History – The Timeline
Before we hit the timeline there are a few notes to dwell on. It is hard to determine if there is an actual point in time where we could say, this is the first fretless guitar or this guy definitely invented the fretless guitar.
It does seem that from time to time many guitarists have unfretted their instruments, tinkered around, maybe recorded a track or two before hastily refretting. It may be that Western music is so well adapted to the fixed scale it is safer with frets, while influence from Asian and Eastern music is more suited to an unfretted philosophy.
Many early guitars exist in museums that might at first appear to be fretless, the fact is that the frets were tied gut on the neck of the instrument and these have been lost or rotted away.
In the early part of the 20th Century, fretless banjos were common, as were fretless mandolins. The extra work to add frets to these instruments no doubt increased the cost, while it would be within the skills of an amateur luthier to build his own fretless instrument.
Now in the 21st Century, three string Cigar box guitars are becoming popular, especially in kit form, most are fretless.
In this history we have tried to be as accurate as possible, there have been many rumours, not included, one being that a fretless guitar was used on one instrumental from the soundtrack of Bladerunner, but we could not confirm it, so it didn’t make the list.
History 3000 BC to 1900 AD