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fingerboard width question   You are logged in as Guest
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X

 

Posts: 67
Joined: May 21 2009
 

fingerboard width question 

Hi, luthiers,

Guitar nerd with physics background here curious about two things:

1. (See other thread)

2. Why does the fingerboard increase in width as you move towards the guitar body? That makes it harder for someone with short fingers to play higher up. If strength of materials is the problem, won't a truss-rod type solution work?

Thanks, guys, I'm thinking of commissioning a personal guitar and really want to know. And BTW, I did search the archives before posting this, and all I found was a post by Ricardo (Marlow?) from 2016 that basically said, "the more similar the string width at the nut and the saddle, the better it feels."
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 10 2019 3:25:15
 
constructordeguitarras

Posts: 1341
Joined: Jan. 29 2012
From: Seattle, Washington, USA

RE: fingerboard width question (in reply to X

As you go up the fingerboard, the fret wires get closer together. Making the spaces between them wider as you go up increases the area available for the left-hand fingertips, counteracting the problem created by the fret wires being closer together.

_____________________________

Ethan Deutsch
www.edluthier.com
www.facebook.com/ethandeutschguitars
www.youtube.com/marioamayaflamenco
I always have flamenco guitars available for sale.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 10 2019 17:03:09
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2673
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: fingerboard width question (in reply to constructordeguitarras

quote:

As you go up the fingerboard, the fret wires get closer together. Making the spaces between them wider as you go up increases the area available for the left-hand fingertips, counteracting the problem created by the fret wires being closer together.


Yes, also... I don't think we want to play with the same string spacing at the saddle as at the nut.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 11 2019 0:05:03
 
X

 

Posts: 67
Joined: May 21 2009
 

RE: fingerboard width question (in reply to X

Guys, thanks for the replies, but let me rephrase to confirm that I understand your answers.

The explanation is that you need to INCREASE the spacing between STRINGS as the spacing between FRETS DECREASES, to make more room for the player's fingertips. In other words, the rationale of this design is to anticipate the fact that many different guitar players with different-sized hands and preferences may end up playing that same guitar and this design helps to accommodate them all. It's like an attempt to fit all with one size.

Does this mean that if I commission a custom guitar to be played by me alone, and I have no problem playing with narrower fret spacing, I really don't have to adhere to this design?

To paraphrase Andy Culpepper, why not play with the same string spacing at the nut as at the saddle? 54mm at the nut AND 54mm at the 12th fret?

Am I missing anything? Yes, I know, re-sale will be impossible, but aside from that?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 11 2019 0:44:51
 
constructordeguitarras

Posts: 1341
Joined: Jan. 29 2012
From: Seattle, Washington, USA

RE: fingerboard width question (in reply to X

Right, Andy, good point. I wasn't thinking about that end.

X--You can do whatever you want. That's what custom builds are for. A guitar with a fingerboard that has parallel sides would be structurally sound.

_____________________________

Ethan Deutsch
www.edluthier.com
www.facebook.com/ethandeutschguitars
www.youtube.com/marioamayaflamenco
I always have flamenco guitars available for sale.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 11 2019 2:23:07
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2673
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: fingerboard width question (in reply to X

quote:

why not play with the same string spacing at the nut as at the saddle? 54mm at the nut AND 54mm at the 12th fret?


54 mm E to e at the nut means a nut width of about 61 mm. At that point you are severely sacrificing left hand playability in the lower positions for some possible marginal gain in the upper positions. If you want to have a reasonable string spacing at the nut of 44 or 45 mm, then you are reducing the string spacing at the bridge from around 58 to around 45, which is a gigantic change.

But as you say, if you are commissioning a guitar, and you can talk the luthier into it, I know of no actual law that can prevent this from happening
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 11 2019 2:28:02
 
timoteo

 

Posts: 218
Joined: Jun. 22 2012
From: Seattle, USA

RE: fingerboard width question (in reply to X

quote:

why not play with the same string spacing at the nut as at the saddle? 54mm at the nut AND 54mm at the 12th fret?

But why would you want to? The string spacing at the nut is for the left hand, the string spacing at the bridge is for the right. Different needs, different spacing.

The canonical neck width at the nut is 52mm, leaving about 45mm+/- for the string spacing at the nut. If you read the forums, you'll see that there have been huge discussions about neck width, with many saying that a larger neck, like 54mm, is unplayable since they have small hands. I'm not going to get into that, but if there are strong opinions about one or two millimeters of string spacing change at the nut then do you really think that your suggestion of increasing the string spacing by 9-10mm at the nut sounds like a good idea?

