Necks and Shoes......

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by ZenG, Dec 26, 2014.

  1. a It would seem that picking the right bass neck is much like buying a pair of shoes....

    If you take a size 8 you're not going to buy a size 12.

    Since hands come in a multitude of sizes:-

    Is there currently a formula that can be applied to matching a hand with a neck?

    In other words:-

    Factoring in the length of your fingers, overall size of hand and the resting distance between your thumb and your index finger..are there certain parameters you should not exceed for your best "playability"?

    Neck width.
    Neck thickness.
    Nut width.
    String spacing.

    All these are going to be a factor in your playability depending on the size and idiosyncracies of your fretting hand. No matter whether you're playing a shortscale or a long scale.

    Formulaically and ergonomically, what are the "specs"?

    If you are a person that can afford to have a custom neck built to match your fretting hand exactly......what numbers are they going to use?

    (or if you happen to be shopping "off the shelf").
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2014
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    While there probably is some correlation to preference and hand shape / size, I seriously doubt it's very consistent. That is to say, neck "feel" is a purely subjective thing.
    Imaginary Pony and Joedog like this.
  3. Bent77


    Mar 6, 2013
    Desert, Colorado
    Yes but I like where he is going with this. You Certainly only shop for shoes in the correct (appx) size
  4. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Perhaps, but I've never heard of such a thing, and I'm pretty sure most luthiers would look at you with a :confused: if you asked them to "custom fit" a neck to your hand size/shape. But I'll watch the thread, maybe I'm wrong - I'm one of those guys "blessed" with a huge palm but rather short fingers. Would have preferred the other way around. Always wished I had fingers like Hendrix! :D
  5. Bob-I


    Sep 12, 2014
    I respectfully disagree. Shoes need to fit your feet when extended to the maximum length. Your hands can adjust by bending your fingers to fit the neck. I can make the distance from my thumb to fingers for different size necks and I can reach my fingers across a wide neck, or bend them to work on a narrow neck.

    This is a matter of individual comfort. I have huge hands, yet I'm more comfortable on smaller necks.
    Jah Wobble Fan and Funkmabassup like this.
  6. This is what my hand looks like in resting position....the thumb pad is not facing the back of the it's out of it's natural element when applied to the back of the neck:-


  7. Hey ZenG

    Wow, you really hit the nail on the head. I LOVE your post - one of the best posts I have ever seen on this subject - obviously it's a subject matter that is close to my heart. I am wondering at this moment how many folks are skipping ahead, rolling their eyes and sighing. Oh, here we go, BassHappy again - would he just get a life! They have heard everything I have to say a million times and they are in no mood to listen to me again. Especially since they certainly don't agree - but here I go anyways....

    See, there is a big thing here that many bass players in my opinion are overlooking. For me, it's not just about playing - it is about maximizing your potential, it's about being the best bass player you can be. It's about accomplishment, it's about working up technically to those parts you are not sure you would ever be able to play, but finally nailing them.

    In order to do that - you need to play a bass that FITS you. As ZenG so rightfully and righteously posts: "If you take a size 8 you're not going to buy a size 12".

    But the simple fact is, we have been mostly buying into the fact that size 12 is the size - it's the way to go. No one that mattered ever told us we shouldn't. Yeah there were a ton of size 8'ers around such as Paul McCartney, Bill Wyman, Stanley Clarke, Jonas Hellborg - the list goes on and on. But we kept them in the dark corners - our brothers, uncles and older bass playing friends were militant about encouraging us to wear size 12. It's what they wore, it's what we should wear. It's the way it is. It's what we do as bass players. We wear size 12. It's a badge of honor.

    Do yourself a little favor, I have posted this before but the thread was rather obscure, and I am not sure many saw it.

    Find a passage that you struggle with. It could be a finger exercise, a section of a bass solo, or just a section of a song that - no matter how hard you try - you just can't nail it cleanly and proficiently. Maybe the passage is just a little too fast, and when you slow it down a pinch it's perfect every time. Speed it up and it's well - sloppy. Sloppy as sloppy gets. Maybe it's one of those hit or miss passages where the knot in your stomach wells up a little right before that section and you hope you can nail it because the audience seems to really be paying attention. You with me?

    OK, now visit you local music store and try that same passage on another scale instrument. If you are big and your hands are big, move UP a scale, try a 35" or even a 36". If you hands are average or smaller, try (for size) that same passage on a Rick (which is 33.75" instead of full 34") and see for yourself if it makes a difference in your ability to play that same part. If that feels good, but not quite, try moving down to a medium 32" scale and see what happens. If you stature is particularly small, you may even want to try a 30" short scale and see what happens, playing that same passage. Many of you are going to be quite surprised at what you find out. When you find the bass that fits you - you will know it - and it will be a revelation to you. You will howl at the moon when you can nail that solo section or those finger exercises or that difficult passage that always seemed to be so elusive.

    And to speak to bholder - YES, absolutely - I have a number of custom basses and I have selected the exact configurations on the neck on each and every one of them. Almost every bass I own has a copy of one of my favorite necks. This is one part of custom bass making that any custom builder expects. It is standard operating procedure. Having a special neck made to the specs of another is incredibly commonplace.

