Questions for the luthiers.

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Marty Forrer, Sep 4, 2003.

  1. 1) If the maximum point of relief in a fingerboard is at the octave, what shape is the relief? Does it follow a gentle bow from the nut, to come back to zero at the end of the fingerboard, or does it start and finish from some other point. Or does it follow a flat plane from the nut to the maximum point of relief, and then a flat plane back up to the fingerboard end, with a curve under the octave to join the two planes together?
    2) What do the luthiers consider to be the average string height for jazz pizz on the G? I have heard that 6mm is considered "normal".
    I realise that every bass and every player is different, but there must be a median where you can say "well 75% of my setups turn out to be 6mm", or whatever. For what it's worth, I shaped my own fingerboard and it seems to work well with Velvet Garbos and a 5mm height under the G, and I play with a medium touch. I'm really curious to know how close to "getting it right" I was.
  2. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    1) The scoop isn't a flate plane meeting another flat plane at the octave. Under a straightedge, the scoop is a gentle curve from the nut to the end of the fingerboard. However, there is usually a little more scoop from nut-to-octave, and a little less scoop octave-to-end of board. Hypothetically, if your fingerboard was as long as your string length (let's say 42"), the scoop would appear more symmetrical under a 42" straightedge. I've seen fingerboard relief that was centered on the board's length, around 3rd position, and not on the octave. What resulted was a "frapping" sound coming from the plucked/bowed string between 5th and 6th position.

    2)Most players find that 6 mm under the G string is average. You have a "medium touch" and 5 mm? Makes sense. Somebody that plays harder prolly wouldn't dig that string height. But, if it feels good to you, and the board doesn't buzz, you "got it right."
  3. Thanks Nick, your reply was well put, and put my mind at ease. Yes, I did get it right, more by good luck than by knowing what I was doing, but now I have a much better understanding of the way a fingerboard works. One thing I did do was to shift the point of max relief from the middle of the board to the octave, and increased the relief on the E side so that it matches the thickness of each string (more or less).
    One thing I have found, is that having the correct shape on the board, with no high spots, has improved the tone of my bass. It has more punch, and more sustain and clarity, improvements I would not have associated with the fingerboard. Plus my right arm looks like Popeye's from all that sanding!!!!