INDIAN MUSIC FORUM ARCHIVES: Sitar Forum: Mangla Frets

 

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Antonio
Mangla Frets Dec 14, 2002 12:55 p.m.


Hello out there, I bought a Mangla sitar recently. I know sitars are high maintenence, constant troubleshooting.

Here is my question, wondering if anyone else out there has experienced this.

Ocassionally i'll get a pitting on the fret, buff it out with 000 then 0000 steel wool - no problem.

BUT-When I am practicing meends for example, going over and over and over the same fret, meend after meend, I get a real scratchy fret- but here's the twist. If I stop meending (is that a word?) on the fret for say 5 minute and then return to the fret to start up again- the scratchiness is gone. I think what is happening is that because the steel MA string is harder than the silver-nickel frets, the meend action is heating up the molecules , softening them and causing the problem, because if I stop for a few minutes it's as is the molecules of the silver-nickel fret cool down and reconstitute??, so to speak and the scratch disappears. Also , I should state that I am not exerting any more force on the frets/string than anyone else i would guess. I am using a steel string from fortepiano.com.
So the problem has to be-
1) Bad Frets
2) Steel wire not compatible with the frets
3)Too much pressure on the meend on my behalf

Has anyone out there with a mangla encounterd this. Any advice would be helpful as I really do not want to have to replace all the frets with a different kind. Thank you all very much ahead of time. Antonio

Lars
Re:Mangla Frets Dec 14, 2002 03:33 p.m.


Well.......Mangla frets are the same as others so maybe you're not using enough oil on your fingers? What kind are you using?
Buffing them out helps too, if you're pressing too hard on the string then your notes would be harder to keep in tune, maybe that's it. If all else fails then you can order stainless steel frets from www.greenonion.nl
but then you'll have to install them and do all the adjustments which takes a long time because you'll most likely have to use a hammer to correct any frets whose curvature doesn't match.........hope this helps?
Lars
Lars
Re:Mangla Frets Dec 14, 2002 03:41 p.m.


Also, I think Stephen and Ken have done some work on their frets and could be of help?
It's possible you have one or two bad frets too maybe, they used to send out 2 extra frets with the sitar so you could replace any that had excessive pitting, etc....
Amitava
Re:Mangla Frets Dec 14, 2002 05:13 p.m.


Another factor that sometimes contributes to the scratchy sound is the kink on the main/playing string - which comes about as a result of playing on a fret. The stretching caused by a meed could alsoresposition the kink. The other reasons could be also as stated by Lars and Antonio.

Amitava

Antonio
Re:Mangla Frets Dec 14, 2002 10:06 p.m.


Well, this was driving me crazy, so i took a magnifying glass to see what was going on and lo and behold as you repeatedly meend the wire over the fret 10-15 times , e.g. microscopic "flakes" of silver come off causing a microscopic scratch. If you then run your finger over the scratch - it disappears since it is microscopic in nature and the oil on your skin or something fills in the molecular structure and it stops being scratchy. I honestly can't believe these frets are not desinged to handle that action whether it be 5 meends or 50 meends one after another on the same fret when practicing? Does anyone think it could be the wire, it is wire from the instrument workshop at www.fortepiano.com- called
Roeslau Music Wire - non coated high carbon steel music wire, German brand Roeslau Blue Label. I am glad to know that I am not going crazy, but I do not know what to do?
Antonio
Re:Mangla Frets Dec 14, 2002 10:11 p.m.


Well, this was driving me crazy, so i took a magnifying glass to see what was going on and lo and behold as you repeatedly meend the wire over the fret 10-15 times , e.g. microscopic "flakes" of silver come off causing a microscopic scratch. If you then run your finger over the scratch - it disappears since it is microscopic in nature and the oil on your skin or something fills in the molecular structure and it stops being scratchy. I honestly can't believe these frets are not desinged to handle that action whether it be 5 meends or 50 meends one after another on the same fret when practicing? Does anyone think it could be the wire, it is wire from the instrument workshop at www.fortepiano.com- called
Roeslau Music Wire - non coated high carbon steel music wire, German brand Roeslau Blue Label. I am glad to know that I am not going crazy, but I do not know what to do?
Lars
Re:Mangla Frets Dec 15, 2002 12:43 a.m.


Antonio.......
Well, use some good oil for playing......I've used the Roselau strings but think the Pyramids are a lot better. I have some extra sets if you can't find any.......
Dan
Re:Mangla Frets Dec 15, 2002 05:21 a.m.


Hi everyone,

I'm having the same problem too, thanks for the tips.

While at it, on my sitar, the meends create a very loud squeeking sound at the end of the neck where the string sits on the bone. Sometime that sound comes from the main bridge or worse : from both ends fo the meended string !

By robbing my finger nail under the string where it sits on the end bone helped but not for long . Adding some coconut oil at that spot did help more but the squeeking sound comes back again later . Any ideas of causes & solutions ?

Dan

stephen
Re:Mangla Frets Dec 15, 2002 10:11 a.m.


