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Why would you want Mandolin frets on your bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by DaveCustomMade, Mar 24, 2005.


  1. I have a question concerning fret sizes. I am going to have a bass built for me soon. The question is, what would be the reason to put mandolin frets on the bass rather than regular frets? Do the mandolin frets make it "quicker", less fret buzz, etc? What is the difference?

    Thanks!
     
  2. I can't completely answer your question, but I remember having two different Warwicks- one w/larger(or so it seemed)fretwire than the other. I liked the smaller frets better, & I had my Stambaugh made w/small frets. It feels'quicker' to me, but I'm nuts.
     
  3. Apparently, Leland Sklar uses Mandolin wire for at least one of his basses. It makes the bass have an almost fretless feel about it, as Mandolin wire is thinner and smaller.
     
  4. seansbrew

    seansbrew Supporting Member

    Oct 23, 2000
    Mesa AZ.
    I have played an instrument with mandolin wire and didnt like it at all. If you have a smaller contact area and are using round wound strings you get all this buzzing. Maybe you would have to use flats for that smooth sound, anyway, this bass didnt have flats so I dont know.
     
  5. Juneau

    Juneau

    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    Most Dingwalls use Banjo wire, which is rather small, but not as small as Mando wire. Mando wire is used on request. I personally have not played one with Mando wire, but I really do prefer the banjo wire to regular frets for sure. Frank pretty much answered the reasons, it allows for lower action, faster playability, makes slides really comfortable, and if you use a light touch on your fretting hand, you can almost achieve a fretless-like sound.
     
  6. Does it require your setup [straightness of the neck] to be even more precise?

    Hmmm, . . . .maybe Banjo frets would be better than the Mandolin frets then. The luthier gave a $50 or so upcharge for mandolin frets because they bend easier.
     
  7. Juneau

    Juneau

    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    You'll likely want a little less relief than a bass with bigger frets, but thats about it. It doesnt turn a simple thing into rocket science or anything, just some minor adjustments. Id recomend the Banjo as a nice in between. Banjo wire is only slightly smaller than say vintage frets, which are also way smaller than jumbo fret wire for example.
     
  8. Halftooth

    Halftooth Supporting Member

    Nov 24, 2002
    Tri-Valley, NorCal
    I think the main reason one would opt for Mandolin wire would be to try and obtain a fretless sound. I had a Nordstrand with Mandolin wire and if you EQed right, you could get close to a fretless tone. As far as being able to set the action lower, I don't think it's really that measurable of a difference unless you are maybe comparing it with jumbo wire on the other extreme.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher

    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    I find big frets great for tapping. They feel like speed bumps though, if you're doing a lot of position shifts and glisses.
     
  10. Juneau

    Juneau

    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
  11. tplyons

    tplyons

    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Doesn't mando/banjo wire provide for more accurate intonation as well?
     
  12. Juneau

    Juneau

    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    It would seem so, and it can, but it depends. This is also why people crown their frets and stuff, same idea, but you can crown big wire and get the same effect without the same feel if that makes sense.
     
  13. seansbrew

    seansbrew Supporting Member

    Oct 23, 2000
    Mesa AZ.
    I guess saying that the frets buzzed made it sound like it had a bad set up. This bass required some clean technique to avoid the buzzing sound ( which was on every single fret). As you are presing down on the string and you are just at the point when the string is just about to touch the fret, it seemed to buzz more than I am used too with other basses(not sure If I'm making sense).I mean this will happen with any bass if your technique is poor, but this one seemed really touchy and required cleaner playing than I could muster.
     
  14. malthumb

    malthumb

    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    I have two basses with mandolin frets. My 4 string Alembic came to me with mandolin frets. It is the "cleanest" sounding bass I've ever heard. It's hard for me to describe what that means. It just seems to resonate notes more clearly. The fingering seems to feel more natural.

    Up until the time that I acquired it, I didn't even know what mandolin frets were. Then I was told that jumbo frets were much better for slapping than mandolin frets, but I didn't find that to be the case when I compare the slap tone of my various basses. I liked the feel and tone of the Alembic with mandolin frets enough that when I ordered my Marchlewski, I specified mandolin frets.

    I do like the way that it sounds and feels, but the clarity and resonance I experience with the Alembic hasn't carried over to the Marchlewski. That's not to say that it's a bad thing, or that the Marchlewski is disappointing in any way. It's a great bass. Just that the clarity of the Alembic's tone may not have had as much to do with the size of the fretwire as I thought it did.

    Bottom line....Two of five basses have mandolin fretwire. Both sound excellent and are very easy to play. No buzzing issues with either. I think it just comes down to a question of choice.

    Peace,

    James