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  1. #1

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    Seeing more and more guitars with “compound radius” fretboards. Fender is doing them with their new line of Teles. Can anyone talk about what the benefits or drawbacks of these are? The fender ones have a 10” and 14” radius in one, but I don’t quite understand what that means or how it works. Is the beginning of the neck more round and the higher frets flatter? That’s gotta lead to different string heights, no?

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Personally a regular 12 inch radius fingerboard is the best for myself nothing compound. In saying that though I am pretty much a one trick pony. I play jazz mostly and do not at all bend notes. I rarely venture into the nosebleed section of the fingerboard beyond 15 fret and then it is usually only on top 2 strings. I want the fretboard to feel the same where ever my fingers happen to be.

    Also regardless of what any measurement or spec is on a guitar, it really has mostly to do with feel. That is personal and frankly everything can measure at say 12 inch radius, but in the end the feel of the neck can be different. To me it is package deal with the particular guitar. So for me personally I find a Les Paul much better to play than Fenders even though I prefer a 25 inch scale or 25.5. Radius of the fretboard is one part of the equation but it depends?

    Call me a retro grouch but really Johnny Smith said a .12 inch radius neck and 25 inch scale was the best at least for archtops. So "if it is not broke, don't fix it."

  4. #3

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    The compound radius (starting with a smaller radius at the nut and ending with a rather flat fingerboard high up) was introduced for making string bends easier, i.e. for not having the strings "fret out" when bending them for more than a semi or whole tone. When you don't bend your strings there is no real benefit in a changing fretboard radius IMHO. I use my Tele and my Strat for gigs where string bending is part of the technique employed, both have such necks and both guitars play great. My '63 ES-345 has a "standard" fretboard, med. jumbo frets and does not suffer from fretted out notes - go figure. I can bend up a minor third
    without problems, all notes ring clear. My archtops also have standard fretboards, with a radius that makes bar-chords (any complex fingering really) easy, that's a big help on long gigs ...

  5. #4

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    Compound radius is not that useful a concept for jazz guitar IMO.

    The idea is that the low radius part makes bar chords easier on the lower section of the neck, high radius part prevents strings choking out during large bends on the higher parts of the neck.

    For those who don't use bar chords much, flat radius, something between 12 and 16 is better I think. It's also arguably harder to do fret leveling on compound radius fretboard (for those who do their own fret levelling).
    Last edited by Tal_175; 01-13-2021 at 08:03 PM.

  6. #5

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    I have tried necks with compound (or conical) radii before for a few years at a time. TBH, they never did anything for me and I almost think that my natural tendency is to expect the feel of a straight radius while playing. Personally I like the standard Fender 7.25" and Gibson 12" radii the best. I get the feeling that there is only so much that can be done to improve upon their original designs and a compound radius fretboard isn't one of them. Just my 2 cents.

  7. #6

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    There is often a difference between theory and practice. In theory, a compound radius would improve the action. In practice, I don't think it does to any perceptible degree. I can't really say whether it makes bends easier, because I don't do much bending.

  8. #7

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    The "compound radius" is nothing new; the viol family has been using that for centuries. If you examine the fingerboard of a violin, viola, cello, upright bass, etc., you will see that the contour is actually a section of a cone rather than a cylinder. This is necessary because the strings are farther apart at the bridge than they are at the nut due to the requirements for bowing. On a guitar, the increased spacing between the strings over the distance between the nut and the bridge is proportionately not as large.

    I have Warmoth compound radius necks on a couple of my guitars; I don't bend a lot of notes very much, but I like how it feels to finger chords further up the neck. Somehow it takes less effort to cleanly fret the strings. I should note that I rarely use barre chords and typically I'm playing 3-5 note "fingertip" type chords.

