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Thread: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

  1. #1

    Question Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    A banjo friend just bought a fretless banjo. I absolutely love the sound. I've heard fretless banjos before. They are a super nice Old Time sound. His actually has lines or inlays or something for where the normal frets would be. Does anyone have one, or know if these are viable/exist, or what? I thought I might buy a cheap mandolin, then have a good luthier build a new neck for it.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    Yes, they exist, but I think they are rare* (compared to fretless banjos). Check out this thread for a really nice example.

    Note that that is a custom build, and you can read about some of the specific considerations in that thread.

    * Sometimes people like to call violins fretless mandolins, too, but I don't think that's what you mean.
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  3. #3
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    Some past threads on the subject can be found here.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    Cool, thanks you two -- I'll definitely check both links.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    Hi again -- I checked the links. I also found a YouTube group, with a song and a band. Couldn't tell much about the sound of their fretless mandolin.

    I called my favorite local luthier to asks if there's some other small instument, with only four strings instead of the double courses, that could be tuned like a regular small mando. A tenor guitar is great for tuning like an octave mando, but that's not what I want. I asked him to call back with any info, including perhaps a very small banjo. Any idea, folks at Mandolin Cafe?

  6. #6

    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    I've strung a uke up with violin strings in GDAE, works okay. It is a bit of a trial to cram the ball ends into the anchor holes depending on how the uke is constructed.

    I like the idea of a fretless mando. A cheap way to do it, short of ordering a custom build, might be to pull the frets out of a preexisting one and fill in the gaps with inlay or filler. You could make the gaps contrasting to show as finger guides or not.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    By a Fender mandocaster.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    I totally like your idea of having the frets pulled out of a regular mandolin, then filled in with a contrasting color.

    Thanks for this great idea! Would anyone like to recommend to me if a cheaper priced mando would work okay? I don't want to purchase a fine mandolin for this. I already have a great Flatiron, which is my life instrument.

    I'd hesitate to string a uke with violin strings. I checked around about ukes with steel strings, here at the Forum and elsewhere, too. The consensus all around is that the metal strings would warp or cave in the top, not to mention possibly warping the neck. How long have you had your uke string with the violin strings? Are the metal wrapped nylon strings for violin, such as the guitar silk n steel ones?

  9. #9

    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    Everything i can find about a Fender mandocaster says they are electronic. Are there any acoustic Fender mandocasters? If anyone knows of a link (that won't bust my computer again, like two bad sites did this week!) please do send it!

  10. #10

    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    I tried violin strings on a tough plastic uke (Bugs Gear), worked adequately for the purpose.

    A good inexpensive mando to experiment on would be something like a Kentucky 150, etc.

  11. #11
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    Radim has an electric fretless mandolin that he used s few years ago for jazz and swing playing.

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    Registered User aphillips's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    Hey hey - a little googling and I found this...

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    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    Yeah. We call 'em fiddles.
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  16. #14
    fishing with my mando darrylicshon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    If you want to use a ukulele then Aquila makes strings for them with Fifths Tuning
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  17. #15

    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    Adam, thanks so much for posting this beautiful Bach on the fretless mandolin. Actually, I'm presently learning a Bach Bourée in Em from the Hal Leonard book "J. S. Bach" for mandolin. It's got a play along CD, but I haven't listened to that yet because I know the Bourée by ear. I used to play this Bourée on the piano, but I don't remember if the keyboard original is in Em or another key. Em is the perfect key for mandolin for this piece. I've been looking for the sound of a fretless played with a pick. Check this one out! It's exactly the sound I was hoping for -- kind of like the fretless banjo (but of course it doesn't sound like a banjo...just the sort of rough, old time, sliding sound). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzDHC0_G3_I

  18. #16

    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    Adam, I'm assuming that Santa Barbara is the one in California? Did you ever hear of the 2nd Sunday of the month Tucker's Grove Old Time Jam? I founded it in about 1974. I found out from Chris Jensen of Jensen's music about a year ago that it's still going, but has moved somewhere --maybe Santa Maria.

  19. #17

    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    Thanks, Daryl, are the strings you talk about for ukelele steel? I understand the ukes can't handle the tension of steel strings.

  20. #18

    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by stringalong View Post
    Thanks, Daryl, are the strings you talk about for ukelele steel? I understand the ukes can't handle the tension of steel strings.
    No. These (or something similar) are the strings mentioned.
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  21. #19

    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    Mine's a $40 uke; if the steel strings damage it, I'll just get another one. But it really is built very sturdily with tough ABS plastic; you could probably use it to fend off an attacker in a fight. (Well, not as good in that regard as a steel resonantor uke.)

  22. #20
    Registered User aphillips's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    Hey Stringsalong! The Old Time Fiddlers Festival is still going strong! It is actually this Sunday at the old Stowe House in Goleta now. Lots of fun and great jams and performances! Goleta is just the next town north of Santa Barbara.
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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by aphillips View Post
    Hey hey - a little googling and I found this...
    That sounds exactly like violin pizzicato to me. Everything I like about mandolins is lost
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  24. #22
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post
    That sounds exactly like violin pizzicato to me. Everything I like about mandolins is lost
    I had the same reaction to Radim's fretless mandolin, although it was well very played, there was a sparkle missing that made it less mandolin-like in nature.

  25. #23

    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    Playing thumb-style doesn't compliment (complement?) the tune. I play thumb style occasionally when I need to be quiet. It limits control and dynamics quite a lot.

  26. #24

    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    aphillips, hey that's great about the Old Time Fiddlers Festival. Hve fun! Are you performing? And, is the Tucker's Grove Old Time jam still around now? As I said, it was still happening, maybe in Santa Maria, a couple of years ago. Have you ever jammed there?

  27. #25

    Default Re: Is there such a thing as a fretless mandolin

    I hear a lot of different folks' impressions of the sound of the fretless mandolin Bach recording. I really love it, and subscribed to the player's YouTube. He wrote me that he'll record something soon with a pick. Did anyone see/hear this link? The mandolin player is doing "Cumberland Gap," I think. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzDHC0_G3_I

    What do you think of the sound of this one? I love that, too. I have found out about a used mandolin for $99. If it's still there I will look at it tomorrow and buy it if it seems relatively okay. If I get it, I will take it to a very good local luthier who will removed the frets and substitute inlaid pseudo frets (flat, not raised) made of maple wood. I hope that mando is still available. Someone would have had to have bought it yesterday or today.....or it's still there!

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