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Thread: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

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    Default Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    Put simply, what are the advantages of a radiused fingerboard over a flat one on a mandolin? Or disadvantages for that matter?

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    Personal preference, pure and simple. It's an advantage if you like it, it's a disadvantage if you don't.

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    Registered User RichM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    Exactly. I like radiused on guitar, flat on a mandolin. Just feels better. You'll find as many people who disagree with me as agree.

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    Registered User Jim Baker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    I just build an octave mandolin with a 12" radius. It's nice to play but, without a comparison It's hard to tell if it's any nicer than flat. In theory it should be easier to pick I'd say.
    Jim Baker

  5. #5

    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    makes a big difference on string bending.

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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    You might want to scan through these threads.

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    Mike Parks woodwizard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    Personal preference, pure and simple. It's an advantage if you like it, it's a disadvantage if you don't.
    I gotta be with John on this one ... personal preference, pure and simple.
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    Horton River NWT Rob Gerety's Avatar
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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    I've got one flat and one with a radius and I like them both - go figure.
    Rob G.
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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    Okay, I read all the posts and the general concenses is that there's usually no perceptable difference, or at least that each type can be equally played by folks here. So that begs the next question. How did radiused boards get started? Who first thought it would be a better idea and why?

    Here's what I'm aiming at; I'm a fairly new mandolin player (ex-fiddler) with shortish, fat fingers, and I have a heck of a time fretting, particularly with chords. I was just wondering of a radiused board would help me?

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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    I'm sure other's will disagree, but I was told that radiussed fingerboards are more helpful to people with large hands and long fingers. This at least fits my experience -I have small hands and have found chords easier on a flat board. I should think that the difficulties with fretting chords comes from the fact that as an ex-fiddler, it is simply such a new activity for the OP.

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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    Well, I gave the wrong impression somehow. My fingers are short, stubby and fat, but my hands are big! If I try to play a chord where two fingers sit next to each other on side by side strings, it feels like there's no room for both, and the resulting sound is, well, not yet worth mentioning. I was thinking that perhaps a radiused (and maybe slightly wider?) fingerboard might help. I also played guitar, and had no problem with this.

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    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by polkat View Post
    ... If I try to play a chord where two fingers sit next to each other on side by side strings, it feels like there's no room for both, ....
    Lots of us use a single fingertip to cover 4 strings in this situation. Conditions vary.
    Time is also likely to help. I started out liking a wider fingerboard because of this. Now, after a few years, the narrow board is okay too. (I do like a little radius on my boards.)
    Phil

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    Mandolin Botherer Shelagh Moore's Avatar
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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    I have one with a very narrow neck and flat fingerboard and another with a wider neck and radiused fingerboard and happily use both although I find the wider, radiused one more comfortable for extended periods of playing. I have large hands and wide longish fingers. So I think like others it's down more to personal preference than anything else.

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    Horton River NWT Rob Gerety's Avatar
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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    I'm basically the same as the OP. Came from acoustic guitar. Perceived the same issues - still do to some extent. I think this is all about technique, not so much equipment. Over time I have adapted and the problems/issues have diminished. You develop little tricks to deal with the issues. I am reminded of the excellent local fiddler, Rodney Miller, who has huge hands and plays a tiny little fiddle board with great skill, and Muriel Anderson who has tiny hands and plays a two inch wide flat classical guitar board.
    Rob G.
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    Registered User Mike Snyder's Avatar
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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    My mandolin has a very narrow nut and fingerboard. I had it radiused when the original frets were replaced with ones of medium width.
    The radius is 10 1/2 inch. All of this incidental info on us and our instruments isn't going to be much use to the OP. Play as many mandolins as is possible. Determine what works for you and what does not. That is what I did. I like a radius. Seems to play better for me.
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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    FWIW, there's a bit of interplay between radius and fingerboard width. A radiused board seems to be wider because the non-fretted strings are in a slightly lower plane and are "ducking out of the way" of the fretting fingers; thus, the radiused board acts as if it's wider than it measures.

    And since "a straight line is the shortest distance between two points", the surface of a radiused board really IS "wider" (as in: NOT the shortest distance) than a flat board with the same measurement across. That may be detailed in Frank Ford's Frets.com site - well worth looking up.

    What I like about radiused boards is that the extra space that you feel when fretting a single pair of strings does NOT translate to extra space when you fret 2 pairs with one finger; those strings now feel as if they're in the same plane! (Guess I should get me one, someday!)

    Of course, this says nothing about what feels best for your hand and technique. Enjoy the search!
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  17. #17

    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    I came to mandolin from guitar and until recently had never owned a mandolin that had a flat fretboard. I just bought a Kentucky with a flat board and frankly, even when I play them back to back, I can't tell much difference. My hands are a little on the small side; dont' know if that makes any difference or not.

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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    I had comments like Ed's but wasn't quite confident adding them here. But I'll go ahead anyway....

    I have a flat fretboard mandolin and one with a radiused fretboard. I observed during my learning about the differences that the flat fretboard required more care in plucking the desired string than the radiused board. I decided this was because on the flat board, the fretted string was in a deeper well and my pick had to go down into the hole to pluck the string. On the radiused board, each string is "above" its pair of neighbors, and when fretted it is not recessed as much. Therefore I didn't have to take as much care to pluck it without also plucking its neighbors. That is the lesson -I- took away from playing both of these instruments. I had wondered what the attraction was for radiused frets, and now I have one idea of why they are attractive. I do not have a similar idea of why the flat board is desirable to those who favor it. It would be nice to know whether it is because of a "left-hand" fretting hand issue which runs counter to the "right-hand" picking hand issue I was able to identify with.
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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by polkat View Post
    I was just wondering of a radiused board would help me?
    Give both a try next time you are out mandolin tasting at a shop or a festival or a jam.

    For me the radiused feels a little easier to play, but not so much more that I would pay a lot extra to get one. Other criteria make more difference to me.

    Given the choice between two mandolins, one radiused and one not, I would pick the one that sounded better.
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    Registered User Lefty Luthier's Avatar
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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    My customers tend to prefer radius about 2:1. Personally, I see no merit in a radius board but it is such a personal issue that I never offer any advice.
    Byron Spain, Builder
    www.theleftyluthier.com

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    Registered User Nelson Peddycoart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    I am a radius guy, but I have one of each. I find the radius one exposes more of the fingerboard to my sight, if that makes any sense.
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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    Well, again, what I'm hearing here is that while most of you don't see a major difference in playing flat or radiused, given two mandolins with equal sound but one flat and the other radiused, most of you would go for the radiused. Must be some kind of appeal there!

    Playing violin (which of course has a radiused board much smaller then a mandolin) I never had this problem. But then of course you rarely play more then two note chords on a fiddle.

    Mike Snyder has it right I think. I need to get out there and try a number of mandos.

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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    For a given width of fingerboard a radiused one will have slightly more room between strings. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, so a curved line is obviously longer.

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    Registered User John Kinn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    I think it's mostly about habit. When you play an instrument over time, you adapt to it, so this particular instrument will feel "right". This is not to say that you can't change.We humans are quite adaptable.I'm playing about 50/50 guitar and mandolin.A lot greater difference than flat/radiused..but I wouldn't play an unknown mandolin for the first time in front of a live audience. That would be uncomfortable, so I would feel much better with something I had played for a while.

  25. #25

    Default Re: Radiused vs. flat fingerboard on mandolin?

    Personally I don't really know. I do however find that width of fret board and shape of meck makes the biggst difference to me.
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