January 9th, 2012 11:31 pm

Fretboard or neck radius refers to the arc of your guitar’s fretboard. With the exception of classical guitars, all acoustic and electric guitars have a slight curve going across the fretboard.

The middle of the neck being slightly higher helps out the weak spot in the middle of your finger when you barre.

Looking at the specs sheet for a guitar you might see Fretboard radius – 7.5″ or Neck radius – 12″

So how can a fretboard have a 7 1/2 or 12 inch radius when it’s clearly no more than 2 inches wide? Take any size circle and cut the width of your guitar neck out of the circumference. This gives you the slightly rounded fretboard. The larger the radius the less severe the arc.

Guitar radii range from 7 1/4 inch (vintage Fenders) to 16 inch (steel string acoustics). New Fenders have a 9 1/2 inch radius and Gibsons have 10 and 12 inch radii.

Some newer guitars have compound radii. This means it has a small radius at the nut and becomes flatter as it goes up the neck. One of the new strats has a 9 1/2 inch radius at the nut, 12 inch at the 12th fret and a 14 inch radius at the 15th fret.

I think it’s safe to say you get used to whatever neck radius you end up with.
A smaller radius makes it easier to make chords but tougher to bend strings without them choking out. That can be compensated for by setting the action slightly higher. So a guitar with a bigger radius allows you to keep the string action lower making string bending much easier.
Personally I’m a fan of the 10 inch radius on electrics and 16 inch on acoustics.

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