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Neck radiuses--Live and learn

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by badgrandad, Sep 15, 2005.

  1. I've been playing for years- and Ive just realized that my main bass's neck radius is too flat for my liking. I'm not even sure what it is (on my Carvin 5stringer) but I played on a bass that seemed really comfortable and after A/B them several time I realized the main difference was the feel of the fretboard, but it made a big difference if the ease of playing.

    Question is, is the radius of the neck just a "preference-thing" or is there some particular reason for why a player would use/need one over another (ie for chording, tapping, fingerstyle playing etc.)

    BTW another bass that had a similarly easy feel was a Skjold 5string I played at the Arlington Guitar show, if anyone knows what radius Pete uses on his 5-string bass.
  2. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

    I'm interested to hear TBers responses on this. My feeling is that it's a total presonal preference thing. I like the highest radius (12+), flattest fingerboards I can get, but don't have any problem playing various styles on the classic lower radius (7?) necks either.
  3. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    I believe its just a preference thing. I prefer a pretty flat radius myself. Pete actually can customize your neck as he does all the final carving by hand. The one Im having him make me will be flatter than usual, but another guy he made a bass for was mainly a DB player and wanted a chunkier neck. He loved it.

    Ive discovered its not so much the curve that bothers me so much, but that I prefer a little flatness right in the middle, no matter how round or flat the rest of the neck may be. It keeps my thumb anchored better in the middle of the back of the neck. When its really round in the middle, my thumb tends to slip up towards the top of the fingerboard, making my fingers strain more for proper fretting.
  4. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Cool thread. I'm also of the opinion that neck radius is, like other neck dimensions, completely player's preference. It's also a subtle thing IMO.
  5. I'm also aware that some necks have a compound radius to the fretboard where it flattens out towards the upper registers but is rounded near the nut where it is narrowest (if that is really a word!).

    I am curious if it has anythig to do with the size of your hands as well as far as what is most comfortable (flat or more radiused)
  6. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    Well, my Dingwall has a compound radius like you mention. Keep in mind, neck profile and fingerboard radius are two different animals though. And I dont think it has to do with hand size. I have huge hands, so theoretically, a rounder profile shouldnt bother me any with reach, but its less comfortable to me.
  7. Doug Parent

    Doug Parent

    May 31, 2004
    San Diego, Ca.
    Dealer Nordstrand Pickups.
    My conclusion: flatter is easy to play on providing the spacing is right for YOU. Flatter than what? Good question. I think for each player there is an ideal combination of radius and string spacing.

    It took me almost a year to get acclamated to my MTD 535 (more radius-rounder fret board) I came off using a MTD Grendel with a flatter radius which I played for 5 years. I almost sold the 535 a few times out of frustration but hung with it. Now the 535 feels "homey"

    Having made the leap, now when I pick up my Lull MV5 its so damn flat and narrow spacing I feel I'm back to square one all over again. (The Lull is a great bass, its not a bad thing, just different)

    I think radius and string spacing play an interesting role together, often creating an illusion.

    The most comfortable flat fretboard I played on was Lakland (4-95?)which has wider spacing than my Lull or fender MIA 5 and identical to the MTD 535. Night and day to me anyway.

    I guage a bass on how much attention the bass itself takes away from my playing because of a "poor fit" For me, it's better when a bass is "old shoe" comfortable, almost like the instrument isn't even there, its a seamless part of your overall music machine which includes the being, the gear, and the inspiration.
  8. Personal preference, that's all IMO.
  9. pointbass

    pointbass Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    I've never paid a lot of attention to the radius of the fingerboard .... for me it's more about the shape (profile?) of the neck itself. Maybe the radius of the fingerboard plays a big part in my decision making and I just don't know it :meh:

    For fretless playing, I much prefer a bulkier neck, more DB-ish as opposed to the electric bass. As I've moved up in string count I also find that the additional neck width has forced me to a slightly less-chunky neck.

    Higher string count fretted basses definitely feel better to me with a flatter profile on the neck and a flat radius.

    This topic is interesting, I never really gave this a lot of thought .... I just play what feels good ..... :cool:
  10. Pete skjold

    Pete skjold

    May 29, 2004
    Warsaw Ohio
    Hey Man ,

    My fingerboard radius is a compound radius that starts at 12" at the nut and flattens out to 18" at the 24th fret . I think it is a good balance . If someone plays a vintage Jazz then they might feel it more than someone playing a more modern bass . Most guys including vintage players still find it comfortable .

