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Thread: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

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    Default Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    Wondering if anyone can recommend a type of mandolin that has a narrower and/or less chunky neck for a petite woman with small hands who has trouble with the 7 fret stretches. I’m playing a Weber right now. Appreciate any thoughts or ideas. Thanks!

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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    I have fairly large hands and I have trouble thinking of a fingerboard as "chunky." You probably won't do much better. Although they may be out there, I've never seen a mandolin with less than 1 1/16" width at the nut. Some of the luthiers or dealers here might be of some help but the Weber is a pretty decent mandolin.
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    Registered User robert.najlis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    I have played mandolins with 1” and 1 1/16” nut width. A narrower nut width can make a big difference and can be very helpful, but a good setup is very important, especially in the sense of string spacing on a 1” nut width.
    Also, as the shape of the neck can also play a very important role.

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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    Most mandolins are built with the standard Gibson 13-7/8” scale fretboard. One nice exception would be the basic Martin A Model which has a 13” scale. This model was discontinued a long while ago but fortunately there are many available on the used market and at beginner level prices too. Reaching the seventh fret will still take some practice but the shorter reach should help. Most bowl-back mandolins have a short scale as well so there is another option.

    It should be said that the Martin is a high quality flat-top instrument and, while not as powerful sounding as your carved-top Weber, it has what I would describe as a very sweet tone.

    Let us know how your search goes.

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    Last edited by MarkELynch; Jun-14-2020 at 10:46pm.
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    Registered User Isaac Revard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    You know, what comes to mind is the Weber Sopranolin. Maybe an instrument like this may help...if you can locate one. 1 1/8in nut.

    https://themandolinstore.com/product...dolin-mandola/

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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    Quote Originally Posted by Blue.songbird@yahoo.com View Post
    Wondering if anyone can recommend a type of mandolin that has a narrower and/or less chunky neck for a petite woman with small hands who has trouble with the 7 fret stretches. I’m playing a Weber right now. Appreciate any thoughts or ideas. Thanks!
    I have very small hands also but am not very petite. I too have trouble with some stretches, I agree that neck shape can make a difference. I own a Weber, I don't find them particularly chunky, but if you can find a store with a variety of mandolins to try (how far are you from Nashville and The Mandolin Store? NFI) you might find one that feels less chunky to you. I also have a Pava and Collings, they all have slightly different neck shapes. I think some stretches are just harder than others.

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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    Two words come to mind: Sierra Hull. She has mall hands and started on a Weber, or else it was her main mandolin as a teen. Now plays Mandolin, octave mandolin and guitar. Necks do make a difference, but I'd check your set up and consider lighter gauge strings or silk & steel while you develop those stretches and strength in you pinkie.

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    formerly Philphool Phil Goodson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    Northfield model M has the nicest little neck I've ever found. Talk to them about their other necks.
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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    For size and shape I like the neck on my 90' Gibson A5L. See if you can find one somewhere give it a play. The Northfield M model is also a good suggestion. Lastly a Kentucky KM 508 is similar in the neck shape to the Gibson A5L. Good luck in your hunt. R/
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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    Quote Originally Posted by Blue.songbird@yahoo.com View Post
    Wondering if anyone can recommend a type of mandolin that has a narrower and/or less chunky neck for a petite woman with small hands who has trouble with the 7 fret stretches. I’m playing a Weber right now. Appreciate any thoughts or ideas. Thanks!
    Thanks everyone for the great insights! I'm getting better at the stretches...G chop is the main problem, and I have a little trouble getting that nice authoritative sounding mandolin bark on it. I'll keep working on it!

    I had wondered about Collings and Northfield, because I read that their nut measurement was slightly narrower than the Weber, and speaking of which, I do love the Weber for sure!

    Neck shape and scale length weren't things I had thought much about, so I'll pay attention to that as well.

    I've been wanting to get to a good mando shop and try some different ones out, one of these days after Covid loosens it's grip, I will! Now I know more about how to focus my search. Thank you all again, and I look forward to hearing any other ideas folks have!

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    Registered User J Mangio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    Is budget a concern? I believe Eastman may work for you?
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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    You can do a nice G chop using the G string fretted at the 4th fret, the D string at the 5th, the A string at the second and let your finger mute the E. I prefer this to fretting the G at the 7th.
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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    You can get away with a two string chop (G and D) at most jams. More often than not, nobody notices. Mostly, I do three strings but if the tendinitis acts up I drop back to two strings. It’s pretty transparent.

    I have smaller hands. I play a Weber A style Yellowstone which does have its challenges.

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    Question Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    Gibson's A 40, A 50 and the EM150 share a slender neck shape.. if that's a requirement..

    no offering on the 7 fret pinky stretch ,, a 13" scale for that ?,
    Martin did your 'violin scale' fingerboards..

    Piccolo mandolin would even shorter scale & an Octave higher than a viola ; CGDA..

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    Registered User Chris Bowsman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    Mandolins are pretty tiny in general. Plenty of small-handed people play guitar and bass, so I bet most anything will be fine.
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    Registered User Eldon Dennis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    I highly recommend pops1's suggestion. When I first started I was shown this finger pattern. It helped me participate in jams until I developed better control of my pinky, etc. Now that I'm several years older it is again very helpful as arthritis is becoming an issue. In addition to the G and D string positions I include the B note on the A string and let the "fat" of my hand mute the E string.
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    Mandogenerator Mike Black's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    A few years ago I designed and made a mandolin for a woman in Ashville, North Carolina who has small hands. I designed the mandolin with a shorter scale length of 13-3/32” vs. the standard 13-7/8" scale length, with a one inch nut width. But it still looks full size and has a full sound. And she loves it. It’s a mandolin that I’ve been thinking about regularly offering for people with smaller hands, but just really haven’t done so yet. This post has reminded me that I need to get on that and make it available, so I did just that. http://blackmandolins.com/short-scale-mandolin.html

    Thanks for the reminder!