Likewise, before you consider decreasing the spacing at the bridge, why don't you try out some high-speed arpeggios and picados with your right hand up near the nut. It's a lot more difficult to play cleanly if you don't have sufficient spacing.

When you say it's more difficult playing 'higher-up', let's look at that realistically. For positions greater than about the 10th fret your hand position has to change significantly because the heel and the body get it the way. At the 12th fret, the string spacing is only about 4-5mm greater than at the nut. It's less than that at the 10th. You say that's harder to play, but then you want to jump straight to increasing the nut spacing by 9-10mm? That doesn't make sense.

Guitars have evolved over 150+ years to have certain general dimensions. To me it smacks of arrogance or ignorance to think that a change like this can make a significant improvement in guitar design.

So yeah, see if you can get someone to make that for you. If I were a luthier I'd insist on a non-refundable payment up front, because it's almost certain you'll be disappointed with the result and it won't be the luthier's fault.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 11 2019 7:20:17
 
X

 

Posts: 67
Joined: May 21 2009
 

RE: fingerboard width question (in reply to X

Guys, I admit I'm ignorant, but I assure you all I'm not arrogant. I ask questions here not to debate, but because I really want to know.

As a start, let me say that when I post here, I'm usually at work (shh!) so I don't have access to a guitar or a ruler and every measurement I mention is a guess from memory.

Andy, I actually meant about 54mm nut width, which I thought translated to about 50mm E to e at the nut. With the parallel sides design, this would also be 50mm at the bridge.

Now, I estimate my left index finger is about 65mm usable length, so doing a barre at the fifth fret I estimate the neck width there is about 60mm, and I have no problems playing with a capo at the fifth fret, so I don't believe a 61mm nut width will present playability problems. More difficult than a 52mm nut width, but not overly so.

Timoteo, where do I suggest increasing string spacing by 9-10mm at the nut? You lost me there, so I'm sure I misunderstood you. Can you explain?

I'll take your suggestion and try high-speed arpeggios and picados with my right hand up near the nut tonight. I'm sure it'll be difficult, but I suspect that'll be because of the very low string action and not really the string spacing. I used to be a ukelele whiz when I was younger, arpeggios, picados, no problem. I mention this here because I'm assuming that spacing for the four uke strings at the bridge is less than spacing for any four adjacent guitar strings, have no way to measure right now.

But then maybe not. Maybe there is a minimum string spacing at the bridge, determined by the size of the player's fingertips, that's the same for ukes, guitars, stringed instruments not played with a pick... hmmm...

Guys, when I said it's more difficult for me to play at the higher positions, it's not because of the heel nor the body. My problem is getting a good barre on all six strings up there. Maybe I should've mentioned that first thing.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 12 2019 1:32:54
 
constructordeguitarras

Posts: 1341
Joined: Jan. 29 2012
From: Seattle, Washington, USA

RE: fingerboard width question (in reply to X

quote:

Now, I estimate my left index finger is about 65mm usable length, so doing a barre at the fifth fret I estimate the neck width there is about 60mm, and I have no problems playing with a capo at the fifth fret, so I don't believe a 61mm nut width will present playability problems. More difficult than a 52mm nut width, but not overly so.


My guitars, which have typical dimensions, have a 52-mm nut, with 43 mm between E centers. My fingerboards are 60 to 62 mm wide at the 12th fret. So presumably you would not have a problem barring up to the 12th fret. It doesn't sound like you would have any more trouble than anyone else barring higher than that.

_____________________________

Ethan Deutsch
www.edluthier.com
www.facebook.com/ethandeutschguitars
www.youtube.com/marioamayaflamenco
I always have flamenco guitars available for sale.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 12 2019 7:57:49
 
RobF

Posts: 252
Joined: Aug. 24 2017
 

RE: fingerboard width question (in reply to constructordeguitarras

quote:

My guitars, which have typical dimensions, have a 52-mm nut, with 49 mm between E centers.


Hi Ethan, surely there’s a typo in there? Most likely in the E to e dimension?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 12 2019 14:38:15
 
constructordeguitarras

Posts: 1341
Joined: Jan. 29 2012
From: Seattle, Washington, USA

RE: fingerboard width question (in reply to RobF

quote:


Hi Ethan, surely there’s a typo in there? Most likely in the E to e dimension?


Thanks, Rob. Not a typo. Me trying to do arithmetic in my head. Fixed it.

52 mm - 5 mm on treble side - 4 mm on bass side = 43 mm E to E.

_____________________________

Ethan Deutsch
www.edluthier.com
www.facebook.com/ethandeutschguitars
www.youtube.com/marioamayaflamenco
I always have flamenco guitars available for sale.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 12 2019 17:57:30
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