View Full Version : Thoughts on long fretboards please....

10-22-2013, 11:03 AM
Hi All,

New here, so hello all.

My first Uke was a Lanikai LU-11 Soprano and it plays well. It has a short fretboard, ie stops at the soundboard rather than running to the soundhole.

I have since bought a Clearwater Concert, to experiment with the concert, see: http://www.clearwaterinstruments.com/index2.php?uid=4

Apparently it is very similar or identical to the Ohana BK 70RB.

All fine with the Clearwater, but I have discovered the difference between the long fretboard that it has (19frets in total) and the Lanikai's 12. One of the main differences is the distance between the strings and wood. I strum in front of the soundhole, so on the Lanikai I get plenty of movement and tone while with the Clearwater there is little distance between the string and fretboard, so strumming flexibility seems limited. I did have the idea of raising the saddle, but a friend warned against this as this would create too high an action further up the fretboard.

Obviously lots of Ukes have a long fretboard. Just interested in Views on this issue, and possible solutions.

Many thanks,


10-22-2013, 02:29 PM
For me it's not an issue, I prefer longer fretboards, all the way to the soundhole is great. I want those frets up the neck. I can still strum in the sweet spot around the neck join / above the soundhole and get a good response. I'm not sure how your strumming is limited? Do you mean by the movement of the top being restricted by the fretboard? Some ukes have a floating fretboard that is not attached to the top, but I can't think of any examples at the moment.

10-22-2013, 02:53 PM
Hi Teek,

Huge thank you for your reply.

The difference is around 9mm(from string to soundboard) with no fret board and 4-5 mm(String and fretboard) with a fretboard. So when I play with 9mm clearance I can "strum" deeper without hitting the fret board, When I do this I tend to get more resonance and volume. However with only 4-5 mm clearance, I seem more limited. I can just strum down with minimum string movement without hitting the fretboard. I am pretty new at the Uke so my technique may be lacking. However I did find that I could get more into my lanikai with the greater clearance. May sound strange. Just wanted to get thoughts. Out of interest what should the optimal clearance be over this long fret near the soundhole, or as you say the "sweet spot"? Thanks again.

10-22-2013, 03:35 PM
It depends a bit on you're playing ability as well, and/or preferences-

I play some classical always with 12 frets to the neck
I don't like or even feel a need to go up past the body

the frets get so close, the sound quality is not that great
you have to be pretty darn good even to worry about that fretboard way up there!

I've always liked a 12 to the neck, because it's a smaller instrument without sacrificing body size necessarily

gotta play with my new ukes some more to see what I think about the strumming issue-

10-22-2013, 03:51 PM
Thanks for this insight. Yes I see the reasoning why the top frets have limited use, unless one is very good. Interesting that you only bother with the 12 frets. Also not sure whether this is a "Concert" issue, ie with a Concert you tend to get more than 12 frets..... Showing my ignorance now !!! :)

10-22-2013, 06:28 PM
Well, I'm not any good, but I use the upper frets anyway...

Normally the string to top of fret distance at the 12th fret is about 2.5mm (more or less, depending). There really shouldn't be any issues with the higher frets if that distance is correct, and the neck is straight. I have about 3mm on the 19th fret of my Lanikai Monkeypod tenor, which happens to be sitting here at the time, and can't duplicate any issues no matter how hard I strum, so maybe you're tending to push down harder on the strings than I do(?) If you're pressing the strings down that far, I'd think you'd run into sound or intonation problems, even if it's only momentary, since you're stretching the string so much, but maybe it's not an issue.

As far as more frets being of value, I like as many as possible, and even a cutaway is nice for easier access. One main gripe I have about sopranos is the frets get too tight at the top, at least for my fingers. Ukes with normal reentrant tuning are stretching it to get a couple of octaves already, and there's nothing worse than picking out a melody in a key that's just right, only to find you can't access enough notes. When you run out of notes on the low end, you can often deal with it by shifting to a higher octave, but I don't think shifting down an octave usually works as smoothly.

It really depends on what you play, but since most of us change that on a regular basis, what seems ideal now may seem limiting later. There are chords all the way up the neck, and they don't all sound the same, so even if you don't pick out tunes, having more chord choices is nice (though use of chords much past the 12th fret is pretty limited anyway).

Maybe try a different 19-fret uke to see if it's just the uke you have, or if it's the way you're strumming (not meaning that it's wrong, but at least you'll know)

10-23-2013, 01:15 AM
Thank you for the above and very useful posts. I think the issue I am distilling out of this is whether 3 mm is enough to strum with as opposed to the 9mm I have with the short 12 fret board. I have a feeling an extra 1mm may be very handy. I have to admit this Clearwater was just very good value for money, and I want to try a concert, however I did not really understand the difference with strumming over a long fret board as opposed to a short fret board. It may be that the action is a little lower than other 19 fret instruments??? I will compare with other ukes when I next go to my local Uke club.

Thanks again.

10-23-2013, 03:57 AM
I find all my fretboards too long, lots of wasted space in the middle ;)

10-23-2013, 04:05 AM
I think this may be a case of adjusting to the instrument for what it is, rather than severely restricting your options so much on something that doesn't usually drastically affect playing..

It might be the way that you're strumming. Long/short fretboard should not adversely affect strumming.