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Radius question

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by basmicke, Nov 6, 2010.

  1. basmicke


    May 31, 2008
    I've been playing old fender basses for the most part and therefore my technique is built up around those kind of instruments.
    Lately I bought some other basses that has a more flat fingerboard and I have some problems getting adjusted to that, especially when crossing strings.
    Is there any obvious advantage to a more flat fingerboard if you have a pickup that's adjusted to fit the strings output vise?
    A lot of high class luthiers seems to prefer this when building their basses (if they don't do a special vintage model that is).
    Is it just easier from a bass-building standpoint and makes for a more even neck response or is there some other reasons for doing this?
    Even though old fenders are very popular with their more scooped radius (7-9") it seems like on newer production models it's almost always flatter (12-14" radius)
    Do most players prefer the flatter fingerboard in spite the fender legacy and is it just me having this problem?
  2. bighead4G&L

    bighead4G&L Guest

    Jun 30, 2007
    I too prefer the more rounded radius (7-9"). It seems more natural to the shape of the hand for me. I've owned more modern instruments and good ones like Roscoe, Spector, Tobias and Sadowsky. They were all fine instruments but I'm full circle back to playing Jazz and Precision Basses. I use the American Standards 9.5" radius. They feel perfect to me.
  3. basmicke


    May 31, 2008
    I have wonderful instruments like Sadowsky and Yamaha as well as my Fenders and I'd really like to feel comfortable on them, but after +30 years with the vintage radius I'm struggling a bit. It's not a major problem. I'll keep on working on getting used to it.
    I'm just curious to know the reason for building the flatter fingerboards since many of the basses are developed from the Fender concept... except for the flattened neck.
    I agree with that the more rounded radius seem more natural considering the shape of the hand. It's pretty clear when trying to barré, playing chords or intervals more than one string apart. Well, it doesn't seem to be a hot topic to many players anyway.
  4. I'm not particularly sensitive the fretboard radius, but have grown to prefer a lower (more curved) radius board over the years.

    I think the reason that some modern luthier's have gone to either a higher radius (flatter) board, or a compound radius board that flattens more as you move up the neck is that it will keep the 'general feel' of the board more similar from the first position to above the 12th fret. As the neck widens in the higher range of the instrument, that 'curve' will become more pronounced feeling as the fretboard widens toward the bridge. This is especially the case with 5 or 6 string instruments, of course, where the neck really gets wide toward the bridge.

    IMO there... just guessing, but I think that is the logic. Many consider the compound radius design (like Mike Tobias and Carey Nordstrand use) to be the 'best of both worlds', since you get that more 'round/traditional' feel where most typically play, but then a bit flatter (and hence, more similar feel) if you solo up top, versus the really round, curved feel of a more vintage low radius board throughout the entire range of the neck.
  5. basmicke


    May 31, 2008
    Yes, now that you mention it, I only suffer from my barré problems higher up the neck.
    I loved my MTD neck though and never thought of this playing that neck. On the Yamaha and Sadowsky it's more evident for some reason. The Sad still has a wonderful neck but with a lower radius it would be just perfect. I guess I'll have to get used to it or buy one of Sadowskys ultra vintage models :).
  6. kerrycares

    kerrycares Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2006
    My favorite fingerboard radius is 7.25 of the Marcus Miller 5 inspired by his 70's series jazz bass.
    i've tried just about everything and curved just feels better to me, nothing real scientific .
    i also double on upright bass so maybe that has an influence.


    Dec 21, 2001
    Boise, ID
    i love the flat radii. my warwick 5's were 26" radius, fodera and spector were 16" and my new carvin is 14" radius. for some reason the flatter fretboard just feels right.
  8. Hey Kerry!

