A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Fingerboard

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FINGERBOARD. The Fingerboard is that part of the violin and other stringed instruments played with a bow, over which the strings are stretched, and against which the fingers of the left hand of the player press the strings in order to produce sounds not given by the open string.

The fingerboard of the violin is best made of ebony, as harder and less easily worn out than any other wood. Its surface is somewhat curved—corresponding to the top line of the bridge, but not quite so much—in order to allow the bow to touch each string separately, which would be impossible, if bridge and fingerboard were flat. On an average-sized violin it measures 10½ inches in length, while its width is about 1 inch nearest to the head of the violin and 1¾ inch at the bridge-end. It is glued on to the neck, and extends from the head to about three-fourths of the distance between the neck and the bridge. At the head-end it has a slight rim, called the 'nut,' which supports the strings and keeps them at a distance sufficient to allow them to vibrate without touching the fingerboard. This distance varies considerably according to the style of the player. A broad tone and an energetic treatment of the instrument require much room for the greater vibration of the strings, and consequently a high nut. Amateur-players, as a rule, prefer a low nut, which makes it easier to press the strings down, but does not allow of the production of a powerful tone.

The fingerboard, getting worn by the constant action of the fingers, must be renewed from time to time. The modern technique of violin-playing requires the neck, and in consequence the fingerboard, to be considerably longer than they were at the time of the great Cremona makers. For these reasons we hardly ever find an old instrument with either the original fingerboard, bridge, sound-post, or bass-bar, all of which however can be made just as well by any good violin-maker now living as by the ancient masters.

The fingerboards of the Violoncello and Double-bass are made on the same principle as that of the violin, except that the side of the fingerboard over which the lowest string is stretched is flattened in order to give sufficient room for its vibration. Spohr adopted a somewhat similar plan on his violin by having a little scooping-out underneath the fourth string, which grew flatter and narrower towards the nut.

In the instruments of the older viola-, gamba-, and lyra-tribe, the fingerboard was provided with frets.

[ P. D. ]