Question about fingerboard camber; please help.

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by lincland, Oct 10, 2011.


  1. lincland

    lincland

    Nov 8, 2004
    Dallas, TX
    I have a great fingerboard that's about 5 years old, and it's a big fat slab of ebony. When it was mounted, I loved it the way it was and it has never been sanded or altered.

    Well, my technique has changed over the years, and now I'm wondering if there's too much camber.

    I'm a jazz player, and never bow. Can you have a "zero" camber fingerboard? I asked Brian Bromberg once and he said his was completely flat with no camber, but that could just be a general description or something his luthier told him.

    So I'm curious. Are there jazz basses set up with absolutely flat, no camber fingerboards.

    I'm looking for lowest action with maximum clearance for my right hand. Right now, my strings are lower at the bridge end than they are in the middle. I know my camber isn't extreme, but do you really need any if you are not bowing?

    Thanks.
     
  2. robobass

    robobass

    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    No. In fact some classical players I know play straight boards, even with wound gut strings. There are of course many strong opinions, and a lot of inertia on this topic, though, so I bet the majority of replies will disagree. Personally, I like a very straight board for orchestra, but find it makes the thumb position action a bit high for comfort with solo and jazz playing.
     
  3. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Given that the string swings in an elliptical arc when you play it, there needs to be room for that motion. I suppose you could use a really straight board if you cranked the bridge height, but you would be limiting how high you could play. Or you could tickle the strings, like a slab player, and abandon all hope of tone. :(

    The camber, in combination with the string heights at nut and saddle, is a balancing act designed to make the instrument playable in all positions. Basses and players and strings vary in their preferences. The only generalization I'm comfortable with is that the fatter strings need more camber than the thinner ones. ;)
     
  4. lincland

    lincland

    Nov 8, 2004
    Dallas, TX
    If it matters, I'm using Spirocores, Mittle G, and Weichs on the rest.
     
  5. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    I agree. I love my little camber new board, but after two years of use, I am noticing the bit more difficult higher string height in thumb position than my other bass with more camber. The lower positions are easier with little camber. It is a balancing act, for sure.
     
  6. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    This is right on. A fingerboard that is dead flat will not work. I guarantee that every player that thinks he has a flat board actually has some camber. Even if the board was planed dead flat it will flex a bit when under tension.
     
  7. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    +1
     
  8. lincland

    lincland

    Nov 8, 2004
    Dallas, TX
    What if my ebony slab is over an inch thick? I'm just saying.
     
  9. rjspear

    rjspear Commercial User

    Apr 23, 2011
    Ithaca, New York
    Luthier, owner Singing Woods Violin Shop
    I'm with Arnold and Jake on this one. You can play on a "perfectly" flat fingerboard, but there are trade offs when you need to play in thumb position. Likewise, depending on your style of playing, you are more likely to rattle the string against the fingerboard when you pizz aggressively than you would when you bow hard.

    If your bass is set up like many I've seen, the arc of the bridge is probably greater than the arc at the end of the fingerboard. It is not unusual for me to encounter setups where the at least one of the two middle strings is higher than the lowest string. The results of this are really evident only in the higher positions. Perhaps this is part of the problem.
     
  10. robobass

    robobass

    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I guess this makes sense. Though, what then is the minimum relief (sorry, I just can't get used to saying camber!) necessary? A solid majority of the basses I've played in my lifetime seemed to have way too too much, and I've never played a bass which I thought had too little. The Pöllmann 5 string Busetto I played for many years had only around 1mm of relief, almost no nut clearance, and very low action. It played great, although Bottesini was no fun:) Also, instinct tells me that how straight a board can be is dependant on the stiffness of the neck and top. Don't know if this is true, but the Pöllman was an incredibly stiff bass, and somehow I don't desire that straight a board on my Pfretzchner 4-string.
     
  11. lincland

    lincland

    Nov 8, 2004
    Dallas, TX
    My bridge arc almost matches my fingerboard arc. I set it up that way.

    I will confess that I did guitar repair for many years, and I approach the setup on the bass the same way. It's set up for pizz, although it bows quite well. There is minimal relief in a guitar fretboard when it's set up properly as well.

    The string clearance at the end of the fingerboard is about 1/4 inch, and graduates to about 1/2 inch at the E. In the center of the board it's a few mm more on each string because of the camber. (relief)

    And on a fretless electric bass there is relief as well, although minimal. So maybe it's all semantics. There needs to be "some" it's a matter of how much depending on your playing style. I guess that's the answer.

    Thanks for the input.
     
  12. That description sounds like 'lots'. I'd expect 4.5-6mm or so at the end of the fingerboard, and maybe 1mm more at the octave, if even that.
     
  13. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    +1 again
     
  14. lincland

    lincland

    Nov 8, 2004
    Dallas, TX
    Andrew, that's my point. My action is closer at the end of the fingerboard, than it is at the octave because of the camber.
     
  15. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Maybe you should just go ahead and make an appointment with Cody Sisk at Dallas Strings. Pay him for a consultation and have him go through your bass evaluating the setup - probably the best money you'll have spent on your bass. ;)
     
  16. lincland

    lincland

    Nov 8, 2004
    Dallas, TX
    I will, thank you.
     
  17. Cody Sisk

    Cody Sisk

    Jan 26, 2009
    Lilburn, GA
    Ronald Sachs Violins
    Hey thanks for the plug guys, I've been on vacation so I hope I haven't left anyone hanging! .....checking voicemails/messages....
     
  18. powerbass

    powerbass

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    I made an EUB w/a very flat radius and I had a lot of problems w/E string buzz due to too little of a radius. I think the line of pull and the way the strings move on a DB require a specific arc
     
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