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Minimum string spacing for 5 string

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by rwyarbrough, May 6, 2005.

  1. rwyarbrough


    May 24, 2004
    What is the narrowest string spacing any of the luthiers here have tried/ built? Curious to see how narrow of a 5 string neck I can get away with. As I stated in my “Out of the box thinking” thread, I tend to finger pluck my strings rather hard, so I will need a little vibrating room… Is there a theory or rule of thumb I can apply to designing bass neck width at the nut and body or 22nd fret? I like the feel of a narrow neck.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    In theory you can make it as thin as you want... until you'd have to start stacking the strings.

    I guess it depends how narrow you want the neck. You could make it the same width as a 4 string neck. The only problem you might want to watch for would be getting a bridge with sufficiently narrow spacing.
  3. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Too narrow and it will be very difficult to pluck fingerstyle. I would think even moreso if you're a hard player.

    E.g. guitar spacing would be far too narrow for anyone, I would think, unless you were only going to use a pick.
  4. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    almost anyone :p

    But it is not suitable for hard playing, much less slap & pop (especially pop, as you can barely fit a finger between two strings)

    Something like 15 mm spacing would be quite narrow, but playable*. A neck like that for a 5 would be a bit bigger than a 4, though.

    *of course, it depends on the player. And the player's hands
  5. paintandsk8

    paintandsk8 Pushin' my soul through the wire...

    May 12, 2003
    West Lafayette, IN
    The narrowest 5 string bridge that I know of is the kahler. It can be adjusted down to 13.5 mm. That's pretty narrow.
  6. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Nut: 3mm side to side
    Bridge: 5 mm side to side

    Less would be unplayable for most people, even with a pick (which everybody would need...).

    Fingerstyle? 5@nut and 12@bridge would be the limit for all adults I've seen :D
    My limits would be 5 and 15. But I wouldn't like it much...
  7. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Man, even harps have better spacing than that :rollno:
    :D :p
  8. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Well, on the fingerboard, you might press numerous strings without caring. And in the other end... Treble guitars regularly show 6mm - works fine with a pick, nails or slim fingers.

    I need to get a close look at a harp.... :eyebrow:

  9. Jarno


    Jan 27, 2005
    I'm assembling a Precision style bass using a 4 string neck and body. And a wilkinson 4+1 conversion bridge. That's probably also going to be quite narrow.
    I am wondering if I would consider this to be "playable". I'll let you know in a couple of weeks.


  10. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    FWIW, my main 5 has a nut width of 1.65" (only 10% larger than a 4 string Jazz) and a heel width @ 20th fret of 2.65" (only 5.5% larger than Fender 4), and it is quite comfortable to me. Bridge spacing is 16.5mm, which I guess is 2 19/32. Doesn't feel cramped at all. I have done a 5 string on a 4 string neck before, and that was too much.
  11. rwyarbrough


    May 24, 2004
    I look forward to your results... Good luck.
  12. rwyarbrough


    May 24, 2004
    That sounds about what I am looking for... 19mm is the norm, so 16.5 isn't that far off. The nut width sounds just right and so does the 20th fret width... This is the kind of info I was looking for. You've been a big help. You also saved me from going through the exercise of trying to build a 5 string with a 4 string neck.

  13. barebones

    barebones Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2005
    Denver, CO

    I once used the Wilkinson 4+1 setup on a 4-string Jazz bass knockoff. Spacing was tight but playable. In some ways I really liked it. Slapping was tricky, but I managed. I think you can find a way to work with about anything if you really want to.

    Good luck!

  14. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    Definitely. I like a narrow tighter spacing but putting those 5 strings on a 4 string neck...I could probably have gotten used to it over time, but it was damn tight.

    BTW-I just may have an extra bass that I'm not really using that you may be interested in... ;) Feel free to PM

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