Flat Fret Board or Radius

Tiki_Jeff

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Flat vs Radius for players, not Luthiers, as that seems to be an entirely different set of issues. As a Guitar player we have flat, radius, scalloped and whatever some wood worker in Cremona China has named the newest shape etc. I see there are few brands in the Ukulele world that address Radius curving compared to Flat.
Does anyone prefer the Radius? Quite frankly the Radius models seem way overpriced or just not affordable to the average, "I want to strum a little" hobbyist. I have found with my Guitars as long as my set up is good it makes little difference. However, as a violin player I noticed all necks have the curve and you barely need to touch the string to make it ring at desired tone. Aside from making Jack Johnson songs, that are so filled with Bar Chords my skin on my index finger looked like banana pancake batter after a week, easier with the Radius I am not sure why, or even if, it would be beneficial? All thoughts always appreciated, well most anyways. :)
 
The nut and bridge on a violin need to be radiused so that the strings don't all lie in the same plane. Otherwise, you could never bow a middle string independently of the others. Also, on a violin, you never press the string all the way to the fretboard; you just stop the string with the touch of a finger (or play the string open). Violin technique is radically different from uke technique, so drawing parallels (including about nut width, string spacing or fingerboard scale) is an exercise frought with error.

Some people find a radius helpful (or at least believe it helps them—confirmation bias; also, people are mistaken about a number of things relating to uke metrics, as they attribute playability differences to the wrong factors). I personally find a radiused fretboard on ukes to be overkill, and that it actually brings more downsides than advantages. On guitars, the additional nut width makes it harder to get a clean barre, but with uke nuts (even the wider ones I prefer), barring is quite easy to do securely without a radius, and the difference caused by the radius is minor at best, since the affected arc is less.
 
For me, guitars are better radiused because of the width of the neck. I have a classical guitar with the usual flat board, and it's a strain on my fingers. The normal shape of relaxed human fingers is a curve.

I've honestly never tried a radiused ukulele, but a flat 1.5" wide uke neck is no issue compared to my 2.5" flat classical.

With the typical radii, the difference between the center and the ends of the uke curve is a lot less than with a guitar. Picture a fifth of a circle compared to a third.
 
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The majority of my ukes have flat fingerboards. A couple have a radius.
Either are fine but I do find that a board that has a radius does help me with some barre chords.
If I ever order a custom uke I will order one with a slight radius.
I doubt that will ever happen but I can dream.
 
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Here are two threads that have generated many responses.



This one includes responses from luthiers as well (and they are divided in their opinions, too):


I have had the opportunity to play "identical" Blackbird Clara ukuleles at their factory, one with a radiused fretboard and one with a flat one. I chose to pay for the radiused when I ordered it. It helps ever so slightly with barre chords and with some arthritis (and perhaps a lot of technique deficiencies). You are likely correct in asserting that "it makes little difference" and that is what you might have the choice to pay for. Usually there is not a choice within companies and models.
 
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Here are two threads that have generated many responses.



This one includes responses from luthiers as well (and they are divided in their opinions, too):


I have had the opportunity to play "identical" Blackbird Clara ukuleles at their factory, one with a radiused fretboard and one with a flat one. I chose to pay for the radiused when I ordered it. It helps ever so slightly with barre chords and with some arthritis (and perhaps a lot of technique deficiencies). You are likely correct in asserting that "it makes little difference" and that is what you might have the choice to pay for. Usually there is not a choice within companies and models.
Funny about the Luthiers...I have designed a few custom Guitars that were built for me and I darn near got in between a Luthier Rumble over this topic.
 
For me, guitars are better radiused because of the width of the neck. I have a classical guitar with the usual flat board, and it's a strain on my fingers. The normal shape of relaxed human fingers is a curve.

I've honestly never tried a radiused ukulele, but a flat 1.5" wide uke neck is no issue compared to my 2.5" flat classical.

With the typical radii, the difference between the center and the ends of the uke curve is a lot less than with a guitar. Picture a fifth of a circle compared to a third.
So true yes...
 
The nut and bridge on a violin need to be radiused so that the strings don't all lie in the same plane. Otherwise, you could never bow a middle string independently of the others. Also, on a violin, you never press the string all the way to the fretboard; you just stop the string with the touch of a finger (or play the string open). Violin technique is radically different from uke technique, so drawing parallels (including about nut width, string spacing or fingerboard scale) is an exercise frought with error.

