Any luthiers on here done any non 12tet fretboards?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by AllFourths, Jan 29, 2013.

  1. AllFourths


    Mar 23, 2012
    I hope this is the right place to ask, but have any of you worked with non-standard fretboard layouts? There are of course many many many kinds. JI, equal temperaments other than 12-tone, historical well temperaments, etc, etc. I recently stumbled upon this Turkish fellow's new movable fret system, which seems quite promising.

    I asked him if he does electric instruments and basses in particular and he says he's working on it. The prices he plans to charge aren't particularly reasonable considering he's never even built an electric instrument before.

    Anyone think they could do something similar?
  2. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
  3. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    If you are interested in building it yourself, I supply custom fingerboards radiused and slotted any way you want (except I don't do fanned frets). You supply the math, and I'll put the slots in wherever you want them. I've done a couple of unusual non-12TET fingerboards for customers over the years.
  4. Meddle


    Jul 27, 2009
    I have. Sorta. I've got a mate who is into just intonation and asked me to do some work for him. However all I did was re-plane his crudely de-fretted Soundgear, then stain the neck black and add small white inlays for all the new note positions he wanted (he also tuned his bass DGDG so that made it worse). Quite a cool idea. I listened to a lot of Harry Partsch for inspiration.
  5. I see why you'd want microtonal frets on a guitar for playing chords. But on bass? Why not fretless? Infinite microtones.
  6. Stealth


    Feb 5, 2008
    Zagreb, Croatia
    Because your mind and ears are accustomed to 12-TET intervals making you unconsciously auto-correct yourself away from the microtones. Supposedly, that's how it works, and that's how fretless playing worked for me.
  7. AllFourths


    Mar 23, 2012
    Timbre primarily. I play fretless as well, but it sounds nothing like a fretted bass. Even with no vibrato and some EQ, the timbre just changes too drastically from frets to no frets as the "moveable bridge" of your left hand changes from being a hunk of metal to a fleshy finger.

    Additionally there is the consistency and accuracy of fretted notes. Even the best fretless players are rarely playing "in tune", but that's fine since most of the music bass guitar is featured in only requires a general accuracy of tuning. Fretless bass guitar is infinitely harder to tune than its distant cousins in the violin family mostly due to its not being a sustaining instrument but also due to its weird overtone distribution. Add to that the fact that the attack of a plucked string is usually about an eighth tone off from the decay and you've got yourself an instrument that is anything but optimally suited for music that is really about tuning.
  8. AllFourths


    Mar 23, 2012
    That's great! I'm mostly looking for a neck, though more than likely I'll end up just commissioning a full build since I'd probably screw it up. I don't suppose you'd be brave enough to venture into movable fret land as seen in the first post's attachment? It seems like pretty new territory, but this guy is so far holding a monopoly on what is potentially extremely important information. If he weren't in Turkey and charging $4,000 for instruments he has no experience making (read: electric ones) I'd just go with him, but I like to think I'm fostering progress by looking for adventurous builders!

    Also, the Turkish cat won't even sell the necks separately, even though that's the only part anyone is likely to give a damn about.
  9. Markpotato


    Jul 19, 2012
    Eureka Springs, AR
    Luthier, Sorrentino Guitars
    Dude, $4000 is not expensive for an instrument. Especially for something this unique. He probably couldn't afford to charge less. I'm somewhat surprised he doesn't charge more.

    Also, building electrics is alot easier than building acoustics. If he can build an acoustic guitar, I'm pretty sure he could handle and electric.
  10. AllFourths


    Mar 23, 2012
    I apologize if I sounded appalled at the general idea of a $4,000 custom instrument. I know $4,000 isn't exorbitant, plenty of custom builders charge that much, but to charge that much for what would essentially be an experiment seems a bit ridiculous (not to mention risky on my part). I guess I'm also just a little spoiled by folks like Clement, Marco, and Stambaugh charging what they do. The situation is infinitely worsened by his not especially clear English and his disheartening communication skills (read: ignores every other email, only addresses 1/4 of the questions asked him in the few emails he replies). Basically he just doesn't seem like the kind of cat I'd want to send $4,000 to from across the Atlantic ocean...

    In regards to his building an electric instrument, I'm sure he could "handle it" fine. Obviously in terms of woodworking there is a lot more to an acoustic instrument, but if he hasn't built an electric, is he going to put in the research to understand what I might want out of this thing? Besides him not having built an electric instrument of any kind, there is also the fact that he's not a bass guitarist, he's a guitarist. He isn't used to listening for the same qualities a bassist does in terms of tone, he's never had to worry about floppy B strings, never had to consider pre-amps, pick-ups (and how they sound in conjunction with your pre-amp), asymmetrical bolting, body weight, neck dive, etc...

    I just feel like commissioning him to do a bass guitar build would be like commissioning Joey Ramone to write a piano sonata. It might "rock" and it'd probably be catchy, but I'd bet you a couple hundred bucks it would be terribly voice-led, awkward to play, un-pianistic, and not even in sonata form. Obviously an abstract metaphor, but I think it gets the point across.

    Then again I guess I've decided I'd rather take a chance on the fretboard than the rest of the bass, as it's one or the other. I'm probably just an idiot =p

    Nice looking instruments by the way Markpotato!