    But it's not a dealbreaker, by any means. I also have several guitars with constant radius finger boards and they're really fine too. If there would be a way to do a blindfold test of the two, it's entirely possible that I wouldn't be able to accurately identify which is which.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cunamara
    The "compound radius" is nothing new; the viol family has been using that for centuries. If you examine the fingerboard of a violin, viola, cello, upright bass, etc., you will see that the contour is actually a section of a cone rather than a cylinder. This is necessary because the strings are farther apart at the bridge than they are at the nut due to the requirements for bowing. On a guitar, the increased spacing between the strings over the distance between the nut and the bridge is proportionately not as large. [...]
    Absolutely.

    Here are some calcs to go with the discussion and lend some measurables to the experience. Post #16 and thereafter.

    Compound Radius

  10. #9

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    As a jazz/blues/RnB player, one of the attractive features of the Ibanez JSM100 is its compound radius fretboard. According to Ibanez the signature model was made with input from Scofield, who is known to do more bends than the typical jazz guitarist. I bought a used JSM100 years ago to check it out. It plays great, but I have a hard time discerning its compound radius as I play however. Maybe its due to its jumbo frets and heavy (13's)gauge strings. I use 12's and find it a joy to play any music style.

    Here's what Ibanez says about it:

    https://www.ibanez.com/eu/products/d...jsm100_07.html

    "Best of both worlds: JSM100's digitized compound radius neck is built to enhance both smooth chording and upper fret lead work..."


  11. #10

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    I have a pretty good A/B with this recently...
    I have a Fender strat. I wanted 22 frets, so I replaced the neck with a Warmoth neck I had made, compound radius. I ended up not liking that neck- (because of the profile of the back, not the radius of the fretboard), so I replaced it AGAIN with another standard Fender neck. The Warmoth was compound radius 10"-14". Both fenders were 9.5". The neck profile had FAR more to do with whether I felt comfortable on a neck or not. Far more meaning, 99%.

    When I can get a compound radius, I love them. It's not a deal breaker or anything, and I'm not pining for all my guitars to have them, as long as a radius (on an electric) is between 9.5"-12", I'm good. I'm not a fan of the 7.25" vintage fender radius, or the really flat (13"-15") on most acoustics. That's actually why my old Ovation is such a player- 9.5" radius neck! But I bend ALOT. I'm not a "straight-up" jazz player (heck, I'm not a "jazz player" at all... what I do is best described as being in the Duke Levine/Johnny A/Jim Campilongo camp.)

    But yes- compound radius . I don't think it matters much unless you are talking "shredding"... and even then, Eric Johnson can do that just fine on a 12" radius neck (not compound), so...

  12. #11

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    Had a Larrivee acoustic with compound radius. My hand hurt after playing it more than 30 minutes. Never again I promised myself. Then I traded a gb10 for a custom shop strat with 7.5 to 9.5 compound radius with a soft V shape. That neck is very nice and comfortable, but it would have been just as fine with 9 something all the way. So I tolerate the compound radius but don't see the point either.

  13. #12

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    My favorite neck is 13.75 radius all the way up. It's on the Yamaha Pacifica 012. The neck is tiny in every dimension except scale which is 25.5. I like it that it stays narrow at the upper frets --not sure how much the radius affects that aspect of the feel.

    I've read that about bends choking out, but I can't recall ever having that problem, even though I bend a lot. That includes 9.5 Strat, 12 Gibsons and the 13.75 Yamaha.

  14. #13

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    Yes the string height/ action will be different along the neck but not by much, and alot will depend on the bridge radius. Do you set the bridge radius for the 10" or the 14". And why not just make them with fret fall away. I think alot has to do with justifying the engineering and tech departments needing to justify there jobs.

  15. #14

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    The bridge radius should not be either 10" or 14", but larger. A cone gets larger in diameter nearer the base, so the bridge radius should be nearer 16" or perhaps a little flatter, depending on where the neck joins the body. It's a mathematically exact number, but I'm too lazy to calculate it right now.

  16. #15

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    I really like it!

  17. #16

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    When I got my ES refretted with extra jumbo SS frets, he also altered the fretboard radius to a compound radius. However, I can't tell if the now-flawless playability has anything to do with it - I'm fairly certain the frets matter more, but if an experienced technician who knows me and my style recommends me something, I'll do it.