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Thread: Fat fingers/wide nuts?

  1. #1
    Registered User Charles Kelley's Avatar
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    Default Fat fingers/wide nuts?

    I am having real trouble with muting adjacent strings, especially when fretting the two inner courses. For example, if I play a G7 chord I am almost certainly going to mute the E string.

    I have fingers that would more aptly be described as sausage-like. At the moment I am playing (learning on) an Eastman MD505. According to the specs it has a 1 3/32" nut.

    I wonder if 1 3/32" is as wide as it gets. I wonder if I just need to shut up and practice and I will bet better at this. I wonder if having a luthier rework the nut to put the courses a fraction closer together would be a good idea.

    Any input would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fat fingers/wide nuts?

    Nope.
    1 3/32" is on the narrow side of things.
    I bought an amazing Northfield NF5s a few years ago, but I had to send it back as the 1 3/32" nut was just too thin for my fingers.
    Sounded incredible, but I felt as if my fingers were tripping over each other when I played fiddle tunes.
    I think most Northfields now come with 1 1/8" nut, which is better for me.

    I got confused reading about nut width, so I made a little graphic showing the relative width of all the standard nut widths.
    In graphic form the 1 3/32" doesn't seem much different from 1 1/8", but it sure made a difference for me.
    You should try to find a store nearby with a wide nut mandolin and see if that does it for you.
    I didn't like the nut wider than 1 1/8", as it seemed the neck became proportionally thicker too.
    I like a less chunky neck.
    Here is my nut width reference.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Fat fingers/wide nuts?

    Take a look at Dawg or Don Julin. Or Mike Marshall even. While his fingers aren't sausages, they are big. It is typical when learning to have trouble cramming the fingers into these weird shapes. You need to develop the finger strength, the callouses, and the accuracy to play cleanly. If you haven't had a good setup, I'd recommend spending the dough on that rather than any nut work. A good setup will allow you to fret with little pressure.

    What shape are you using for your G7? Are you familiar with the 1st inversion? Three fingers on thicker strings might feel better.
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    Registered User Bruce Clausen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fat fingers/wide nuts?

    A wider nut helps when you want clear notes on every string in chords. On the older Gibsons 1-1/4" was the normal width. Many current manufacturers use 1-3/16" as the standard. Take a look around and see if you're more comfortable with more width. Good luck!

  6. #5

    Default Re: Fat fingers/wide nuts?

    I have XXL hands and my 1 1/8" is working out for me but when I pick up a 1 3/16" it seems SO nice. It's amazing what a difference 1/16" can make.

  7. #6

    Default Re: Fat fingers/wide nuts?

    Oh, and two questions for the experienced folks:

    1) Are mandolins like guitars in that you might move to a 1 3/16" and discover that while the nut is wider the string spacing is the same?

    2) How much additional string spacing can you get on the average mandolin by getting a new nut cut?

  8. #7

    Default Re: Fat fingers/wide nuts?

    I was able to turn an Eastman MD604 from unplayable to playable for classical music, meaning I can avoid muting adjacent strings most of the time simply by cutting a new nut, see it here:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...cing-a-success

    In my case I went from 3/32 internal string spacing (inner edge to inner edge of each string), to 1/16" (less on the higher strings), which I found recommended on a random luthier's site on the interwebz...

    I later bought a 1 1/4" nut mando and frankly the wider nut made less difference than the recut nut.
    I also learned that wider nuts are a tradeoff, I likely don't want to go wider than 1 1/4.

    The way frets are cut also greatly affects how much of the fretboard you can use, some luthiers use a more gentle slope on the edge of the frets, which eats into the usable fretboard space, you want a steeper slope to make the most of the fretboard. I have seen up to 1/16" of the fretboard lost in this way.

    FYI, I got another significant playability increase by increasing fret height. Eastman's come with 37x80, I switched to 50x80, that cleaned up a lot of string buzz, and the reduced fretting effort increased my endurance too.

    I also got a string height gauge from Stew Mac, I could get much more accurate nut heights with it than with feeler gauges, allowed me to bring things down another few 1000's at the nut. Every little bit helps IMHO.
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  10. #8
    Registered User Charles Kelley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fat fingers/wide nuts?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Leonard View Post
    What shape are you using for your G7? Are you familiar with the 1st inversion? Three fingers on thicker strings might feel better.
    I can't even type with these fat fingers. I meant C7. This is the fingering I use
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  11. #9
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fat fingers/wide nuts?

