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Compound Radius/mandolin fretted Basses/esp.Nordstrands...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Jim T., Mar 2, 2004.

  1. I've put a deposit down on a Carey Nordstrand bass.
    I'm trying to decide between mandolin or banjo frets.
    Has anyone who owns a compound radiused fretboard with mando frets, slapped successfully? Is tapping going to be weirder or easier on a compound fingerboard? Will mandolin frets be too small to tap/slap? I'm looking for a fast, low action fingerpicking style bass with smooth glissandos, principally, but want versatility too.

    Thanks! Jim
  2. dragonbass


    Feb 17, 2003
    ........................................EX-Sadowsky Guitars Builder..........................................................
    Well.......you went to the right man to get the job done!

    Carey's work is amazing (and wait till you see his fret work)

    I own a NJ4 Deluxe that has Mandolin frets on it and it is my main bass. I think it has a 15 degree radius but I don't know for sure. The neck was spec'd after a '60's jazz.

    I have had NO problem with slapping on it what so ever...(I'm not a big slap freak, but for the stuff I do it works)

    You will not be disappointed with the bass having Mandolin frets. It will be the fastest neck you ever played on, and Carey set's up the basses with some very low action.

    Congrats on the down payment!
  3. lyle

    lyle Guest

    Jan 10, 2004
    Vernon, B.C. Canada
    i played a dingwall with mandos and a dingwall with banjos, the mando is the closest you can get to a fretless with out loosing fretts, some notes even had a wow sound like a fretless. the banjo also played quite nice, i personaly would go with banjo
  4. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Brooklyn, NY
    Hey Jim! I would also go with the banjo frets. The problem with mandolin frets is that they'll have to be replaced much too quickly. I also like small frets but I want them to last. Bass strings would eat mando frets for dinner!

    Cheers Jim.
    Andy Dow.
  5. temp5897

    temp5897 Guest

    I would go with Banjo personally. The Mandolin frets are pretty darn small. I mean really small.
  6. Wow! Thanks for the quick responses guys! I'll guess I'll have to keep score and then decide! (I've got 10 months so lots of time to research and ask for experiences.)

    All of the things you've stated, Dragon...are what appeals to me. If Carey finds stainless mando frets eventually (in time for mine ;) I'd try them in a minute. I don't slap much at all but when I get better at it, I'd like some slap sound to be there...

    Hi Andy! I actually used to build banjo necks (about 25 yrs. ago and do inlay work) so I know them very well and I wouldn't have any trouble deciding on them...

    The appeal of the mando.s was that I also play fretless and would like as smooth a glissando as I can get on a fretted as well as the fastest neck I can play.

    I could always use my Fodera for slapping and use the Nordstrand (short scale) for everything else, I suppose, but I'd probably prefer a fretboard that'll do everything for me.

    Also, as Andy knows (we've corresponded quite a bit...) I'm looking at a short scale six stringer and want the best chance at good intonation I can get on a slightly floppy low B.)
    (See sidestepped physics thread in luthier's corner...for more info. on my "great experiment".) SO... the mandolin frets would maybe provide that even better than the banjo frets?

    What do you all think? I AM mostly concerned with a rapid fingerstyle/chord melody playing but... :rolleyes: I may use stainless strings too so anything less than a med. jumbo might not last very long!

    If anyone would care to give me their review of their Norstrand pickups and or pre. I'd love to hear about them. I'm entering this project with particular aftermarket pups and pre in mind but I'd like to consider Careys too. I'm going to use double coils with a single coil tap...)

    Please keep mandolin vs. banjo experiences coming if there are more folks out there. Anyone had mando.s last as long or nearly...as standard sized frets? Anyone ever used stainless mandolin or banjo frets?

    Is it possible, with careful fingering to NOT mwhah with mandolin frets? Wouldn't wann mwhah ALL the time! :p

    Thank you! Jim
  7. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    What if you get bell brass frets instead of SS? They are said to last much longer and sound very good on my bass. That way even SS strings will not chew it up so quickly

    As for the short scale and the floppiness of the B, did you consider fanned frets? I know they look strange and I'm afraid Carey doesnt make fanned fret necks, but ive heard good things about it so far...
  8. Hi mutantbassist,
    Thanks for your suggestions! Yes, I have thought of bell brass frets (I didn't think that they'd be harder than stainless though...?) as I've liked them on Warwicks and I've installed many a bell brass tone ring when I built banjos in the distant past.)

    Do you know of a source in banjo or mandolin fret sizes or at least vintage Fender sizes? Even if I find something, I'd have to see if Carey would be ammenable to installing them and/or have material for a refret down the road.

    I considered a fanned fretted neck, but 30" is as long as I want to try on this project and the even shorter G and C (and maybe high F strings would likely be very harsh sounding.)
  9. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Dunlop offers a few dozen sizes, and offers both traditional "nickel silver" (white brass) and yellow brass, although maybe not in all sizes. They have a website.
  10. Thanks Peter. I'm familiar with Dunlop but haven't gone to their site yet. I will go see what they have now. (Still looking for stainless mandolin frets-maybe...)

    Dragonbass, I didn't think to ask Carey on the phone and I'm trying not to bug him until we're actually building! Are you able to tell me what technique he uses for installing frets? Glued in with no fret tangs, oversized and glued slots, traditional hammered in/no glue, etc.?

    Have you done much chording with your mandolin frets?
    Is every interval in a chord clearly delineated/clear? Does a bit of wow/mwhah interfere at all?

    Are you seeing any undo wear from string bending, slapping?
    You haven't had yours long, I guess...

    Thanks again, Jim

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