Developing a bass neck. Need your experiences!

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by MF_Kitten, Mar 23, 2014.

  1. MF_Kitten


    Mar 22, 2014
    Hi TalkBass! I've been lurking here on and off for a while, and to me this is one of THE online authorities for bass, and so I trust you guys with this. I am developing a bass design, and I need you guys to chime in. I am primarily a guitar player, but I play bass in a band as well, and to my weakling baby guitarist hands, it's a bit fatiguing in the long run. This is the inspiration for the bass I am working on, which will be more guitarist friendly, rather than attempting to cater to the traditionalist bass player.

    Examples of what I mean are basses like the Ibanez SR series, which has a great thin neck profile, and the Dingwall models that play similar to shredder guitars.

    What I need to know is which string spacings you guys are familiar with for 5 string guitars. I want a narrower string spacing but I don't know where people think the limits are. I also need to know about fretboard radius. What is a comfortable radius, and why? I like flatter radii, which for guitar is 18 degrees or more. I am going for 20 for my guitars. Do you prefer a rounder or flatter radius? Does it even matter to you?

    Finally, neck profiles! What kind of neck do you prefer? I tend to gravitate towards a shallow/thin C shape for guitar, rather than a flat shreddy D shape for guitar, and I love asymmetric necks. What works best for you on bass?

    All feedback and details are GREATLY appreciated! :)
  2. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    The shallow C has become pretty much the modern standard. Not everyone loves it obviously, but it seems to please the majority. I like a wee bit of asymmetry on the back so it's rounder on the bass side and flatter on the treble side, but that's probably a minority view.
  3. petrus61

    petrus61 Supporting Member

    I prefer a 9.5 radi and up with 18-19mm spacing on a 5, but have found that my guitarist buddies that double on bass prefer a super flat radius and 17mm spacing.
  4. MF_Kitten


    Mar 22, 2014
    That sounds like a very "bassy" setup, yeah. It's probably similar to what most bass players would want.

    Interesting "atypical" examples are things like the Ibanez oddball SR models that approach guitar territory. Right now they have a bass VI type 6 string bass/baritone, and you may remember they came out with a 7 string SR with 30" scale and super tight (guitar-like) string spacing. Very interesting, although that's a bit more extreme than what i'm after ;)

    As for the shallow C, it's probably something that has emerged as a result of neck construction technology improving. Maybe that's what necks would have looked like way back as well, if they could get them stable enough in those days?

    Personally I am not worried about necks being particularly thin, and I'm not a big fan of flat necks. I like a neck with less "shoulder".
  5. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    It's highly personal and highly subjective. My preferences are opposite many other folks':

    - string spacing at the bridge on the narrow side - between 16 and 17.5 mm
    - string spacing at the nut on the wide side - total nut width 1 5/8" for four-string, 1 3/4" for fives and eights
    - 20" fingerboard radius - relatively flat
    - medium-thickness (around 0.9" at the first fret, 1.0" at the fifteenth) C-shaped asymmetrical neck profile (a la Tobias)

    I find that the thinner/narrower necks fatigue my hand. And I have relatively small hands.
  6. mrbell321


    Mar 26, 2012
    N. Colorado
    I'm almost w/ ctmullins. I prefer a relatively flat board with "consistent" string spacing. That is, wider than usual at the nut, and narrower than usually at the bridge.

    I do prefer thinner profile necks tho.
  7. MF_Kitten


    Mar 22, 2014
    Alright, so you guys basically like less taper from bridge to neck? Interesting!
  8. mrbell321


    Mar 26, 2012
    N. Colorado
  9. MF_Kitten


    Mar 22, 2014
    From what I gather, and from what technical bass players have told me, something like 16-17mm spacing is more or less ideal as far as narrow spacings go.

    Now, as for taper... How much of a taper do you guys prefer in thickness and in string spacing (neck width)? 25-17mm spacing taper from bridge to nut, totally straight 17-17mm taper... What do you find yourself enjoying more, and i you have an answer, why?
  10. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    As a long time guitarist and bassist, I've found that the most effective way to keep from being fatigued, is to turn up to get more headroom and then play bass with a much lighter touch than when I play guitar. I can really grind into the strings on a guitar with little fatigue, and it's more key to the tone anyway. On bass, a lighter touch has kept carpal tunnel and fatigue at bay.

