Will slapping damage my ebony fingerboard???

Discussion in 'Rockabilly [DB]' started by RIKODRIKO, Jun 10, 2008.



    Mar 1, 2005
    Brighton UK.

    cant find what im looking for so am starting a new post.

    I have bought a brand new Delille bass from a luthier in the UK - my second girlfriend. It's fully carved with an ebony fingerboard.

    Im wondering if learning to play slap bass will wear away at the fingerboard where the string comes into contact with the board .. and ill everntually have to replace it or something. Because its so new and i feel like a paid a fortune for it, im naturally very precious about the bass, and dont want to damage it unneccessarily.

    I would rather buy a cheapo laminate to learn to slap if i know the fingerboards gonna get damaged.

    Any comment or advice.

    PS i am using medium thomastik spirocores.


  2. soulgaard1


    Aug 1, 2005
    Congrats on the new bass.

    you dont have to worry about damaging the fretboard (unless the bass i fretless).
    Besides the bass is made to be played.

    It will only get better by being played (the conventional way that is ;))
  3. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Slapping any metal string will erode your fingerboard in a serious way. You'd be better off using one of the many gut-like synthetics on the market.

    Innovation makes several strings that are good for slap without being too hard on the bass. There are other brands but I have no experience with them.
  4. Eventually, but I wouldn't worry about the finger board, I'd worry about hands with mittel spiros.

    I've done a decent amount of slapping on steels over 15 years (bluegrass style) and have no problems with my fingerboard on that bass. No more than the grooves you get in the first positions over that period without slapping. Slapping is a special technique that accounts for a small amount of play time, but I presume that over the years that still would added up to hundreds of hours of banging the fingerboard on my bass. Everything is fine. During the same time, I've had several mandolins refretted. Even a single mandolin or guitar refret is more expensive than getting the fingerboard on a bass planed and nut/bridge adjusted, ask Jake.

    Somebody who primarily slaps rockabilly style will cause different wear, more time spent slapping and harder slaps, and that's how I interpret Jake's comment. But that takes a long time. However, you wouldn't find anybody using spiro mittels (or even weichs) doing that. If your hand/arm could manage rockabilly gigs with those strings, i trust that you'd see wear after some years (years, not months).

    You can learn some basics with mittels, but that's about it. Any serious practicing would be painfully hard, these are just the wrong strings. Not just more blisters on the right hand than needed, but you have to slap much harder, the sound will be unpleasant (bright strings, plus the hard clank worsened with the high tension), and you have even a good chance of injuring your hand. The fingerboard wouldn't be my first concern. If you want steels (because you bow, magnetic pickup or whatever reasons), go with solo strings tuned down or very light regular ones (like jargar dolce). Or, as Jake suggested, something totally different.

    I currently have the luxury of having 3 basses around and I strung up one with plain guts. Love those for how easy they are to play, can jam for hours without blisters, perfect for slapping. But lots of disadvantages otherwise: terrible with the bow, no note definition in the low register, tuning unstable.

    Jason Sypher does it all, slap, pizz, bow and he recently went to Belcantos. I use those for overall as well. I'm not concerned about the fingerboard, but then I don't do rockabilly. I have to admit that nothing beats those plain guts for slap alone (and presumably as friendly for your fingerboard as for your fingers). Here is a thread, also other synthetics: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=431144&page=3
  5. Short answer: no. I slapped a bass for 10 hours a week for 3 years without any damage. You'll eventually create grooves in the fingerboard but that has little to do with slap technique. I imagine the area where the slapping is taking place could loosen up after a while but it never happened to me. Also, look at the way Willie Dixon slapped the bass. He didn't beat it to death...

  6. nathanmcnathan

    nathanmcnathan Inactive

    Jan 25, 2008
    Barrie, Ontario
    Looks like Mr. Dixon was also using gut strings...
  7. noblit007


    Feb 29, 2008
    Also depends on the strings but I have seen no change in my fingerboard.
  8. nathanmcnathan

    nathanmcnathan Inactive

    Jan 25, 2008
    Barrie, Ontario
    I saw a picture on this site of a guy playing a bass with half its fingerboar broken off... that's what I think of whenever I see this thread.
  9. Bass


    Nov 10, 2003
    Mike Poppitt from "White Ghost Shivers", this photo kills me:

  10. nathanmcnathan

    nathanmcnathan Inactive

    Jan 25, 2008
    Barrie, Ontario
    That's it! Hahaha!
  11. Gearhead43


    Nov 25, 2007
    That's a ccb fingerboard for ya!
  12. ColonelZulu

    ColonelZulu Not Impressed By Those Who Flaunt “Authority” Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    He needed firewood.
  13. I a Slap Bass Player with a Ebony Fingerboard and use Clef Guts.

    As with all strings you will get the wear in the 1st and 2nd positions. I slap lots in my playing and hard too. Other then the 1st and 2nd position wear, the ebony fingerboard will stand up very well, but you will get some wear but nothing that will need you to shoot the fingerboard before it is needed because of 1st and 2nd positon wear. (in other words, dont worry about the damage slapping will do because the real damage will be done with the other hand fretting the notes, regardless of wether you slap or not).

    If you dont have a ebony FB then you will do pleantly of damage to both ends. My first bass had a rosewood FB and this did not last long.

    Good Luck.
  14. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    Go over to YouTube and do a search on Milt Hinton. He could play more slap bass with less force than anyone I've ever known. If you are slapping your bass hard enough to break the fingerboard, you are using too much force. It may look really cool to flail away like that, but it's not necessary.
  15. Hey, your fingerboard is ebony. EBONY.

    It's the hardest most durable wood that you can find in a fingerboard. I've been slapping on ebony boards (pounding on them really) with Super Sensitive steel strings and have created no discernible damage.

    You worst case scenario is that you may have to have a luthier break out his plane and dress the fingerboard in, oh, say, about twenty years.
  16. rocknout89


    Aug 15, 2008
    My bass teacher said that slapping shouldn't matter much, just that I shouldn't do it too hard (i.e. don't do it so hard that i hurt my hand) was his advice
  17. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    This is slap wear from the previously used steel strings, not the Innovation Blacks currently on the bass. :/

    It doesn't look as bad as it does in real life - the board is quite heavily eroded. She said the Blacks slowed the wear to a crawl....
  18. You will get wear for sure. I was getting noticeable grooves around the heel of my bass. 40 year old german carved top with good ebony board. I do probably 150 to 200 shows a year slapping around 30 % of the time. I used steels most of the time (Spiros, Helicores, Corelli's, Obligatos, Pirazzis) and had to get the board planed a couple times. I just put Innovation rockabillys on so hopefully that will help!
  19. Gearhead43


    Nov 25, 2007
    I play guts and the maple board on my EC1 is not showing any wear. I had Supernils a while back and I noticed wear within a couple weeks, so off they went. Wear depends on the strings you use, playing style, how hard you play, etc.
    All fingerboards wear, but there are things you can do to reduce the wear from slapping, using less abrasive strings is a good start..
  20. Gearhead43


    Nov 25, 2007
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