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Thread: Neck length

  1. #1
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Neck length

    I have never played any mandolin but my own or been around many people with other mandolins. I am curious what tonal differences the longer -5 necks have compared to my Oldwave with the short neck and or my Vega with its short neck. More sustain maybe? otherwise what benefits do you see with the longer or shorter necks?
    Thanks everyone!
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Neck length

    There's not a great deal of difference in lengths. 13 and 7/8 being the norm for most carved top A style and F style and possibly 13 inches for an Italian bowl shaped mandolin and other folk style ones.

    However, the extra 7/8 gives the string more tension on the top and give more volume and just a bit more of almost everything. I'd find it odd to go back to a 13 inch scale length mandolin although you may well get a slightly sweeter tone and arguably easier on the fingers for beginners, providing action is down low.

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  4. #3
    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Neck length

    Also, don't confuse neck length with scale length. Your Od Wave has the same scale length (nut to saddle) as an F-5 at 13 7/8", despite joining the body at about the 12th fret rather than the 15th. It is hard to tell the effect of neck length alone on tone. Most oval hole Gibson-style carved-top mandolins have a neck joining the body at about the 12th fret and most f-hole mandolins join at the 15 th fret. Because of the overall differences in construction, it is hard to tell how much of the difference in sound is due to the oval vs f-hole and how much due to the placement of the bridge in relation to the widest diameter of the top.

    I've played a Gibson A-50 that sounded pretty much (in memory) like newer A-5 style mandolins, just not as loud, with the neck join at the 12th fret. I haven't played the post Loar F7 and F10 F-hole mandolins that had shorter necks, nor played side-by side for comparison. My Gibson F2 sounds more like other oval hole Gibson mandolins, and I have had a couple together at the same time for comparison. Collings, Weber, and other luthiers have made A & F style oval hole mandolins with longer necks that seem to have less "tubbiness" than my F2 in direct comparison, but who knows what they would sound like with a join at the 12th fret.

    Perhaps a luthier who has more experience and has built with a variety of neck lengths in the same style (oval hole or ff hole) could give you a more complete evaluation about the differences in tone produced by neck length, but I hope this helps.
    Last edited by John Soper; May-26-2019 at 6:14am. Reason: Needed more coffee

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  6. #4
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Neck length

    Confuse things I did! I was thinking the Mandolins with the 15th fret join actually had a longer scale length also. So my question should have been what effect will the longer scale length have but apparently it isn't longer. I sure thought some were over 14", I must have been mistaken or maybe it was a Mandola or OM I saw and didn't realize it. Has anyone made a longer scale Mandolin?
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

  7. #5

    Default Re: Neck length

    I think John Soper's (post 3) is a good summary of this often confused situation - longer and shorter scale lengths, and differing points of 'attachment' where the neck meets the body of the mandolin. And even that is somewhat obscured by the complex geometry where neck meets headblock of many mandolins.

    The biggest difference, I think most would agree, is access to the higher frets. And that matters for both chording and melodic playing in many mandolin styles.

    There are plenty of mandolins in all combinations of scale length and 'neck length' to show that it's hard to generalize about how they affect tone. Except perhaps to say that longer SCALE instruments tend to be a bit louder - but maybe folks don't agree even on that point.
    BradKlein
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  9. #6
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Neck length

    I probably should have put this in the builder's area now that I think about it but they read this forum as well. Thanks, everyone!
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

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