# 21, 22, 24 Frets - What's The Difference?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by SamHD, Jun 9, 2005.

1. ### SamHD

Nov 22, 2004
I'm confused about the various numbers of Frets on basses.

For example, I have one bass with 24 Frets and one with 21. However the distance between the nut and where the strings bend over the bridge is the same (give or take), and that being 34"

The frets are not spaced the same, meaning the distance between the nut and the twelfth fret on the 21 frets is greater than on the 24 fret.

My question is How can the 12th fret on both basses give the same note if they are spaced differently?

This doesn't make sense to me, but I know I must be missing something

2. ### danomite64

Nov 16, 2004
Tampa, Florida
If the distance from the nut to the 12th fret is different, then you must have basses with different scale lengths. Rather than describing them only by the number of frets they have, why don't you tell us what brand and model these basses are too? That would be a great help in getting the answers you're looking for.

3. ### SamHD

Nov 22, 2004
Thanks danomite. One bass I'm sure you'll recognize, the other is sort of a mystery bass.

Left - Ernie Ball Stingray-4
Right - GTX-200, BR200?

Feel free to correct me here, but the scale means the distance between the nut and the bridge (where the strings bend), right? - Also calculated by multiplying the distance between the 12th fret and the bridge (bend)?

4. ### FireAarro

Aug 8, 2004
austr-
Actually, scale length is twice the distance between the nut and 12th fret.

5. ### Meyekul

Feb 18, 2005
Lexington, Kentucky
I think scale is usually defined as double the length between the nut and the 12th fret. You get the same note on basses with different scales because the string tension is different. A longer string has to have more tension to produce the same vibration (note). Some people like short-scale basses because the strings feel looser, bend easier, and because they can be tuned piccolo (same octave as guitar) more easily without special strings.

6. ### burntgorilla

Jan 24, 2005
Belfast
Work out the scale from the nut to the 12th fret, then multiply by 2, I can't remember exactly why that's better...

7. ### Cerb

Sep 27, 2004
Indiana
Mainly because each string will not be exactly 34". If the strings are intonated properly it is very unlikely that they will all have the same speaking length.

8. ### SamHD

Nov 22, 2004
Ok, it's starting to make more sense, but I'm still a little confused.

So the scale is calculated by multiplying the distance between the nut and the 12th fret x 2. - ok, got that now.

The part that still confuses me a little is that the distance between the nut and the bridge (bend) is the same; so really, the strings are the same length...

But they shouldn't be in order to have a different scale, which is what the distance between the 12th fret and the nut indicate, right?

I'm going home during my lunch and re-check my measurements.

What should I really measure?

Distance between the Nut and 12th fret, and then the distance between the Nut and- Bridge at the bend?

9. ### Meyekul

Feb 18, 2005
Lexington, Kentucky
Most basses have adjustable bridges, so that you can actually change the exact length of each individual string. So, when refering to the scale of the bass, its best to go with the measurement that doesnt change, which is from the nut to the 12th fret.

10. ### Bruce LindfieldUnprofessional TalkBass ContributorGold Supporting Member

The 12th fret is always the 12th fret because it divides the string length in two, that's where the harmonic an octave up must be - simple physics of harmonics.

The thing about how many frets is irrelevent to this and is about where the body joins the neck - so, some basses have bigger bodies than others - small body, easy to fit in 24 frets or more; large body and it's difficult to fit in 24 without compromises somewhere!!

But small body can also impact tone and cause neck dive.....

11. ### SamHD

Nov 22, 2004
Gee, just when I thought I was understanding this....

So what are the main factors that determine the a scale?

12. ### KPJ

Oct 2, 2001
Methuen, MA USA
It's simple. As Meyekul said.

13. ### mikezimmermanSupporting Member

Apr 29, 2001
I'm not sure I understand the question. Initially, you seemed to be asking about 21 vs. 24 frets, and now the question seems to be about scale length...

1) The conventional way of measuring scale length is to take tha distance from the nut to the 12th fret and double it. This is because the bridge adjustments needed to intonate the strings correctly mean that they are all actually slightly different lengths. The 12th fret is basically the middle of the string, though--fretting at the 12th fret cuts the vibrating length of the string in half, and that doubles the frequency of the vibrating string and gives you a note that's an octave higher than the open string.

2) If two basses have the same scale length, the frets are (ideally) all in the same location on both basses, if you measure from the nut. If your two basses have different distances from the nut to the 12th fret, then they have different scale lengths.

