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Oct 24, 2021 - 3:52:10 PM

timacn

USA

581 posts since 7/30/2004

A banjo guru whose opinion I respect a great deal told me that "there isn't much call for radiused fingerboards on openback banjos." Is that generally thought to be true by the "banjo masses?" Thanks for your help.

Oct 24, 2021 - 5:52:36 PM

42 posts since 8/20/2015

If you like how it feels I would call anything a very desirable feature on any instrument.

Oct 24, 2021 - 5:58:20 PM
like this

rcc56

USA

3844 posts since 2/20/2016

While radiused fretboards have been common on steel string guitars for a hundred years or more, they were rarely used on instruments with narrow fingerboards, such as banjos and mandolins, until a few years ago. Nobody complained much about flat fingerboards on these instruments until the recent trend came along.

A "consequence" of a radiused fretboard is that the bridge top should also be radiused. This will affect the way a clawhammer player will find his melody notes with his right hand, perhaps positively, perhaps negatively. Since I have never played clawhammer on a banjo with a radiused board, I cannot comment much on that aspect, except to say that I do have trouble playing on a banjo that has a bridge that dips in the middle. Perhaps the radius will enable right hand technique, perhaps not.

Putting a radius on an existing fingerboard is not difficult if the fingerboard does not have large, fancy inlays. It's not a cheap job, though. The frets must be pulled and replaced to radius the board. Also, the 5th string nut will have to be replaced. Expect such a job to cost $350 to $500.

But if the instrument has fancy inlays, such as something like what we see on upper line Fairbanks/Vega and Orpheum banjos, the chances are that the process will cut all the way through the outer edges of the inlays; and then those inlays will have to be replaced. That's a complex job that is best left to a builder who has considerable experience making and installing fancy inlays. Also, if any of the inlays are engraved, the engraving will be lost. We do not have many good engraving artists.

My suggestions to anyone who wants to try to radius the board on a banjo is to have it done on an instrument that has simple inlays, such as dots or diamonds and/or squares. As for how it will affect the playability of the banjo, some might like it, some might not, and many might not be able to tell the difference at all.

Oct 25, 2021 - 2:20:12 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

14796 posts since 8/30/2006

I had a customer who was needing hand surgery from shoulder injuries in the military.
He discussed any advantage of radiused fingerboards with his Ortho.
The doctor said there is no advantage from a radius, it's personal preference.
I have always built flat, I play acoustic guitar, too. I find no limitation on a flat banjo for my hands.

Oct 25, 2021 - 3:24:06 AM

147 posts since 12/4/2007

I switch between guitar, mandolin and tenor banjo. having a tenor banjo radiused at 12' so the transition is similar.

The other instruments are 12'.

Oct 25, 2021 - 2:46:37 PM

7180 posts since 6/30/2020

The size of your hand and the plumpness and length of your fingers all come into play (pun intended) when playing a flat vs radius fretboard. If you have a short pinkie or ring finger, the radius boards help on stretches to play notes cleanly and without muting the string a pinkie might stretch over. I feel the radius also helps with speed and smoothness of motion. As a guitar player I know that barre chords are much easier and cleaner on a radius. Nut width, string spacing, and neck size and shape also are a factor to be considered. 
There may not be a limitation with a flat board but there sure can be an advantage of one over the other for any given player. I have a Masterclone flat board and a Nechville with radius. I much prefer the Nechville. 
There is no “one size fits all” on either open back or resonator banjo  

Edited by - Pick-A-Lick on 10/25/2021 14:56:55

Oct 25, 2021 - 4:39:16 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

25395 posts since 6/25/2005

What Mike said….. I have a radiused Ome Mira. I can’t really tell the difference. I have a friend who’s been a pro guitar player. All his banjos now are radiused. He says it makes a big difference. So it’s a personal preference issue.

Oct 25, 2021 - 6:38:46 PM
Players Union Member

Lew H

USA

2688 posts since 3/10/2008

Meanwhile, classical guitars have wider necks than banjos or steel string guitars, and have flat fretboards. So I think width is not a huge issue for radius v. flat fingerboards..

Oct 26, 2021 - 3:29:45 PM

6035 posts since 3/11/2006

quote:
Originally posted by timacn

A banjo guru whose opinion I respect a great deal told me that "there isn't much call for radiused fingerboards on openback banjos." Is that generally thought to be true by the "banjo masses?" Thanks for your help.


I think the vast, vast majority of banjoes have flat fingerboards, so maybe your guru is right. If there was much call, there'd be more of them around.

I don't know that I've ever even seen a radiused fingerboard on a banjo.  Maybe I should get out more!

Oct 26, 2021 - 6:09:56 PM

1568 posts since 1/13/2006

I've always been a flat fingerboard banjo builder, but have made two with radiused boards. Generally, I only like them on openbacks that have a wide fingerboard, as I seem to have an issue pulling the first string off the board more with a radiused board. That being said, my son just got a new Rickard maple openback with a wide neck and radiused board, and it is really great and I was impressed (and that isn't always an easy thing to be honest). For me, having a nice wide board made a difference and it felt really good to play. They got it just right. I will be making a few more in the future based on playing that one last week....

Oct 27, 2021 - 10:18:57 PM

1271 posts since 8/7/2017

I have one radiused and 3 flat banjos. I like them all. The radiused one came flat. It needed fret work, and my luthier suggested radiusing while refretting. I said ok, somewhat dubious. But it worked out well, and I like it. Took me 2 days to get used to it.

The only downside so far (after 6 months) is that my strums are not as rich sounding; I think I am not hitting the bass string as hard as the rest. Since D-28 guitar players have rich strums, I think it's a matter of technique, so hopefully I'll figure it out. Perhaps my strum finger is too stiff?

Pick-A-Lick's idea of radius being better for short fingers might explain why I like the radiused fretboard - my fingers are short.

Hope this helps.

Oct 31, 2021 - 12:51:32 PM

926 posts since 2/17/2005

I have a mixture of radiused and non radiused...and I've commissioned mostly radiused necks. I like them both and don't find too much correlation between neck width and radius (in other words, I like a narrow radiused neck as long as its done well). Indeed, the main thing is just well made necks with good fretwork, binding, etc. I have found that I prefer a flat bridge with a radiused neck. I like that fraction of extra height with downstroke styles.

Oct 31, 2021 - 2:59:33 PM

banjo bill-e

Tuvalu

11698 posts since 2/22/2007

The only radiused fingerboard I've ever played was on a Nechville Phantom I tried out and I loved how that neck played but I cannot tell you if it was the radius or if the neck profile just fit my hand well, but whatever it was, I really liked that Nechville.

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