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Thread: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

  1. #1

    Default Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    I have a nice mando with a 1 3/16" nut. I am having a new Ellis built and i requested the same wider width. In a lesson this morning I noticed that A and E chords in first position were not really clean (224 an 0224) though once I warmed up a bit, things improved. Created some anxiety though - oh crap maybe I should go with standard width. It's only 1/16" so i feel that we do adapt and i'm not concerned with resale value but it did get my attention and i still have time to change specs. I guess the obvious answer is to go play some standard width instruments, though i'd welcome and feedback. thanks!
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    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    It's all in what you are used to. But then what you are used to can change ….. it's not immutable. The shape is equally as important as the width. I have an A 5L that has a slightly different neck shape and width than my A2Z. Curiously some things are easier to play on one than the other. I don't really notice any difficulty when moving from one to the other. Enjoy that Ellis. R/
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    Quote Originally Posted by UsuallyPickin View Post
    It's all in what you are used to. But then what you are used to can change ….. it's not immutable. The shape is equally as important as the width. I have an A 5L that has a slightly different neck shape and width than my A2Z. Curiously some things are easier to play on one than the other. I don't really notice any difficulty when moving from one to the other. Enjoy that Ellis. R/
    Thanks for replying and for the sage advice. A moment of buyer's anxiety I guess. Maybe I'll call you directly the next time I experience doubts :-) Have a good rest of weekend and thanks again, much appreciated.
    Girouard A5
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    Registered User mingusb1's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    I'd go standard width. Years ago I had a mando built with "wide nut". But after a few years and improving technique I found it was actually slowing me down some. The instrument was played-in by then and I liked it enough to have some work done to narrow the neck/nut to standard and it's better now. Mind you I'm an upright bass player and have very big hands. No matter, standard width is better for me. Also, if you do ever go to sell your custom instrument (hey, i've heard it can actually happen) standard width will move a lot quicker in this crowd.

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    Zack
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    Thanks, Zack. Yes, I considered those things too. I'll give it some more thought.
    Girouard A5
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    Most of my mandolins are 1-1/8” at the nut. For me that is optimum. My National RM-1 has a 1-1/4” nut and that is not as ideal for me. However a 1-3/16” probably would be acceptable. What I don’t like is shallow depth of necks combined with overly wide nut width. However everyone is different. I might voice your concerns with Ellis and see what he says and how he works with getting the right neck profile for customers.
    Jim

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    Registered User mingusb1's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    Quote Originally Posted by shaundeane View Post
    Thanks, Zack. Yes, I considered those things too. I'll give it some more thought.
    Either way you're going to get a killer new axe. I'm jealous!

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    Registered User Scotter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    Hi Shaun,

    I believe that you and I are in the same Flinner class. I'm with Jim Garber in that thickness of the neck may have more to do with things than the width of the nut. Check out my comments on the "Brought home a Buckeye!" thread in the General Mandolin Discussion forum: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...home-a-Buckeye!
    Play that which you feel is groovy, get down with your bad self, and shake your money maker if it makes sense for you to do so.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    Quote Originally Posted by Scotter View Post
    Hi Shaun,

    I believe that you and I are in the same Flinner class. I'm with Jim Garber in that thickness of the neck may have more to do with things than the width of the nut. Check out my comments on the "Brought home a Buckeye!" thread in the General Mandolin Discussion forum: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...home-a-Buckeye!
    Scotter: Very interesting story of the neck on your Buckeye. I played Barry M's a few years ago and recall that it had a very unchunky neck too slim for my purposes. I can tell very quickly about the neck feels on mandolins and what will work for me or not. I also remember playing another respected luthier's mandolin that a friend had that also felt too unchunky for me.
    Jim

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  10. #10

    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    I agree that neck profile is a more important characteristic than the nut width in the usual parameters. a combination of wide and thick would be awful for me, but maybe fine for someone else. I think in having a mandolin made for you, specifying the neck profile is extremely important and one of the reasons to have one custom built, ie, get your favorite maker to make you your favorite playing configuration.

    Everything is a tradeoff, custom order means you don't get to play it first. Probably not a consideration with an Ellis, from the ones I've played
    Play it like you mean it.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    If only there was a way to spec out our desired neck profiles. I know in Fender electric guitars they talk about C-profiles and the likes but I would not know if that were to my liking unless I had an example in hand.

