Fanned Fret Design
By Ralph Novak
Ralph Novak's "fanned-fret" concept evolved from a
desire to produce an instrument with balanced tone and
string tension. "As a guitar player and professional repair
technician with extensive experience, I had grown
dissatisfied with the performance of instruments as they
existed. Lack of definition in the lower frequencies, harsh,
percussive trebles, and
"muddiness" of tone seemed pervasive, even when the
performance of these instruments was optimized.
Experimenting with composite materials and state-of -the-art
electronics only made matters worse by highlighting these
problems. My repair experience led me to examine scale
length as a possible solution."
WHAT IS SCALE LENGTH?
The vibrating length of the string (the "scale length")
is determined by the "nut" and the bridge "saddle." Fret
placement is a ratio based on scale length so longer scales
have more distance between frets.
WHY IS SCALE LENGTH IMPORTANT?
Scale Length influences both the tonal quality of the
notes produced and the tension of the string at a particular
pitch. The tonal effects of scale length are crucial to the
final tone of the instrument. Woods, hardware, and
electronics act as "filters" to string tone. They do not
produce tone of their own and only modify input from the
vibrating string. If particular harmonics are very strong,
or altogether absent, those characteristics will be present
in the final tone of the instrument.
"fanning" of the frets results from manipulating the scale
length of the bass side of the neck relative to the treble
side: the fret spacing is wider for the long scale and
closer for the short scale.
Looking inside a grand piano, or at a harp, we see
that the string lengths vary with the pitches of the
strings. But fretted instruments are traditionally
constructed to a single scale length, negating the benefits
of scale length relative to pitch. Since there are
relatively few strings on most stringed instruments,
compromises are made and string gauges are manipulated for
workable results. Players accustomed to the compromises of
single scale-length construction, are often pleasantly
surprised by the richness and clarity of "fanned-fret"
instruments. When the fanned-fret concept is applied to the
six-string guitar, the resulting instrument has a "focused"
sound -- clear, articulate and balanced. Some players say
"more in tune" or "more accurate."
One of the real advantages of the "fanned-fret"
concept lies in its application to instruments like the
seven-string guitar, eight-string guitar, five-string bass,
six-string bass, baritone guitar, and mandolin. The range of
tunings and number of strings force compromises that make
these instruments poor performers or even impractical when
constructed with the traditional single scale-length. The
fanned-fret concept addresses those problems and makes these
instruments playable and practical.
Fanned Fret Guitar players include Charlie
Hunter, Philip DeGruy, Joe Louis Walker, the California
Guitar Trio, Robin Lewis, Mike Mushok, Dave Creamer, Allan
Dodge, Leland Sklar, and Rick Derringer.
For More Information Contact Ed Roman