Frequently Asked Questions about Fretless Guitar

Frequently Asked Questions about Fretless Guitar

What is a fretless guitar?

Answer for guitarists:

It’s a guitar without any frets

Answer for non-guitarists:

Almost every guitar you have ever seen has frets, these are fine metal strips (around 22) attached to the guitar neck directly under the strings and when the guitarist presses a string down an adjacent fret ensures a correctly pitched note will sound. Frets ensure accurate notes, fine sounding chords, its a system to lock everything in tune. The fretless guitar does not have frets, its free of frets, its like walking on ice, everything slides about a lot, nothing is fixed.

Is a fretless guitar difficult to play?

Answer for non-guitarists:

Any musical instrument has a degree of difficulty in learning to play.

Answer for guitarists:

There is a degree of difficulty getting used to accurate intonation. If you are already a competent guitarist, it won’t take you long to get the hang of it.

Why does a conventional guitar usually have 22 frets?

Answer for guitarists:

Read “Catch 22”

Answer for non-guitarists:

When they put frets on the guitar neck they first leave a fair gap between the first and second one, the gap must get smaller for each fret, up around the 22nd fret it gets too difficult for people with big fingers to fit frets closer although 24 frets are not uncommon and some show off fretters have got up to 36, but it ain’t pretty.

I’m thinking of taking up the guitar, should I buy a fretless?

Times will be hard and you may wish you had purchased a violin. You will have the distinct advantage of not being tied to frets and not having to relearn everything, but may miss out on the unfretting experience.

Is a fretless guitar like a violin to play?

No, you can’t get it under your chin.

Is a fretless guitar like a slide guitar?

No, no, no. A slide guitar is a tameable instrument. You get the one slide and it goes up and down the neck with precision. With the fretless guitar you get the four fingers and they all slide independently. (This is why Giraffes don’t live in the arctic)

Are there any other fretless instruments?

Plenty; Cellos, Violins, Double Bass, Sarod, Tanbur, Rabab, Cümbüş, Oud etc..

So what if you didn’t have frets?

Well it ain’t so bad, violins and cellos don’t have frets and they seem to do just fine.

Double bass seems to survive without frets too, so why don’t they need frets?

When these instruments were developed, frets were not a consideration and being bowed instruments operated completely differently to a plucked or strummed instrument.

Fretless guitars can be fitted with sustainers (covered later in the book) which can imitate the action of a bow.

Where can I buy a Fretless Guitar?

It took me five years to find one. The list of Manufacturers and Luthiers (and its a small one) can be found on the links section of the website. Keep an eye out on ebay you could land something like this:



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