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Flat vs Radius Finger Board

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Gerard Rizzardo, Feb 29, 2004.


  1. Many newer style of basses you see, tend to have a dead flat fingerboards, compared to the older style which having a slight radius/ curve. Now, I've been told that the main reason for this, is so you can have a lower and therefore faster action. Have people found this to be true and what is the advantage ?? But anyway, why were guitars or basses fingerboards made to have a radius in the first place. What purpose does it serve ??
     
  2. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE
    I prefer FLAT.

    I'll risk to say that electric guitars were made with radiused fingerboards to mimic what was done with bowed instruments.

    I've played classical guitars for more than 10 years when I was young and I definitely love a flat board. I find it faster to play but it's usually harder to get used to it when you're a beginner player.

    Peace,
    JP
     
  3. Sammy

    Sammy

    Aug 31, 2000
    SoCal
    I agree with JP that electric guitars were made with fingerboard radiuses to mimic what was done with bowed instruments. I would further risk saying that fingerboard radiuses were designed on bowed instruments to match the design of the human hand. Your preference of radius greatly depends on the shape of your hands and your playing style. (Radius long with neck thickness, string spacing, string set-up (height and tension), and scale length) I personally believe these are the most important parameters along with tone. I find my level of skill is filtered when playing different basses, based on how my hands can work the bass.

    I am most amazed that most people reviewing or selling basses never mention or know the neck thickness and fret-board / fingerboard radius. Coining my favorite bass review commentaries :rolleyes: , a quality bass that “sounds amazing” and “looks killer” may play like trash, in your hands.
     
  4. MaXell

    MaXell

    Jan 23, 2004
    Maryland
  5. Which manufactrurers make basses with a flat fingerboard ??
     
  6. phxlbrmpf

    phxlbrmpf

    Dec 27, 2002
    Germany
    I, too, prefer flat fingerboards, probably because my first stringed instrument was a classical guitar. I tried a MIM P bass with a terribly curved fingerboard once and I absolutely hated it.
     
  7. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    Warwick usually has high radius numbers for their necks (20" for most, I believe). The one problem I have with flat fingerboards is that it doesn't allow me to bar certain chords or do certain string-crossing hammer-ons. A radius of 16" or below allows the curve of my fingers to bar easier (basically fretting with the middle of my finger).
     
  8. I think my MIM Jazz had a 9" fingerboard radius, and whenever I'd do a whole-step bend, it would produce horrible fret buzz. That's why I prefer a greater radius, but not totally flat.
     
  9. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    I don't see where a flatter board would allow for lower string setting. It's going to be relative. There was a good article in bass player online about neck design, written by whoever it was that designed the PV Cirrus I think. He addressed radius. Seems he said something along the lines of a flat board set straight (without relief) will result in more accurate tone because it wouldn't be slightly sharped by the extra bend of the string. But like I said, seems you get the same thing without relief with a radius. How adverse can the affect of a radius be, you're not going to get any more picky than a classical musician playing symphony.

    Fenders are fairly flat and I've got a Lightwave that's about the same. Radius feels more natural to me but it's all in what you're used to and I get used to it either way before long. But the flat stuff always feels unnatural at initially.
     
  10. Sammy

    Sammy

    Aug 31, 2000
    SoCal
    I would have to agree, a horrible fret buzz due to bending strings is more likely due to the quality of the fret-work more than the fingerboard radius. Whole-step bends may be a challenge for a lot of instruments, I’ll let the true Luthier’s address that one. ;)

    As for finding the right bass with the radius, or combination of scale, string spacing, and radius; good luck. Bass Player magazine usually puts this data in their reviews, but most dealers don't have a clue. I've had dealer call a 15" radius "mostly flat" and a 20" radius "kinda curved". As for customer builders, I would guess they are asked to build a wide-range of configurations, but have standard dimension preferences.

    For me, I like a fingerboard radius between 11” and 15”, so I am a bad reference for finding flat fret boards. I also prefer standard 19mm string spacing with 34.5” scale for my 5 string fretted, but like a closer feel (18mm, 34” scale – Zon) for my 5 string fretless. :D
     
  11. I would think that bowed instruments have curved fingerboards so that you can bow the strings individually............
     
  12. Sammy

    Sammy

    Aug 31, 2000
    SoCal
    Good Point :oops:
     
  13. Would 0mm be flat or what? I dont understand how the radius works.
     
  14. The lower the number, the more curved the fingerboard. I don't know what the exact number for a flat radius is, but it may be something like 20.
     
  15. How about compound fretboards? I'm getting my first and wondered about tapping, barring, etc. It's 14" in first position and 24" at the body end.
     
  16. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE
    flat is FLAT. No radius, no number.

    Peace,
    JP
     
  17. In theory, a 0 mm radius would be impossible, and a perfectly flat fingerboard would have an infinite radius.
     
    JBassHead likes this.
  18. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    Yeh......... haven't seen anybody use a pic on a cello in a while.
     
  19. The number for the fingerboard radius corresponds to the circle that would be drawn if you extended the curve of the fingerboard. Or a little easier to visualise, if you drew a circle with a radius of 15", take a segment thats as wide as the fingerboard that'll describe the arch of the board. So for a flatter board you need a larger number so that each little segment of the circle is flatter. A radius of 0mm is impossible because its just a line, without dimensions. Ombudsman is right, flat is an infinite radius but as you get out beyond 20" its gets pretty hard to tell.

    Cello is just kinda like a bass tuned funny with a shorter scale and no frets, its just asking to be plucked. Pisses people off playing them non-upright though.

    Josh D
     
  20. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    Yeh, the same dude using the pic had the cello on a shoulder strap and was jump'n all around between the symphony and the conductor. It was different.