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Neck Back-Angle: To Be or Not To Be?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by LedBelli Bass, Apr 18, 2010.


  1. LedBelli Bass

    LedBelli Bass Fine, Handmade Custom Bass Guitars

    Dec 25, 2008
    Pasco, WA
    I was recently watching a Carl Thompson video where Carl remarked on basses with no neck angle. His perception was that such basses made him feel like his fretting hand was "out in front" of his plucking hand (like he was having to "reach" his fretting hand forward). Maybe some of you have seen the video and know of his remarks.

    Thus, he felt that he wanted a bass with some degree of back-angle to the neck, in order to have his fretting hand properly "behind" his plucking hand. So, as a result, he began building his basses with back-angle.

    Simple enough.

    So I started brainstorming my next build and how I was going to follow the path of the master and start building back-angle into my basses. However, it didn't take long for me to come to a simple realization: because the strings are always straight, the relationship between one's fretting hand and one's plucking hand will always be on the same plane to one another.

    Until we figure out a way to curve our strings into a "back-angle" (which of course is a joke, that cannot happen), we can never truly realize a situation where our fretting hand is "behind" our plucking hand. To whatever degree you angle the nut "back", you must elevate the bridge saddle(s) to compensate. The entire bridge, fingerboard, nut relationship to the strings (along with one's hands) can only be optimized one way.

    So, then I thought that the whole back-angle question could go into the myth pile along with "straight pull strings to the tuners" etc.

    And then I had a new idea that could produce a practical solution to the challenge of getting that fretting hand "behind" the plucking hand . . . which will be central to my next build. That thread will follow soon.

    But, any opinions on the whole subject? The floor is open . . .
     
  2. Greenman

    Greenman

    Dec 17, 2005
    Ontario Canada
    Angle of the string compared to the back of the bass body if that makes any sense. Probably originated with acoustics.
     
  3. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    Very interesting Cleve,
    I just want to see what you have in store......I bet you've got something up your sleeve ;)

    Some like Carl will say that the angle may be the premise, but also the bridge (or different hardware), to compensate, so that the bridge dosen't need to be countersunk or raised off the body with a block, depending on whether or not the fretboard is sitting right above the body top or if it's slightly higher off the body. Also what comes into play with this is: pickup depth (Whether shallow or deep) and overall string height above the body.

    Typically, I do a body angle instead of angling the neck, but of course I refer to a NT. With a bolt on and SN, a neck angle is more feasible there (IMO), and in Carl's case....(His are mostly SN, right?, or his case a "Virtual neck through".., if you will.)
     
  4. hdracer

    hdracer

    Feb 15, 2009
    Elk River, MN.
    I am not a builder, and don't understand all the technical stuff, but I just got a Gibson SG bass and it has a angled neck. It is the easiest most natural feeling bass I have played. The raised bridge makes "digging in" easier with more finger or pick room.
     
  5. Stone Age

    Stone Age

    Apr 13, 2008
    Connecticut
    You almost reach forward with your left hand to reach the first few frets on a straight neck bass. If the neck is angled back, your hands are in the same plane, but with the body hanging the same way, your left hand comes back.

    Someone could do the trig on this, but because of where the fulcrum is at the heel of the neck, your right hand only comes up about 1/8", while your left hand comes back a bit more than that.

    Definitely not a myth. This is not the tonal difference between lacquer and paint. This is something you can actually see working.
     
  6. LedBelli Bass

    LedBelli Bass Fine, Handmade Custom Bass Guitars

    Dec 25, 2008
    Pasco, WA
    ala the Les Paul approach . . .
     
  7. LedBelli Bass

    LedBelli Bass Fine, Handmade Custom Bass Guitars

    Dec 25, 2008
    Pasco, WA
    True, an acoustic double-bass is the extreme illustration of lay-back in relation to the plane of the body.
     
  8. LedBelli Bass

    LedBelli Bass Fine, Handmade Custom Bass Guitars

    Dec 25, 2008
    Pasco, WA
    Yes, Carl's are set-necks. The same video sets the record straight on his "wedge" of wood in the neck pocket . . . it was originally to cover up a mistake! That news gave me great comfort . . .

    I don't know if what I'm going to try is new or not . . . but it will just be my attempt to go after the solution.
     
  9. dblbass

    dblbass Commercial User

    Mar 24, 2007
    Beacon, NY
    Owner of MBJ guitars, Maker of fine sawdust for Carl Thompson Guitars
    Carl has an old L7 with a hefty neck angle that he's played since he was 13. He's said that that guitar probably had something to do with him liking angled necks. The bass he plays now is a 38" scale (he's only 5'7") and he has no trouble teaching the first fret. It's probably closer to you than the first fret on a jazz bass.
     
  10. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    Yeah, IIRC that vid states he as trying to carve out a neck pocket, on birdseye maple with a chisel........
     
  11. Stone Age

    Stone Age

    Apr 13, 2008
    Connecticut
    The birdseye issue was where he came up with the hole without a hole idea - the pseudo neck through design. The heel block started on the first instrument. He went too deep when trying to square up the pocket with a chisel.


    at 5:20
     
  12. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    Yep, it's the same construction, when he worked with Ken Smith on his prototypes.
     
  13. pushifier

    pushifier dB basses

    Jan 8, 2009
    Netherlands
    Correct me if I am wrong. But as far as I have seen from Carl's video's, the heel block makes the back angeled neck.
    You can also make a template: put the bridge on the bass(just in position. Than lay the neck in the body. Then put the a long piece of straight wood on top of the bridge and on the neck. Now you can align the neck angle to bridge. Clam it down. Take another piece of wood, and copy the angle between body(flat) and the first piece of wood. And put this angle in you heelblock You have got an ideal back angled neck then.
     
  14. Yet another topic that IMHO is a matter of personal preference. Basically my biggest concern isn't whether one hand is further back than the other, it's a matter of distance between strings and body that matters. The most comfortable basses I've played where bolt-ons and neck-throughs with necks parallel to the body that have about 1/2" space between strings and a flat surfaced body along the entire length from FB end to bridge. But whether the neck is angled or straight, I move the bass' position relative to my body constantly depending on the technique I'm using so it doesn't matter to me whether one hand is in front of or behind the other.
     
  15. I favor the neck angle to the body and subsequently another angle relative to the headstock and the neck. I use .8 degrees neck to body and 7 degrees headstock to neck. The headstock angle eliminates the need for string trees and greatly improves the string tension on the nut. The .8 degrees is necessary to keep my string height correct to the bridge saddles. I am using my own bridge design so that neck angle should be trigged out to match the height of the particular bridge you plan to use.
     
  16. Beej

    Beej

    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    I do like the neck angle on guitars, but for some reason, I like no angle on my basses. At any rate its nearly moot on me as all necks are way out in front of my playing hand on account of my giant beer gut...
     
  17. LOL. It took a long time and a great deal of will power to trim mine down. I started with a six-pack when in my 20s which grew to a keg by the time I hit my early 40s.
     
  18. LedBelli Bass

    LedBelli Bass Fine, Handmade Custom Bass Guitars

    Dec 25, 2008
    Pasco, WA
    I never understood why one would want a 6-pack when they could have a keg . . . :p
     
  19. Beej

    Beej

    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    Unfortunately for me, I'm carting around a whole beer truck...

    :D
     

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