Neck radius and playability

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Nellsalot, Nov 20, 2005.

  1. I have a general question for you all. My story of why I'm asking this question is written below, and it would be helpful if you guys were to address my situation, but my main question is this: For you as individuals, what are the most crucial variables in playability? And more specifically, how important is the neck radius? I.e. flatness/roundness, thickness/thinness? This seems to be a pretty individual issue and I'm curious to see what people have to say. It seems like some players aren't that sensitive to it but I think it's a crucial difference for me. It does make a difference with my guitars (I vastly prefer my Gibson, which has a Les Paul-style neck, over my Strat).

    Several months ago I did a search for a bass, bought a MIM Fender Jazz then sadly returned it. I was pleased with the sound and everything but I found that when I went home with it and started practicing and playing I had new, unusual left hand pains which I'm 99% sure are not "growing pains". I was upgrading from a cheap vintage short scale bass and I found that my wrist angles were much more extreme in order to make the stretches and play anything on the lower frets. I have small hands and relatively short arms (5' tall woman) and I know that some smaller-handed people don't have trouble, but apparently I do. I was *able* to make the stretches, but was achey and tingly 10 minutes later.

    The thing is, when I was looking in the store I picked up an Ibanez Artcore hollowbody bass, just on a whim. I fell in love with the tone and especially the feel of the neck. Something about the neck made my left hand fluid and comfortable. The Jazz seemed to have a reasonably comfortable neck (I could barely play a Fender P) but from the very start I was a tiny bit less at ease with it than the Artcore. I don't think it was the action because the Jazz was adjusted pretty low.

    I bought the Jazz because it was more versatile than the Artcore and probably more dependable, but more importantly the Artcore's body shape was such that it was essentially impossible to play while standing up (the neck sticks waaay out). So that was the dealbreaker.

    Anyway, I'm looking for a bass again because I really need one to play on my album. Also, I would just enjoy playing a good-sounding bass (the tone of my short scale is a joke) even if I don't play it for long periods or if I have to radically adjust my left hand technique. This is partially fueled by listening to Dave LaRue (I don't expect to approach his level, particularly not with fingerstyle or slap, but he is inspiring).

    Anyway, looking at the experience with the Jazz and the Artcore I have a feeling my left hand problems had a lot to do with the neck shape and not just the scale length. The Artcore seemed quite flat. Not so much thin or narrow-spaced as just flat. I think that might be what made it so comfortable for me. Can anyone recommend an axe that has a relatively flat neck? Of course I'm concerned about tone and I used to be much pickier about that, but at this point I'm open to considering just about anything which is reasonably full and rich sounding, as long as it has a neck which suits my hand. My budget is $400-$700. I'm curious to try the Music Man SUB Sterling but it seems difficult to find anywhere.
  2. frederic b. hodshon

    frederic b. hodshon Supporting Member

    May 10, 2000
    Lake Forest, CA
    check out Carvins.

    they have "flatter" FINGERBOARDs and can be quite playable if set up correctly.

    i have a "budget" Spector that has fantastic feel. no fatigue.

  3. mophead

    mophead Supporting Member

    Oct 24, 2004
    Texas Panhandle
    Ever think about a Fender Mustang?
  4. I actually ordered a Mustang after I returned the Jazz but was not happy with the tone.
  5. pc


    Apr 4, 2000
    Montreal QC
    The most comfortabe neck I've ever played was on a Danelectro Longhorn. The Neck played like butter and the tone was nothing but amazing.

    The second one was a Rickenbacker Cheyenne, but I didn't like the tone very much
  6. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    This is all about personal preference. I prefer flat necks. You can have necks fabricated by companys like warmoth to your exact specifications for radius, width, shape of the back. etc. That is, of coarse, if you know exactly what you are looking for.
    Else, go to Guitar Center or some other place that has a many different bass and find out what feels good. You are the only one who can answer that question.

    PS. I share your dislike of P-Bass necks. Feels to me like a Louisville Slugger.