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Thread: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

  1. #26
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    Suggestion: make your own fretboard out of glued-together domino pieces. Then you'll know what the dots are for.
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    Taylor Swift lover/fan Cue Zephyr's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    That's the 1/6 length harmonic, two octaves plus a fifth. Read Niles' post again.
    The 1/5 is close to the fourth fret.
    That's not quite what I meant. There indeed is one right around the 4th fret. The 3rd fret one is like somewhere around the 3.2nd fret if it existed.

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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    My comment was only about that harmonic being the 1/4; it's the 1/6. You're correct about its location.

    Here is the math. The frequence relation of a tempered halfstep is r= 12th root of 2, approximately equal to
    1.0595. To get that of a minor third (third fret) we raise that to the third power, giving 1.1892. To get the free portion of the string
    we invert this, to get the location of the third fret we subtract that result from the whole, resulting in 1-1/(r**3)= 0.1591 which is cleary less than 1/6=0.1667.

    Similar calculations for the 1/3, 1/4, and 1/5 length harmonics confirm that these are very close to the 7th, 5th and 4th frets respectively, that the tempered major third and fourth are higher than their harmonic counterparts and the tempered fifth lower.

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    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    It's braille for Drink More Ovaltine. (not really). For me, they just help me know what fret is what. I can deal with a board without dots so long as the neck has them, i don't like inlay all up and down the board... it is too busy for my glances to be useful.

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  6. #30
    Gadfly Dr H's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flynn View Post
    Then there is the mystery of why guitars have dots on the 9th fret and mandolins on the 10th. I know lots of people think they have the definitive answer to that, but previous threads indicate the "definitive answers" don't all agree.

    I only use side dots for playing, but there is a real purpose for the fretboard dots if you are giving lessons or taking them. It is somewhat easier for an instructor/student pairing to see what each other are doing if they both have dots. I'm not saying it's necessary, just helpful. I think with online lessons, it's even more helpful due to camera resolution.
    My guess is that the dots evolved centuries ago as just a simplified version of the often elaborate fretboard ornamentation which appeared on lutes, vihuelas, and later guitars, mandlins, and banjos. Some luthier(s) figured that they might as well locate them in harmonically useful places, and cultural inertia took care of the rest.

    BTW, other than 5, 7, and 12, the location of these dots can be pretty variable. I have guitars that have a 9th fret dot, and others that have a 10th fret dot. Some have dots on 1 and 3, others not. I have a fretless guitar that has dots where 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th frets would be. I have a classical guitar with a single dot at the 12th.

    If I were building an instrument I'd put dots at 2, 6, 11, and 16, just to be perverse.
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    Except for tenor guitars, I have never seen a guitar with a tenth fret dot. I suppose they are out there.

    Dr H your perverse idea would be my worst nightmare. As bad as retuning the thing in fourths just before a performance.
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  8. #32
    en kunnskapssøker James Miller's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Canoedad View Post
    I don't know any of the names of the notes on the fretboard. Sad but true. Last night I decided to take a look and maybe start to learn the notes. I pulled out the Fretboard Toolbox for Mandolin. It says the easiest way to learn where the the C,D,E,G and A notes are first (because every other note is one step away from them, or something).

    Anyway when I looked to find the C,D,E,G and A notes I realized that on the A string, C, D, E, G and A fall on the 3, 5, 7, 10 and 12 frets, which just so happen to have Dots.
    Was looking at my Rogue and it has markers on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, Double on 12th, 15, & 17th frets.

    So when looking at mandolins I was considering to upgrade to, none had the 3rd fret marker. What got me was these are supposedly the Beginner Models ($400 range) and they are leaving out the 3rd fret marker?!? Seems rather stupid since most beginner players use two-fingered chords to start from - and I personally like the reference point.
    Looked at the neck markers and again there were no markers for the 3rd fret on many of the Kentucky & Eastman models. However lower end Fenders have all the markers. Rogue, the $45 mandolin has only markers on the fretboard, nothing on the neck. Something is amiss there.

    Then happened to look at other makers of both medium and higher end and they have them on theirs. Weber for one has all the markers on fretboard and neck ... it is that I cannot afford a Weber so looking for reasonable (?) alternatives.

    So, if I was to upgrade to something in the range I was hoping for I'd have to somehow mark the 3rd fret on the neck at least to give me a reference point until I learned to not need it.

    Which reminded me of when I was trying to play a rather long & large octave mandolin, it had like 5 or 6 blank frets and I was confused as where to start from as a reference.


    And like someone else pointed out, the fretboard dots helps others who play with guitar players (and don't know how to play one) to be able to read what chord they are playing. And when learning from an instructor they can see where you are, you can see where they are.
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  9. #33
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    Has anybody said that the markers at frets 3,5,7,10,12,15 show frets where all the notes across the strings are naturals (no sharps or flats, EXCEPT for the lonely Bb on fret 3). This is in standard tuning, of course.
    So it gives you a landing spot (or a place to veer away from if you're heading for a sharp or flat.)

