Fretboards are curved across their width to accommodate the natural shape of fingers in playing position. Some are curved a great deal, while others feel almost flat. The amount of a fretboard's curvature is referred to as its radius. Fretboards with a small radius are more curved, while those with a large radius are more flat. The measurement is arrived at by extending the arc of the fretboard to form an imaginary circle around the neck. The radius of this circle is the fretboard's radius.
Straight Radius vs Compound Radius
Straight radius fretboards use a single radius down the entire length of the fretboard. They have been the industry standard since the inception of guitars, and are still in wide use today.
Warmoth offers a huge range of straight radius options:
- Any straight radius from 9" to 16", in half inch increments
- 7-1/4" (Vintage construction necks only)
Compound radius fretboards transition gradually from a smaller (rounder) radius in the lower frets to a larger (flatter) radius in the higher frets. This unique conical shape provides maximum hand comfort in the chording area, while allowing greater speed and cleaner string bending as the player moves up the neck.
Warmoth offers three compound radius options:
- 10" - 16" Compound Radius
- 9-1/2" - 14" Compound Radius
- 12" - 16" Compound Radius
Choosing a Fretboard Radius
When considering fretboard radius it is important select something that is both comfortable in your hand and conducive to your playing style. Small radius fretboards are wonderful for rhythm playing, but to bend strings without "fretting-out" the action must be somewhat high. Large radius fretboards make clean string bends with low action possible, but rhythm playing is no longer as comfortable. For most players, the best compromise of comfort, low action, and clean string bending on a straight-radius fretboard falls somewhere in the middle range, between 10" and 12".
Knowing the typical radius of popular brands can be helpful. Here are some examples:
- Vintage Fender: 7-1/4"
- Modern Fender: 9-1/2"
- PRS, Gibson: 10"
- Ibanez: 12"
- Jackson: 16"
Compound radius fretboards offer you the benefits of both large and small radius in a single neck. The transition as you move up the neck is barely perceptible, but it will make a genuine, noticeable difference in your playing.
Tech Tips for Compound Radius
There is no practical difference in performing a fret level, nut cut, set-up or any other adjustment on a compound radius neck. They are as easy to work on as any other neck.
Compound radius fretboards are compatible with both Floyd Rose and LSR Roller nuts. These nuts are manufactured at a particular radius. Choose the compound radius that most closely matches the nut.
- Floyd Rose locking nut: 10"
- LSR Roller nut: 9-1/2" - 10"