Hi guys,
Yes, I've had to deal with this problem on the Rose Petal. I had a catch on my 5th fret that would act like another mizra stroke as I pulled the meend, unfortunatly at a point in the meend that was an undesirable tuning. The problem was solved by removing the fret and filling/buffing beyond the pit in the metal. I saw an extreme example of this dissimilar metal action back when I was working on large scale metal sculpture. We had a new guy that was using mild steel rotary wire brushes on a stainless steel casting without knowing what would happen. A real nightmare was created when the small pits (often not visible to unaided eye) that occure in all metals would be filled with the softer mild steel from the wire brush. Granted, one does not meend on and eight foot stainless steel sculpture of a mythological monkey, but after a few weeks of exposure to humidity the problem was obvious. The pits started to rust. But in our case here, I believe what is happening is small amounts of the steel strings are being deposited within pits on the fret, such a small amount that it can't be felt with your finger but a Sa string will pick up the problem by "clicking" on the spot. Start with a very fine file or even a fingernail emory board, then with 400-600 grit sand paper. Then with a 1/4-3/8" Stainless or tool steel rod, burnish the area to "fold" surrounding fret metal into the pit. Finish the process with jewler's rouge and an unstitched buffing wheel (a fully sewn wheel will tend to cut into the metal). You will probably only do this once to realize what a pain in the rear it is, afterwhich you will probably just change the offending fret (a skill we should all master) since you will have to take it off of the instrument anyway. I wouldn't try to do any of this work with the fret in place on the sitar unless you have many, many years of experience working with the tools required. I don't think a string change is going to solve your problem as the ratio of Rockwell hardnesses between the two steels will be minimal.
Antonio
Re:Mangla Frets Dec 15, 2002 10:38 a.m.


thanks everyone for your input, but this is not isolated to 1 or 2 frets. I feel It's the interaction as stephen said between the steel string and the softer frets that can create this anywhere at anytime when meending over and over on the same fret point- it seems to heat up the molecules etc ( I wont go into all the physics again) So is this just something Sitarists must live with? It should be something everyone experiences? Okay everyone out there with a Mangla or anything else, let us perform a double blind research study/ experiment and meened the wire over and over until it scratches... Just kidding, l.o.l. Just a little humor, but i am really frustrated......
Russ
Re:Mangla Frets Dec 15, 2002 12:29 p.m.


Hi Antonio;
Just thought I'd jump in for a moment. These questions keep popping up again and again over time. So, in my opinion, all sitarists have to live with these things. There is no "perfect" maintenance-free sitar. Tweaking and repairs are just part of owning one of these. But I still think the payoff is worth the effort!
Lars
Re:Mangla Frets Dec 15, 2002 02:32 p.m.


Dan
That sqeaking is common to all sitars. Listen to some old Nikhil Banerjee recordings and you'll hear it sometimes. Mine seems to vary with the humidity and temperature. The coconut oil will work.......Manilal Nag (very good famouse player) puts a little vaseline up there. As for the noise on the bridge, taking a pencil and rubbing underneath the string on the contact portion of the surface should help quite a bit.
Antonio, did you check the link for the stainless steel frets at green onion? If it's driving you that crazy then that's an option but it will change the action of your sitar, maybe for the better who knows?
Lars
Antonio
Re:Mangla Frets Dec 15, 2002 08:57 p.m.


I was in an Indian store today that had a no name sitar sitting around, so I did a little experiment(hee, hee) and sure enough after about 10-15 quick meends on the same fret, the metal got heated up or changed molecular structure or whatever and kaboom a horrible long grating sound( better term than a scratch) along the fret and then of you wipe your finger over it, & like magic, it 's gone. So this appears to be plain old physics/ chemistry at work. But how bizzarre.
Russ
Re:Mangla Frets Dec 16, 2002 12:07 a.m.


Offhand, I think you had the right idea about microscopic particles of nickel-silver and steel collecting on the fret surface. Metal to metal scraping, especially done repeadedly, would naturally produce some residue. (Thats why car engines use oil, right?) When you brushed it with your finger, the scrape disappeared. I would expect that. You just cleaned the reside off. I agree with Lars that regular use of a little light oil on the string should solve the problem. That plus wiping the strings after each play should keep that nasty residue off!
K.K.
Re:Mangla Frets Dec 16, 2002 05:15 p.m.


Hi fellow Mangla Maniacs: When I first got my Teak, I had the same problems with the frets. I applied the techniques of fret polishing describe in earlier posts (by Stephen and Ken?) and haven't had any problems since. I have a couple of additional tips that might be of help. It�s important to use sandpaper to remove the imperfections, as steel wool alone will not level the surface of the fret. I started with 600 wet or dry paper, backed by a hard rubber pencil eraser (this insures that the paper won�t follow the imperfections) and used oil as a lubricant. Be careful to follow the crown shape of the fret. From there I went to 1000 and then 1200 paper. Then polished with jewelers rouge using the Dremel and felt wheel to achieve a mirror finish. Then I used a hardened steel rod (again using oil as a lubricant) to burnish the frets. It�s important here that the frets are absolutely clean of any polishing residue or grit from previous sanding before you start the burnishing process. Start burnishing lightly and gradually apply more pressure. If you feel any grittiness, stop and find out what the problem is. Now, at the start of a practice session, along with putting a light coat of oil on the strings, I put a light coat on the frets also. This enables the string itself to work harden the frets instead of digging into them. Well, that�s my two cents
Russ
Re:Mangla Frets Dec 17, 2002 12:30 p.m.


