Solution to glossy maple fretboard making string bending harder?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Ben R, May 14, 2008.

  1. Ben R

    Ben R Member

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    Hi, guys. I'm wondering who may have the best solution to this. On one of my guitars (an '08 strat), I have a maple fretboard. It's sort of glossy on the surface. I'm used to playing on rosewood and ebony. I love the tone & the look of the maple, but I also find that it's sometimes more difficult for me to bend strings as well as I normally might. On this particular guitar, it seems that if your fingers touch the fretboard while bending the strings, it sort of grabs your skin and doesn't allow it to just slide across as easily, like with Rosewood. It puts the brakes on. It's sort of like the difference between sliding your feet across a hard, smooth floor with socks on vs. bare feet (bad analogy, I know, but I assume that you get my point). Anyway, it's a newer guitar that I haven't played much, yet. I'm sure that cutting down on the glossiness of the finish would alleviate this somewhat. Should I just do nothing and keep playing it, hoping it wears a little naturally? I don't want to rub it with find sandpaper or do anything foolish that will ruin it. Is there a product that you can apply to the fretboard to make it slicker on your fingers? Is there anything else that maybe can be done to lessen this problem? Thanks in advance for the advice.
     
  2. mbetter

    mbetter Member

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    You really shouldn't be touching the fretboard with your fingers that much when you bend. I would use this as an opportunity to work on your form.
     
  3. Ben R

    Ben R Member

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    Dude, I appreciate your attempt to give me advice (assuming for a moment that you meant the reply to be constructive). And, I don't intend to get baited into an argument here, but I've got to ask you... Are you saying that when you do dramatic (full step or greater) string bends, not one skin cell on your finger(s) touches the wood on the way by, even slightly? The .10 gauge string (or whichever one you're bending) is the only part of the guitar that your finger ever touches every time you bend notes? ...And, your fingers touch nothing except the metal string? If so, then I guess your point is well-taken. Perhaps I've been bending strings the wrong way for over 20 years. Or, maybe my fingers are too fat. While I feel that you can never stop learning and improving, I suppose that old habits might also die hard. I would think that otherwise, my technique is pretty good. And, I've never experienced this issue in my life before playing this particular guitar, other maple fretboards included. I'd hate to alter my technique if I'm not the problem in my situation.

    Before I invest in new guitar lessons, does anyone else have a differing viewpoint on this?
     
  4. Ben R

    Ben R Member

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    GuitarTone,

    The neck has medium jumbo frets on a high gloss fingerboard.
     
  5. guitardr

    guitardr Silver Supporting Member

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    Kind've ironic: I did a set-up on a '73 Telecaster Deluxe the other day with a slick/finished maple neck/fretboard. The guy had medium/fat frets put on it many years ago, with very little finish wear/fret wear as well. He said that he really tends to dig in right behind the frets on that guitar & it makes him work a bit harder to do so. The neck was one of those slim ones too, with the big headstock as well. It just felt too "finished" for my tastes (ebony and rosewood). Playing your guitar with roundwounds should start to change it.
     
  6. bluegrif

    bluegrif Member

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    I've discussed this at length with my tech. The very best solution I've found is, yep, sandpaper followed by steel wool. If you take your time you can achieve a nice mat surface that's a pleasure to bend on. If in doubt, take it to a luthier and tell him you want the fretboard deglossed.

    I use 300 wet/dry followed by very fine (000) steel wool and end up with a nice satin finish that feels great.

    BTW, re: mbetter's comment above: I've been a blues player for more years than I'd care to say, and my fingers push on the fretboard plenty when I bend. No, it's not the way shredders might do it, but "digging in" is a big part of getting "that" tone. Guys like Freddie King played real hard with both hands. I tried a guy's scalloped fretboard once and it was the worst thing imaginable for my style of play (unless I wanted some sitar sounds - LOL). There's no right or wrong, it depends on the tone you're going for. When I was learning in the early 60s, it was "wrong" to wrap your thumb over the neck the way almost every blues player does (and most blues-based rock players). If I had continued to play the way I was taught by my first teacher, my tone would not be there IMO.
     
