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Thread: High frets on mandolin.

  1. #1

    Default High frets on mandolin.

    I've mentioned this before,but I'm a long-term guitarist and novice mandolin player. I've been playing for around 3 months now and I've noticed something, and it's something I noticed around 8 years ago when I tried another mandolin: the upper frets are essentially unusable. My Breedlove had 20 frets, but my Loar LM400 I had in the past had 29 frets, which seems insane in retrospect. I don't fully recall everything about it, but I do remember getting nothing more than a full tink. On the Breedlove, I have a similar effect past the 14th fret. Is this normal? Is there perhaps a technique to probably get the sound from the high fret?
    Last edited by DrDizzleFrizzle; Nov-06-2019 at 4:51am.

  2. #2
    Confused... or?
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    Default Re: High frets on mandolin.

    Maybe some clearer description would elicit some useful response. A wide number of factors, in the instrument, in your fingers, or in your technique, could be involved.
    - "Essentially unusable" doesn't really express why YOU think that is the case.
    - "Full tink" ???

    FWIW, Lloyd Loar seemed to think that classical musicians needed over 2 octaves on the high strings, but maybe that's part of why his F-5 design didn't initially appeal to classical musicians, or to much of anyone else.

    (Edit) Another point of confusion:
    "High frets", in the title, most often refers to frets that are higher above the fretboard than the adjacent frets. You are asking about frets that are higher up the neck than the more-often-used ones. Maybe just this comment will elicit some response from those with expertise?
    Last edited by EdHanrahan; Nov-06-2019 at 10:24am.
    - Ed

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  3. #3

    Default Re: High frets on mandolin.

    Notes above the 14th fret sound dead and only make a tinky kind of sound, if I pick extra hard, I can get it to sound out better, but still not any kind of usable sound

  4. #4
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: High frets on mandolin.

    I have a couple of mandolins that do have a great sound up in the nose bleed frets. It is something I check for in a mandolin which purchase I am contemplating.

    I am not an expert on set ups, but I would think a proper set up would improve the chances of a good tone in the high end.


    More and more I am getting comfortable up there. I work at it. My philosophy is that it is on the mandolin, I am going to use it. Or try to.
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  6. #5

    Default Re: High frets on mandolin.

    Quote Originally Posted by DrDizzleFrizzle View Post
    Notes above the 14th fret sound dead and only make a tinky kind of sound, if I pick extra hard, I can get it to sound out better, but still not any kind of usable sound
    Generally speaking, above 14 is pretty hard to get a nice tone out of. A really well set up instrument can probably do it, but the precision of finger placement required and the leveling of the neck/frets will make it very difficult to use practically. You'd need to have pretty big frets, and high action at the bridge to make that work, and most of us prefer lower action at the side of the neck we use.

    I'm not sure that I really play anything up that high or really need to-- only the E string is "necessary" up there and I don't frequently need to play anything that high.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: High frets on mandolin.

    Quote Originally Posted by KEB View Post
    Generally speaking, above 14 is pretty hard to get a nice tone out of. A really well set up instrument can probably do it, but the precision of finger placement required and the leveling of the neck/frets will make it very difficult to use practically. You'd need to have pretty big frets, and high action at the bridge to make that work, and most of us prefer lower action at the side of the neck we use.

    I'm not sure that I really play anything up that high or really need to-- only the E string is "necessary" up there and I don't frequently need to play anything that high.
    I respectfully disagree. I think the reason, in many cases, that getting good tone out of 14+ frets is hard is that we don't work on it as much. I mean, assuming the mandolin can deliver, which many can, we don't spend as much time up there working and practicing.

    And I think there are lots of reasons to play all the strings up there. Besides chords and double stops, there are many cases where a tune is much easier to play if we drop down a string and move up the neck for this or that phrase, or do it in third position or higher. Yea the e string is the where the "unique" high notes are, but the entire mandolin up there is useful for all kinds of music.
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    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: High frets on mandolin.

    Unfortunately it comes down to the mandolin, and it usually costs quite a bit to get a mandolin that functions well up there.
    Most of my mandolins are pretty useless above the 14th fret.
    BUT my Northfield Artist Series gets full ringing tones up there.
    Even the highest fret on the northfield rings out with usable tone.
    It is really hard to play up there, but the tone is there.
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: High frets on mandolin.

    Quote Originally Posted by CWRoyds View Post
    Unfortunately it comes down to the mandolin, and it usually costs quite a bit to get a mandolin that functions well up there.
    Most of my mandolins are pretty useless above the 14th fret.
    BUT my Northfield Artist Series gets full ringing tones up there.
    Even the highest fret on the northfield rings out with usable tone.
    I agree and I disagree. I wonder if a lot of mandolins with compromised tone up in the high notes can set up in a manner that does not optimize the lower tones at the expense of the higher ones.

    But yea, there is a price point below which it is wishful thinking to expect great tone above 15. And... if I am going to put out a significant amount of money, I should be able to expect it sounds great everywhere.
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    Registered User jim simpson's Avatar
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    Default Re: High frets on mandolin.

    Didn't someone say that there's no money past the 14th fret? lol!
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    Registered User rockies's Avatar
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    Default Re: High frets on mandolin.

    I have heard inexpensive mandolins with good tone on the "high" frets but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule. As in the case with my own inexpensive ones. However my Heiden and other Heidens, Ellis, Gilchrist, Gibson (upper level),Gibson Loars, Smart, Collings etc that I have played have bell like tone up in those "high" frets. I'm sure that this may always be the case but in my limited experience it seems to be the case.
    Dave
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    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: High frets on mandolin.

    Quote Originally Posted by rockies View Post
    have bell like tone up in those "high" frets.
    Very very short-lived bell like tone.

    I find those high notes on the E are more for emphasis and excitement and less for pure tone. While my Breedlove got the people excited when I ran my solo up to end at xx14-15, it sounds a whole lot cleaner on my Collings.
    Collings MT2
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