    That is why I suggested the OP talk directly to Tom Ellis about how to proceed and what he would recommend. I have a feeling that if I were to spend a wad of cash to commission my ultimate custom mandolin I might consider visiting the luthier to try out possible necks on existing instruments. The main mandolins I own and play all have good necks for my particular playing style. Maybe if I could not meet with the luthier in person I might send him one of my mandolins to copy for neck profile.

    At the moment, my 23 snakehead is fine, my Brentrup is a little bit chunkier but acceptable and my recently-acquired Campanella has a wonderfully comfortable neck for me.
    Last edited by Jim Garber; Jan-12-2020 at 2:30pm.
    Jim

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  12. #12

    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    Quote Originally Posted by Scotter View Post
    Hi Shaun,

    I believe that you and I are in the same Flinner class. I'm with Jim Garber in that thickness of the neck may have more to do with things than the width of the nut. Check out my comments on the "Brought home a Buckeye!" thread in the General Mandolin Discussion forum: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...home-a-Buckeye!
    Scotter - hi, yes in Matt's class(es). Thank you for this feedback. I'm going to stick with the wider nut. It'll be fine. Adaptation makes the species stronger, right? Recently I was at Fiddle Hell in Massachusetts talking with Baron Collins-Hill and he played my Girouard A5 (wide nut) and so I asked him how the neck compared to his Ellis and his take was "very similar." I'm lucky to live within a couple of hours of The Music Emporium so whenever local, I stop in. I've played a number of Ellis mandolins - and others there.

    Interestingly, I also have an Eastwood Mandocaster that I hot rodded a year or two ago. I don't play that nearly enough but this morning, I did pull it out to A/B it's skinny neck with my Girouard. Nothing astounding happened. Honestly, I think my experience - and anxiety - was a result of not being warmed up enough. And finally, I think it's important to consider how often I play those two chord shapes in those specific locations. So may other inversions options, right?

    Anyway, thanks to you for responding and to everyone else. Very much appreciated. See you in class.
    Girouard A5
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    Registered User Scotter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    Quote Originally Posted by shaundeane View Post
    Scotter - hi, yes in Matt's class(es). Thank you for this feedback. I'm going to stick with the wider nut. It'll be fine. Adaptation makes the species stronger, right?
    Well, technically, only through natural selection. Ouch!

    Quote Originally Posted by shaundeane View Post
    Recently I was at Fiddle Hell in Massachusetts talking with Baron Collins-Hill and he played my Girouard A5 (wide nut) and so I asked him how the neck compared to his Ellis and his take was "very similar." I'm lucky to live within a couple of hours of The Music Emporium so whenever local, I stop in. I've played a number of Ellis mandolins - and others there.

    Interestingly, I also have an Eastwood Mandocaster that I hot rodded a year or two ago. I don't play that nearly enough but this morning, I did pull it out to A/B it's skinny neck with my Girouard. Nothing astounding happened. Honestly, I think my experience - and anxiety - was a result of not being warmed up enough. And finally, I think it's important to consider how often I play those two chord shapes in those specific locations.
    As mentioned in the "Brought home a Buckeye!" thread, my fingers typically adapt to just about anything given enough time. But, this was a real learning experience for me. In my case, not only did the new wide fat neck result in an easier playing mandolin but one that was louder and sounded better all around. Playing mandolin tends to be one of my more musically intensive endeavors. Typically I love to sing when playing stringed instruments but I never thought I'd fiddle away hours at a time playing fiddle tunes on the mandolin without even the desire to sing a note. Heck, I even worked my way through Bach Celler Suite No. 1 by the number one sweet feller, Johnny Seb.

    Quote Originally Posted by shaundeane View Post
    So may other inversions options, right?
    Fo shizzle. It's funny in that I cut my teeth on mandolin learning guitar style alternating bass on mandolin long before I ever took a Flinner class. I love that he teaches that rather than chop chords in his fiddle tunes class. I often incorporate those bass line into crosspicking exercises that can sound more like guitar style Travis picking instead of the more typical Jesse McReynolds style banjo rolls.

