PDA

View Full Version : Does anyone prefer a flat (non-radius) fretboard



katysax
02-08-2015, 05:31 AM
I prefer a properly set up flat fretboard on a ukulele.

I've been feeling for a while that I'm fairly neutral on this subject, but the more I play the more I feel that a flat fretboard is easier to play. At least for me. It seems to be "common wisdom" on this forum that a radius fretboard is better.

Over and over discussions evolve into how a particular uke would probably be better with a radius fretboard. Yet, many people also will say their Moore Bettah (which has a flat fretboard) is their best-playing uke.

I have a Ko'olau CS made in 2014. It is a thing of beauty, plays and sounds wonderful. It has a radius fretboard. After I got it I found a used Ko'olau from 2006 which has a flat fretboard. I find the one from 2006 is easier to play. The difference is infinitesimal but I definitely prefer the one with the flat fret board.

Many folks have commented on the wonderful fretboard on the Blackbird Clara - yet again a uke with a flat fretboard.

I don't dislike radius fretboards. It doesn't turn me off to the uke. I can see that if you have a problem where you can't straighten your fingers, it would be helpful. And I think a radius fretboard is essential on a steel string guitar. I have ukes with a radius fretboard that I want to keep and that I play a lot.

But, all things being equal I think a flat fretboard is a better choice on a uke than a radius fretboard.

drbekken
02-08-2015, 05:54 AM
I'm with you, katysax.

Dan Uke
02-08-2015, 05:58 AM
Same here. I'm sure if I only had radius, I would get used to them quickly but since I only have flat, that's my preference. If I did get radius, it would be evr so slight. I tried a high end uke once and I could hardly play it due to the radius. I'm sure if I borrowed it for a couple of days, I would have gotten used to it.

hawaii 50
02-08-2015, 06:12 AM
Same here. I'm sure if I only had radius, I would get used to them quickly but since I only have flat, that's my preference. If I did get radius, it would be evr so slight. I tried a high end uke once and I could hardly play it due to the radius. I'm sure if I borrowed it for a couple of days, I would have gotten used to it.

yeah Daniel all my ukes have a radius fretboard...except my production ones...when I play the flat fretboards now they seem concave to me....I am just a regular fingerstyle player...it does not make me a better or worst player....just plays tricks with my eyes......:)

DownUpDave
02-08-2015, 06:15 AM
I got the general impression that more people liked a flat fretboard. Maybe the radius fanatics are just more vocal........hey "sam13" where are you when we need you.

I actually do have an anatomical issue with my left hand where I cannot straighten out my fingers. So I have become a radius fanatic and am only purchasing ukes with radius fretboards now. Barr chords are easlily doable with a radius and damn near impossible to play one cleanly without. As anything else it is all personal.

bazmaz
02-08-2015, 06:16 AM
I wouldnt go so far as to say I prefer either. I have both. Adore radius fretboards, but have no issue playing flat ones. Two of my most high end ukes have one of each. Both play extremely well on the neck.

But equally, I don't see how you can say a flat fingerboard is a 'better choice' either - depends on the uke, the builder, the structure of the players hands, the scale of the instrument.

janeray1940
02-08-2015, 06:16 AM
I've never owned a radiused fretboard, just flat, but have tried friends' ukes with radiused and - frankly, I couldn't tell any difference. So it's definitely not something I'd pay extra for.

Camsuke
02-08-2015, 09:10 AM
I like both, no issues either way. A proper setup is the most important element to me.

ukulelekarcsi
02-08-2015, 09:15 AM
Can I recommend Teja Gerken and Frank Ford's book 'Acoustic Guitar. An historical look at the Composition, Construction, and Evolution of One of the World's Most Beloved Instruments'? I know it's about guitars, but it contains a lot of factual information about tonewoods, fret marking patterns, instrument finishes, tuner gears that applies to other instruments as well.

