Looking for some info on fanned frets pros and cons? Wondering if you should consider a multi-scale guitar as your next purchase?
Let’s take a closer look at what fanned fret guitars are, why they’re made and whether you should consider getting one to add to your guitar collection.
Fanned fret guitars are guitars with a different style of fretboard and stringing hardware. Fanned frets aim to offer better tension and spacing to each respective string.
Low strings (thicker bass note strings) are suppose to sound better when they are strung across a longer area.
Versus high strings (thinner, treble strings) sound better when spanning a smaller area.
What is the point of fanned frets?
Fanned fret guitars aim to offer a more ideal string tension for each respective string, in theory creating a better overall sound.
Fanned frets get their name from the “V” shape of the fretboard where there is more space between frets on the top of the fretboard, vs the bottom of the fretboard where the frets are closer together.
This creates a “V” shape, or a fanning effect.
Fanned fret guitars are a very niche style of guitar, and are not very common.
While larger music shops with a few hundred guitars in the showroom will likely have a couple of multi-scale guitars, you aren’t going to see a lot of them.
Fanned fret guitars are not only different on the fretboard of the guitar, but the hardware (tuning pegs, and bridge) will also be set up to accommodate the fanned style of the frets.
Fanned frets vs multi-scale guitars
Fanned frets and multi-scale guitars are two different names for the same type of guitar.
A multi-scale guitar is the same as a fanned fret guitar. There may be an unusual custom made multi-scale guitar that doesn’t have fanned frets, but that would be very specific.
While there may be exceptions, by and large, fanned frets and multi-scale guitar can be used interchangeably to refer to the same type of guitar.
Fanned frets Vs normal frets
The slanted frets will be a different feel and play style compared to the usual parallel frets.
A fanned fret guitar will, in theory, draw out a string’s ideal tone.
Where as a guitar with normal frets will provide each string with roughly the same amount of tension.
Fanned frets offer more depth string to string when compared to a normal fretted guitar.
Are fanned frets more ergonomic
No, the aim of fanned frets is not to be ergonomic, and offers no more ergonomics over a normal fretted guitar.
That being said, fanned frets do play a little differently, and because of this some guitarists may find it more ergonomic for them.
So no, fanned frets are not intended to be more ergonomic compared to normal frets, however, it is entirely possible that an individual finds them more comfortable to play.
Is it hard to play fanned frets
Fanned frets are not any harder to play, but if you are coming from normal frets, there will be a learning curve.
With a difference in scale length, you will find it will take at least a few minutes of playing to get the feel for a fanned fret guitar.
The string lengths may actually make it easier to play, as each string is at it’s more ideal tension.
The comparison between them might not be large enough to really say one style is easier or harder, but there will be minor differences that some guitarists prefer.
Fanned fret replacement neck
You cannot replace a standard guitar neck with a fanned frets neck and expect it to work, or improve.
Fanned fret guitars are designed from the ground up to be fanned frets. This means they were built specifically to use fanned frets, and not a regular neck.
If you want to change your neck, you’ll need to buy a new guitar.
What about the rest of the body?
The body of the fanned fret guitar is designed to accept fanned fret necks.
Fanned fret guitars have a bridge that is specifically designed to work with fanned frets.
The bridge saddles make up a more angled bridge than you might be accustomed to seeing.
Basically, the low E string will often span across a much longer length than normal.
Each respective string that follows will have a little shorter area that the string spans across, until you get to the high E.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but you cannot simply change out your standard neck for one with fanned frets.
You will need to change and adjust the bridge, which may not be possible, or at least worthwhile.
What are the benefits of fanned frets
The major benefit to using a fanned fret guitar is the difference in tone. Most people that play a fanned fret guitar are also guitarist that might be referred to as “tone hunters”.
Fanned fret guitars are designed to span each string in a more ideal fashion in order to get the best sound out of each respective string.
This can help to give you a better overall tone.
It is important to note that fanned frets are not just a way to get a different sounding guitar. They are a design choice made by many guitar manufacturers.
There are other reasons why guitarists choose to use fanned frets, but the main draw is the “true tone” it commands from each string.
Here’s a great overview of fanned frets, with a beautiful headless guitar.
Are fanned frets worth it?
If you are a “tone hunter” or someone wanting to find a guitar that meets their specs, a fanned fret guitar might just be exactly what you’re looking for.
Personally, after having played a couple different fanned fret or multi-scale guitars, they’re not for me.
Maybe you want a cool headless guitar with fanned frets!
While I’m sure that you can draw out a more ideal tone from each string, can you really hear the difference?
Can you tell the difference between normal frets and fanned?
I’m sure some can, but I’m also sure that some who say there’s a “massive” difference, wouldn’t be able to tell in a blind sound test.
For myself, fanned frets are cool and if “tone hunting” is something you enjoy, I’d recommend checking out fanned frets.
However, I think they’re more of a niche area of the guitar world, and it makes such a difference why don’t we see them more often?
If fanned frets truly have more to offer, why are major manufacturers producing them as the standard?
I don’t have anything against fanned frets, I think they certainly have their place, but that place isn’t front row and center, for me at least.