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Thread: Nut Width Preference?

  1. #1
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Nut Width Preference?

    I'm a member of several musical instrument fora. On a certain popular guitar forum the subject of nut width frequently arises (at least VA couple times a month).

    Some steel string acoustic guitar players cannot play anything other than 1-11/16" while others can only play 1-3/4". They maintain this .0625" difference is huge, a deal breaker on an otherwise perfect guitar.

    I haven't seen this come up on any fiddle, ukulele, resonator or mandolin forum. As a multi-instrumentalist with too many stringed instruments I'll confess the difference in nut width between one instrument and another is one of the last things I notice.

    Is nut width a big factor to any mandolin players here?

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    I have a teens Gibson A-1 that has a wider nut than most modern mandolins. It felt huge when I first started playing it but feels very comfortable now. Only time I notice it now is on certain chords where you are pressing two sets of strings with one fingertip. You need to be much more accurate than with a modern narrow nut.

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    Registered User BoxCarJoe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    Mandolin nut widths are a big problem for me.
    I prefer mandola and ukes for the width.
    Not a popular point of view.

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  6. #4
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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    As somebody who has found that being comfortable with a variety of sometimes-contrasting "architectures", each emphasizing different handling characteristics (whether it be instruments, skis, canoes/kayaks, sailboats, heck - even wine & beer!), can lead to a more educated & adaptable outcome, it seems that some folks search desperately for a "preference" which they quickly convert to a "requirement", thus depriving themselves of a richer experience.
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    Registered User mingusb1's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    "As a multi-instrumentalist with too many stringed instruments I'll confess the difference in nut width between one instrument and another is one of the last things I notice."

    I too play a few different instruments and concur. When I see a mandolin for sale described as "it's awesome but I just can't play X and X nut width/neck profile" I think that's a limitation of the player and not the instrument. I'd say there are a lot of people that run through instruments and don't give themselves enough time with them. They don't call it "standard" width for nothing, and I think that' the best.

    Not trying to get anyone riled up here, just my experience on the subject.

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  10. #6

    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    Agree with the OP and the above post, doesn't make any difference to me, at least not on mandolin. On guitar I have an easier time with wider string spacing at the bridge for finger picking, but I can work with anything, after playing electrics with really narrow nuts. It wouldn't be a deciding factor for me.
    Fret size would be more important to me, I really like it when it's low and I can feel the fingerboard under the fingers.

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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    Before osteoarthritis hit my fretting hand, I, too, didn't think much about nut width. But I found that a wide -- and occasionally even a so-called standard -- nut width gave me shooting pains up my wrist. That might be bad technique on my part, but when I went to a narrower nut, the pains disappeared. Of course, my snake has a 1-inch nut, which I've been told by some is not humanly possible to use (!) and it suits me perfectly. ymmv, of course.
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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    As a violinist a voice in the back of my head wants to say I prefer a narrower nut, but in reality I think I'm happy to play and adapt to any nut width.

    I wouldn't say this comes up less in the mandolin crowd though, I too have seen people call a particular width or other unplayable. I think I've yet to find a mandolin I find "unplayable". Uncomfortable, maybe. But everyone has their own preferences and experiences.
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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    I've built 5 and four of them have 1.125" nuts. That's what the Loar F-5 blueprint I have measures. It's comfortable for me and seems to be the most common width. Collings considers a wide nut to be 1 3/16".

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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    Is nut width a big factor to any mandolin players here?
    Certainly. One buddy suffered a hand injury and now experiences discomfort with anything beyond standard 1-1/8” nut width. Conversely, Jeff Hildreth has consistently posted that anything less than a wide nut is unplayable for him. Personally, I don’t seem to struggle with differing nut widths — my snakehead is probably 1-1/16” while my resonator is 1-1/4” — but I do have pronounced preferences for neck profiles. We are blessed with the many different options and choices available to us now.
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    Registered User mandrian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    Hi,

    I’ve got small hands and think a narrow nut width should suit me best, but in truth I think you get used to any width if you play it enough. I’ve got several mandolins that range from 27mm (Hogan) to 36mm (Sobell). I did find the narrow nut easier to play in the Spring when I had tennis elbow, but most of time I’m happy with either.

