Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Radiused Fretboard vs. Flat Fret board

Thanks for all the replys,That helped a lot.

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Thanks Luke . that last comment raised my enthusiasm level.

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Allow me to muddy the waters for you.

" Most mandolins and most 5-string banjos have flat fingerboards, but the necks are so narrow, you don’t even notice."
and
“Since most 5-string players only fret the first four strings most of the time, the neck is narrower, and the strings tend to be lighter, there isn’t nearly as much call for radius-necked 5-strings. However, Deering has gotten enough requests that they have made a radiused neck standard on its Maple Blossom line. On a 1 5/8” fingerboard, most people wouldn’t even notice. But it’s there, in case you wondered. I wouldn’t lose sleep over it one way or the other."

https://creekdontrise.com/acoustic/six_string_banjo/radiused_fingerboard/radiused_fingerboard.htm

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To muddy the waters even further–I have a Gretsch Banjo that was my starter banjo a couple years ago. It’s got a standard flat fretboard. A little over a year ago, I had the good fortune to get permission from the boss to purchase a Nechville banjo. As many of you know, Tom Nechville makes his banjos standard with a compound radiused neck. So all of that is to say that I’m still a relative beginner, but have experience with both neck profiles. So take this for what it’s worth.

Honestly, I don’t feel significant difference between the two. Tom Nechville says that one of the main reasons he likes a radius in his necks is to provide added strength–which allows him to make a thinner neck. I love the feel of my Nechville, so the radius was important to allow the neck profile that felt right to me, not so much for the fretboard shape. The main difference when I’m playing is that I feel like I’m reaching into a valley when playing the middle strings on the Gretsch. The Nechville strings feel more readily available–and that is more due to the radiused bridge. So there you go.

I’'d also like to note that Nechville makes a “flux capacitor” that allows any standard banjo pot to be merged with his necks. So if you really love your current banjo and are driven to get a radiused neck, call the Nechville folks and ask about that. But it may be cheaper to have two banjos–your current banjo and another that is radiused.

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Well, Earl played a flat fingerboard, so… :wink:

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Finally, the voice of reason! :wink:

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I think this conversation is over. :laughing:

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Thanks you guys. I guess ,if it was good enough for Earl, it SHOULD be good enough for me.:crazy_face:

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When in doubt, just copy what Earl played. :smile:

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Easier said than done…:upside_down_face:

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I just received a Nechville Classic with radiused board this week, recorded my banjo lesson on it this week. I have banjos that may sound better but none that play/feel better.

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Yes, @BanjoBen, I just saw the video and thought, “hey, that’s my banjo—sort of.” Nice to hear the potential built into the Nechville Classic. Someday I hope to get similar sounds out of mine. Looking forward to meeting you and your family next week!

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Glad this board is already on here. I’m looking to purchase an f-style mandolin from the store near the end of the year. Currently play an oval hole A style with a flat fretboard. I just want to know one thing about radiused fret boards, in your experience with professional musicians would you say most use a mandolin with a radiused fretboard or one without? I noticed most the mandolins in the store are radiused. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos about the pros and cons and figure it won’t be a hard adjustment but just wanted to know what trend u noticed with the majority of mandolin players now.

Hi James, radiused boards seem to be the norm in bluegrass mandolins… I have one of each and enjoy them both. The flat neck is thick, and the radiused one is more dainty, They are certainly a different feel, but I like them both.

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Cool, thanks for the reply @Mike_R :ok_hand:t4:
I like my flat fretboard just fine, just not wanting to put a good amount of money into the radiused without a little input. I’ve only held one that was radiused once and didn’t know much about mandolin then. It felt like I was pushing the strings off the fretboard. I think that will be an easy adjustment though, just changing where I apply pressure on my fingers. Seems like the flat boards u press more and the round boards are more of a grab-type pressure if that makes sense. What would u say as far as how your fret hand has to adjust? Since u have experience with both.

There are not any conscious changes I make. There is a difference in feel.

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I think the radiused is way to go. If you’re looking to invest in a really really nice one, I’m considering selling my Rattlesnake.

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Who builds a Rattlesnake banjo?

Mike

It’s a mandolin, built by Olin Davis who has since stopped building. Most notably played by Casey Campbell, the guy in the middle here:

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Haha I wish!! I checked my pockets and all I found was an old gum wrapper and a Weigles receipt. I should have put the word invest in quotation marks…“invest”. Under 2k to keep my marriage in tact, haha. But for sure will be getting one from the BBStore.

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