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Thread: No need to narrow guitar neck when converting it into 8-stringer

  1. #1

    Default No need to narrow guitar neck when converting it into 8-stringer

    Having converted several over the decades, I've never seen the need to whittle down the guitar neck narrower so it'd be octave-mandolin or bouzouki width. I just maintain "normal" om/zouki string spacing & send em on down the wide runway.

    Consider those who play the five course cittern --- when they play in keys using the thickest four string courses, there's never any complaint about the 2nd thinnest course being too far from the neck's edge.

    Removing width from the guitar's neck weakens it. With the truss-rod & it's channel, there's usually not a whole lot of wood that can be safely removed.

    Granted, having 1/4" of real-estate between the thinnest string & the fingerboard edge does take a bit of getting used to be to - like maybe ten or fifteen minutes.

    Enough noise. Best wishes all.

    Dennis Havlena
    Mackinac Straits, northern Michigan
    dhavlena@gmail.com
    http://DennisHavlena.com (several dozen DIY instrument)
    http://DennisHavlena.com/b-from-g.jpg (my recent conversion)
    Last edited by dhavlena; Jul-23-2015 at 11:24pm.

  2. #2
    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: No need to narrow guitar neck when converting it into 8-strin

    Quote Originally Posted by dhavlena View Post
    Having converted several over the decades, I've never seen the need to whittle down the guitar neck narrower so it'd be octave-mandolin or bouzouki width. I just maintain "normal" om/zouki string spacing & send em on down the wide runway.

    Consider those who play the five course cittern --- when they play in keys using the thickest four string courses, there's never any complaint about the 2nd thinnest course being too far from the neck's edge.

    Removing width from the guitar's neck weakens it. With the truss-rod & it's channel, there's usually not a whole lot of wood that can be safely removed.

    Granted, having 1/4" of real-estate between the thinnest string & the fingerboard edge does take a bit of getting used to be to - like maybe ten or fifteen minutes.

    Enough noise. Best wishes all.

    Dennis Havlena
    Mackinac Straits, northern Michigan
    dhavlena@gmail.com
    http://DennisHavlena.com (several dozen DIY instrument)
    http://DennisHavlena.com/b-from-g.jpg (my recent conversion)


    Welcome to the Mandolin Cafe!

    Well there are many ways to do most things. Over a 4 year period have converted four guitars to mandocellos.

    On the first two I did as you suggest and fiddled with making nuts to explore ways of spreading the 4 courses out over the relatively wide guitar neck/fret board.

    But on the second two conversions I replace the guitar fret board with a new mandocello fret board (using a Gibson K-1 as guidance) and then slimmed the neck to match it.

    These two newer mandocellos were huge improvement in playability over the first two instruments. Especially significant I find that the narrower board facilitates making a various kinds of bar chords for example. Likewise the stretches are easier IMO.

    As a result I went back and made new fret board for the fist two conversions and again noticed a big improvement in playability with the more compact fret board arrangement.

    I think your are fight in suggesting that a player can adapt to almost any fret board but is isn't it better to have the ideal arrangement and be able to put your energy in to playing -- not matter how long you play the extra effort you have to put into the fingering the wider fret board is a drag on your ability I would think?

    Question have you ever tried a mandocello with a guitar neck to one with a "proper" (as per the standard set by Gibson) fret board?

    You certainly have an awesome web site -- lots of cool stuff and days or reading there!! Love that "guitello" !! LOL sounds pretty good.
    Bernie
    ____
    Due to current budgetary restrictions the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off -- sorry about the inconvenience.

  3. #3

    Default Re: No need to narrow guitar neck when converting it into 8-strin

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie Daniel View Post
    Welcome to the Mandolin Cafe!

    Well there are many ways to do most things. Over a 4 year period have converted four guitars to mandocellos.

    On the first two I did as you suggest and fiddled with making nuts to explore ways of spreading the 4 courses out over the relatively wide guitar neck/fret board.

    But on the second two conversions I replace the guitar fret board with a new mandocello fret board (using a Gibson K-1 as guidance) and then slimmed the neck to match it.

    These two newer mandocellos were huge improvement in playability over the first two instruments. Especially significant I find that the narrower board facilitates making a various kinds of bar chords for example. Likewise the stretches are easier IMO.

    As a result I went back and made new fret board for the fist two conversions and again noticed a big improvement in playability with the more compact fret board arrangement.

    I think your are fight in suggesting that a player can adapt to almost any fret board but is isn't it better to have the ideal arrangement and be able to put your energy in to playing -- not matter how long you play the extra effort you have to put into the fingering the wider fret board is a drag on your ability I would think?

    Question have you ever tried a mandocello with a guitar neck to one with a "proper" (as per the standard set by Gibson) fret board?

    You certainly have an awesome web site -- lots of cool stuff and days or reading there!! Love that "guitello" !! LOL sounds pretty good.