    I’m always surprised how many people trying to sell mandolins on the Cafe, fail to specify nut width and whether the fret board is flat or radiussed. I think these factors are quite important to a significant number of folks.

    Regards,

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  21. #12

    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    After many years of playing, I find narrow nuts (1 1/16") and slim shallow necks provide the most ease of playing for me. That said, I do have a Girouard mandola with a 1 3/16" nut that is very playable except for the 6-7th frets on the C string. When I play, I need the mandolin neck to get out of the way and let me play without thinking I really have to reach for a note and the neck is in the way.
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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    Good topic Mando Bart - I defiantly prefer the 1-3/8 over the 1-1/8.
    My 20 F4 is even slightly wider than 1-3/8, and i would say that is about as I wide as I can take on a mandolin.
    I do struggle with very narrow necks.

    on the other hand - i find my Ratliff mandocello with the 1.5 inch wide neck at the nut that widens to 1 3/4 inches by about the 12th fret to be easier on the left hand stretches than the Goldtone which start out at 1.5 buts widens to 2 by the 12 fret.
    Same for octaves, the two Webers I have are both 1 3/8 nut width- widening to 1 3/4s by the 12th
    the electric Eastwood is 1.5 widening to 1.75 at the 12th.

    so for me at least it does make a noticeable difference
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  23. #14

    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    It’s amazing how the human brain adapts to different sizes. Although I prefer a wider nut, a narrow doesn’t bother me, and I can adapt very easily. There are times when I play one of my mandos then pick up my acoustic bass guitar and I don’t find it difficult to adapt. Harmonica players do it all the time.

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  25. #15

    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    I don't know why but I get fatigue in my left thumb from a wide nut mandolin.

    Not a problem in guitars, mandolas,octave mandolins or bouzoukis. All of them have wider nuts. No problem.

    It seems strange but it's been consistent. Different makes and models. I've tried changing my grip. Nothing seems to help. It's not really painful but at this stage I just avoid wide nut mandolins. For what it's worth, I can't even tell if a fretboard is radiused or not. Makes no difference at all for me!
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  26. #16
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    Am able to somewhat adapt, but very narrow and very wide don't work long term for me. Hand fatigue sets in after a couple hours playing.

    My mentor has a 1910 Gibson and the neck on that one is wider than just about anything I've played. He's so used to it that even a mid teens or later Gibson feels very narrow to him.

    Am the same way about guitars, 1 11/16" works best for me, but can use 1 3/4" if necessary. Tried an original Gibson Roy Smeck with the 2 1/8" nut width and I couldn't even get a nice D chord. And never did bond with the 1965 Epiphone Texan I had with the 1 1/2 wide nut.

  27. #17
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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    My Davidson has a 33mm nut and the Calace has a 25.4mm nut. The Kentucky falls somewhere in the midle. I haven't even measured the mandoloncello nut, it's like a guitar I suppose.

    Due to fat fingers with broad tips there are definitely things I can't manage on the Calace that I can do on the Davidson, such as allowing acourse to ring cleanly between two courses fretted higher up the fingerboard. So a lot of compensatory shuffling about is needed on the Calace to get the sausages out of the way of each other. But it's worth it to play such a lovely sounding instrument (even if not everything is possible for me there)
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  28. #18
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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    Like the OP and several folks above, I play multiple stringed instruments (guitar, mandolin, octave mandolin, mandocello, violin, dulcimer), and while some neck widths and string spacings may feel a little more or less comfortable, I can't say that that there are ones that I "can't" play, at least, not that I have seen. My preferences are for a little wider on guitar, octave and mandocello, but I find that string spacing has a big influence on comfort as well.

    At my age, osteoarthritis is a real issue, but unlike Randi's experience noted above, I think the wider necks feel more comfortable. OTOH, scale length on guitars has started to be more of an issue. I find myself playing my shorter scale guitars more than the longer scale ones. It's not a huge difference (mostly 24.9" versus 25.4"), but shorter feels better to my fingers.