    So I just wanted to let you know that a custom order is an option, even if it’s not from me.

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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    Here is something to try before you spend money on a new instrument.

    I "discovered" that the distance from my thumb to my pinky is not as long as the distance from my pinky to my thumb. I am dead serious. If I place my pinky first I can reach farther with my thumb than if I place my thumb, and reach with my pinky. It is not a little bit either, I can gain somewhere between a quarter and a half inch, depending.

    My meager understanding is that the spaces between fingers get assigned differently with the different acts.

    So, take the G chop chord. Try placing the pinky first and work backwards to the index finger and then the thumb and hand. You might just find you can do it much easier, and with practice you can do it regularly.

    Give it a try at least.
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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    Secondly, despite what you may have heard, learning the G chop chord is not an essential achievement in mandolinning. It is not particularly pretty sounding chord IMO. Of all the ways of fingering a G chord, the big bluegrass chop chord is way down there in how delightful and happy a G chord can sound.

    In fact I don't usually prefer to play a four finger chord. I freed myself from the tyranny of thinking I had to cover every string to play a chord. Three finger chord configurations (and by this I mean that the you don't strum the open string, its not part of the chord) are really versatile, can be moved not only up and down the neck but also side to side across the neck - so you get more chords per configuration, and you can if need be chop with them. You have to avoid the open string on the top or bottom, but that is not terribly hard.

    OK call it a cheat if you want. But after many a lovely jam nobody has ever ever called me out and said, "you missed a note on that chop". The increased versatility more than made up for the extra note.

    I sometimes do two finger chords, more properly called a double stop, where I ignore the top or bottom two courses. Look, in a jam or ensemble, I am not responsible for every dang note in the chord. Some guitar will be playing that note or notes, and nobody, seriously nobody, will notice.
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    Registered User cartershilts's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    My Northfield Model M has an extremely narrow neck and a 5.7" radius at the nut (almost approaching the feel of a violin neck). Honestly, this may even be a bit excessive and it definitely took me a while to get used to, but if you're looking with something with a very narrow neck that would certainly be an option!

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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Black View Post
    A few years ago I designed and made a mandolin for a woman in Ashville, North Carolina who has small hands. I designed the mandolin with a shorter scale length of 13-3/32” vs. the standard 13-7/8" scale length, with a one inch nut width. But it still looks full size and has a full sound. And she loves it.
    Mike Black
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    I think this is a great way to go. The "standard" Gibson scale length is not a universal standard, after all, other than for Gibson-style instruments. I taught a lesson to a woman with small hands, not too long ago -- she came in one day with a Martin Style A, scale length 13-1/4" or thereabouts. She was immediately able to play more comfortably and successfully. These days we're in remind me of a few decades ago, when you'd go into a guitar store, and the only shape of guitar available was a big-bodied dreadnought -- unless you got lucky enough to find an old Martin parlor guitar, or similar. People with short arms had few alternatives, since nearly all the new, widely-available guitars were dreadnought-shaped, at least until you got into upper price ranges. Similar situation now, with "standard" mandolin scale length -- there's no reason a mandolin can't be shorter, and in fact that has other advantages -- such as lowering the string tension for ease of play, plus making chord shapes more reachable down low.
    Last edited by August Watters; Jun-18-2020 at 2:32pm.
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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    I do not have small hands, but I noticed when I purchased my Big Muddy mandolin
    he offers "violin scale" 13 inch scale length on a standard mandolin for people with
    small hands. I like the tone of the Big Muddy. It rings like a good guitar.


    Thanks,
    sounds_good

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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    pops1 and JeffD’s points about alternative options for the G chop (and other chop chords) should be taken to heart; give it a shot and see how it goes. But, I also agree that a shorter scale can make a big difference. My daughter is not Sierra Hull tiny, but chose our Martin Style A with a 13 inch scale to take with her when she left for law school. It’s a little sweeter/quieter than my arch tops, which is nice for apartment living, but she also commented that “It’s the easiest one to play.” String tension is less, and the stretches aren’t as long. On mandolin, I’m good with “standard” scale lengths and 4 finger chop chords, but on OM I notice a huge difference in 20 inch vs 22.5 or longer scale lengths, so I get why she made that choice...

    Good luck in your search!
    Chuck

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    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Bowsman View Post
    Mandolins are pretty tiny in general. Plenty of small-handed people play guitar and bass, so I bet most anything will be fine.
    Yup. I know plenty of small women who play the double bass with a 42" scale length and they have no problems....

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    Registered User Elliot Luber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good mandolin choice for woman with small hands

    I have relatively small hands and play an Eastman mandolin with no issues. If your hands are really tiny, you might consider a violin-scale 13-inch mandolin which will have smaller stretches between notes of a chord. A soprano mandolin might be overkill, depending on size but I would try a few mandolins out if possible.
    Last edited by Elliot Luber; Jun-22-2020 at 2:49pm. Reason: small change
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