    Hi Bernie & Eddie. Thanks for your comments. Not sure if I have the proper reply format- don't get on forums very often. Appologies if I goof something up.
    My webpage has been online about 20 years & has been a lot of fun. Poor(er) in my early years, I never could afford the instruments I wanted to play - thus my "other way to skin a cat" approach concerning instruments. Fine site you all've got going here! Keep up the good work.
    Dennis.
    http://DennisHavlena.com

  4. #4
    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: No need to narrow guitar neck when converting it into 8-strin

    Fascinating website, Dennis! As Bernie says, loads of reading and thinking to be got from it.
    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

    http://www.youtube.com/user/TheOldBores

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    Registered User NotMelloCello's Avatar
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    Default Re: No need to narrow guitar neck when converting it into 8-strin

    A slimmer neck is a must.
    I just don't buy it. Some folks prefer wider necks. My arthritis limits me on little skinny necks, wider necks work for me. And I know I'm not alone. I DO NOT understand why members keep insisting that ONLY their preferences must be adhered to. This is a BIG WORLD folks, and it would be boring if we were all alike.

    Go with what you like, but don't insist on the world fitting into your tiny little mold.
    The difference between death and taxes is that death does not grow worse every time Congress convenes. - Will Rogers

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  7. #6
    Registered User NotMelloCello's Avatar
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    Default Re: No need to narrow guitar neck when converting it into 8-strin

    "I'll throw in my 2c since I've played both types..." Self-explanatory really. You however are true to form with a typical post... you're back on my IGNORE list... NUTELLA!
    Eddie, you just proved my point about small minds...
    The difference between death and taxes is that death does not grow worse every time Congress convenes. - Will Rogers

  8. #7

    Default Re: No need to narrow guitar neck when converting it into 8-strin

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kelly View Post
    Fascinating website, Dennis! As Bernie says, loads of reading and thinking to be got from it.
    Much appreciated John. Been my hobby for half a century.
    Only problem is that I'm spread quite thin -- jack of many musical
    instruments but master of none -- decidedly fun though.
    Best wishes from the north of Muchigan where it's been uncommonly hot
    and humid - all fans still going now at 2:33 AM!

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    Butcherer of Songs Rob Zamites's Avatar
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    Default Re: No need to narrow guitar neck when converting it into 8-strin

    And greetings from another Mitten dweller! What a summer so far, ugh! Love the website!
    =============================
    Apollonio Acousto-electric bouzouki (in shop)
    Mixter 10 string mandola (still waiting 2+ yrs)
    Unknown brand Mandocaster (on the way!)
    =============================
    "Doubt begins only at the last frontiers of what is possible." -- Ambrose Bierce

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    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: No need to narrow guitar neck when converting it into 8-strin

    Quote Originally Posted by NotMelloCello View Post
    .....Some folks prefer wider necks. My arthritis limits me on little skinny necks, wider necks work for me. And I know I'm not alone. I DO NOT understand why members keep insisting that ONLY their preferences must be adhered to. This is a BIG WORLD folks, and it would be boring if we were all alike...
    I agree with that for mandolins I find the wider neck is easier on arthritic hands (large fingers are part the reason too).

    But on mandocello the wider fret board just means you have to cover more square inches of the board for every chord formation and stretch farther for each note so I don't understand why that is easier on the hands. It sure isn't for mine. But whatever works for you.
    Bernie
    ____
    Due to current budgetary restrictions the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off -- sorry about the inconvenience.

  11. #10

    Default Re: No need to narrow guitar neck when converting it into 8-strin

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Zamites View Post
    And greetings from another Mitten dweller! What a summer so far, ugh! Love the website!
    SMe to you Rob! I live up just south of the Mackinac Bridge. Don't see many CBOM type instruments up here. Thanks for your comment about my website. Dennis

  12. #11
    totally amateur k0k0peli's Avatar
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    Default Re: No need to narrow guitar neck when converting it into 8-strin

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie Daniel View Post
    I agree with that for mandolins I find the wider neck is easier on arthritic hands (large fingers are part the reason too).