    By the way, for alternating bass on an E-chord consider the following: x2xx x220 4xxx x220 x2xx x220 4xxx x220
    Thus, you grab the root on the second fret on the D string and then grab the fifth with the fourth fret of the G string. All you need is your index and middle finger to pull this off.

    Quote Originally Posted by shaundeane View Post
    Anyway, thanks to you for responding and to everyone else. Very much appreciated. See you in class.
    I'll be there with my purple shirt on.
    Play that which you feel is groovy, get down with your bad self, and shake your money maker if it makes sense for you to do so.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    If only there was a way to spec out our desired neck profiles..........
    I took my favorite neck profile (it helps to have a few to choose from), measured it for width at specific frets and used a profile guage to transfer those existing neck profiles to align with the fret measurements. Sent them off to Austin Clark and my 2 point has exactly the neck I wanted.

    But if you don’t have a pattern, I agree it’s difficult to specify.
    Play it like you mean it.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    I took my favorite neck profile (it helps to have a few to choose from), measured it for width at specific frets and used a profile guage to transfer those existing neck profiles to align with the fret measurements. Sent them off to Austin Clark and my 2 point has exactly the neck I wanted.

    But if you don’t have a pattern, I agree it’s difficult to specify.
    Ah, that is a great way to do it. And these contour gauges are not so expensive. Thanks a lot. I have been lucky that all the higher end modern mandolin family instruments I own existed before I bought them but if I was looking for another, that is the solution.
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    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    Folks worry about nut width a lot. Remember that some of the nut is sticking out each side. The important measurement is the outer-to-outer measurement of the strings. If needed, you can make a significant change in the way chording feels just by where you put the nut slots.

    Strings in each course can be closer together; Courses themselves can be moved closer or wider apart. This can have a significant effect on the feel of the fretting.
    So, within reason, the actual measurement of the width of the total nut may not be quite as important as many people imagine.

    If you don't like the feel, you may be able to fix it with a simple nut replacement & modification.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    I don't know Phil. I do notice certain extra-wide necks throw off my playing. Standard 1-1/8" and narrower necks are all right for me. The only mandolin I have with an extra-wide neck is my National RM-1 and it takes me a bit of time to adjust to that 1-1/4" width. I think I can deal with 1-3/16" OK but anything wider doesn't work that well. And I don't think narrowing the overall string width would help. Maybe it is just the feel of the neck working with how my fingers stop the strings. YMMV for others.
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    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    I prefer 1 1/4 +
    1 3/16ths is just too narrow for me for accurate finger placement.
    Anything less is unplayable.

    The profile, or thickness, of the neck has zip all to do with string spacing and the ability to place one's fingers so they do not collide with other strings.

  19. #19
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    Everyone does have their own preferences. Some prefer the wider necks and some don't. Whatever works for you is best for you but not be best for the next player. Sort of like life...
    Jim

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    Registered Muser dang's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    I have a Weber Bighorn that I custom ordered with 1 1/4 inch neck width, I love it for some things and it feels so good on my left hand after playing something smaller. That said since then I have custom ordered 2 collings MT2 mandos with 1 3/16 and I like them just fine.

    I had a collings Mt with 1 1/8 inch width and my left hand would cramp up a little after long gigs, like over an hour or two.

    I had a gibson A 9 that I loved the sound of but the little 1 inch width was a real killer for me...

    Definitely a personal preference situation, but I think you’ll be happy with 1 3/16”
    I should be pickin' rather than postin'

  21. #21
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width for new build - how important, really

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I don't know Phil. I do notice certain extra-wide necks throw off my playing. Standard 1-1/8" and narrower necks are all right for me. The only mandolin I have with an extra-wide neck is my National RM-1 and it takes me a bit of time to adjust to that 1-1/4" width. I think I can deal with 1-3/16" OK but anything wider doesn't work that well. And I don't think narrowing the overall string width would help. Maybe it is just the feel of the neck working with how my fingers stop the strings. YMMV for others.
    I certainly agree with you about the extremes, Jim.
    The nut changes I was describing, I'd limit to 1 1/16 to 1 3/16" nuts. 1 1/4" is way out of my universe!
    1 & 1/16" is usually my happy spot.

    Off topic, but I think a lot of the feel can be modified with changing shape of the neck itself to match what your fingers like. But that's for a different thread.
    Phil

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