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Can I omit frets 16-20?
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Author:  Cbstark46143 [ Fri Mar 16, 2018 9:22 am ]
Post subject:  Can I omit frets 16-20?

While cutting fret slots for my next build, it occurred to me that frets 16-20 don’t seem very useful in a guitar without a cutaway.
Granted, I’m not much of a player, and only occasionally get as high as the 12th fret.
Fret 15 allows access for neck removal.......but, what about the rest of the fretboard extension?

Has anyone seen a guitar with a fretless extension?

Author:  Danl8 [ Fri Mar 16, 2018 10:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Can I omit frets 16-20?

Do it! How many times has anyone seen a player skillfully navigate 16-20, esp., on strings 6 - 3? Very old antique instruments are sometimes fretted up to ~20 with the fretboard and frets eliminated on the bottom half of strings in the extension area. I can post an example later. (Google: 19th century guitar Stauffer)

Author:  MaineGeezer [ Fri Mar 16, 2018 7:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Can I omit frets 16-20?

You're building it -- you can do whatever you want. I know that I've never used those frets.

If it looks too empty and barren, put a nice inlay there. One of these might work: http://luthiersupply.com/traditional-pe ... inlay.html

Author:  Diane Kauffmds [ Sat Mar 17, 2018 9:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Can I omit frets 16-20?

You can eliminate any frets, from the bottom of the fretboard upward. I'm one of the few who plays occasionally to fret 17, without a cutaway. It may become an issue if you ever want to sell the guitar.

Author:  Mal-2 [ Sun Mar 18, 2018 1:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Can I omit frets 16-20?

Danl8 wrote:
Do it! How many times has anyone seen a player skillfully navigate 16-20, esp., on strings 6 - 3? Very old antique instruments are sometimes fretted up to ~20 with the fretboard and frets eliminated on the bottom half of strings in the extension area. I can post an example later. (Google: 19th century guitar Stauffer)


When I've seen players use that part of the fretboard effectively, they've done it in "thumb position" much like a cello. Chords are difficult at best because the hand is more parallel to the direction of the neck rather than across it, but melodic playing is still possible.

Author:  Danl8 [ Sun Mar 18, 2018 9:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Can I omit frets 16-20?

Mal-2 wrote:
When I've seen players use that part of the fretboard effectively, they've done it in "thumb position" much like a cello. Chords are difficult at best because the hand is more parallel to the direction of the neck rather than across it, but melodic playing is still possible.

Exactly. That's more about being a digital gymnast than producing the best quality sound, though. If Cbstark46143, the original poster, wants to omit 16-20, he might lose a tiny percentage of people who want to be able to do that and maybe a few more just based on the aesthetics of having a complete board. But a sixth string stopped at the 17th fret really doesn't make sense from an acoustic quality perspective. The large diapason strings are there for producing low fundamentals and can't compete with treble strings in sound quality when stopped at 30% of OAL. In the lute world the bass diapasons from the 8-10th string and lower to the 13th aren't even positioned over the fretboard for that reason (in addition to needing foot-long fingers).

Author:  ruby@magpage.com [ Sun Mar 18, 2018 10:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Can I omit frets 16-20?

Here is an early Martin with 19 frets but showing what missing frets might look like, and a Stauffer (who Martin apprenticed with) showing what Dan was talking about. Check the odd spacing of the last couple of frets on the Martin

Author:  Mal-2 [ Sun Mar 18, 2018 12:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Can I omit frets 16-20?

One notable player who uses that part of the neck extensively is Earl Klugh, but he plays a guitar with a cutaway (or more accurately, a huge chunk of the lower lobe is missing) for this specific reason. While he plays acoustic pretty much exclusively, his actual mechanics resemble those of an electric guitar player. This includes playing notes high up on the heavy strings to minimize position shifts when performing lines that may cover more than two octaves, and/or to get the darker tone.

Another consideration is that blues players still use the frets as a reference when playing with a slide, even if they aren't pressing the strings down.

So if you want to leave those frets out, obviously you can. But I think the number of people you might alienate as a result is greater than the number Danl8 thinks it might be. I would be among them. This is largely a consequence of electric guitar being more popular as a primary instrument than acoustic guitar, and the performers wanting the acoustic to feel like their easy-playing electrics as much as possible, rather than the other way around. There's a big difference between "This technique is hard because the instrument gets in the way", and "You can't do that. We left it out because we don't think you need it". All other things being equal, I will always choose the instrument that restricts me less.

Author:  Diane Kauffmds [ Sun Mar 18, 2018 10:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Can I omit frets 16-20?

Here's an alternative idea. Although it's a classical guitar, something like this can be done on a steel string. In truth, the guitar is rarely played. It was left to me when my husband's daughter passed away a few years ago. It was in bad shape. I replaced the top, fretboard, and bridge. Classical guitars rarely have fretboard markers or inlay, but I designed the fretboard extension to be more decorative than anything else.

Frets 14-18 have limited playability, due to the bas relief. I eliminated fret 19. I will never sell the guitar, so I don't care that the lack of frets would affect the potential value.

As I said, I play to fret 17, and I don't care for cutaways. But if you're building for yourself, do what you want with the fretboard. It can become a blank canvas.

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Author:  Danl8 [ Mon Mar 19, 2018 7:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Can I omit frets 16-20?

Nice embellishment of that guitar, Diane. And don't worry about the missing frets -- 99.9999% of the classical guitar repertoire doesn't go there. I still play classical even taught it at the university level when young and have never used frets up there.

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