    So next time you go shopping, try out that size 10, or that size 14 and while you are at it try out an 8 - and find out what really fits you. Old myths die hard and it is such a silly myth that we all need a size 12.
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2014
  8. This pic demonstrates it better:- Ibanez SR500

    Last edited: Dec 26, 2014
  9. Hey ZenG

    I am a dedicated and pretty exclusive medium scaler and here is how my left fretting hand has stretched over the years. I can totally relate to your hand size. The fingers are spread on both hands as far as they go.

    Hands Rick1.JPG

    Hands Rick2.jpg
    Hoodywah likes this.
  10. gfen


    Aug 21, 2014
    lehigh valley
    stayed at a holiday inn, once...
    That's creepy, I just did exactly that and marvelled at the fact my pinky goes over further on the fretting hand, and I've barely been back into this as a hobby...
    Hoodywah likes this.
  11. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    I think people make too big a deal out of neck size and profile. I know I used to. But as I moved on to 5 and 6 and even 7 string basses I learned to simply adjust to various necks and string spacings. Sure there are some necks I like (my G&Ls) and some I don't like as much (Fender Jazz), but generally speaking I play them all and it doesn't drive me nuts. Hey I started playing upright so even a Wishbass neck isn't outside my fence. Now there are limits. A 7 string neck is about the limit that my hands can comfortably cover. A wider neck would mean I'd have to switch techniques to tapping or something. But that's about it. I also play 4 string banjo and that's about as skinny as necks get. (Though you still get to stretch a lot because it's tuned in 5ths)
    Imaginary Pony likes this.
  12. zontar


    Feb 19, 2014
    I like a variety of neck sizes, so I wouldn't buy into a standard for hand size & neck size.
    between two basses & some guitars I have big chunky necks & slim necks--and like them both and in between.
    The only two necks I find uncomfortable are based on shape & playing technique, not size.
    I do not like V necks (Which seem rare on basses, and flat back shredder necks (again, I have't seen too many on basses)

    As to preferences based on hand size I know a lot more people who avoid smaller or thinner necks based on large hands than the other way around.
  13. 003.JPG I like playing the Ibanez because it feels like the neck is faster.

    In this pic the neck is a Squier Jag SS...which is thicker than the Ibanez but the thumb rests better on the neck....

  14. LOL Hey Gfen

    Really didn't mean to be creepy....

    Maybe we should keep the deformed hand posts to ourselves....
  15. This is my hand size.......but I think bone structure , finger length and several other factors are equally as important as the size of a hand.....

    I find a lot of times I play with my thumb sort of pointing toward the headstock than having it rigidly placed behind the fingers on the neck.

    And usually the thumb is more in the middle of the back of the neck than towards an outer edge....

  16. hdracer


    Feb 15, 2009
    Elk River, MN.
    A lot has to do with how your hands work too.
    As we age some of us can start to have problems with our hands. Injures or arthritis are just a couple.
    The same with our feet. I wear the same size shoe that I did when I was in my 30's but I need arch supports now.
    A bass neck that felt great in your 20's may not feel so good when you are in your 50's.
  17. gfen


    Aug 21, 2014
    lehigh valley
    stayed at a holiday inn, once...
    It's sort of eyeopenig, as I force myself to use my pinky and not ring finger I feel it stretching but I never really thought about the long term changes that will happen 'til you gave the visual representation.

    As to the latter, as long as I don't have to look at people's filthy finger nails, it's fine. As a flytier, it's super revolting to see others' black, chewed, and deformed fingernails front and center in a tying SBS video.
  18. Joedog


    Jan 28, 2010
    Pensacola FL
    I think trying to come up with some sort of correlation/formula is totally useless. Some players w/huge hands like small necks. Some with small hands (like me) like wide beefy necks. It's like trying to come up w/a formula on the best height of a woman based upon the size of your........

    Jah Wobble Fan likes this.
  19. jmverdugo


    Oct 11, 2012
    Katy TX
    Overthinking too much perhaps?
    Buzz E likes this.
  20. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    While I think there is some sense to the "necks and shoes" analogy, I don't think it is as simple as focusing solely on the neck. The whole geometry is important. For example, I have a 35" scale five string with a two-inch nut and 20mm string spacing. It made me think I didn't like (or couldn't manage) a 35" scale bass. Later I played a 35" scale bass with a 1.75" nut and 18 or 19mm string spacing and it felt just fine.

    With a 34" bass, sometimes the position of the strap pin in relation to the neck can make the bass more or less comfortable. I am so used to a P bass that the way it hangs on a strap is "normal" to me. A Thunderbird extends the neck so far that it becomes a completely different animal which I also like, but a bass where the strap pin sits of the 15th or 16th fret sits oddly enough that I don't find it comfortable.

    Don't get me wrong, I can and do play anything. But then again, I wore those godawful rental tuxedo shoes at a friend's wedding this summer, too.