  11. michele

    michele Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2004
    Absolutely a personal preference and an extremely important factor in the "feeling" ... after years of vintage Fender Jazz (9.5 I think) I feel my Sadowsky's 12" radius like a perfect glove to my hand. However I've always feel uncomfortable with total flat fingerboards.
    Great topic BTW!
  12. Just checked the Carvin website, my bass has a 14" radius (and was the wide spacing assymetrical neck).
  13. Dan the Lorp

    Dan the Lorp

    Aug 30, 2005
    NW Florida
    This Radius thing is one of the most important factors to me---and maybe it is because I have short fingers: I hate an extremely flat radius (14" and higher).

    I have a Carvin LB70 with the 14" radius. I love the thin neck, and the feel---until I get to the fretboard. Playing down low with the flat radius is a struggle, and I wind up with pain. I have since realized that the rounder (or shorter radius) is what feels just right to me. I had a 1971 Fender Precision for 30 years---now I wish I hadn't sold it!

    To the individual who said the Lakland was flat---I played a 44-02 at Rudy's in New York and that neck just fit me like a glove. I am pretty sure the radius is 10". My fingers just glide naturally on a more curved fretboard.

    Now the good news for people who like Carvin Basses: they have lowered the standard radius to 12", but now offer an optional 10" radius!

    With that light balanced body and thin neck---that has to be just about incredible!

    So the question now is, do I go with a Carvin B4, with the bridge humbucker (around $559) or the gorgeous Lakland Skyline 44-02 (around $1115-1279)?

    What sucks in a way (I know they would cost more with a middleman), is that you just can't try out a Carvin...have to order it direct from San Diego. You do have 10 days to decide, but I would just feel funny ordering something just to try it out!

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.
  14. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT
    I'd go ahead and order it. They know full well that some people are going to return the instruments, and they account for it. It's part of their business model...they don't sell through local stores, so it's not like you're taking money from a local sales guy.

    There have been recent threads here and on the EBMM forum about the ethics of buying a guitar from Guitar Center knowing ahead of time that you'll return it, and the consensus was that it's a no-no...because those guys make a living off of commission and when you return it you're taking back the commission you gave them...the particular issue rests on buying KNOWING that you'll give it back. But with Carvin's direct-to-consumer sales, commission is not a factor. Plus, you're not buying it KNOWING that you'll return it...right?

    Back on-topic...I've never really paid much attention to fingerboard radius. I've always been comfortable, but perhaps I've always been lucky...or perhaps I've always found other things to be more important.

    FWIW: I currently own a '97 Carvin LB75A (shown in my avatar), very soon to be retired in favor of a Bongo 5 (11 inch radius). I have small hands.
  15. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    I don't have a particular preference for radius - a baseball batty J or EB neck feels as good to me as a flat Elrick or Tobias fingerboard. That said, a small radius can screw with string-to-string volume if the pickups aren't radiused as well.
  16. telekaster


    Feb 14, 2005
    San Diego
    I was a guitar player in a previous life and radius was a big deal. The biggest factor was that with a flatter radius, the action could be set lower than a more curved radius. This had to do with "fretting out" when bending strings. With low action and a 7.5" radius, the strings would cease to sustain when bent past a certain point (whole step). A larger radius with the same action could alleviate this problem.

    I'm not sure how this translates to bass, since I'm not sure how important string bending is on bass. I might use a little vibrato, but I never try to bend a whole step on the bass.

    With that said, I think fretboard radius is more personal prefference in the bass world. I believe small radii are better for chording, while a flatter radius may be better suiter for faster runs. This is all IMHO as I'm still learning the ins and outs of bass.
  17. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    As noted many times, it's personal preference, nothing more.

    FWIW, I'm more concerned about neck profile. I absolutely adore asymmetric profiles, such as on the Fender RB5 and MTD 535. I'm OK with symmetric profiles as long as they aren't too slim from front to back. But again, it's all personal preference.
  18. Pennydreadful

    Pennydreadful Goin out West

    Jun 13, 2005
    Arlington, Texas
    Yeah, it's just preference, as most everybody's saying.

    Me, I like a slimmer fretboard and a really deep, chunky neck, like a baseball bat. Flat = bad, for me.
  19. I tend to prefer flatter radiuses but Fender rocks too. Still, I sometimes will pull a string off the fretboard if I get to excited playing vibrato or bending on my Jazz. Doesn't seem to happen as much on a flat board. Still, Jazz > all.
  20. Peik


    Dec 2, 2004
    How large does Radius go?

    I was looking at a yamaha catalog, and it said that the TRBJP2, John patitucci had a 40" radius.
    It is a six string, but if Radius only refers to the flatness of the fingerboard, then 40" sounds like it really flat.

    What radius is completly flat?