    That's one of the things that is kind of cool about the Alleva-Coppolo 5 strings. Jimmy uses a very low (for a 5 string) 10" radius (with no compounding). The A-C's are the only 5 string J that sort of feels like an old Fender 4 string to me. Pretty cool... very curved and 'vintage' feeling.
  9. foderaman


    Jun 14, 2005
    I have come to find out I like the more Flatter fretboard such as Sadowsky,s and Foderas more so on 5 and 6 Stringers over the couple of Alleva Coppolos 5,s I have had.Now with 4 string basses i don,t notice the difference as much!
  10. It surely isn't a 'better or worse' thing, so +1. However, the A-C's do 'feel' quite old and vintage for a 5 string versus the more typical flatter boards (like the 12" radius Sadowsky 5's). Nice option to have if that's your thing.

    I had a Jerzy Drozd 5 string for a short while, and that bass had, I believe a 20" radius, which is basically totally flat. That felt pretty strange to me! Not a big deal, but quite different from most other 5 string basses in the opposite way of the A-C's.
  11. LilRay

    LilRay Commercial User

    Dec 27, 2007
    Between my Roscoe and Leather
    Owner: Cockeyed Cow Custom Leathercraft
    I just got my first Fiver in March (A Roscoe). It has a radius of 16. I don't know if the radius aides in it, but the Roscoes action is stoopid low. I'd played nothing but Fender up until then, but man the Roscoe plays itself.;)


    God Bless, Ray
  12. Radius would not impact 'action' for most insruments. Almost any bass of any radius can be set up to the same 'action' with a good set-up.

    The only thing that can impact some low radius (curved) board basses' actions is if the neck pocket is cut particularly deep, and the bridge saddles can't be dropped enough to really bring the G string down as low as you want it. I have played basses where this might be a problem for some who like stupid low action.
  13. basmicke


    May 31, 2008
    As far as string to string balance and low action I'm sure there's no downside to the flatter radius and as you mentioned it's depending a lot on how much you play higher up the neck. I often prefer the bottom in the lower strings higher up for bass parts and that's when I feel the difference.
    But I guess it's probably 50/50 regarding what bass players in general prefer and a lot comes from what basses you started out on and got your fundamental left hand technique. Also on a 5- or 6-string the difference gets even more obvious.
  14. tdizzle


    Aug 3, 2009
    Detroit, MI
    I asked the same question a couple of weeks ago. I would like to hear some of the modern builders chime in on why they choose the flatter radius boards. Roger, Roger...
  15. LilRay

    LilRay Commercial User

    Dec 27, 2007
    Between my Roscoe and Leather
    Owner: Cockeyed Cow Custom Leathercraft
    I've been playing all my adult life Ken, but I'm still a noob when it comes to learning to be a pro caliber cat.

    I don't have a lot of high end gear experience so the Roscoe is a bit of a shock, when compared to the average mid level basses I've owned.

    Now if I could get some talent to go with my Roscoe, I'd be set.:)


    God Bless, Ray
  16. Very nice basses! I just posted up over in the Roscoe sponsored part of the site that I had a Saturday night off, so went to see my buddy Mikebass play his 6 string Roscoe with the 'party band' he is currently working with. Man, meaty and fat.. sounded GREAT!
  17. michele


    Apr 2, 2004
    I've recently re-discovered the comfort of the vintage 7,25" radius on an American Vintage 62 P bass. I came from a 9" radius on a Sadowsky Ultra Vintage P which is an excellent neck but I like the Fender more.
    It seems logic to' me that curved fingerboards feel better than flatter ones: stay in playing position with no bass in your hands, relax both hands and have a look at your fingers ...
  18. basmicke


    May 31, 2008

    Yes, and I'm sure all these fine bassluthiers are aware of this so my intention with the thread question was why so many still seems to build basses with a flatter (higher) radius. Is it practical, easier, more consistent to build or are there any other advantages with a flatter fingerboard? I was hoping someone with experience from a bass building standpoint would tune in :)

    This is so far the only thought on why:

  19. RoboChrist

    RoboChrist Guest

    Jul 8, 2009
    Flatter boards are supposed to help those with more horizontal technical approach to playing, which is why a lot of jazz and fusion players use them. I dunno, I love the jazz and fusion as much as the next guy and have always felt more comfotable on a vintage board.
  20. I prefer the rounded radius.

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