Mandolin Wire?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Folmeister, Sep 11, 2004.

  1. Folmeister

    Folmeister Knowledge is Good - Emile Faber Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    Tomball, Texas
    I was just reading the Bass Player with the article on Leland Sklar. He mentioned that he had his fret wire replaced with mandolin wire. Interesting! Has anyone else done this?
  2. PunkerTrav


    Jul 18, 2001
    Canada & USA
    I heard somewhere that Lakland uses mandolin fret wire too. is this correct or am I way off?

  3. Rod B.

    Rod B.

    Jun 11, 2002
    Traditional mandolin fret wire is very short/small. So unlike the medium jumbo frets, your flesh would always be pressing into the fretboard/wood.

    The 55-94 I had did not have mandolin wire. It was more of the medium jumbo variety.
  4. LajoieT

    LajoieT I won't let your shadow be my shade...

    Oct 7, 2003
    Western Massachusetts
    Sheldon Dingwall has credited Leland with turning him on to smaller frets. He offers 2 sizes, Banjo is standard and Mandolin is optional. I know there are several Dingwall Users here that could weigh in on this.

  5. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Not normally...I was in the shop last summer and they showed me two sizes of fretwire, neither was anywhere near as small as mandolin wire.
  6. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    I've played a couple of basses with mandolin fretwire. I found the biggest difference is the strings can be brought closer to the fretboard=lower action.
  7. That's interesting... why would smaller fretwire give lower action? They would be closer to the fretboard, but same distance from the tops of the frets, right?
  8. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    IMO, it's a perceived lower action because the fingers don't have to press down as far to reach the fingerboard. But, I agree with you that the strings are still the same height off the frets.
  9. tiefling


    Aug 19, 2003
    Washington DC
    Are there any drawbacks? I'm planning a custom and I'm thinking about the mandolin frets. I've got a light touch and I see it as an advantage but I don't have any actual experience with them...

  10. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    Yes you can get action lower with the shorter frets. My bass has Banjo frets which are standard on Dingwall's as mentioned above. They impart a more woody tone (some may disagree on this), and slides feel almost like a fretless. You dont notice the frets under your fingers nearly as much as normal sized medium jumbo frets. Mandolin frets are even more woody and less noticable under the fingers of course.

    The frets hold up very well to wear. Unless you play really hard and dig into the frets more than the average joe, you shouldnt have to replace them any more often than normal sized frets. If you are an agressive player and dig in hard, they may wear a little faster.
  11. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    I'm interested in this. Anyone else have additional comments?
  12. cfraz


    Mar 28, 2004
    My Afterburner I has much-smaller-than-jumbo frets than I had been used to. As others have said, Dingwall states they are banjo size. They are quite comfortable to play.

    I realize that I'm using less force to fret a note than I used to, and don't catch myself using an "iron grip" on the neck as often. Part of that may be the ergonomics of the fanned frets, but the fact that the fretted string is closer to the fingerboard seems to make a significant difference in how "easy" the playing feel is.

    I'll no doubt need a refret sooner than I would with jumbo frets, but that's still likely years off.
  13. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    I haven't tried the Mando frets, but since Dingwall owners are sounding off...I do like the banjo frets an awful lot. Their low profile does make the strings closer to the neck, which in my world equates to better action (I believe we've argued the definition of action in reference to neck or fret before on the same topic).

    With larger frets, you're making more contact with the fret, while with the thinner banjo or smaller frets you've got less metal under your finger so you may preceive more fretboard tone. This is made more complex by the fact that since Dingwall frets are fanned, you're making more contact 'across' the fret at an angle than you would with a perpendicularly fretted bass (depending upon where you're playing)...but I'm pretty sure that in most playing areas of the neck you're still getting less fret beneath the string.

    Supposedly as well, because the frets are narrower, as the do wear your intonation should remain more precise. With those big jumbo frets as the fret wears flat, the 'witness point' moves forward, making your notes sharp.

    Those little frets CAN be a little unforgiving if you've got sloppy technique though!
  14. martens-koop


    Oct 10, 2002
    I haven't played too many basses with the Mandolin wire... for some reason, people seem scared of the idea... maybe it should be marketed by individual builders as fret size 1 2 or 3... I think people hear the word mandolin and think that something deep and rich like a bass should not have the word mandolin associated with it.

    the bass I play right now has the banjo size frets and they are nice, but I borrowed a co-workers Z2 for the weekend once and he had the mandolin frets. the difference was astounding. I could hear a "more woody, deep resonant tone" that was very clear... I am quite convinced that what I was hearing was not just a placebo effect. the frets also felt awesome. they encouraged a light delicate touch from me which is awesom, because one of my main problems is playing too aggressive. the feel of playing those frets was akin to playing a fretless, perhaps because there is such a smaller portion of metal touching the egde of your hand as you slide up and down the neck...

    The action was low low low, but I think that the space between the string and fret must have been no different than a low low low setup on a conventional fret instrument... however, you could definately feel that the strings were closer to the fingerboard...

    just my $1.25

    jeff m-k
  15. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY

    Interesting...I've been talking to Barry and Sheldon about building me a Z1, and while one of the options I hadn't really thought about the mandolin wire. I find my gut reaction to be a little leary of it, but maybe I should reconsider. My right hand action was pretty heavy in the past, but I've been working steadily on improving my technique for the past 8 months or so and I now have a medium left hand technique.

    *Sigh* Just another option to add to the list of stuff I've been working on!
  16. PhatBasstard

    PhatBasstard Spector Dissector Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2002
    Las Vegas, NV.
    Laklands do use smaller fret wire, but I don't think it's as small as Mandolin. Probably Banjo.

    I believe Will Lee has Mandolin frets in all his Sadowskys.
  17. martens-koop


    Oct 10, 2002
    another thing that people also seem leery about is the idea of a smaller fret wearing faster... I can't think of any way to counter this other than to say "faster than what?"

    how often do most people get refret jobs done? Maybe I'm out to lunch, but I'd guess that your average player (like me) will never get a refret job done... maybe pro's who play like crazy and make a living by playing bass and do it often might get a refret done from time to time but someone like me? On my up and coming Prima Artist I intend to get those mandolin frets, and I am expecting that I will never have to get a refret done, unless I want to pass the instrument on to my grandkids... -but thats unlikely, as I plan to be buried with it!

    have fun with whatever frets you plan to use...

  18. I would think that having that contact with your fingers and the fretboard, WOULD give you a woodier tone...closer to a fretless tone, but not quite.

    I can also see how this could encourage a lighter touch, although, a light touch can be developed on ANY well setup instrument, IMO.

    I'm also thinking, that like a fretless...a bass with small frets would have to have more exacting setup requirements...

    I'd love to try one out...would someone get ahold of Leland Sklar and have him send one of his basses over here to Australia for a test ride? Thanks :)
  19. Sheldon D.

    Sheldon D.

    Oct 3, 2001
  20. This thread is nearly a year old. Any new comments?

    I'm planning on having a custom bass done and would like to have it made with the Mandolin frets. I love the sound of my fretless, but sometimes it can be a bit "taxing" to pay THAT much attention to where my finger is pressing down. I'm seeing the Mandolin fret wire as a logical conclusion to what i desire.