KK- sounds like a good technique to use. It would be nice if Mangla put the time into putting a mirror surface on his sitars' frets before they left India, especially the high end ones. So, here's a dummy question from me. What is a dremmel, and how is it used?
K.K.
Re:Mangla Frets Dec 17, 2002 02:28 p.m.


Oh, sorry Russ. Here's a description copied directly from their website. �The Dremel rotary tool is a tool that works differently from any other tool you've ever owned. It's also the most versatile tool you'll ever use. With more than 150 available accessories, you can use it to cut, sand, shape, drill, buff, grind, polish, rout, etch, clean and more. You'll use it on all kinds of materials. Metal, wood, ceramics, glass, camel bone, plastic, drywall, leather, nickel-silver sitar frets, laminates, stone. Practically anything. You'll find hundreds of uses for the tool around the house�� Hope that helps. � K.K.
Russ
Re:Mangla Frets Dec 17, 2002 03:22 p.m.


Wow, does it do windows too? Well,
guess I'll just have to go get one then.
Dummy question? I'm the dummy....
Antonio
Re:Mangla Frets Dec 30, 2002 10:29 p.m.


As they say in football, upon further review...yes, that is exactly what is happening Russ, and it is definitely micro vs. macro in nature. I think some frets are indeed subtley softer than others and some steel wire is harder than other-because I tried the same little experiment on two other Sitars and it took differing lengths of time to cause a buildup and subsequent scraoing sound and feel. Oil may help, I hate it though - it all gets too gummy!!!


Offhand, I think you had the right idea about microscopic particles of nickel-silver and steel collecting on the fret surface. Metal to metal scraping, especially done repeadedly, would naturally produce some residue. (Thats why car engines use oil, right?) When you brushed it with your finger, the scrape disappeared. I would expect that. You just cleaned the reside off. I agree with Lars that regular use of a little light oil on the string should solve the problem. That plus wiping the strings after each play should keep that nasty residue off![/quote]

Antonio
Re:Mangla Frets Dec 30, 2002 10:30 p.m.


As they say in football, upon further review...yes, that is exactly what is happening Russ, and it is definitely micro vs. macro in nature. I think some frets are indeed subtley softer than others and some steel wire is harder than other-because I tried the same little experiment on two other Sitars and it took differing lengths of time to cause a buildup and subsequent scraoing sound and feel. Oil may help, I hate it though - it all gets too gummy!!!


Offhand, I think you had the right idea about microscopic particles of nickel-silver and steel collecting on the fret surface. Metal to metal scraping, especially done repeadedly, would naturally produce some residue. (Thats why car engines use oil, right?) When you brushed it with your finger, the scrape disappeared. I would expect that. You just cleaned the reside off. I agree with Lars that regular use of a little light oil on the string should solve the problem. That plus wiping the strings after each play should keep that nasty residue off![/quote]

Antonio
Re:Mangla Frets Feb 22, 2003 10:56 p.m.


Been off the board for a while, but desired to check in and let you know that a little oil on le frets solved the problem. Thanks guys.

As they say in football, upon further review...yes, that is exactly what is happening Russ, and it is definitely micro vs. macro in nature. I think some frets are indeed subtley softer than others and some steel wire is harder than other-because I tried the same little experiment on two other Sitars and it took differing lengths of time to cause a buildup and subsequent scraoing sound and feel. Oil may help, I hate it though - it all gets too gummy!!!


Offhand, I think you had the right idea about microscopic particles of nickel-silver and steel collecting on the fret surface. Metal to metal scraping, especially done repeadedly, would naturally produce some residue. (Thats why car engines use oil, right?) When you brushed it with your finger, the scrape disappeared. I would expect that. You just cleaned the reside off. I agree with Lars that regular use of a little light oil on the string should solve the problem. That plus wiping the strings after each play should keep that nasty residue off![/quote][/quote]

Russ
Re:Mangla Frets Feb 24, 2003 02:02 p.m.


Yes, and along with very light oil on the string and frets, also try matching up string with fret materials to minimize the damage. For example, several of us push Pyramid sitar strings. They are steel but also come silver-plated, and hardness is consistant with gauge.

Frets are generally nickel silver, not steel as they are not magnetic. Cheap ones are aluminum, tear up quick. Some unusual varieties are stainless steel or zinc-brass, but they're very hard and have weird tone characteristics. These tear up the strings. So, spend a little time to match these things up and they should last a good while.

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