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Thread: Dots or no dots

  1. #1

    Default Dots or no dots

    Now that I’m in love with a Mexican mando, sans dots, the question for builders is: Tradition of fretboard dots and side dots not extending to some countries, or is it a bit like the aversion to markers as juvenile on bowed instruments?
    Bluegrass and country decorative tradition I understand as a separate development.

  2. #2
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    I do not have a bowed instrument but prefer no fretboard dots but I like side markers.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    The longer the scale length, the more help you need. A violin is a short scale, and you can't really see the markers that well anyway, so you might as well learn how to play in tune. By the time you hear the note on a bowed instrument, it's too late for the tape to help you out anyway. So they are mostly for people whose ears have not yet been calibrated to hear what is in tune and what is not. Hence the perception of them being juvenile.

    On fretted instruments, they are more useful because 1. you can actually see them, 2. you can put them to use before actually playing since it's fretted, 3. the scale length is so long, you really do need them.

    That said, most good classical guitars don't have fret markers of any kind.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    Possibly a little off topic but it might help if someone could explain how fret markers came about in the first place.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    I install side dots on all my mandolins and guitars. I rarely install fingerboard inlays. In my eye, less is more. I am not a fan of over the top bling either.

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  7. #6
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    My preference:
    (This fingerboard does have side-dots, which I really like.)
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  8. #7

    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    I have the same model Gibson F9, you very quickly get used to playing without fingerboard dots.

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  10. #8
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    Even when I was at my heaviest, I've never seen the fret board while playing my mandolin. Side dots get used every session.
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    Registered User mtucker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    Clean fingerboard on my 5jr. I can’t actually recall when (if ever) I looked to locate a marker on the fretboard.
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  13. #10
    MandolaViola bratsche's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    I prefer side markers only, I don't need them very often, but it's nice to have them there. But I just don't get the ones on the fretboard. If you bend over far enough to see them, you're hurting your neck. Or maybe they're for playing in front of the mirror? Beats me, but I don't like them there, I much prefer a clean ebony fretbooard.

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    Mangler of Tunes OneChordTrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    I just use the side dots; fretboard dots are useful to help work out what some else is playing

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  17. #12
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    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    As a fiddle player, I'd suggest having no frets on a mandolin. Ha,ha. I agree with Bratsche that leaning over to see the dots on the fingerboard hurts your neck. However lately I have been studying chords and have found that now I'm using the markers, where before I never bothered with them. They are a quick way of finding your position.
    And for that matter it has helped my use of double stops on the violin. Visual cues sometimes help the audio recognition.
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  18. #13

    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    Fretboard dots are valuable if you are trying to share or teach someone else. They're really not for the player as side dots are. If you want to teach or share your licks with someone else, the fretboard dots help.

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    Henry Lawton hank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    I got these in Chernobyl green.Click image for larger version. 

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  20. #15

    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    Quote Originally Posted by hank View Post
    I got these in Chernobyl green.
    Very cool, yes!

    Where can one get these? I'm playing in the dark most of the time, I've got big stickers that are almost adequate, but these would be great.

  21. #16
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    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    I also use the side dots only as reference points. That said, however, I love block inlays on the fretboard - I'd love to have an instrument with them some day.
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  22. #17
    Registered User Dusepo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    I rarely use fret marker dots on my builds unless a customer asks for them, and they rarely do. When playing I never look at them and prefer to use muscle memory.

    Interesting thing regarding your question about different traditions in different countries: On Russian instruments (Russian mandolins, balalaikas and domras especially) the dots are in a different place - usually on the second fret instead of third, and sometimes other differences.
    I am a luthier specialising in historical and world stringed instruments. You can see more info at my website.

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  24. #18

    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    I like dots. To me, a fret board just doesn't look quite right without them. I've been doing mine offset for the last few, and prefer them that way by now.


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  26. #19
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    Two issues. Aesthetic and practical.

    Aesthetic issue, if you are going to have dots do you prefer them on the fret board itself or on the top side, or both. My preference is top side or both. But just on the fret board doesn't help much.

    Practical: I use the dots a lot. Even more than I used to, when I thought I used the dots a lot. Anything up the neck, I find, requires dots for me to be properly oriented. Especially if I am going to do any improvising up the neck.

    I know the Fylde mandolins dot the ninth fret, unlike every other instrument tuned in fifths, which dot the tenth fret. Were I to by a Fylde that would drive me nuts, and I would get the dot moved.

    As to whether dots or blocks I don't care.
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  27. #20
    Registered User DoubleE's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    What an interesting question. I think I mostly use muscle memory, but I think when I move up the neck and need to check position I lean over and look at my fingers and see where they are on the fretboard. So, I like markers on the fretboard. I like side dots too. It’s comforting to know they’re there. I’ll take all the help I can get.

  28. #21

    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    I know the Fylde mandolins dot the ninth fret, unlike every other instrument tuned in fifths, which dot the tenth fret. Were I to by a Fylde that would drive me nuts, and I would get the dot moved.
    The Acoustic World mando in my avatar has a ninth-fret dot, and ya, it drives me nuts.

  29. #22
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    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Bevan View Post
    Very cool, yes!

    Where can one get these? I'm playing in the dark most of the time, I've got big stickers that are almost adequate, but these would be great.
    Stew-Mac sells luminescent side dot material. Also comes in blue. Quite effective.
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  31. #23
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    Markers on the face of the fretboard don't matter to me.
    Side markers I like and use.

    In fact, I wish EVERYBODY would put 2 dots on the side at the 12th fret. I've got some with only one dot there and sometimes, in the heat of the battle, might mistake the 10th fret for the 12th. YMMV

    Addendum: on one mandolin I put a dot of red magic marker on the side white dot surface to mark the 12 fret. This helps if the light is good.
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  33. #24
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    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    On such an instrument I use fingernail polish. Punch a hole the size you want in masking tape and place it accordingly, put a dab of polish in the hole and peel the tape before it is too dry. I have had it on some instruments for more than twenty years, but will flick off with your fingernail if you don't want it.
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  34. #25
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    Default Re: Dots or no dots

    You can always do what the late Danny Gatton did: use cubic zirconia as side dots. He let the facets stick up a bit -- so even a neon beer sign at 100 yards will make the side position markers visible.
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