    Just a thought, if it applies - great.

    I find it is not always necessary to get every note in the chord. Especially if it is a passing chord that moves on quickly, or a chord played by everyone. If I can get the three (or even two) notes that unambiguously implies the chord, I am happy and move on. Nobody has ever caught me at it, nobody has ever come up to me and said "you know, you missed a note on that chord".

    Is it cheating. I don't know.

    If it makes almost no difference in the music and the only thing you are gaining is some internal sense that you "got every note" I have to wonder if its worth the extra effort.

    I am not against exactitude, not at all, but exactitude where it matters.


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  13. #10
    Harley Marty
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    Default Re: Fat fingers/wide nuts?

    Iím only a hack player (tenor guitar), and I have little ambition to become a virtuoso on mandolin. I really enjoy the sound of it so what Iíve done is purchased a cheap 15 1/2Ē scale mandola & tuned it up to GDAE using a pair of 8ís for the top E. It is comfortable for my more awkward than big fingers & sounds way better than it did as a cheap mandola

  14. #11
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    Default Re: Fat fingers/wide nuts?

    I expect what would help you the most is to play several different instruments. Depending on where you live that may take a weekend trip somewhere. I have several mandolins with different width and shape necks. There is a settling in period when I pick up one I don't usually play. I expect you will be able to play and note your instrument successfully with patience and practice. One thing to be aware of is how you are holding the instrument. The angle your fingers access the mandolin neck can make it more difficult to note cleanly. R/
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  15. #12
    Registered User wildpikr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fat fingers/wide nuts?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Leonard View Post
    Take a look at Dawg or Don Julin. Or Mike Marshall even. While his fingers aren't sausages, they are big. It is typical when learning to have trouble cramming the fingers into these weird shapes.
    Charles,

    Building onto Gary's post...

    Mike Marshall discusses this in his mandolin fundamental series DVD 2 from Homespun. The narrow neck allows him to alter how he makes chords by barring adjacent strings with one finger as needed to get the sound/tonality that he wants...he explains it better of course. It was helpful for me.

    Here's a link if you're interested:

    https://www.homespun.com/shop/produc...players-dvd-2/

    Hope this helps...
    Mike

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  16. #13

    Default Re: Fat fingers/wide nuts?

    I've been happy with my Olympia F style but I actually measured the nut the other day and was surprised to see that it is 1 3/32". No wonder the 1 3/16" mandos I've tried feel so different. I have XXL hands but my fingers aren't particularly thick so I'm not sure I need more string spacing.

    I'll be talking to everyone at the June ROW mandolin camp in order to try to reach a longterm conclusion.

  17. #14
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fat fingers/wide nuts?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Leonard View Post
    It is typical when learning to have trouble cramming the fingers into these weird shapes. You need to develop the finger strength, the callouses, and the accuracy to play cleanly.
    This! +1

    Unless you have tiny hands (and some do!), I believe the mandolin fretboard is tough for most people but your brain and fingers work it out over time. Relax and enjoy yourself and keep playing.
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  18. #15
    Registered User SincereCorgi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fat fingers/wide nuts?

    Seconding the people who suggest trying a wide-nut mandolin if you can. Not everybody rides the same size bicycle or uses the same length skis, no reason not to try to get the equipment that works for your anatomy.

  19. #16
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fat fingers/wide nuts?

    Quote Originally Posted by SincereCorgi View Post
    Seconding the people who suggest trying a wide-nut mandolin if you can. Not everybody rides the same size bicycle or uses the same length skis, no reason not to try to get the equipment that works for your anatomy.
    +1 The analogy here is pretty darned good, in fact. As you get better on a racing bicycle, you might opt for a taller frame or a higher saddle post. As you get better at downhill skiing, you might opt for longer skis. And as you improve on the mandolin, you may discover that a thinner, not a wider, nut allows for certain advanced maneuvers -- for example, fretting two adjacent strings with a single fingertip (Em is a good example, but here are many others). Regardless of whether it's a bicycle or skis or a mandolin, proper ergonomics are key, and your preferred personal settings may change with your skill levels. Beginners, especially those coming to mandolin from the guitar (not violin!) often seem to find wider nuts easier to negotiate at first. But this does not necessarily hold for all time. Narrower nuts do convey certain advantages, as violinists especially tend to appreciate.

    In the end, get the nut that makes you the most comfortable with your playing level and hand size. But do not expect it to be a final choice, because that might change. Or not. It's all good!

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