    As always, YMMV.
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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    There's more to the guitar nut width debate than simple preference.
    CF Martin has been a major maker of guitars for much longer than those people arguing about nut with have been around. In the time martin has been making guitars the standard nut width has changed.
    At some time before the late '30s, 1 3/4" became the standard for Martin guitar necks. Some people preferred a narrower neck, and eventually, during the year 1939 if I'm correct, the standard Martin neck became 1 11/16". I assume that change was made because a majority of people preferred the narrower neck, however some people liked the necks the way they were, thank you very much, and there arose a small revolt. Of course, the guitar playing public was relatively small in those days and communication was either spoken or written so it wasn't really a big deal.
    Well, Martin used the 1 11/16" width for many years as a standard, but 1 3/4" was available as a option. Two camps formed; those who preferred 1 11/16" and those who preferred 1 3/4". The debate took on an almost Ford/Chevy, Coke/Pepsi, Mac/PC importance to many people.
    Fast forward to recent years when Martin changed the standard width back to 1 3/4" to the delight of one camp and to the considerable consternation of the other, and it is no particular surprise that the argument comes up so strongly and frequently now that the guitar playing public is relatively large and communication is instantaneous and electronic.

    Basically those standards and changes in standards have not existed to the same extent among mandolin, fiddle, ukulele and other players, so there is not so much fuel for debate.

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    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    I've played the thinnest and fattest guitar necks around. It doesn't matter. If the action and intonation are good, any guitar is fun to play.

    I have a lot less experience with mandos, but my snakehead Junior has the skinniest neck I've ever encountered, and it's perfectly playable. And I'm sure a wide-neck mando would be just as much fun.

    And some people buy Strat and Tele necks just because they're the same specs as their music hero's guitar. Clapton and Vaughn neck dimensions are popular. People have the idea that the sound is in the gear, not the player.

    If only!

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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    As somebody who has found that being comfortable with a variety of sometimes-contrasting "architectures", each emphasizing different handling characteristics (whether it be instruments, skis, canoes/kayaks, sailboats, heck - even wine & beer!), can lead to a more educated & adaptable outcome, it seems that some folks search desperately for a "preference" which they quickly convert to a "requirement", thus depriving themselves of a richer experience.
    I disliked a radiused fret board until it became familiar. A small-neck mando was very uncomfortable until it became familiar.
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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    I have owned and/or played a variety of guitars with huge variance in nut widths and neck profiles and different scale lengths, from a 1 11/16 30's huge sharp V neck L-00, 40's & 50s club neck Gibsons, several 1 11/16 Martins, a couple of 1 3/4 Waterloos and Collings, a 1 11/16 Santa Cruz, '59 reissue LP and some Strats. It didn't used to make a difference until I sailed into the golden years with arthritis of the wrist. I now need to let some of my guitars that have bigger necks, longer scale lengths and wider nuts go into the wild.

    Mandolins don't affect me so much, although I've experienced left hand fatigue on a couple of mandolins with </= 1 1/16 nuts and shallow neck profiles. Radius vs flat fingerboards are noticeable, but I can adjust. I do like bigger frets than the old originals.

    Play enough instruments so you know what you like the most - play them - and let others play what they like. It's like debating the preference between vanilla and chocolate ice cream, or Beatles vs Rolling Stones.

  34. #23
    Registered User Dave Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    I usually play a guitar with a 1 3/4" nut (Taylor 414). Sometimes I borrow my wife's guitar, a Taylor BT with a 1 11/16" nut. When I do, I have to think extra hard about where I'm putting my pudgy fingers down. But when going back and forth between mandolins nut width doesn't seem to be of any importance. (The shape of the neck matters more.)

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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    "Conversely, Jeff Hildreth has consistently posted that anything less than a wide nut is unplayable for him."


    True then, true now. Anything less than 1 3/16ths is, for me, unplayable. I prefer 1 1/4"plus. .

    Both my custom Seifferts were 32 mm.

    Check out Radim and his choices for nut width.

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  37. #25
    Registered Muser dang's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nut Width Preference?

    I have 2 Collings with 1 3/16 and a Weber with 1 1/4, all custom orders after selling off a Gibson A-9 with a 1in width and a Collings with a 1 1/8. I gravitated towards the wider nut widths after years of trial and error. After 3-4hr gigs my left hand would get a lot of cramps with the smaller widths, no issues when I switched to the wider ones. It’s all personal preference to me, and plenty of mandolins with plenty of options out there.
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