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finger board question

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by jazzbassnerd, Jan 19, 2003.

  1. jazzbassnerd


    Aug 26, 2002
    Ive been playing this bass that has some of the best tone Ive ever heard. Ironically its actually at my school. And i think i want to buy it. The only problem is that the figerboard is kinda beat up. Any way what im getting at is WOuld changing the fingerboard affect the tone of the instrument?

  2. If the fingerboard is really beat up, chances are it's either soft rosewood or maple painted black and varnished. Neither is really suitable for heavy use, but for reasons of scarcity of ebony and the higher price they have found a lot of use on student and even some intermediate basses. Rosewood was a standard offering on a lot of great Kay basses for a long time.
    Consider getting a luthier with a good reputation to have a look into re-planing it, rendering it once again smooth and buzz free. If this person says it can't be done, or if they want to charge you a fortune for this, consider either a different luthier or a different fingerboard. A new board won't be cheap, as Lemur (call 1-800-246-BASS for a free catalogue, full of great stuff and a real mine for information for the upright bassist) lists ebony starting at well over $100 for the worst one they stock. And fitting it and truing it to make it playable, along with a new nut (necessary, usually) and possibly modifications to an existing bridge (unless it has adjusters in good shape) can really add up. Always consider saving an old stick if you can. It's better for the ebony as a species, and easier on the lungs of luthiers.
    Now, properly adjusted, a new ebony fingerboard should actually assure that the sound doesn't get worse, and probably it will see some improvement if the existing one is really all that bad. There is, rarely, a person so bad at installing a fingerboard that it is just a mess to play. This is why asking other bassists about who they trust is so very important. Shop around the same as you would for a bass; carefully.
  3. Sadly, I've made a lot of money over the years correcting the mistakes of those rare persons.
  4. (shhhhhh! You're supposed to leave them some hope, silly. And a lot of money? wow.)
  5. Maybe we have more rare persons around here than you do up there.
  6. I was being optimistic and nice to my fellow bass doctors. I think maybe the very low population of same up here makes it seem rarer, too. But there are the odd bits of malpractice, to be sure. Not a happy kind of work to be getting, fixing that stuff. I'd rather make things, frankly, but the need for repairs is something that just won't quit.
  7. Actually the problem is that most of these particular rare persons were not bass doctors. It's the non-bass luthiers and Do It Yourselfers that cause most of the problems I've seen. These are the folks that look at bass repair as cabinet work.
  8. Changing the fingerboard would very probably affect the tone.

    Many people swear by Rosewood, saying that it gives a warmer sound than ebony (though it's less durable), and I seem to recall reading that Mark Rubin installed an ebony board on his personal bass with a completely flat underside (instead of scooped below the neck) because the extra wood thickness gave him a sound he liked better.

    In any case, by the time you buy a board and have it installed, you're looking at a $500 proposition, at least where I live. That assumes that you don't start with a $400 piece of wood, too.

    Quinn Violins sells ebony boards for either $232 or $300. http://www.quinnviolins.com/frames/fingerboards.htm

    I've seen them other places ranging from $150 to $350. Bob Gollihur (www.urbbob.com) sells Engelhardt rosewood fingerboards for about $110.

    Fingerboards generally aren't replaced until they've been dressed so many times that they are getting too thin.

    A luthier might be able to just dress the board in question and have it be just fine.

    I doubt if you'd find as much change in tone on having the FB dressed as you would with having a new FB installed.
  9. If you are thinking of buying a fingerboard and then paying a qualified bass luthier to install it, it would probably be a good idea to talk to the luthier before you buy the board. Luthiers generally can buy better quality boards for less than you can buy one mail order. There is a very good posibility that it will cost you less money overall to have the luthier install one of his boards rather than one you bring in the door from somewhere else.
  10. jazzbassnerd


    Aug 26, 2002
    i completely forgot about dressing the fingerboard. it probably never has been. that would definately be the best choice. thanks.

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