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Why are there dead spots on a guitar, or bass, fingerboard and what are dead spots?
A recent analysis and conclusion on these questions comes from engineer: Helmut Fleischer of the institute of aero engineering in Neubiberg, Germany who did a study of this problem using a Fender Stratocaster guitar. Below is an interpretation of Fleischer's argument.
First, it is understood that a musical signal eminates from a string vibration. On an acoustic guitar string vibration transfers engery (a musical signal) from strings to the bridge. In a solid body electric guitar strings are relatively immobile from the bridge thus sound does not decay repidly meaning that sustain on an electric guitar, or bass, generally lasts longer then on acoustic guitars.
Depsite that sustain is better on an electric guitar, it can be found that at certain points on the fingerboard sustain is shorter or dampened (i.e., dead sound).
So what causes dead spots/sound on a fingerboard? The answer: Resonances of an instrument(s) neck.
Fleischer argues that experiments indicate that the bridge of a solid body guitar is less mobile then the neck. Thus a string vibration induces body vibrations via the neck rather then the bridge. Simply, the vibration of a neck is the cause for dampening of the string vibration: A dead spot.
In sum, the construction of a guitar neck then is significant to sustain. Combinations of the wood quality (see article wood moisture content), fingerboard radius, nut radius, and fret radius impacts whether sustain throughout the lenght of the fingerboard is consistent.
Additionally, how frets are installed in a fingerboard is also significant. This subject (frets) is another discussion and will be commented on in a followup "article" FRETTING A GUITAR.