3) The pitch of a vibrating string is decided by three factors: a) the vibrating length of the string, b) the tension of the string, and c) the mass (per unit length) of the string. That's how you can have basses with different scale lengths producing the same note--assuming both basses have the same strings (and thus the same mass for the string), you can compensate for a shorter string length (which would normally make the note higher) by lowering the tension (which makes the note lower).

Does that help?
Mike

14. ### SamHD

Nov 22, 2004
So if hypothetically speaking I put the neck of the Stingray on the the Body of the GTX, and say the the Stingray is 34" scale and the 35" (not sure, just for example) will that make the GTX a 34" scale?

That's the part that is confusing me.

15. ### BassikLeeCommercial User

Feb 13, 2004
Deltona, FL
Owner: Brevard Sound Systems
Scale lenth is simply the distance between the nut and the 12th fret, times two. The distance from the nut to bridge isn't always exaclty the same as the scale lenth because several factors contribute to the strings' "non perfect string" thing. These include: mass, stiffness, etc etc. The "perfect string" vibrates evenly along it's lenth, and has no mass. Real strings have mass, and act more like a bar, clamped at both ends, kind of. SO, we have to move the bridge saddles back/forward from the "end of the scale lenth" measure to compansate for that, and make the thing play in tune. Number of frets is irelevent (way SP??) to the scale lenth. Frets just provide you with notes. You COULD have 36 frets, and the scale lenth wouldn't change.

Interestingly, at least to me, is that the way they used to determine fret distance was the 18:1 thing. Let me 'splain. The distance from the nut to the first fret is "roughly" 1/18th of the total scale lenth. If you devide 34" by 18 you get like 1.8888something, and if you measure the first fret, it'll be just about there. I can't draw on here, but try this, just for ****s. Draw a 34" horizontal line. OK, devide that by 18, we get 1.88888 etc. Now, at the end of the 34" line, draw a vertical line that is 1.8888" tall, at a 90 degree angle to the 34" line. Got that?? 'K, now draw a line from the top of the vertical line, to the other end of the 34" line. We're making a long, not very tall triangle. OK, now take that same 1.888 measure, and come out from the "tall side" of the triangle by that amount, make a mark. That is our "first fret". Now, measure from THAT point, to the angled line, perpendicular to the 34" horiz line. THAT is the measure for the second fret. You'll notice it is also 1/18 of the remaining lenth. Keep doing this until you have no room for pickups, and the distance between frets is tiny, and you can have a few octave's worth of frets (most I've seen on a bass was 36) and you have not changed the scale lenth. This is MUCH easier to see once it is draw out. I apologize for the confusing wording, I am a lover, not a writer....

Lee

16. ### mikezimmermanSupporting Member

Apr 29, 2001
You can't just stick the neck of the Stingray on the body of the GTX unless you can do it in such a way that the bridge is still the same distance from the nut as it was on the Stingray. The 12th fret still has to be in the middle of the string (give or take a little bit for intonation).

Mike

17. ### Bruce LindfieldUnprofessional TalkBass ContributorGold Supporting Member

You'll have a very badly-balanced bass!!

18. ### MunjibungaTotal Hyper-Elite MemberGold Supporting Member

May 6, 2000
San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
OK. Just measure the distance from the nut to the twelfth fret on both basses. That distance will be the same (if they're both 34-inch scale). If one bass has 21 frets and the other has 24 frets, then the distance from the nut to any of the frets up to 21 will be the same on both basses. The additional frets are just added at the end of the fretboard nearest the pickups. The 24-fret will have a longer fretboard to pick up the additional three frets at the pickup end. The extra three frets just make it possible to play higher notes on each string.

19. ### SamHD

Nov 22, 2004
I'll have exact measurments in about 1-1/2 hours. I just quickly measured the stuff, but now I want to be a little more accurate.

Anyway, just for kicks, I drew the triangle BassikLee mentioned.

I stopped at a few frets, but I think it shows the concept:

The horizontal line is 34", and the very first (yellow) vertical line (first fret spacing) is 1.8888 (or 1-57/64)... and then it's all downhill from there!

20. ### BassikLeeCommercial User

Feb 13, 2004
Deltona, FL
Owner: Brevard Sound Systems
EXACTLY, tho in my mind, your drawing is for a lefty....

Lee