The fingerboard, like the nut, is one of the mostly overlooked setup parts of a stringed instrument … and one of the most important for playing ease and comfort.
A perfectly shaped fingerboard is a geometric nightmare to cut! Perhaps 1:10 violin makers get it right.
In principal it is a constant radial arc from the nut to the end with a parabolic concave camber cut along the length that tapers from deeper under the lower register strings to less under the high register strings. Very hard to do; correctly.
It works very closely in relation to the nut and bridge. There are a host of problems that may occur if the cut of the fingerboard is executed poorly.
- If the fingerboard is flat or wavy from nut to end then the strings will likely vibrate onto it when playing unless the nut and bridge are cut extra high to prevent this from happening.
- If there are bumps and ‘holes’ along the length of the fingerboard it is almost a guarantee that it will buzz at the bumpy positions. If any specific position is in one of the ‘holes’ then the area just below that will probably be higher causing it to be too close to the string and buzz … unless of course the bridge is way too high for comfort and aids the string in clearing the potential buzz spot.
- If there are grooves in the fingerboard from excessive use (groovy that you play a lot) under each of the strings this can make playing uncomfortable and, again, cause the strings to buzz.
- When the fingerboard is too flat from G to E then it becomes likely that the curve of the bridge will cause the height of the strings to be too much for the D and A strings. Of course this applies to the other instruments as well just not the same string notes.
- When the projection of the fingerboard is too low the tone will generally be a bit less intense. In the case of it being high it will often intensify the sound.
There are other details that could probably be nit picked with regard to the fingerboard but the gerneral idea is that it is evenly cambered and that the arc is constant. A poorly fitted and or adjusted fingerboard is a terrible thing to overcome for any new player, it means that other adjustments must be overcompensated to make it work’ish:(