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Bridge Radius: match fretboard radius or not?

ChiefbigeasyChiefbigeasy New Orleans, LA✭✭✭ Alves de Puga DR670; Dupont MDC 50; The Loar LH600
I wrote earlier this year about being new to Gypsy Jazz after playing folk, pop, blues, rock, and flamenco guitar for almost 50 years. I had purchased a very nice Taylor 314 CE cutaway guitar after an exhausting search into the New Orleans area for a Gypsy Jazz Guitar. Unfortunately, I had not searched far enough and found Djangobooks in time. Needless to say, I had to have one, so early in January this year, I ordered and recently got my new Altamira M10D guitar. (Now I own two nice guitars instead of just one. Poor me!)

Anyway, when I got the Altamira, the action seemed a bit high. I have been reading on the forum for several weeks and researched this topic. But, I called Josh who said that it had gotten high, perhaps because when he set it up, it was very cold and dry, and New Orleans is quite a bit more temperate and humid (hovering at 76% as I write).

After some encouragement from him, I did my own bridge sanding and adjustment, and was get able to get the action quite playable. I did notice, however, that the fretboard has a quite visible curved radius, while the bridge is set up with the much flatter radius for the strings. I'm now doing my final bit of tweaking in this regard and am wondering about this particular observation. I checked the forum, and there were not many entries about this.

So, here's the question:

Is it better to have a flatter radius for the bridge and consequently the string placement over the fretboard, irrespective of what might be a more pronounced radius on the fretboard? Or, is it better to match the radius of the fretboard with the position of the strings over it?

I don't know enough about this topic to know whether this is simply a matter of preference, or whether experienced players find one set up over the other more advantageous. I would appreciate any comments on this topic.

Oh, and by the way, I don't know how many of you remember what it was like at the beginning learning this music. I must say, though, I am quite surprised at how rewarding it has been over the last six months. I began by downloading the Minor Swing lesson from Yakov Hoter's site. I memorized the 1937 version solo and was soon able to play it at near full speed. I then downloaded his ballads coursed and learned how to play Tears. Before getting my new Gypsy Jazz Guitar, I purchased Gypsy picking and Gypsy Rhythm, and also Dennis Chang's gypsy rhythm DVD. I tried to practice at least four nights a week for a couple of hours. My routine includes regular portions of Gypsy rhythm practice and Gypsy picking practice. I then endeavor to learn something new for another 20 or 30 minutes. I usually end my practice session by playing through what I have learned that evening and previously. I use Band in a Box to set up my accompaniment if I'm not playing a solo guitar version.

The first tune I learned on my new Altamira was Nuages as taught by Yakov Hoter. Here I am, as I said, having played guitar for almost 50 years. And yet, I'm just amazed and floored at how beautiful this tune is and how great it makes me feel to be able to play it. Django is long gone, hardly anyone in this area is playing this music. Yet, there's this present he left for me to open, and now I have. It's one thing to hear this music, but quite another to be able to play it. Who's luckier than us.


  • I like to have it matched as it makes picking groups of strings a breeze. Takes a little more work to get it nice and even on all 6 if the radius is like a 12 or 14
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • Jeff MooreJeff Moore Minneapolis✭✭✭✭ Lebreton 2
    edited March 2014 Posts: 476
    "Is it better to have a flatter radius for the bridge than the fretboard? " Yes.
    If the radius of the fretboard and top of bridge are the same, then all the strings would tend to be equal in height above the fretboard. Not so good and unheard of on any guitar. If the radius's are the same but the bass foot of the bridge is higher, your A and D string will be as high or higher above your fretboard as the Low E. Again, not so good.
    The curve of the bridge should be less that the fretboard (which is a 20" radius I reckon). Now the lower strings can be appropriately higher above the fretboard than the high strings. Starting with the low E, each string, sequentially, is a little closer to the fretboard, with the lowest being the high E string.
    Also (for me) the flatter the the strings are where we pick, the easier the picking. But that doesn't drive how I make a bridge, just something I've noticed over time.

    Again just me talking: The "right" bridge curve is exactly what will occur when you adjust the low and high E where you want them. Then the 4 remaining strings just get a descending amount of height above the fretboard from A string to B string in an even curve that is continuous with the Low and High E that you adjusted to begin with. For me this ends up being a damn near a flat line across the top of the bridge. Like a 1/16" to 1/32" hump. My bridges got flatter as I learned what worked for me. But who knows how much string slap, or other sound quality you want and how even across the 6 strings you want it. A 1/8" hump in the bridge just means that the 4 middle strings are a little higher so the descent in height from Low E to High E is more gradual or perhaps there is no descent but an ascent in the A and D strings. I think you'll discover that a bridge top that is flat to very slightly curved is best.
    As I learned what my likes were for these things, I had to play my different bridges, low, high, more - less curve, for a while to even know what was right for me.

    Nobody's luckier than us! The present is as unique and beguiling today as it was 60 years ago.
    "We need a radical redistribution of wealth and power" MLK
  • KlausUSKlausUS AustriaNew Dupont MD50, AJL Quiet, Cholet
    Posts: 48

    On a new Dupont MD50, the radius of the fingerboard matches exactly the radius of the saddle, which is 12“. It seems that the string height (low E , and high E) is not determined by the radius itself, but with the „angle“ of the bridge relative to the Top of the guitar, or in other words: the radius is always the same and matches the fingerboard radius, while the height of the high E-string is smaller than the height of the low E-String. Hope that makes sense....

  • pdgpdg ✭✭
    Posts: 274

    If you wanted the neck to have the same (or no) relief for each string, then the fretboard radius would be compound (like on some Fenders), increasing as you get closer to the bridge -- because the string spacing at the bridge is greater than at the nut. So that means the saddle radius would be even greater than the radius at the last fret. I don't know, though, whether any GJ guitar builders use a compound-radius fretboard.

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