize.)
    I found out recently what the soundpost does (it was part of a music technology course I'm doing). #When you bow a string it vibrates in the direction of the bow movement, i.e. side to side. #The sound post provides a stable point on which one side the bridge can pivot driving the other side in and out (along with the bass bar), so the side to side motion of the strings is converted into an up and down motion in the soundboard of the violin

    When you pluck a string it is forced downwards under your plectrum (or finger) and then released, this starts an up and down vibration in the string which can be transfered directly to the soundboard by the bridge. #(When you strum harder you also dig deeper with the plectrum forcing the the strings down further, the deeper you dig the louder you play.)

    Violins need a soundpost because they are bowed, not because they are fretless, and part of the reason that they don't sound particulary good plucked is that their bridges aren't good at transfering the energy of a plucked string to the soundboard.

    Another part of the reason is that a soft fingers will absorb more energy than a hard fret, which dosn't matter with a bow continually putting energy in, but does matter if you pluck a string.

    So a fretless mandolin should sound better than a plucked violin, but I don't know by how much. It might work.

    Patrick

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    Patrick, interesting. It looks like the soundpost is doing more than one thing then (not surprising). I listened to some recordings of oud players. The oud is larger than a mandolin, so you have more mass on the strings to help overcome the soft finger problem. However, it didn't seem to me that sustain was the instrument's forte.
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    If I'm not mistaken, the oud uses either nylon or gut strings, which are much softer than steel. I've strung my fretless banjo with both nylon and steel strings, and found it easier to get decent sustain from the nylon strings. That said, the steel string tone is good too. I think gut strings would sound great, but they are darn pricey...

    Seth

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    There's a thing called nylagut, that are nylon strings that more or less emulate gut. I have them in my mandolin-tuned uke (long story). They feel very nice and are expensive but not horribly so. You may want to try them.
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