Question for those of you who've played scalloped fretboards

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Question for those of you who've played scalloped fretboards

Post by hillerheilman » Mon Jun 03, 2019 7:59 pm

Hey all.
I'm starting another project with a local luthier (offset acoustic, I may start a thread later once we get to the final design and get the wood ordered) and I need a bit of advice. I'm considering scalloping the fretboard in order to be able to use a lighter touch effectively, and I'd heard that with chords scalloped fretboards can make it difficult because you may not be applying the correct pressure to all the strings, making it out of tune. This got me wondering about something. I'm pretty much unable to do any string bending the traditional way due to a disability affecting my fretting hand, and I wondered if with a scalloped board I might be able to bend up a half or even whole step just by fretting the note harder. If this is the case, how deep would the scallop need to be to achieve that? Anyone have experience with this?
Any help is appreciated.

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Re: Question for those of you who've played scalloped fretboards

Post by JVG » Thu Jun 06, 2019 2:49 pm

Hi Hiller

I have extensive experience with scalloped fretboards - I love them (i’ve been a raging Blackmore fan for years - perhaps not a very cool thing to admit on this forum, but i’m ok with that :) ).

They are poorly understood by many people. Firstly, there is a common misconception that they are just for shredders, however i strongly disagree. I can’t play fast at all, and really don’t understand why people think scalloped boards help with speed. I think there is some perceived idea of having less friction due to fretboard contact, but i don’t buy it.

As for bending the note by pushing downwards, its not as easy as you might think, and is NOT a viable way to perform a proper string bend. You might get 1/4 tone bend at best (unless you have really strong fingers!). This leads me onto misconception number 2, which is the idea that chords easily go out of tune on scalloped boards due to the downwards pressure. This simply isn’t true, unless you are fretting insanely hard (in which case you would have an issue with standard fretboards too). When you fret a chord on a normal guitar, are the strings touching the fretboard where you are pushing them down between frets? Unlikely.

However it DOES help you bend strings more easily when pushed from the side (the “normal” way), because your finger can get ‘under’ the string a bit. So effectively you are actually putting less downward pressure and more sideways pressure on the string. It’s a more energy efficient approach.

Another thing it does is gives a fatter sound, because there is more air around the vibrating string. Yes, it really does make a difference. Subtle, but noticeable, in the same way a higher action sounds bigger than a lower action.

It’s also worth noting that there are several variations of scallop. The two basic types are the symmetrical scallop, which is just a “U” shape when viewed from the side, and the “offset U” shape, where the deepest part of the scallop is closer to the fret, rather than halfway between. Neither is better, it’s purely personal preference. [ok, so it’s technically not a U shape, since it doesn’t get vertical at the sides, but you get the idea!]

The depth of the scallop is also highly variable. Again, it’s a matter if taste. Generally between 2mm and 4mm at the deepest point.

The next option is whether to scallop across the whole width of the fretboard, or just under the treble strings (where most of the note bending is usually done).

In summary, if your hand problem prevents you from pushing sideways to bend strings, a scalloped board will not help you. However if your hand problem is essentially lack of strength, then a scalloped board will help you bend.

I hope this help you.


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