About fretboard radiuses it basically says that curving the fretboard top began on steel-string guitars in the 1920s, and was generally intended to allow for easier barre grips and faster runs over multiple strings - an ergonomic argument. The steel strings and scalloped bracing gave enough volume to sacrifice some of it for a lower action and closer string spacing - which is a side result of making a radius. The arguments to stick to flat fingerboards nonetheless are mainly tradition, clearer fingering and string separation without loss of a bit of volume, easier construction and the necessity for all strings to be in the same plane for bottleneck and slide playing. 12-strings, resonators, flamenco and classical guitars therefor still have a flat fingerboard as a standard, and radiused fretboards are more the exceptions. On steel-string acoustics and electrics it's the other way around.

The ukulele fits more or less in the nylon-strung instrument tradition: unless you build an exceptionally loud instrument that also needs to go fast and easy, there is no reason for a radius. If you do, there is...

pluck
02-08-2015, 09:30 AM
As a beginner I'm still struggling with D and E chords. I've never played a radius fretboard but my imagination tells me that one should make clearing the A string a bit easier with one. If I'm still having a hard time with the D and E in 6 months or a year I may be thinking seriously about one.

phil_doleman
02-08-2015, 09:41 AM
I've never played one, but I am a (steel string) guitarist too, so I'm used to a radius on those. However, when playing a classical guitar with a flat board and wide string spacing, it feels different, but fine. There are very few classical guitar players playing radiused board instruments. I do think that, whilst progress is often a good thing, the uke is essentially a simple instrument, and blindly adding 'improvements', largely from the guitar world (radius fingerboards, guitar style machine heads, cutaways), doesn't necessarily mean that they are better, or needed at all. It's ironic that many players dream uke would be a vintage Martin, featuring none of these 'improvements'.

Unless, of course, you have some kind of physical issue that a particular design helps with, I think it's a mistake to think that changing an instrument to one with certain features will necessarily help your playing improve, or make learning any easier.

Ukulele Eddie
02-08-2015, 10:21 AM
I like both, no issues either way. A proper setup is the most important element to me.

I agree with this. I can take it or leave it. My Collings has a radius and it's a joy to play. The Clara was also easy to play and was flat.

stevepetergal
02-08-2015, 10:23 AM
Me too, katysax. Biggest ukulele mistake I made was buying a custom instrument with a radiused fretboard. Could never get used to it.

SteveZ
02-08-2015, 11:02 AM
I have to admit that playing the Pono Pro Classic with the radiused fretboard just seems to play smoother than any other uke I have. It's the same with my mandolins - the two I have left, one is radiused and it just plays a smidgeon smoother.

Icelander53
02-08-2015, 11:27 AM
I have both and IMO the shape of the neck is more important to me. If I had to choose though I'd go with the radiused because all but one of my easiest playing ukes are radiused.

Diamond Dave
02-08-2015, 11:56 AM
I often go from a Telecaster (with a highly curved 9.5" radius fretboard) to my uke, which is flat. It feels concave! But it's all good. I adapt quickly. :)

Doc_J
02-08-2015, 12:31 PM
I like both, no issues either way. A proper setup is the most important element to me.


I have both and IMO the shape of the neck is more important to me. If I had to choose though I'd go with the radiused because all but one of my easiest playing ukes are radiused.



I'm with Cam & Icelander on this. Either works for me. Given a choice, I'd take a radius. But, a good setup and neck profile are more important.

SteveZ
02-08-2015, 01:06 PM
I'm with Cam & Icelander on this. Either works for me. Given a choice, I'd take a radius. But, a good setup and neck profile are more important.

No doubt about it. If the neck doesn't fit the hand or the setup is sour, then nothing will compensate for it. However, if those issues are fine, then the radiused fretboard (for me, anyway) is easier on my beat-up and semi-arthritic fingers.

Recstar24
02-08-2015, 01:46 PM
My covered bridge concert is a flat board, my MM myrtle tenor is radiused.

Both are very comfortable to play for different reasons. The CB is a 1.5" nut which for a concert feels great. The MM plays so well mostly due to the neck and smooth and beveled fret ends, and the fact the widest part of the neck goes beyond the fret ends.

