I have recently started to implement the elevated fingerboard into my guitar builds. It is something I had been thinking about doing for a long while but had never got around to.... this year I decided to go back to the drawing board and incorporate this design element into a new guitar. The now new, Rozier model was conceived from this idea.
- Side view of the elevated fingerboard as it joins the guitar body -
Some advantages of the Elevated Fingerboard are detailed below:
1. Greater stability of the neck.
There is a potential issue with a standard guitar design / neck fit. This is found where the standard neck meets the guitar body. The area directly under the end of the fretboard, where the ebony or rosewood fingerboard is attached to the softer spruce top is of upmost concern. Ebony is particularly susceptible to changes in humidity, expanding and shrinking with the changing seasons. This will affect the area directly above the spruce top differently to how it will affect the area attached to the harder "mahogany" guitar neck. The area joined to the softer spruce top will have greater chance to swell and warp. In extreme cases this can cause the wood to crack along the top, adjacent to the fretboard. This swelling can also cause dead spots and unplayable frets.
"I have experienced this change many many times whilst touring with bands, a guitar plays a show in a relatively humid atmosphere around 25-30°C, then gets put in a guitar vault and into the back of a truck around 10°C for a bumpy 10 hour journey to the next city..... the results on occasion can be extreme!!"
One principle of the elevated fingerboard is to apply a structurally consistent surface under the entirety of the fingerboard. Giving an advantage to help mitigate any potential issues created by the wood "moving" with the different seasons and changes to local humidity.
2. Improved tonal quality and sustain of the notes beyond the 12th fret (unifying the neck).
With the addition of the unified structure under the fretboard. An improved quality of tone can be heard from the 12th fret upwards. Having the continuation of the neck wood from nut to soundhole gives the guitar a consistent tone all the way down the neck. No more change in sound on the upper frets!
I have also found this to add to the overall resonance of the neck. It is possible to hear and feel this when tapping on a neck prior to fitting. The tone and vibrations travel from end to end as one.
- Completed neck ready for fitting -
3. Greater access to the higher frets.
The elevated position of the fingerboard allows greater access to the higher notes. This is especially noticable on a non-cutaway guitar. Adding a little extra space to get your hand around the back of the neck.
4. Improved volume and projection.
A change in volume and projection can be achievied by adjusting the approach angle to the guitar top. The angle at which the strings meet the bridge are very important. The construction of the elevated fingerboard allows me to fine tune the string to bridge positon for optimum tonal results.
5. Greater design scope.
This creates the ability to finely and precisely place a guitar neck and bridge for optimal results. Whilst allowing greater potential to really tune the necks shape, a slight curve is carved into the neck to allow for the natural string oscillation. Which at its deepest point will sit over the 12th fret.
This small procedure allows for a better playing experience, allowing for the transitional removal of wood, peaking between the 9th and 15th fret (the area most affected by the strings natural oscillation). Where most guitars necks finish on the 12th - 14th fret, this is not possible, or desirable.
Whilst a very subtle change, this will make a far greater playing surface, creating near perfect fret heights on the whole fingerboard, whilst adding greater stability and tone throughout. This process can be achieved due to the nature of the elevated fingerboard design.
- The truss rod only affects the lower half of the neck, leaving a potential hump from the 12th fret, whilst tailing the upper frets away
from the strings-
The guitar body only needs a slight adjustment to accommodate the extra space needed for the new neck area, this can be achieved quite simply without reducing or changing the guitars internal "air" volume.
Having finally put this into practice on my guitars, I think I will find it difficult not to include this on all of my designs. The structural and tonal benefits, alongside the enhanced playability help create a unique and enjoyable experience for the player.