    But on mandocello the wider fret board just means you have to cover more square inches of the board for every chord formation and stretch farther for each note so I don't understand why that is easier on the hands. It sure isn't for mine. But whatever works for you.
    Our hands vary as do our preferences. I prefer a (narrow) jazz-neck guitar (although I don't have one now). I prefer slightly wider mando necks -- my 32mm (at the nut) Coleman plays easier than those with 27-29mm necks and the soprano 'ukes (35mm) I've strung in 5ths are even easier, without stretching too far for chords. But my 19-inch-scale mandola and the 21-inch-scale Cumbus I restrung in 5ths (both 41mm at the nut) are a bit much for chording, as are the Ovation 12-string guitar and the 10-string Puerto Rican cuatro (both 47mm). My 6-string guitars are all 42-43mm. Optimum width for an 8-stringer for me might be just under 40mm. I guess I should take calipers with me when I go test-playing.
    Mandos: Coleman & Soviet ovals; Kay & Rogue A5's; Harmonia F2 & mandola
    Ukuleles: 3 okay tenors; 3 cheap sopranos; Harmonia concert & baritone
    Banjos: Gretsch banjolin; Varsity banjolele; Orlando 5-string; fretless & fretted Cümbüs o'uds
    Acoustic guitars: Martin Backpacker; Ibanez Performance; Art et Lutherie; Academy dobro; Ovation 12-string
    Others: Maffick & First Act dulcimers; Mexican cuatro-menor; Puerto Rican cuatro; Martin tiple; electrics
    Wanted: charango; balalaika; bowlback mando

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    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: No need to narrow guitar neck when converting it into 8-strin

    Quote Originally Posted by k0k0peli View Post
    Our hands vary as do our preferences. I prefer a (narrow) jazz-neck guitar (although I don't have one now). I prefer slightly wider mando necks -- my 32mm (at the nut) Coleman plays easier than those with 27-29mm necks and the soprano 'ukes (35mm) I've strung in 5ths are even easier, without stretching too far for chords. But my 19-inch-scale mandola and the 21-inch-scale Cumbus I restrung in 5ths (both 41mm at the nut) are a bit much for chording, as are the Ovation 12-string guitar and the 10-string Puerto Rican cuatro (both 47mm). My 6-string guitars are all 42-43mm. Optimum width for an 8-stringer for me might be just under 40mm. I guess I should take calipers with me when I go test-playing.
    And if you think a mandola is hard to chord....well, a mandocello (~ 1.5 - 1.7" nut and 24 - 25"scale) and also tuned in 5th's is a "whole other thing"

    Also as important and hand size is flexibility. Some people's fingers and hands are as flexible as noodles -- others much less so.
    Bernie
    ____
    Due to current budgetary restrictions the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off -- sorry about the inconvenience.

  14. #13

    Default Re: No need to narrow guitar neck when converting it into 8-strin

    Continuing in this vein -- I redid the nut and bridge string spacing on the Epiphone-to-OM conversion so that both spacings were now the same as my regular bouzoukis and also I shifted the strings over - to favor the higher-pitched edge of the fingerboard - this left a good bit of acreage between the G string & the fingerboard's edge --- which (after a good deal of experimental playing) turned out (to me) to cause no "awkward playing position" or bad feel at all. I must say that I only ever use my left thumb for neck pressure - I never use it for fretting anything - some folks might. Others might object that the "off-center" nature of the eight strings as they run down the fingerboard could eventually warp the instrument - I think not tho - it's not that much of an offset & doing some experimenting, it's become clear that, in general, using "typical" gauge octave mandolin strings on a 20" string-length guitar conversion results in fairly low overall tension on the instrument (the same gauge string on a guitar pulls a bit harder at the same pitch than it does on an OM given the OM's shorter string-length) ***

    Yeah -- being retired, I've got way more time on my hands than I should ---- that and the fact that I've got a lot more junk instruments than I do money.
    Dennis - northern Michigan

    ***
    For decades I have been determining what gauge strings to put on my creations using this method:

    An example: Say my creation has a 20" string-length & I want the open string to be a D note. I'll run up & down each string of a tuned guitar until I hear the desired pitch/octave. If it occurs at, say, the B string's 3rd fret, I'll measure the distance from this fret to the guitar's bridge ---- if this distance is equal to or very near to 20" then I know it would be safe to use this same gauge string on my creation.

    Often I don't resort to such mumbo-jumbo but instead wing it & see what breaks/what sounds/feels floppy. Lots of ways to skin the cat.

    Using this idea a bit "backwards, I determined that , using a "typical" set of octave mandolin strings on my 20" string-length converted Epiphone guitar/to octave mandolin, in no way taxes the instrument - if anything, I could even safely use a bit heavier gauge string set.

    "Typical" gauge octave mandolin strings and light gauge acoustic guitar string gauges were used for comparisons here.

    E - .012 - a bit less tension than similar gauge string on a guitar tuned to regular pitch
    E - .012 - a bit less tension than similar gauge string on a guitar tuned to regular pitch

    A - .022 - a bit less tension than similar gauge string on a guitar tuned to regular pitch
    A - .022 - a bit less tension than similar gauge string on a guitar tuned to regular pitch

    D - .032 - less tension than similar gauge string on a guitar tuned to regular pitch
    D - .032 - less tension than similar gauge string on a guitar tuned to regular pitch

    G - .045 - a bit less tension than similar gauge string on a guitar tuned to regular pitch
    G - .045 - a bit less tension than similar gauge string on a guitar tuned to regular pitch

    http://DennisHavlena.com

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