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Thread: 14.5 vs 13.6/13.8 length solid body

  1. #1
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    Default 14.5 vs 13.6/13.8 length solid body

    Advantages? Disadvantages? I am still fighting the urge a bit to get a new mandolin...I still want to retire in a couple of years rather early....but just in case I fade in my willpower.... I know I have seen it mentioned at times that the longer scale can help the C 5th string (unless I was hallucinating again).....I will take any advice I can get, but my main questions are...
    1. Considering I currently play mostly classical....and I have small hands..the reach on my Gibson F4 I can just handle for Bach etc. I would think the larger scale might put me over the edge.
    2. If I have a solid body mando built, is it a problem to have the neck made smaller to help with reach?

    Are there a million other things I should be worrying about? Is there an article out there that really covers how each pickup changes the sound? I know there are a few things I have seen that cover the basics (single coil, Humb, stacked etc), but the ones I have seen just give a general comment about the single coil being crisper and the humbucker giving a mellower sound etc. I guess maybe I should ask... If you played mostly classical but delve into other styles as well (I do like a mellow sound with a nicer low end which is why I like the F4 so much) what would YOU get? and which position would you have them? Basically, I guess I want everything.....for very little money....oh...and longer fingers.

  2. #2

    Default Re: 14.5 vs 13.6/13.8 length solid body

    First off, I'd abandon the idea of comparing an acoustical instrument to an electric. Tonally, I don't think there is a comparison. Also, you wont necessarily play a single string instrument the same as you would one with paired courses.

    If you want a C string, I highly suggest a 14.5" scale instrument. You won't be happy with anything less if you are tuning CGDAE. Almost all electric mandolins I make are done using a 14.5" scale. You will not be able to make many four finger chords and some three finger chords will be difficult. The longer scale does two things, in my opinion, which is gives you the capability for a fifth string and puts it in a bit of a lower register so you don't have the piercing highs of a standard scale mandolin. However, if you aren't specifically looking for a fifth string then the piercing highs can be mellowed through your choice of pickup. Here is a Bach arrangement on electric mandolin using a standard scale and a Tele neck humbucker. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBIyhlUSlUc

    On reach, neck profile or however you want to define it. As I see it, the width and thickness of the neck are going to affect your reach. I would first define the width based on whether you like a narrow or wide string spacing. The wider string spacing, the thinner the neck should be unless you have really large hands. Does that make sense? A common complaint about Mandobirds is that they have thin necks and narrow fretboards so players with large hands get cramps. Most custom builders will walk you through the process to make sure you get what you need and want.

    On pickups, get a humbucker that will give you the ability to get a range of tones by using a switch and tone pot.

  3. #3
    Registered User Ken Olmstead's Avatar
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    Default Re: 14.5 vs 13.6/13.8 length solid body

    There are no articles out there that can sum things up like Andrew just did. The best thing to do is talk to knowlegable builders, tell them your concerns, and let them build the mandolin that will meet you needs.

    I installed a humbucker in my Kentucky for a thicker Jazz tone. But like Andrew says, the neck is a bite narrow and not very comfortable for me. Once my Stealth is completed, the next shopping chore is an upgraded electric!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KG_RM...e=channel_page

    Retiring early sounds great but only with the right quiver of mandolins! If you don't have the right lifers yet, then it is too soon for retirement!
    http://www.youtube.com/user/tenorbanjoguy

    "Gettin' by" with the imports!

  4. #4
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: 14.5 vs 13.6/13.8 length solid body

    Fat .049/.050" for C , on my 4 string [13.8"] seems OK.
    I use round wound now will have to experiment to see how flatwound
    needs to be sized.

    Fender Lace Sensor (gold) pickup + RMC bridge saddle pickups..

    mandolin ######
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  5. #5

    Default Re: 14.5 vs 13.6/13.8 length solid body

    Quote Originally Posted by mandroid View Post
    Fat .049/.050" for C , on my 4 string [13.8"] seems OK.
    I use round wound now will have to experiment to see how flatwound
    needs to be sized.

    Fender Lace Sensor (gold) pickup + RMC bridge saddle pickups..

    mandolin ######

    For what its worth, on a standard 13.875" scale instrument an .050W C string will have about 70 pounds of tension and a .040W G string will have about 24 pounds of tension. It may not be floppy in and of itself but it would compared to the other strings. The average tension on a standard tuned mandolin is around 21 pounds. Those same strings on a 14.5" scale would be G(.040W) 26 pounds and C(.050W) 19 pounds. I think I use about a .056W for the C string which comes in at 24 pounds.



    Just my opinion. I think you'd see a better result with flatwounds on a shorter scale.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: 14.5 vs 13.6/13.8 length solid body

    OK, just home from work (UK time). Yep, I have to ask.....why wider spacing and narrow neck? I would doubt I would want wide spacing....not with my hands. In fact....I am about to put another thread in on hand size...got me thinking about just how small my hands are....or aren't.

  7. #7
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: 14.5 vs 13.6/13.8 length solid body

    I wonder if a cable core wound wire is made and resonates well and so forth over the coil-of-wire pickup.
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
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  8. #8

    Default Re: 14.5 vs 13.6/13.8 length solid body

    Quote Originally Posted by fredhicks View Post
    OK, just home from work (UK time). Yep, I have to ask.....why wider spacing and narrow neck? I would doubt I would want wide spacing....not with my hands. In fact....I am about to put another thread in on hand size...got me thinking about just how small my hands are....or aren't.
    I guess I didn't explain it well enough and not sure how to do it. You have to look at what your hand has to do to fret any particular note or chord. If you rest the V of the neck in the crook of your hand between your thumb and index finger then you have a limited range of "reach". Your finger has to reach vertically then horizontally across the board depending on what you need to fret. If you've ever played an instrument that had a really thick neck you most likely found it uncomfortable to play as you struggled to get the notes fretted on the bass side of the board. By thinning the neck, meaning perpendicular to the fretboard, you can extend your reach thus making it easier to fret those notes. You can have the same problem on a neck which is thinner but much wider. Basically, you need to balance the thickness and the width of the neck to fit your "reach." For me, I need a bit wider board, 1 3/16" at the nut, because I need wider string spacing because my finger tips are fat. On narrower boards, when I fret the D string my fingers make slight contact with the A and/or E string and I get a buzz when I pick those open strings. Hope I'm making sense and not confusing you any more. Maybe I can come up with some diagrams or photos to illustrate it.

  9. #9

    Default Re: 14.5 vs 13.6/13.8 length solid body

    Mandroid,
    As I understand it, the tension issue is a function of the diameter of the core wire. The benefit of flatwounds is that you can go with a larger diameter core wire but keep the overall string diameter smaller by winding it with flat wire as opposed to round wire. I don't know this as fact, but it sounded reasonable to me.

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