  7. Ben R

    Ben R Member

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    That's a nice looking guitar. Don't get me wrong, this issue isn't major & not the end of the world. I was just looking for tips or tricks from anyone else who has also experienced this. It's good to see that I might not have to overhaul my technique because I don't know how to play. :D
     
  8. Ben R

    Ben R Member

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    bluegrif,

    Thanks for the feedback. Maybe sanding the finish down is the ultimate solution. I'm glad to hear that it worked for you in a good way without totally ruining the fingerboard.
     
  9. PFCG

    PFCG Member

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    yeah id do the sandpaper and steel wool combo.

    Id use the smallest grit sandpaper you like. I use about 600 on my necks.
     
  10. Bob V

    Bob V Member

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    Digging in is part of playing. In fact, I can't get a good finger vibrato with jumbo jumbo frets since I like to have a little fretboard drag. Bending is a different feel, though, and the maple fretboard certainly will feel different than a rosewood board. I suppose Mbetter had better tell Clapton that he had no business wearing away the lacquer on his maple fretboard.

    In any event, if you're inclined to rub out the finish, I would recommend waiting another month or two until the finish is fully cured. It's not uncommon for a finish to be a little sticky when it's new, sometimes for several months (old nitrocellulose lacquers were more notorious for this, but the principle does apply to modern materials as well; I have a new neck with waterborne hybrid alkyd varnish something or other on it, and it was sticky for a few weeks).
     
  11. jackaroo

    jackaroo Member

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    I think you can skip the 600 and just use 0000 steel wool.

    My first suggestion is that you put tape over the pickups- prior to using it, as little bits get in PUs and short them out pretty quick.

    Unless you want raw wood on the fingerboard edge, I suggest also taping there, as the lacquer is thinnest along that edge. Don't sand across the board- I'd go the length of the board, with even pressure- I'd probably hit the frets too as a little polishing is nice. All in, I bet the whole thing is about 30 minutes work.

    I know what you're talking about with the sticking and grippy feel of the maple lacquer. It's a big change from the raw wood feel of Rosewood and Ebony.

    Best of luck,

    Jack
     
  12. Ben R

    Ben R Member

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    Bob V and jackaroo,

    Thanks for the feedback. I was thinking about the 0000 steel wool method. I guess I obviously want to go with the grain (lengthwise, neck to body direction) if and when I "sand" it down lightly. But, I'll probably wait a little longer to see if it lessens naturally as I play it a bit more.
     
  13. Smakutus

    Smakutus Member

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    I wouldn't use sandpaper at all.. A little steel wool will go a long way and will make the guitar play easier. If you don't like it you can buff the shine back.

    Jeff
     
  14. tacorivers

    tacorivers Silver Supporting Member

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    i used micromesh on my Thinskin Fender and it worked great. I hate glossy necks.
     
  15. paintguy

    paintguy Long Hair Hippy Freak Silver Supporting Member

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    BINGO!
     
  16. mbetter

    mbetter Member

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    I guess I came off a little harsh but I really meant to be constructive. I didn't mean to dis your form or anything.

    My main is a Tokai Breezysound mutt with a rosewood board and I ran into the same issue as you when I picked up a 52ri with a sticky, glossy maple board. Specifically focusing on maximizing the horizontal component of the bend and minimizing fingerboard drag helped me improve the speed, accuracy and smoothness of my bending in general.

    What I should have qualified my OP with: I'm a country-kind of guy and quick, accurate bends with time value are a large part of my playing. When attempting smooth, precise bends (notice I didn't say expressive or toneful), I think it's factual to say that one should try to minimize finger contact with the fretboard. The scalloped shredder necks take this to the extreme. I'm not into that but I think that practicing on a sticky board can make you more conscious of your technique and help in the long run.
     
  17. Ben R

    Ben R Member

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    I can accept that. No hard feelings. :BEER
     
  18. Leonc

    Leonc Wild Gear Hearder Gold Supporting Member

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    And I'll add my own "Bingo" to this. I use Micromesh too. Tremendous stuff and then no worries about steel wood getting on the pickups. The best feeling necks I've played (other than really nice old ones) were micro-meshed.
     
  19. omni

    omni Member

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    Finger ease will make it slippery.
     
  20. Ben R

    Ben R Member

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    What is this "Micromesh" that you gents speak of? I could look it up (http://www.sisweb.com/micromesh/), but I'm too lazy. ;)

    Plus, I want to hear more about how you guys use it. Actually, which version of the product have you guys used? They seem to have discs, pads, rolls, tape, etc...
     

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