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Oct 7, 2022 - 2:36:22 PM
48 posts since 11/6/2009

What is the advantage of a radius fingerboard?

Oct 7, 2022 - 6:03:37 PM
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93 posts since 8/9/2007

Having tried one for an hour or so once , two things come to mind . Spilled drinks won't pool on one , and all the cool kids use them .... To be honest I thought that it would be more comfortable . Your experience may be different ....

Edited by - FredFlintstone on 10/07/2022 18:04:28

Oct 7, 2022 - 8:55:48 PM
Players Union Member

mud400

USA

96 posts since 5/30/2016

I have two banjos with radiused necks. I really like both. I find them comfortable, for lack of a better word. I have rather big hands and fingers and the combination of a radiused neck and wider (Crowe) spacing is really nice. I find flat fretboards fine, but kind of crowded. I don't find it hard to go back and forth between the two, but I like the radiused better.

I am sure someone can quantify it better than I.

Oct 8, 2022 - 8:42:40 AM
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517 posts since 1/30/2006

Hey Jeff,
When I was having a neck made for my '28 TB4, (back in 1989), my luthier asked me if wanted a radius board. I had never thought about this. I asked him why would I want one. He said "look at your hand".  A person's fingers always have a slight arc when at rest, so a curved board makes sense from that perspective, especially when one considers bar chords.  He wound up making a compound radius board for this banjo and I have been pleased with it ever since.

In addition, the distance across a radius board is greater than that across a flat board. The finger board is actually slightly wider, (as we are going across an arc), with a radius board when actual neck widths are the same between a flat and radius board banjo.

I can go to my 2 Baldwins, which both have narrow necks,   My luthier added  a slight radius to my Baldwin "D" the last time he re-fretted it, and the neck does feel wider now.  Given that these are both '67 Baldwins, this comparison can be made.  While I can play either the flat (Style B) board or "simple" radius (Style D) board, the D is easier to play.  I have to be more "precise" when playing the "B" which is good for ones accuracy and helps keep me "honest".  But when all is said and done, the radius board necks are a little easier to play. 

Of course, going between a flat and a compound radius board can impact your right hand, so be mindful of that.  I have "flung" finger picks across a room when first going from a flat neck to my compound radius board banjo as the compound radius neck does require an "arched" bridge.  So the bridge is essentially taller, (at least in them middle), and a "taller" bridge can "catch" a finger pick on occasion if one is not used to it. 

Note:  A slight radius can still use a flat bridge, (as my Baldwin D) so be mindful of what kind of radius you are wanting.

Whether one has a radius or flat board is essentially a personal preference thing at this point - it has nothing to do with being "cool".  To my mind, a radius board is a simple way to make a neck feel wider and be more comfortable as well as "easier" to play.

Take it Easy ... MarK

Oct 8, 2022 - 8:59:17 AM

2020 posts since 1/28/2013

I wonder why it's just the opposite for guitars. Classical guitars which require accurate and precise 3 and 4 finger picking, and meticulas left hand fretting, always have wide flat fingerboards.

Oct 8, 2022 - 9:25:29 AM

517 posts since 1/30/2006

Jan,
Good question.
Maybe tradition and nylon strings are easier to play?
As far as guitars in general go, many makers of modern steel string guitars offer radius boards. Fender comes to mind immediately, and I believe Gibson offers radius boards as well.
John Monteleone, who made my compound radius banjo neck, is primarily a mandolin family and guitar maker - and he makes radius board instruments as well.
So it is not the opposite for guitars - they are made with both flat and radius boards. Generally speaking, flat boards are less expensive to make, so they tend to be more common.
Take it Easy ... MarK

Edited by - mvolcjak on 10/08/2022 09:26:22

Oct 8, 2022 - 2:47:20 PM

28 posts since 12/5/2020

I have a Deering Silver Clipper (radiused), Deering Sierra (flat) and a Deering White Lotus (Flat). I prefer the Silver Clipper. I find it easy to transfer between a radiuses neck and a flat neck.

Oct 9, 2022 - 11:40:18 AM

3047 posts since 12/4/2009

Hello,

I agreed with Bela Fleck. I have more room to dig out the notes. The problem is in the implementation of radius fretboards. Gibson used straight bridges on their banjos. Straight bridges make poor radius banjos.

Oct 10, 2022 - 8:33:17 AM

2979 posts since 4/5/2006

Radius bridges are available from multiple sources.

Oct 10, 2022 - 8:43:47 AM
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153 posts since 10/5/2019

It gives more room. After playing a radius fingerboard, a non radius feels cramped.

Oct 10, 2022 - 8:53:21 AM

28 posts since 12/5/2020

Deering has an excellent selection of Radius bridges

Oct 11, 2022 - 6:28:48 AM

8166 posts since 9/5/2006

when i decided to get a tunneled 5th string neck made for mine ,, i got robin smith to do it for me...at that time he was building a neck for bela. so when i called one afternoon to finalize everything he ask about the fret board. i told i would like to try a radius board but wasn't sure.. he said ,,well there is a guy in the shop right now that may can help you with that... i said ,,ok. this fellow picks up the phone and says hey terry this is bela.................................................................. my first words were "really" ? he said yes !
i was a little surprised but after hearing him talk a bit i knew it was him..
we went on talking about radiused necks and why he preferred them ,,, and i told him i didn't want a severe radius ,,just enough to make it comfortable for me.
so after about 15 minutes i had made up my mind to go with one,, i thanked him more then once and got back on the phone with robin,, a boy i let him have it,,,i said next time a little heads up would be nice !!! he just laughed like robin did and said "gotcha" ... but i went with a slightly less radius then bela uses and it was perfect for me.... robin did a first class job on the neck and i still use it 20 years later... i miss that rascal alot.

Oct 11, 2022 - 10:30:08 AM

13723 posts since 6/30/2020

quote:
Originally posted by jblovel

What is the advantage of a radius fingerboard?


Check out this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KLlv5t-tRQ
 

I have Two Nechville banjos with radiused fingerboards. I much prefer radius over flat. My Masterclone banjo with flat board gets very little play time because it seems cumbersome to play in comparison. 
 

Edited by - Pick-A-Lick on 10/11/2022 10:32:37

Oct 12, 2022 - 5:47:47 PM

2020 posts since 1/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by mvolcjak

Jan,
Good question.
Maybe tradition and nylon strings are easier to play?
As far as guitars in general go, many makers of modern steel string guitars offer radius boards. Fender comes to mind immediately, and I believe Gibson offers radius boards as well.
John Monteleone, who made my compound radius banjo neck, is primarily a mandolin family and guitar maker - and he makes radius board instruments as well.
So it is not the opposite for guitars - they are made with both flat and radius boards. Generally speaking, flat boards are less expensive to make, so they tend to be more common.
Take it Easy ... MarK


I was thinking along the lines of playability. Seems like Classical and Spanish guitars have more in common with banjos as far as the way they are played, but Classical guitars almost always have flat finger boards, while regular steel string guitars have radius fingerboards.

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