View Full Version : pros fingerboard comfort

Jun-24-2006, 1:36pm
pros and cons of flat or radius fingerboard
not to mention fret wire size
flat with small frets did'nt seem to slow the Dawg down...

Ken Sager
Jun-24-2006, 2:05pm
I can't think of any pros or cons either way. You like flat, you are pro flat. You don't like flat, you are con flat. It's really a matter of preference and what you've gotten used to playing.

I like radius. I am pro radius. I like mid-sized wire. I am pro mid-sized wire. I'm also pro small and large wire, and flat fingerboards, too... I'm trying not to be con anything. I'm con con.

Somebody who knows what they're talking about please chime in.

Big 12" radius love to all,

Ted Eschliman
Jun-24-2006, 5:19pm
"Radii Guy" here, as well, though I don't know what I'm talking about either; doesn't matter, I just like it...

For me "speed" is a not as much the issue as comfort.

Jun-24-2006, 6:22pm
are you saying speed is easier on flat....
I had'nt thought about that....
how does the radius make it more comfortable....

Ken Sager
Jun-24-2006, 6:49pm
Not to speak for Ted... but I don't think he was suggesting a flat fingerboard is any faster, but that he found a radius board more comfortable. I think his "speed" comment was a response to your "didn't seem to slow the Dawg down" comment.

Once you get used to a particular fingerboard and setup you'll get more comfortable, and play as fast as you play.

I have a mandolin with a narrow radiused fingerboard, and another with a wide flat fingerboard. I play the same way on both, just as fast, just as comfortable. It's more a matter of getting used to them.

That said, my new mandolin will have a wide radiused board...

D, just play a bunch of mandolins and decide what works for you. No two of us have the same hands, so we'll each react differently to different instruments and setup.

Good luck,

Jun-24-2006, 10:09pm
thanks Ken, I know what you mean.....
I think I still want to feel a Loar style neck and set up....
My 89 Flatiron is flat but with med size frets
My Sam is radiussed and bigger frets;not to mention the neck width is a bit tough sometimes....I even had it shaved by David Harvey at Gibson...
that helped but the fingerboard width still frustrates me......
I guess my quest will continue....P>S> I which I could shave the neck narrower... oh well

Jul-16-2006, 11:23am
No one so far has mentioned the fact(?) that a lot of players have a very hard time jumping back and forth between radius and non radius. Me ,it takes several days playing a particular instrument before I get comfy with it for just that reason. After playing nothing BUT radius boards for so many years, I also prefer not to play on flat boards even at Fests ...I just feel I can't play properly. ...Kerry K

Jul-19-2006, 7:54pm
I have 2 with different radii(?) and 2 flatboard mandos. I can play just as bad on either type in 5 minutes time. Maybe it's because I'm old, but I don't even notice the difference between'em.

John Flynn
Jul-19-2006, 8:51pm
I am with JG. I have two of each and I play them equally poorly! I would choose a radius if I had a mando built. The radius does feel more comfortable. I will say there is a huge difference on guitars. I really don't like a flat guitar finger board and I actually have one. So I guess with a mando the difference is "smaller."

Jul-20-2006, 6:12am
When I got my new Weber with a radiused fingerboard, I kept wondering what the big deal was. #It really didn't make any real difference for me. #My left hand didn't notice and my right hand took about a minute to adjust. #I too played just as bad in just a few minutes. #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Jul-20-2006, 10:05am
I'm for flat finger boards. It is what I started out with and I can't seem to be able to get a full bark and bite out of a radiused fingerboard.

Jerry Byers
Jul-20-2006, 10:20am
I started on a radius and moved to a flat.

Interesting point, if I'm playing a flat and pick up a radius, I feel like my fingers are tripping over themselves. When I got my first flat after playing radius for awhile, it felt like my fingers were falling into the fretboard. Both are equally playable.

Now, if you want to talk about the right hand, it's a different story.

Jack Roberts
Jul-20-2006, 11:32am
Besides flat vs. radiused and skinny frets vs.fat frets, there is also wide board vs. narrow board to consider, as Ken mentioned above. I am about 4 years into playing mandolin and I play mostly classical music. I have three different mandolins, all with different fret/fingerboard setups. I have found wide neck, radiused fingerboard with fat frets to be the best for me. My fingers are perhaps shorter and wider than most.

Narrow flat neck-skinny frets: 1958 A-5 I found this setup hard for me to play. I like to get sustain when I am playing arpeggios, and I like to play up the fingerboard (like cross-picking) My fat fingers interfere with the next course of strings. Also, the neck is too narrow for me to double stop two strings in the same fret postion (E and B, for example) but if I want to use one finger to bar the D and A strings, I will be muting the E string. I had this mandolin re-fretted with fatter frets, and it is easier to get a good tone for me, especially on the G string playing up the neck.

Narrow flat neck, medium frets: Refretted A-5 Better than above for me. I play this instrument regularly. But I prefer a wider neck. Medium frets are more forgiving about where I place my fretting finger.

Narrow radiused neck, medium frets: Collings MF. Easier to play than above, since I can bar two strings and have reduced muting of the higher string. Less collision of one finger with another due to the radius.

Wide flat neck, narrow frets: 1918 A-1. Easier to play still. This is the instrument I play most. This allows me to double stop using two fingers instead of barring, and reduces the muting problem above. For some reason my left hand gets tired and cramped when I play difficult passages with this mandolin, though.

Wide radiused neck, fat frets: Gibson Sam Bush--sorry, not vintage. I don't own one of these, but I have found this to be the best setup for me in terms of ease of playing. It is very forgiving about placement of my fretting fingers, my hand doesn't tire even with long passages, and I am free to double stop or bar on the same fret position for adjacent strings. I can't afford a Sam Bush, but I will eventually have a mandolin with this type of neck made for me.

Your mileage may vary.

Jul-21-2006, 9:21am
When I wanted to buy a higher priced mando (than my A9) I knew from playing a couple of rigels and a Sam Bush model that I wanted the radius and extra width, and that big frets are easier to fret in the lower positions (seem to make little difference higher up).
I also have shorter wider fingers and find the extra room and curvature to really make playing in first position much easier on my left hand. #This is a key issue for me because I am a left-handed person playing right handed. #

I need that extra room to avoid contorting my left hand to the necessary small width at the neck for my A9. #
I have no problem up the neck with my A9, but right at the nut, when I play the first few frets, my fingers do not have enough room and make for some uncomfortable situations for my index finger.
I have a Hyalite oval hole which has big frets, and a flat, narrow neck (slightly wider than my A9) and this setup is easier for me to play at the nut than my A9.

My answer to this whole problem was a custom Weber Bighorn, with 1 1/4 in neck, radius, fingerboard extension removed, and (hey why not, it was almost a Sam Bush neck) Block Inlays.

To top it off, I have a Garrison flat top, with a wide flat neck, and I really love the playability.

I think my endurance benefits the most from switching between the different types fretboard. #I like that it is not exactly the same, and I think this helps avoid the repetitive stress for my left hand. #When I finally wear the A9 frets all the way down for a refret, I will probably have it radiused, and larger frets installed. #This way I'll have four different fretboard setups to choose from:
1. Flat Narrow
2. Radius Narrow
3. Wide Flat
4. Wide Radius