Many gimmicks like Gibson’s Reverse Flying V have come and gone in the guitar and bass world (Precision Bass Lyte, anyone?!). But with more and more players embracing multi-scale basses, fanned-frets are proving that they could be here to stay. Still, you’re probably wondering what the point of them is, and if you should try one?
In today’s video we’ve come up with 5 perfectly logical reasons to love (and hate) fanned-fret basses. And thanks to Sheldon Dingwall at Dingwall Guitars, we’ve also got a Dingwall D-Roc Standard to giveaway!
Fanned-frets (or multi-scale) instruments place the frets at an angle to give each string a different scale length. This reduces the string tension in the higher strings, and at the other end you’ll find greater tension in the lower strings. We’re told by Dingwall that the end result is better intonation, tone and tuning accuracy across the whole fretboard.
We spoke to Sheldon Dingwall of Dingwall Guitars to find out more about his unique approach to instrument design.
What’s the main idea behind fanned-frets?
“The fanned fretboard is really just a method of achieving the optimum scale length for each string – longer bass strings, shorter trebles. Our goal is to make every string feel and respond similarly to your touch and to have every string sound balanced.”
This can be a real problem for 5-string players, right?
“I was getting more and more requests for a 5-string bass with a decent B-string. If you build a 5-string as you would a typical 4-string the B string will not sound or respond like the other strings. It will be lacking in tension and tone. From a player’s perspective, this means adjusting your attack when playing on the B, or adjusting your playing position and limiting how far up the neck you play. Not to mention it’s really hard to EQ one string without affecting the others. In other words, trying to brighten up the B string usually makes the G string sound too thin and brittle.”
How did you get started with fanned-frets?
“I started looking into piano string design since piano builders solved this issue centuries ago. Around the same time I saw a photo of a fanned-fret guitar Steve Klein built for Michael Hedges; I realised that here was the solution.”
What sort of problems did you encounter?
“There were many problems since there were no other fanned-fret basses to study; no hardware, pickups or strings available. The first step was to determine what scale length to use. I built a sliding fixture to hold a nut on the face of a Fender headstock, mounted the longest B string I could find and slid the nut further and further down the headstock until I got the tonal balance I was looking for. This final length was 37″.
What happened next?
“The next hurdle was how to lay out the frets. I drafted up several fan patterns, printed them full size and positioned them under the strings of a standard bass to have players test these ‘virtual’ frets. This really helped dial in the optimum fan pattern.”
To find out more about Dingwall Guitars visit dingwallguitars.com