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Thread: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

  1. #1
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    I'm looking to upgrade and am wanting an oval hole A mandolin. My opportunities to try many instruments is extremely limited, so I'm trying to narrow down my choices.

    If you have small hands like me, what oval As have/haven't worked for you, based on neck width?

    I can spend up to $3000.

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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    Sherry, you might like a Martin mandolin. The neck is small and the scale length is shorter, so stretches are easier. They make them up into the 70's if I remember and after some time in the 30's they had modern fret wire instead of bar frets. I have one from the 50's that has nice sound, but I ply my f hole mandolins more. The one thing is these are hard to find cases for. I am lucky and mine came with a hard shell case. You can get these way under your price point, even if you get a rosewood back and sides model. Most any mandolin with a 1 1/8" neck could work, but some are deeper than others. I like the neck to be no so deep and that is something else you could ask when looking. My favorite is only 1" deep from the top of the fingerboard to the back of the neck at the nut.
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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    Sherry, you might like a Martin mandolin. The neck is small and the scale length is shorter, so stretches are easier. They make them up into the 70's if I remember and after some time in the 30's they had modern fret wire instead of bar frets. I have one from the 50's that has nice sound, but I ply my f hole mandolins more. The one thing is these are hard to find cases for. I am lucky and mine came with a hard shell case. You can get these way under your price point, even if you get a rosewood back and sides model. Most any mandolin with a 1 1/8" neck could work, but some are deeper than others. I like the neck to be no so deep and that is something else you could ask when looking. My favorite is only 1" deep from the top of the fingerboard to the back of the neck at the nut.
    There's a 1932 Martin C in the classifieds.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    I have relatively small hands for a person of the male persuasion. If I were commissioning a mandolin I would use my 23 snakehead A-2s neck which is just about perfect for me. Width at the nut is 1-1/16. Neck is not chunky because they started using a truss rod. Scale is normal Gibson length, prob close to the same as your Alvarez. The only necks I have not been fond of are widths of 1-1/4 or more or either super thick or too thin. If I were looking for new instruments I would look at Girouard, Pava or Collings As in your price range. Vintage: Gibson, Lyon & Healy B or C. You may very well Like a Martin but they are bent tops you may like the sound though. In that case you could also check out some modern flattops as well.
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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    +1 for the Gibson snakehead mandolin. Nice slim necks and wonderful oval hole tone.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    Eastmans also have narrower nut widths (1 and 3/32 if I recall correctly). Ive played a couple of their 504s that were really good mandolins. Of course, Jims recommendations for more expensive domestics are spot on. Id add Skip Kelley and Ken Ratcliff (Silverangel) to that list as well...

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    Question Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    I have a Lebeda Jazzica its neck width is slender .. .. the Czechs do have a long tradition in Violin making..

    & other orchestral string instrument making...

    Martin, like bowl backs they also made , use a 13"* scale , so the pinky fret reach up the neck will be less ..

    *vs 13 7/8"



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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    FYI: Guitar Center’s used section has several A-style ovals.

    https://www.guitarcenter.com/Used/?Ntt=Mandolin%20&Ns=r
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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    Quote Originally Posted by Caleb View Post
    FYI: Guitar Center’s used section has several A-style ovals.

    https://www.guitarcenter.com/Used/?Ntt=Mandolin%20&Ns=r
    What would I do without you guys!

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    About GC used/vintage: they do have an excellent policy of shipping from any store to your local store. Then you have the option of going to that store and trying it out and you can then return it in a few days (check how long). However their photos are usually terrible but you can call the original store and ask questions. You can also request additional photos emailed to you. No guarantee that the person on the other line will know much but sometimes you will luck out. I think you probably have to pay the one way shipping if you don’t want the instrument. I got a great deal on a 1936 Epiphone archtop guitar—I did however keep it and still play it.
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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    I will second Pops1s suggestion for a Martin mandolin as being very suitable for smaller hands. As mentioned already, they have a violin-scale fretboard at 13, nearly an inch shorter (actually 7/8) so the stretch to the higher frets will be easier. The Martin neck are also very slender.The Martin mandolins are quality instruments but not well regarded in the bluegrass world. They tend to have a more delicate sound, not the driving sound of the Gibson design. It all depends on what you want. Most players can adapt to the standard 13-7/8 scale but for small hands or new players most find the Martin easier.

    The most common Martin is the Style A which has a flat back and a flat top with a bent portion. These are well made and can be found for a low price, usually under $1000.

    Martin also made some carved mandolins. In addition to many Gibsons I own including several Snakeheads, I have one of these Martin Style 20 mandolins, the Martin is not as powerful but has a wonderful delicate sound and is incredibly easy and fun to play. Again, it all depends what you want.

    Here is a link to a Style 20 Martin for sale.

    https://bernunzio.com/product/martin-style-20-25211/

    Good luck with your quest!

    Mark
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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    Small hands can still play great stuff. Sierra Hull is a good example, even when she was a youngster she chose her notes well and played great. There's an old video of her playing "Cluck Old Hen" as a guest with Alison Krauss. She sometimes mentions her small hands in more recent videos. It helps to play what you can instead of struggling with stuff the players with long fingers can do...just another limitation to work around, and doing things like a 2 finger G chop chord (4th strings 7th fret and 3rd strings 5th fret) instead of the long 4 finger stretch inversion (from Mike Marshall).

