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Thread: 1st fret playability on your mando?

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    Default 1st fret playability on your mando?

    Does playing the first fret on the A and E strings, like when playing something in B flat, always require extra pressure, or is the noticeable force required when I do on mine something that could be ameliorated by improving something about the setup? My nut height is good, and action is okay otherwise. I’m learning President Garfield’s Hornpipe in B flat, and trying to keep the first fret fingered to get a clean tone seems to be a little on the tough side.

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    Default Re: 1st fret playability on your mando?

    pretty even on mine

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    Registered User Cobalt's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1st fret playability on your mando?

    Sounds to me as though the nut height is not as good as it might be. But adjustments need to be done with care, easy to go too low which then requires more effort to correct.

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    Registered User Buck's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1st fret playability on your mando?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian B View Post
    ...My nut height is good...
    How do you know that the nut height is good? The nut slots are more commonly too high than actually correct. If it's hard to play in the first position, especially at the first fret, the nut is the most likely culprit.

    Check this link from Frank Ford at frets.com.

    http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Musi...nutaction.html
    Todd Yates

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    Default Re: 1st fret playability on your mando?

    Using Rob Meldrum's set-up manual - he calls for an ideal E and A string height of .011 at the first fret. Of course, the rest of the setup is just as vital, but you shouldn't need to press any harder at the first than anywhere else. Fretting the first fret should feel the same as fretting the second fret with the first fret pressed down. Just ease into any filing very slow as you get close.

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    Default Re: 1st fret playability on your mando?

    http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Musi...nutaction.html

    I like Mr. Ford’s method of assessing height. Measuring and marking your nut prior to beginning filing is a good idea so that you don’t go too low, but this method is quick and easy to check your height. Most mandolins, especially imports, come with their action a little high (which is much easier to fix than if it’s too low). As others have stated, it shouldn’t be much harder to fret at the nut than anywhere else on the fretboard.
    Chuck

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    Default Re: 1st fret playability on your mando?

    Apart from custom built jobbies, the nut has been too high every new mandolin I’ve ever bought. The excuse is that it’s easier to take some off than to put some back. Unfortunately, the “set-up” in many shops s confined to getting the bridge in roughly the right position and adjusting it’s height so that the strings don’t rattle.

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    Mandolin Player trodgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1st fret playability on your mando?

    This is a place where fingering technique can make a difference too. At those 1 and 2 frets, I really try to put the finger as close (or a little on) the fret. Further up the fretboard, it doesn't matter as much, but those low ones do seem be harder if you aren't right there on the fingering.
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    Default Re: 1st fret playability on your mando?

    Just came back from a refret/fingerboard leveling , 1st one in its 98 years .. so it's perfect.
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    Default Re: 1st fret playability on your mando?

    I measured height if string above first fret some time ago. I don’t remember the number now, but it was what was referenced as proper when I researched it.

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    Default Re: 1st fret playability on your mando?

    Push the string down between the second and third fret, hold it down and look at the space between the string and first fret. If it is easy to see your nut is set too high. I like it to just touch. For reference fret the string on the first fret and look at the space above the second fret. Since the string vibrates less at the first fret that space can be slightly less. If your first fret spacing to the string is more than when you fret the first and look at the second, again nut too high. Hope all this makes sense.
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    Default Re: 1st fret playability on your mando?

    Quote Originally Posted by trodgers View Post
    This is a place where fingering technique can make a difference too. At those 1 and 2 frets, I really try to put the finger as close (or a little on) the fret. Further up the fretboard, it doesn't matter as much, but those low ones do seem be harder if you aren't right there on the fingering.
    I have found this too—the instrument is just pickier about finger placement at the first fret.

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    '`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`' Jacob's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1st fret playability on your mando?

    Have encountered this phenomenon to varying degrees on most of my mandolin family instruments, with the pleasing exceptions of my Fylde mandolas and Giannini bandolim. Their zero fret totally eliminates first fret individuality. Have no idea how well the Zero Glide Slotted Replacement Nut for Mandolins might work, but it looks like an interesting concept.

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    Default Re: 1st fret playability on your mando?

    A lot of zero frets use a larger fret for the zero fret. I think it makes the height above the first fret too high. I usually change them to the same as the frets in the instrument.
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    Default Re: 1st fret playability on your mando?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jacob View Post
    Have encountered this phenomenon to varying degrees on most of my mandolin family instruments, with the pleasing exceptions of my Fylde mandolas and Giannini bandolim. Their zero fret totally eliminates first fret individuality. Have no idea how well the Zero Glide Slotted Replacement Nut for Mandolins might work, but it looks like an interesting concept.
    It's a near useless product IMO. The primary advantage of a true zero fret is that it can be leveled and finished with the rest of the frets, ensuring that the open string height is correct. The ZeroGlide allows you choose from two or three specially modified frets that may or may not be the same as your fret height. Of course, that could be modified, but if you have the skill to do that, you could just as easily make a proper nut.
    Todd Yates

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    Default Re: 1st fret playability on your mando?

    I'm with Pops. That's the method I use also.

    Nut height is critical.

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    Default Re: 1st fret playability on your mando?

    Once you have confirmed that your mandolin is set up correctly, I would look at technique.

    I myself have a hard time keeping my thumb in the right place, and how I detect this is that at this or that fret it seems to require more pressure to get the note. Its not (in my case) the instrument, it always seems that its where the heck my thumb has wandered to. My mandolin coach caught this problem in my technique and I pay it close attention. Thumb should be up on the top edge of the neck, just across from where the index finger is or would be deployed. My thumb often takes an unannounced bus trip to Schenectady or runs home when I go up the neck, and the way I find out is that I have to push harder.

    I don't, of course, know your playing, but it is worth keeping an eye out. I have found very often that what the problem is has nothing to do with what the problem is.
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  26. #18

    Default Re: 1st fret playability on your mando?

    I've lost count of the number of times that I thought the slots had been lowered enough only to find that they could be lowered further. I just use a fairly thick kitchen knife, slip the blade across the first fret.i.e. the space between the nut and the first piece of fret wire (people always talk about the fret wire being the fret. I believe the space in between the metal fret wires is actually the fret and not the fret wire itself) and that way I know I won't go too low. I tend to use it for all strings and it works.

    Having said that, if a luthier is nearby and you have a high end instrument, then probably better to take it there.

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