Fingerboard Radius – How Does It Affect Magnet Stagger?
One question we answer frequently is about Fingerboard Radius. It can be a determining factor when purchasing pickups that allow you to choose an option for Magnet Stagger. This topic can seem confusing but is pretty simple to understand. Knowing the radius of your fingerboard enables you to optimize your pickups by selecting the best stagger for your pickups. Let’s dig in!
What Is A Fingerboard Radius?
When purchasing or building an instrument, you will find a specification for “Fingerboard Radius.” This specification might present 7.25″, 9.5″ or ‘Compound Radius’ values. What is does this specification mean for you, and what do these values mean for your pickups?
A Fingerboard Radius measures the curvature across the guitar’s fingerboard, from your low string to your high string. It’s easy to confuse this measurement with your neck’s “bow”, adjusted by a truss rod, but Fingerboard Radius is much different.
What are the different values?
When describing the radius of your fingerboard, you will see values ranging from 7.25 inches to 14 inches to “Compound.” The smaller the value, the more curved your fingerboard is. The higher the value, the flatter your fingerboard is. Vintage Fender instruments have rounder fingerboard radiuses (7.25″) while more modern Fenders feature a 9.5″ radius. At the same time, Gibson and a lot of modern instruments come standard with flatter radiuses (12″+).
The values of your neck’s radius has a significant impact on how your instrument feels and plays. For example, players find it more comfortable to play chords with a slightly rounder radius on a fingerboard. In contrast, others prefer flatter fingerboard radiuses when playing single notes, bending, and tapping their fingerboards.
Lately, we’ve seen an uptick in guitars with a “Compound Radius.” A Compound Radius starts round and flattens as you move up the neck. For example, the low frets might be 9.5 inches, and the 12th fret and beyond flattens to 14 inches. Compound Radiuses offer the comfort of a rounder radius in the typical “chord” zone of the fingerboard, while flattening in the “solo” zone of the fingerboard.
How do I find my Fingerboard Radius?
There are a few ways to identify the radius of your instrument’s fingerboard:
- If you have a production model guitar (think Fender American Standard Stratocaster®), you can look up the model and year to identify the specs on most search engines.
- If you have a “Partscaster,” you can look up the neck’s specs to determine the radius.
- Lastly, you can use a Radius Gauge, available on Stew Mac, or, print one at home!
What is Magnet Stagger?
It’s essential to understand and identify your guitar’s Fingerboard Radius before determining Magnet Stagger. Magnet Stagger is the pattern of magnet or pole piece height under each string. We have different pickup staggers optimized for different fingerboard radiuses: a “Stock” stagger for rounder radiuses (7.25″ – 9.5″) and a “Hybrid” stagger for flatter and compound radiuses (10″+). Each stagger optimizes the string-to-string balance of the pickup. See below for a comparison of our Magnet Staggers:
Pickups with adjustable pole pieces like our Humbuckers, P90s, or Steel Pole line come with an adjustable preset stagger from our shop.
How do I choose the correct Magnet Stagger?
Selecting the optimized stagger for your instrument is simple!
- First, determine your radius of your fingerboard.
- If your radius is less than 10″, select “Stock Stagger.”
- If your radius is a compound radius or is greater than 10″, select “Hybrid Stagger.”
While we’re at it…what is “Pickup Radius”?
In addition to “Magnet Stagger,” you might see “Pickup Radius” on our website. Pickup Radius is reserved for Split Blades and allows you to select the curvature of the Blades to match your fingerboard radius. We have three options:
- Round Radius: for guitars with less than 9″ radius.
- Medium Radius: for guitars with a radius of 9.5″-11.”
- Flat Radius: for Compound Radius or radiuses flatter than 12″.