    Also, the shape of the neck is very important, along with the width. It can be easier to play a wider 1 1/8" neck with more of a V profile than a narrow 1 1/16" neck with a C profile.

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    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    Quote Originally Posted by dan in va View Post
    Also, the shape of the neck is very important, along with the width. It can be easier to play a wider 1 1/8" neck with more of a V profile than a narrow 1 1/16" neck with a C profile.
    There are a lot of factors. The width of the neck, the shape, and also the depth, plus every conceivable combination. A narrow neck may feel more comfortable, the closer string spacing might make it harder to play chords cleanly. A shallower neck could make a little more width work. The neck width/depth/shape may matter less on a short-scale instrument—13" string length rather than the modern 13 7/8".

    When you get somewhere to try a bunch of mandolins play some ff-holes too, especially if they have certain brands in ff- but not oval-holes. If you decide the Acme neck profile is perfect but they only have it with ff-holes, ask the shop about the availability of an Acme oval.

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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    Louise and Dan, some very good points. There is nothing like playing several and selecting the one that feels the best!

    On the point of scale length, I would suggest the use of “more common” rather than “modern” in regards to the 13-7/8” Gibson standard. This length has been used for more than a hundred years. (Before I was born!)

    From the historical perspective the 13-7/8” length came about when Gibson was comparing their length to a violin which they considered to be the perfect length.
    According to Gibson literature, they took the 13” violin standard and added the combined width of the frets. The longer scale gives better use of the upper frets because they are farther apart than they would be on a 13” scale such as a bowl-back mandolin, their competition at the time.

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    Quote Originally Posted by Louise NM View Post
    There are a lot of factors. The width of the neck, the shape, and also the depth, plus every conceivable combination. A narrow neck may feel more comfortable, the closer string spacing might make it harder to play chords cleanly. A shallower neck could make a little more width work. The neck width/depth/shape may matter less on a short-scale instrument—13" string length rather than the modern 13 7/8".

    When you get somewhere to try a bunch of mandolins play some ff-holes too, especially if they have certain brands in ff- but not oval-holes. If you decide the Acme neck profile is perfect but they only have it with ff-holes, ask the shop about the availability of an Acme oval.
    It's really overwhelming, as I'd like to have a plan before trying "a bunch." My husband has even agreed to a road trip to Nashville, but he doesn't have a clue as to what that entails in this context.

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    I've just this minute had an epiphany. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm thinking I need to try every different decent mandolin I can get my hands on locally. If I don't love any of them, at least maybe I will have narrowed down my likes and dislikes and won't have to try every instrument in the store - in Nashville or wherever. With your input here, as well as in other threads I've started - to help me find "the one," I believe I'll know what questions to ask, etc.

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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    Great plan!

    You seem to have made a lot of connections, and DFW is a big city. Between what's available in local stores and what your friends have in their closets you will have a better idea of what's out there.

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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    I have a Collings MT2 and it has a 1 1/8" nut and a soft V neck that is pretty slim. You might look at Pava's as well. Slightly more U shaped but still in the soft V neck camp. Set up will also play a big part. Both Colling's and Pava's that I have played were set up well and played easy.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    Sherry: you are on the right track. Play every local one you can for sure. You may find one that excites you. If not you will have a good idea if you do go to Nashville or wherever. I look fwd to hearing about what you finally end up with. Fun times!
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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    But if you do pick up an Acme, and hear a nearby ‘beep beep’, drop it and run.

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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    Sherry, You've already gotten great advice here. It might be helpful to know what you're playing now and what about the neck is challenging for you.
    I have very short fingers (left middle finger is 2 - 7/8" long) and have no trouble navigating a standard 1 - 1/8" wide neck, but I've been at it for a lot of years. A $3k mandolin is likely to be set up very nicely and take very little effort to get some good sound out of it.

    In the $3k range, there are lots of great mandolins to choose from. The ovals I've heard raves about here in the last few years have already been mentioned: Girouard, Pava, Collings, Mike Black. Any of them are going to sound amazingly good, you just need to find the one with the neck that best suits you.

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  36. #22

    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    FYI- There’s a used Girouard in the classifieds right now (NFI).

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    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    Trying many different shapes and styles is best. I've had a Martin A since I was 6 and by the time I was grown that tiny little neck gave me physical problems with my left hand. It was and is just too small for me, and I have small hands.

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    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    It is a mandolin; everything is already tiny.

    I'd guess that it is more of a technique and practice issue.

    I know plenty of people under 5' tall with small hands that play the upright bass with no problems.

    'Hard to go wrong with an unbound early 1920s Gibson snakehead mandolin...

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  41. #25
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small hands and neck width - instruments that fit/don't

    Quote Originally Posted by NDO View Post
    FYI- There’s a used Girouard in the classifieds right now (NFI).
    Thanks for this. It's a beauty, but at the top of my range. If I eliminate lesser priced choices, I'll take another look at a Girouard.

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