Some people find a radius helpful (or at least believe it helps them—confirmation bias; also, people are mistaken about a number of things relating to uke metrics, as they attribute playability differences to the wrong factors). I personally find a radiused fretboard on ukes to be overkill, and that it actually brings more downsides than advantages. On guitars, the additional nut width makes it harder to get a clean barre, but with uke nuts (even the wider ones I prefer), barring is quite easy to do securely without a radius, and the difference caused by the radius is minor at best, since the affected arc is less.
You do not touch a violin string to the fret board? Wonder why there are so many re-shaves and worn Violin fret boards being worked on :) Nope after 30 plus years bowing as a pro I am sure I have touched it. LOL Even Clapton could have had better technique. :) I do get the picture you are painting here. So true on Guitars and yes so small on Ukues it should not make a difference. Got it, I am not one to pull out a ruler except when the pile of money they promised for playing a gig is lesser by inches. So I do greatly appreciate this kind of approach. Since I can not read a ruler, I stopped in science class 44 years ago, (that is why I am a musician) I get a general consensus and then try and find one to play. With guitars this is getting easier. I have a closet full to try, with Violins I have a room full but with this fun new hobby of "Uking"...which was simple, until I decided to buy another and wanted variety now all the questions come up. Thanks for all of the detail and although I am known for sarcasm, this is not it, I really do appreciate this kind of insight. TY
 
For me, guitars are better radiused because of the width of the neck. I have a classical guitar with the usual flat board, and it's a strain on my fingers. The normal shape of relaxed human fingers is a curve.

I've honestly never tried a radiused ukulele, but a flat 1.5" wide uke neck is no issue compared to my 2.5" flat classical.

With the typical radii, the difference between the center and the ends of the uke curve is a lot less than with a guitar. Picture a fifth of a circle compared to a third.
I think after this many years my fingers are flat too. :) It was quite humbling, after a long career of playing with some great musicians, to pick up a Uke, strum it so nicely, try for the Bar Chord and get a PLUNK. Ahahhaa put me in my place so fast. The guitar shop that cares for most of my 6 string treasures told me they make a Radius on some Ukes as well. So much for taking the Wife out that day. Research time!!! Haha
So glad to have so many good experienced people to learn from on something new, after so many years of the same ol same old.
 
Barre chords. They are easier for me to form on a radiused board. I only have one radiused uke, and many flat ones, so that may be telling.
 
The majority of my ukes have flat fingerboards. A couple have a radius.
Either are fine but I do find that a board that has a radius does help me with some barre chords.
If I ever order a custom uke I will order one with a slight radius.
I doubt that will ever happen but I can dream.
Absolutely, hold onto those dreams. Good input btw and thanks. After posting, during a large cup of coffee mind you, I soon realized from all the great advice it boils down to some idiot, ME, playing a Radius Ukulele. Hehehe.
 
Flat
 
Barre chords. They are easier for me to form on a radiused board. I only have one radiused uke, and many flat ones, so that may be telling.

Barre chords. They are easier for me to form on a radiused board. I only have one radiused uke, and many flat ones, so that may be telling.

I spent a few months in Molokai in the early 80s, about 30 miles east of Kaunakakai. Molokai was pretty undeveloped then. I wonder what it is like now.
Yes, wow early 80's = very undeveloped. I have not been in many years either. Kaunakakai has many more homes as my drive to the Kaunakakai Hotel was almost all shore line back then. Downtown Kk, had a bakery Kanemitsu's, killer banana pancakes and breakfast btw... the hardware store, a video rental store that sold me my first Peter Moon and HAPA cassette tapes and a grocery store that I can not remember the name of. Loved the tranquility and amazing people I was so accepted by. Seems like a lifetime ago my friend.
 
Radius for me. 12" radius is my most comfortable. I love the way it almost feels like the neck of a fiddle.
I don't like playing flat ones at all.
I need all the help I can get.
 
Radius for me. 12" radius is my most comfortable. I love the way it almost feels like the neck of a fiddle.
I don't like playing flat ones at all.
I need all the help I can get.
Fantastic that you are on target with this. Amazing how playing ergonomics and what works for one..."... is as unique as music genres.
 
Radius for me. 12" radius is my most comfortable. I love the way it almost feels like the neck of a fiddle.
I don't like playing flat ones at all.
I need all the help I can get.
I don't know anything about the technical data of a radiused fretboard. All I know is that it's a lot easier to barre a radiused fretboard as opposed to a flat one. My two Pono's and my Ko'olau all tenors, all with radiused fretboards are easier to play than my flat fretboard ukuleles.
 
As an older person with small hands the radiused fretboard really makes a difference for me especially when it comes to barre chords. I think that practice of accurate barre chords on a radiused fretboard improved my ability to play my "regular" fretboard ukes.
 
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