Should I replace my fingerboard?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Max Mines, May 22, 2017.

  1. Max Mines

    Max Mines Guest

    May 22, 2017
    Hi all,

    Tl;dr I have a pre-war German laminate bass that doesn't sound as full and play as nicely as a laminate Shen I often play. Will a fingerboard replacement solve this problem?

    I own a pre-war German laminate bass. I'm a college student, and I often play the school's laminate Shen. While my bass is louder than the Shen, and has more character in the high-end (not to mention is better built), the Shen feels easier to play and has a more solid, less twangy sound to it.

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    The fingerboard on my bass is thin, and I'm wondering if the difference in sound/playability can be partially attributed to this. I know a thinker fingerboard would allow me to press down more firmly, and have a firmer grip. Also, less travel in the strings might help with minimizing wavering in pitch.

    Obviously no two basses play exactly alike, but I feel that my bass is lacking in areas where the Shen is not. In what ways does a fingerboard replacement change the sound and playability of the bass? Would this be a worthwhile operation in my case?

  2. Maybe just a good setup and soundpost adjustment?
    And new strings?
    jleguy and james condino like this.
  3. A thick new ebony board should add fundamental. If yours flexes like a diving board when you push the end toward the belly, it's too thin and should be replaced.
  4. krfoss

    krfoss Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2007
    Orange County, CA
    I second this.
  5. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    In the end, it will still sound like your bass slightly improved with a new fingerboard. A new professionally installed fingerboard, nut, bridge, and setup will set you back $1000 or more. I'd be more inclined to put that towards a different instrument. You can find beautiful 20th century basses for very fair prices, often less than I pay for a beat up old Kay; the key thing is patience and the right bass will find you....
    Tom Lane likes this.
  6. The cheapest to experiment with is varying the position of the soundpost.
    If the fingerboard bends in higher positions it might be too weak. Usually notes fingered there sound also weak if the fingerboard is too thin.
    You might need a new bridge, but you might be able to use the adjusters to set the action higher than before. (A thicker fingerboard leads to a higher bridge position for the same fingerboard to string distance.)
  7. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    Post a picture of the FB from nut to heel for a better idea of what you're dealing with.
  8. Max Mines

    Max Mines Guest

    May 22, 2017
    I'm not sure I understand the angle you're looking for.
  9. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    From the side so the thickness is visible.
  10. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    My Kay bass used to have a pretty thin rosewood fingerboard on its replacement Engelhart neck. Getting a thick ebony fingerboard did wonders. That said, there's still what might be considered an issue of a low overstand, as seems to have been typical of Kay basses, but with a full set of Gamuts, that thing sure does roar. So, while this may be an option, I'm also inclined to agree with James re: putting the money towards a different bass that already has a thicker fingerboard and neck. At the very least, try out a few different basses just to get an idea. You could always flip your bass (or trade it in?) to help cover the cost of a new instrument.

    Also, would be good to see a side view of the neck just to get an idea of the general thickness of the neck + fingerboard as is.