Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to talk about Frets! Frets are the raised element of a guitar or bass fretboard, and are made of pieces of a metal strip, inserted on "rails" carved directly on the fingerboard.
Frets are a creation of the first half of 18th century, since until that moment string instruments were all "fretless", like the violin: there was no separation on the fingerboard, and the right intonation was completely up to the player's ear.
In order to make music instruments more popular even among those who didn't have a perfect ear or didn't want to undertake an academic musical training, the luthiers started dividing the fingerboard in separated parts, each one representing a semitone, respecting the standard western system where each octave is divided in twelve semitones.
To make even easier to find the right note were also introduced Fret Marks, in order to create a viewing reference point for the player, not differently from the black and white keys on a piano.
Today there are different kinds of frets, created to meet the needs of all kinds of players.
We should choose the right type of frets according to our playing style and to how much we want to touch the fretboard when playing (someone prefers not even to touch it, and that's why Scalloped Guitars were created, click here for a dedicated article).
Here's the main type of guitar frets (dimensions may vary according to the various manufacturers, though):
- Short Frets (height: .037", width: 0.80"): were used mainly on vintage Fender guitars, and let the string really to drag into the fingerboard.
- Medium Jumbo Frets (height: .036", width: .106"): those are the standard on Gibson guitars and on many other modern guitars, and represent a good compromise between intonation, wearing and playability.
- Jumbo Frets (height: .046", width: .103"): these are the standard on modern Fender models, and are wide about the same as a Medium Jumbo, but a bit taller, to reduce the string friction on the fretboard and to ease bendings. The general rule is: the bigger the frets, the longer the sustain.
- Super Jumbo Frets (height: .058", width: .118"): this kind of frets are mounted on some Ibanez guitar, for example, and gives to the freatbord an almost Scalloped feeling, without the need to carve out the wood. These frets are chosen mainly by shredder guitarists.
And here's the various types of fretboards:
- Standard Fretboard: it's the classic fretboard, featured on 99% of guitars, with 21, 22, 24... up to 27 straight frets, with the intonation regulated mainly on the guitar bridge.
- Fanned Fretboard: it's a particular positioning of the frets that is created to accomodate better alternative tunings and composed string gauges, without having them for example too flabby on the lower strings. It is also said to keep tuning better.
- True Temperament Fretboard: this weird fretboard is created to optimize the intonation of the guitar: when pressing on the fretboard, the frets creates a sort of inevitable bending, and by using this kind of curved frets, the "bending" leads to a more accurate precision on the note, improving also the sustain.
- Fretless Fingerboard: fretless fingerboards are using mainly on Basses, making them more similiar to a Contrabass, but are sometimes seen on Guitars too (for a while Gibson produced a serie called "Fretless Wonder", with frets so small they were almost invisible); those instruments are more suited for techniques sliding, but the fingerboard obvioulsy wears out much faster due to the stronger string friction.
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