I only notice the radius on the MM higher up the neck and doing barre chords, especially chords with a half barre. This past week during my uke lesson we were doing major seventh chords up the neck and we were playing with the a major 7th shape, which requires a half barre on strings 3 and 4 and another half barre on strings 1 and 2. The MM was considerably easier and way less buzzy going high up on the a string on major 7th shapes.

In normal position I don't notice that much of a difference - Bb feels about the same on both. Placebo has me thinking maybe it's less buzzy on the MM but I'm decent enough I can pull a solid Bb chord out of thin air on any uke.

Andy Chen
02-08-2015, 01:54 PM
Thought I did like radius since I like to barre, now I am not so sure since the three ukes I love playing most are flat. And out of the the three ukes I've tried with radius, I like only one.

ukertommy
02-08-2015, 04:09 PM
I felt that flat fret board is nice enough, as my Ko'olau 300 tenor also comes with a non radius,same 06 manufactured. I think the difference is tiny, but sure will be a little bit more comfort especially on thicker/rounder ukes' neck. It is what i've heard for players who's compared both fret board types.

RichM
02-08-2015, 04:16 PM
Frankly, I barely feel the difference between a flat board and a radius on a uke.

Recstar24
02-09-2015, 03:02 PM
Frankly, I barely feel the difference between a flat board and a radius on a uke.

I feel the same way on about 95% of my playing.

I only notice it in very unique and specialized musical situations.

I do like how the action on my MM is super low with zero buzzing however. Someone mentioned that a radius board allows a lower action and therefore faster playing, yes?

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
02-09-2015, 03:54 PM
If I thought a radiused finger board offered a distinct advantage I'd build 'em that way.

katysax
02-09-2015, 04:03 PM
And since the MB that i own is the easiest to play and and has the best fingerboard of all my ukes, that is exactly why I think a well executed flat fingerboard is better than a radiused one.

Recstar24
02-09-2015, 04:08 PM
If I thought a radiused finger board offered a distinct advantage I'd build 'em that way.

Duly noted :)

Recstar24
02-09-2015, 04:10 PM
I would simply add, and ask genuinely as well, that we can all agree there are a lot of variables that go into easy smooth playability beyond radius vs a flat fretboard, correct?

I mean my MM is easy to play for many reasons that I don't actively feel or attribute to the fretboard, and the same for my CB. It seems like many of you feel the same way as well.

katysax
02-10-2015, 06:11 AM
I would simply add, and ask genuinely as well, that we can all agree there are a lot of variables that go into easy smooth playability beyond radius vs a flat fretboard, correct?

I mean my MM is easy to play for many reasons that I don't actively feel or attribute to the fretboard, and the same for my CB. It seems like many of you feel the same way as well.

Oh yes. There are many variables . MM ukes are very playable and have radius fretboards. The difference is minuscule at most. I guess it sort of surprises me that all things being equal - which is incredibly hard to achieve - I prefer the fingerboard to be flat. But it's by a teeny tiny almost indiscernible degree.

Hippie Dribble
02-10-2015, 06:18 AM
I prefer flat boards. Radiused boards feel unnatural.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
02-10-2015, 06:32 AM
Oh yes. There are many variables . MM ukes are very playable and have radius fretboards. The difference is minuscule at most. I guess it sort of surprises me that all things being equal - which is incredibly hard to achieve - I prefer the fingerboard to be flat. But it's by a teeny tiny almost indiscernible degree.

I have two personal players that I switch between. Both made by the same person (obviously) with the same setup, action, strings etc. One has a flat fret board while the other is radiused. They are close to identical in playability but I give a slight edge to the flat boarded uke. I can't explain the reasons for it but I can feel it. Either one is nice to play though.

Icelander53
02-10-2015, 06:45 AM
I used to think the radiused fretboard was critical but I have found flat fretboards that play just as easy and now that I'm better it makes less and less difference. What makes more difference to me is the shape of the neck but even that makes less and less difference now.

sam13
02-10-2015, 08:30 AM
Prefer? No.

On small ukes for me, I find it is less of an issue ... but on Tenor and Baritone. I prefer a radius.

I am 6'5" and have long arms, so any additional feature which helps me with tone as I am just learning ... is great. I like to play a lot of songs with barring (jazz tunes).