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In stringed instruments of the violin family, the fingerboard generally does not have frets or markings; it is glued to the neck, and its lower end extends over the top of the body down to the line between the notches of the sound holes. The underside of the section that is not glued down is hollowed out so that it does not add weight.

Since the surface of the fingerboard is subject to extreme mechanical stress during playing, it is usually made of fine-pored ebony, which is both particularly hard and can also be carved very evenly and smoothly. Simpler and more economical instruments feature other kinds of wood for the fingerboard, such as pear or beech that are blackened to resemble the higher-quality ebony. Being able to see lighter patches is thus a sign of lower-quality fingerboards, and this in turn may provide insights into the amount of effort that was put into the entire instrument ― assuming, of course, that the fingerboard was not replaced at a later date.

The fingerboard widens towards the bottom in a manner that corresponds to the intervals between the strings. At the upper nut, it has a width of some 25 mm and is around 45 mm at the lower end. It is asymmetrically curved to place the strings at the ideal height for each string and every position of the left hand, making the instrument easier to play and allowing the strings to resonate freely. This is why the angle at which the fingerboard is positioned is exceptionally important in terms of musical properties, and in older stringed instruments, the position has often been corrected by integrating a wedge.


Nils-Christian Engel ist begeisterter Amateur-Cellist

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