    I didn't say that all naturals were only on those frets.
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    google the video Wayne Benson pentatonic scales. He describes the dot markers as pentatonic.
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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    My Regal resonator had no marks on the side of the fretboard binding. I did find it more difficult to navigate without them, so I added them with a 1/8" drill bit and a sharpie.

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    Registered User zedmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Beanzy View Post
    I often use the 10th fret one as a guide for landing (though the shifts I chose tend to land me either side of it).
    Having played guitar & bass for so many years with a marker at the 9th fret & not the 10th--that still messes me up sometimes when playign mandolin.

    Sometimes...
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    My comment was only about that harmonic being the 1/4; it's the 1/6. You're correct about its location.Here is the math. The frequence relation of a tempered halfstep is r= 12th root of 2, approximately equal to
    1.0595. To get that of a minor third (third fret) we raise that to the third power, giving 1.1892. To get the free portion of the string
    we invert this, to get the location of the third fret we subtract that result from the whole, resulting in 1-1/(r**3)= 0.1591 which is cleary less than 1/6=0.1667.
    Similar calculations for the 1/3, 1/4, and 1/5 length harmonics confirm that these are very close to the 7th, 5th and 4th frets respectively, that the tempered major third and fourth are higher than their harmonic counterparts and the tempered fifth lower.
    I just note the fret that sounds right.

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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    In instruments without side dots I add them with a piece of masking tape with a hole punched in it the size of the dot I want. Center the tape on the binding or fingerboard where you want it and put a dot of fingernail polish on the tape where the hole is. Peel off the tape before the polish is dry, but not right away and you will have a nice dot. Use whatever color you choose, I usually use white or black, it will peel off easily when you want to go back to original, but will stay on indefinitely should you choose to leave it on. I have some on that have been there for decades.
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    Isn't it all the frets where the notes across the strings correspond to the stages of the Circle of Fifths?

    So it goes:

    Open Strings = G D A E

    5th fret = C G D A (ie each note is the octave above the open string below it)

    7th fret = D A E B (each note is the same note as the open string above it)

    10th fret = F C G D

    12th fret = G D A E (octave above the open string)

    15th fret = B flat F C G

    The reason why they're useful as roadmaps is because you can always figure out what note you're on by relating it to the strings around it.

  18. #40
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    No. All the frets NOT marked also correspond to elements of the circle of fifths, since the circle applies to all 12 notes in the chromatic scale.

    Markers just mark where all the notes are "non-sharps/flats" (discounting things like Fb, E# and such). But this is just my theory.
    Phil

    “Sharps/Flats” ≠ “Accidentals”

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  20. #41
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    I'd like fret markers that look exactly like frets, just to confuse other players.
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    I though I've seen fret markers in different locations from one mandolin to the next?
    This may have been on guitars or banjers too. (senior brain)
    If that be the case, they are essentially decoration. But there always tends to be something at the half-way point of the string length. That way if your bridge floats, one can place it where it needs to be.

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    Registered User Miltown's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    A dot on the third fret means: this is the third fret. A dot on the fifth fret means: this is the fifth fret. And so on.

    On that I think we can all agree. Or at least I hope.

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  25. #44
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    It is the fixed position of the dots that makes capo playing confusing for me. Playing with a capo you just gotta ignore the dots I suppose.

    I always wondered how banjo players managed that.
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    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    Gets hard for me to transpose in my mind when guitarists capo too far up. Without the dots on their guitars to help me see what fret the capo is on, though, I'd really have trouble.
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Miltown View Post
    A dot on the third fret means: this is the third fret. A dot on the fifth fret means: this is the fifth fret. And so on.

    On that I think we can all agree. Or at least I hope.
    That makes it clear

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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by OneChordTrick View Post
    That makes it clear
    unless of course your mandolin has a zero fret in which case the 3rd fret is actually the 4th fret and the 5th fret is .... well you get my drift
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  30. #48
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Stueve View Post
    unless of course your mandolin has a zero fret in which case the 3rd fret is actually the 4th fret and the 5th fret is .... well you get my drift
    And of course the dots are BETWEEN the frets, so maybe it's 2, 4, 6, 9, etc?
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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    In instruments without side dots I add them with a piece of masking tape with a hole punched in it the size of the dot I want. Center the tape on the binding or fingerboard where you want it and put a dot of fingernail polish...
    That is a much better idea than what I have done, which is use a Sharpie marker. Which doesn't last that well, actually.

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    Default Re: What do the dots on the fret board mean?

    I remember spending some time thinking about it, and eventually realized that all the frets with dots corresponded to notes with sharps or flats on any string, which I think is pretty good criteria for a dot. That means, though, no dot for the third fret.

    I also think the fingerboard dots are often too big relative to the size of the mandolin fingerboard - why so large? Side dots always seem to be the perfect size for a side dot.

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