    For what it's worth, I like a 20" radius, a thin flat neck and string spacing in the realm of 8-9mm on the nut, and 16-17 on the bridge. I build my sixes with 9mm nut spacing on centre for the B-E-A-D, and 8mm on centre for D-G-C...
  11. MF_Kitten


    Mar 22, 2014
    Interesting! Have you tried following the spacing difference at the bridge end?
    It's kinda like the "equal core-to-core"-vs-"equal spaces" argument of string spacing. Some like the higher strings to be closer. I can see how that makes sense :)
  12. I've built two 6 strings now with 15mm spacing. One for a guitarist relative of mine and one for me. I personally like 15mm spacing. I once played an 18mm spaced 6 string and it was horrendous... and I think I have reasonably big hands and fingers.

    Neck profile? Recently I've been favoring thicker neck profiles. The last two 4 strings I made had deep C shaped necks and felt very comfy. The recent 6 string has a trapezoidal shaped neck and I find it really comfy. I also believe it to be more stable and stronger. Here's a pic of a 4 string I built with a trapezoidal neck...


    Radius; I've build flat fingerboards (no radius). I've found a little radius, like say 20" on a 5 or 6 string is more than enough. More than that, you can run into issues with fretting.
  13. MF_Kitten


    Mar 22, 2014
    I visited Ola Strandberg's booth at NAMM 2014, and played one of his designs with a Rick Toone licensed IPNP-up neck shape. It's basically a trapezoid neck, but the middle plane is angled up so it's thicker at the bass side, and it's wider so there's less of the two angled planes. VERY intriguing!

    Edit: can I see more pics of that build? Looks like it's a headless build with an extended fretboard on the lowest string?
  14. StuartV

    StuartV Finally figuring out what I really like Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2006
    Manassas, VA
    I had an MPG Level 5 bass. The nut width was narrower than any other 5-string I've tried at 1 5/8". That put the strings up on the first 2 or 3 frets too closer together for me. But, I can see where a guitarist might like it like that.

    As for profiles, the Peavey Cirrus has a pretty unique profile. It's more flat on the back than any other necks I've tried. A bit thicker right at the edges, but thinner in the middle, than other necks. It is pretty much my favorite bass neck profile. Though others with a more conventional shallow C shape are also really nice (e.g. my EBMM Sterling 5).

    Check out a Peavey Cirrus 5 or 6 string, if you can. Though the neck shape is not "conventional", it feels thinner (but not narrower) and, again, might be something a guitarist would like, as I think it results in the neck having a thickness more akin to a guitar.
  15. MF_Kitten


    Mar 22, 2014
    I played the Nolly signature Dingwall Combustion at NAMM, and it had a very D-shaped neck. I was disappointed, until I realized it felt very nice. It's not entirely for me though, as the flat bit in the middle is alright, but I'm not personally that fond of those shoulders. I think the main reason I loved playibg it so much, aside from tat it sounded amazing, is that it had those tiny banjo frets, tight strings, and very low action with no buzz. Smooth as hell!
  16. Oh, it's a lot crazier than that... build 3?sort=3&page=1

    Here's the recent 6 string... 8 - Surprise build?sort=3&page=1
  17. MF_Kitten


    Mar 22, 2014
    THAT... Is NUTS!

    We've settled on the Hipshot headless system with the .656 spacing. Now I just need to find out what the headpiece spacing is!

    edit: We're going forwards with it, and this is what I've designed so far:

    Any neat suggestions or feedback? I'd love to hear your thoughts! We're gauging interest in a short run of these, so let me know if you're interested in it! It's a 32" scale .656 string spacing bolt-on headless bass :)
  18. IntrepidCellist


    Sep 10, 2009
  19. Scoops

    Scoops Why do we use base 10 when we only have 8 fingers Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 22, 2013
    Sugar Creek, Wisc
    I am me
    Be very careful with the hipshot headless system

    I have one, and the strings ALWAYS break at nut end. I've contacted Hipshot, and talked to the people there, but they have yet to provide a solution, and that was weeks ago. I'm tired of calling/emailing, and not getting an answer.

    Problem with the device is that it clamps the string almost right on a right angle you have to put in the string.

    I have in the meantime, devised a way that I think will work, but it involves redesigning the headstock

  20. IntrepidCellist


    Sep 10, 2009
    Interesting. You sure you're not overtightening the strings?