There are certainly as many guitars as there are guitarists. With all the technical, electronic or even aesthetic differences coupled with technological progress, today we can count on a variety of possibilities. But then, what about the difference in the number of frets? And, what are the advantages and disadvantages? This is the subject of today’s article.
THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN GUITAR FRETS
Here is a question that guitarists do not ask themselves often, and yet, behind this detail which initially seems harmless, hides one of the main aspects which makes the sound of an electric guitar!
It is not a question here of comparing which of Ibanez, PRS, Vigier, Gibson or of Fender has the biggest neck, but to speak about a detail which in my opinion is of enormous importance when choosing a guitar of 21, 22 or 24 boxes.
For beginners, I will specify that the number of boxes on the neck of a guitar does not determine if the instrument is “Long scale” or “Short scale”; which refers to the length of the vibrating string between the saddle and the bridge of the instrument, which is called the tuning fork.
No, it is a question of raising a not insignificant detail which will teach you more about the physiognomy of a guitar! Indeed, most guitarists are particularly fond of the sound of the low microphone, especially on Stratocasters, Telecasters and Les Pauls. Know then that if this microphone sounds particularly good to our ears it is not because of its structure; but because of its location!
What is the connection you will say to me, well we are going to explain here.
WHO USES 24 FRETS?
You should know that the first electric guitar released from the Fender workshops in 1950, named Broadcaster then Telecaster, had a neck of 21 frets, while the first Gibson solid body released in 1952 which bore the name of Les Paul Model had a neck of 22 boxes.
Until then, guitars were classical, acoustic or semi-electric guitars and generally had 19 or 20 frets due to their resonance box and therefore restricted access to the last frets of the neck.
It was in 1969 that the first guitar appeared with a neck of 24 frets; equivalent to 2 octaves on each string, it is called “Dan Armstrong See through”. But this guitar too far ahead of its time was not really exploited in this sense, like Steppenwolf who used it in 1974 without ever touching the famous 24 frets!
It was not until the end of the 1970s and more particularly the arrival of a certain Eddy Van Halen in 1977 before the need to make the last boxes shout became more democratic to the point of making other guitars out of date until the middle from the eighties.
Brands like Ibanez, Jackson, Dean or even Vigier have jumped on the niche by making a point of their “trademark”, this is how 24-fret guitars have invaded the market with the arrival of ambassadors like Joe Satriani, Steve Vaï, or Paul Gilbert. This era was marked by the boom in “superstrat” guitars with Floyd Rose, but above all with a 24 fret neck!
But there is one detail that has made certain models considered “old” like the Standard Telecaster or the Standard Stratocaster are and will always be relevant, and it is of this detail that I will speak here.
The disadvantages of a 24-FRET Guitar
On a guitar, the number of frets on the neck determines the range, in other words, the distance between the lowest note – the open low E string – while the highest note will be the last fret of the E string acute.
Note that will be a C # on a 21-fret neck like the Standard Telecaster and Standard Stratocaster. We will have a D with a neck of 22 frets as on the Gibson Les Paul and the Gibson SG, while we will have an E with a neck of 24 frets.
Nothing special so far, but if you know the instrument a bit, you know that you have harmonics that are exactly above the 12th fret that sound like open strings an octave above (nothing else matter, little wing).
These harmonics are located exactly in the middle of the tuning fork (the middle between the bridge and the nut). To find the quarter of the tuning fork you have to divide again in two to find the harmonics which sound 2 octaves above the open strings.
If we do that, we end up either at the 5th fret or at the 24th fret or possibly after the last frets, and this is mainly what we have to look at in detail!
On Fender type guitars which have 21 and 22 frets, the bass pickup is positioned exactly below these harmonics, which gives them a sound that is recognizable and appreciated by all guitarists, which is not the case with the Gibson Sg where the pickup does not. ‘is not placed exactly below the harmonics.
This small detail changes everything when you have a key of 24 boxes, because it is impossible to place a microphone under these harmonics because the quarter of the tuning fork will always be at the height of the 24th box, forcing the bass microphone to be placed elsewhere. only under these famous harmonics!
The sounds will not be “bad” but will not be as characteristic as it would be if the microphone was below. Take as a reference songs whose solos are legendary by their velvety and warm sound like Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix), Lenny (SRV), The Wall (Pink Floyd), Paradise City (Guns n ‘Roses), Hallowed Be Thy Name (Iron Maiden) or Black Star (Yngwie Malmsteen).
If there is one point in common between all these solos (non-exhaustive list) it is that they are all played with a guitar of 21 or 22 frets and on the serious microphone!
The creamy sound of Robben Ford, Scott Hendersson, as well as the rhythms of Rage Against The Machine also depend on this criterion!
On the other hand, guitarists who use 24-fret guitars almost all have in common that they play very compressed sounds with a lot of distortion like Steve Vaï (For The Grace of God), Joe Satriani (Flying In A Blue Dream). ), John Petrucci of Dream Theater, Greg Howe etc. Except for Guthrie Govan!
If you prick up your ears, you will notice that these instruments (24 boxes) are less often used with clear or crunchy sounds! And it is in part because of this detail, precisely. Detail that is not, you realize it, not so much one in that it can shape on its own the desired sound (or not).
Knowing that a 24-fret neck just offers the possibility of playing an E two octaves above the open string (if we disregard the bends), guitarists who do not use it (from the 24th fret) miss a significant advantage.
This advantage is that of having a microphone that captures the sound of these harmonics so characteristic of the “bluesy” sound whether it is for playing the Hendrix or the Iron Maiden.
It’s up to you to know how often you play on these last two frets.
HENDRIX & MALMSTEEN VS STEVE VAÏ & SATRIANI
You have to know what you want as a sound and what you want to play as a style of music. There is a world between guitar-heroes and rock legends, and this world often boils down to the number of boxes on the neck!
Forget the 24 boxes if you want to have the sound of Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Stevie Ray Vaughan or Yngwie Malmsteen when you absolutely need 24 if you want to play Joe Satriani, Steve Vaï or John Petrucci!
Knowing that we can have a compressed and metal sound with a neck of 21 or 22 frets Richie Kotzen, Iron Maiden, Tom Morello but that we can not move the harmonics which is always a quarter of the tuning fork.
Shredder guitarists like Paul Gilbert or Greg Howe who have spent most of their careers with “superstrat” guitars and therefore 24 frets have returned to 22 fret models, to say how important this detail is!
The advantages of having a microphone under the harmonics are still more interesting, in my opinion, in terms of the general sound of the instrument compared to the possibility of playing (that) 2 more notes in the treble to the detriment of the identity that says the position of the serious microphone!
Think about it before buying a 24-fret guitar.
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