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Fingerboard Length

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Chris Fitzgerald, Feb 1, 2003.


  1. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I've been looking through the old threads and couldn't find any references to this topic, so I though I'd ask about this: what is the standard length for fingerboards? Can you buy blanks for different lengths? What effect would a longer board have on sound/playability?

    I'm wondering because I most often play (pizz) with my right hand at the end of the fingerboard because of the nice punchy sound I get there. I'd love to hear what it would sound like if I could play rest strokes closer to the bridge, but the absence of fingerboard surface under the strings in this area prevents me from doing this. For a pizz only player, what purpose does the open area between the bridge and the end of the fingerboard serve?

    I would never try and do anything like this myself, but I'm curious if it would be possible to add an extension to the end of the board...not for fingering higher notes, but for digging in with the right hand closer to the bridge to get a puchier sound when desired. I'm also wondering if this might help the higher TP notes speak a bit better, since the RH could then be a bit farther away from the note being fingered.

    Thoughts/comments?
     
  2. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    HI Chris,

    I put an extended fingerboard on my bass -had a really long chunk of macassar ebony and just couldn't help experimenting! It gives me a 3 octave fingerboard. I can't pluck up at the end of it because of all the rosin accumulating there, but I've tried it out-with negative results. On my bass, the sound just gets thinner if I play up toward the bridge end. In fact I probably play further up toward the nut than most jazzers do, and it gives me a nice round tone. I suppose plucking toward the bridge would give more resistance, in the same way it does for arco, which might help pizz agility.
    Laurence
     
  3. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    34 in. is the standard, Chris. You'd have to get a 4/4 board to come up with a longer one-piece but it is pretty easy to glue on an extension. I'm sure Nickel would do it for you.
     
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Thanks for the info. Do you know of other people having done this for the same reason? It might be a stupid idea, but then again, it might not.
     
  5. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Plenty have done it to extend the range, but I haven't seen your scenario yet. But it definately isn't a stupid idea, it's just what you are feeling. It's quite reversible['cept for whatever cash outlay]. The only downside is that it may get in the way of some arco stuff. [Unless it messes with your BO-gotta ask Bob about that]
     
  6. Chris,
    Your question about the length of fingerboards brings up a couple of related items. As Jeff mentioned the usual fingerboard length from the supplier is about 34 inches. The finished length depends on the bass size. According to several published sources, a 3/4 bass should have a length of 850mm which is about 33 3/4". A 7/8 bass should be 860mm, and a 4/4 should be 890mm. In addition, I've always thought that the length of the fingerboard should be proportional the the string length. So a 42" string length would have a FB slightly longer than a 41" and a 43" string length would have a FB a little longer than a 42". Some luthiers insist that the length of the FB should be where you get the B harmonic on the G string. That should automatically adjust the FB length to compensate for variations in the String length.
     
  7. That's B0 (zero) not BO Jeff. Yes I would change the resonance frequency of the neck (B0) some, but it would only "mess" it up if it were to move the B0 away from the resonance frequency of the body (A0). Like the discussion on C extensions, some times it hurts, and some times it helps. But regardless, the B0 can be readjusted to match the A0.
     
  8. Chris,

    My bass has a long fingerboard-- up to E on the G string. For stuff in the lower register I pizz a few inches from the end of the board, I get a bigger, stronger sound there. It's the sweet spot. Moving closer to the bridge detracts from these qualities (just as moving further away would detract in an opposite fashion), though I do pizz closer if I'm playing high, in thumb position I pizz closer to the bridge the higher I go. When I'm playing that high that I pizz near the end of my board I use a bass guitar-like pizz stroke and I anchor my thumb on a string, not the side of the board.
     
  9. I always knew that my bass had a long finger board, I just didn't know how it compared with others.

    I can play up to the F# before leaving the finger board. Not that I ever play there unless it's a harmonic. I have a string length of 41 inches and fb length of 35.5 inches. When bowing in the lower positions, up to middle harmonic, I am bowing about one and a half inches from the end on the G string and progressively further up on the other strings.

    Does the additional mass of the longer finger board have a negitive effect on the sound produced?
     
  10. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    My fingerboard improved the sound over the black ebony I had on before. I think it was the difference in type of ebony, rather than the fingerboard length, that made the difference on my bass. The sound was much rounder with less buzzy pizzes. I REALLY don't use the long board at all -you should see the shoulders on my bass! I just thought it might be neat to try. Joel Quarrington's Maggini has a board that is longer on the "A" string (that's a "G" in dog-years to us fourth-tuned players) than the other strings. I've also seen Edgar Meyer with a fingerboard like this.
    LM