The Guitar Fretboard

First of all, let’s clear one thing up. You will see the terminology fretboard and fingerboard used interchangeably throughout not only this site, but around different luthiers and guitar people as well. There is nothing wrong with using either term as a fretboard does hold frets and a fingerboard is used by the fingers. In either case then mean the same thing.
The Importance of the Fretboard:

Besides the top plate, perhaps one of the most important pieces of wood in the production of a guitar is the fretboard. Think about it, if the fret spacing is off by just a hair, you will not be able to tune the guitar properly, (if you use comparison tuning to other strings that is), the intonation will be impossible to adjust and the guitar is basically useless.

Also if the frets are installed improperly, you can have buzzing problems, playing difficulties and string wear issues.

The fretboard can be key to satisfying the needs of the guitar player and aide greatly in his/her comfort and pleasure in playing the instrument.

Also, if the fretboard itself is installed incorrectly, you can have trouble lining up the nut and bridge/saddle, string height problems and many more problems. The bottom line? The fretboard is kinda important!

There are many different configurations we should consider for the fretboard, and because the fretboard plays such a significant role in the success or failure of a handmade instrument, each of the these factors will be covered in it’s own article.

Wood Species Selection:

Years back there were basically (3) choices for luthiers – Ebony, Rosewood and Rock Maple. Now that the world’s wood market has opened up, there are a wide range of wood materials available, and unfortunately, some of the traditional woods are no longer available. Go to the Article on Fretboard Wood Species for a discussion on all wood species of fretboards to choose from.

Proper width at the Nut:

The requirements of the “width at the nut”, is the topic of discussion amongst the more talented musicians. You will want to be keenly aware of this requirement and not take it too lightly. Go to the Article on Fretboard Nut Width.

Proper Width at the Saddle:

This parallels the discussion of the nut width and is often used in conjunction with the nut width. Usually a wider string width is desired by fingerstyle guitar pickers. Go to the article on Fretboard Saddle Width.

Selecting the Scale Length:

This is the actual measured distance from the backside of the nut at the center (between the 3rd and 4th strings), and the center point of the saddle. This distance can play an important role in how the guitar plays, string tension and other important factors. Go to the article on Guitar Scale Length.

Fretboard Thickness:

Getting the proper thickness can be a function of the type of guitar (Classical, Acoustic or Electric), type of wood and desired balance of the guitar. Go to the article on Fretboard Thickness.

Fretboard Radius:

Again, this is a very subjective attribute in a fretboard. Almost all Electric Guitars, Most Acoustics and no Classical Guitars will have a radius. The radius can vary and getting it just right can be a tricky ordeal. Go to the Article on Guitar Fretboard Radius.

Fretboard Taper:

This pertains mostly to Classical Guitars in that some luthiers taper the bass side of the fretboard to minimize string buzz while providing a more comfortable string action. Go to the Article on Fretboard Taper.

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