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Fanned Fret Parameters - Your Views?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by kyttkat, Jan 13, 2005.

  1. I'm currently putting together the spec for a custom 5er :p and am completely sold on the Novax fanned fret approach but never having had the opportunity to try one I'd like a little bit of help.

    A lot has been said about fanned frets on TB but, apart from one rather confusing thread, it mostly seems to revolve around playability and hasn't been of much help. As this is a custom build, the World is, as they say, my oyster. I'm looking for an aggressive, dark tone which is as even as possible across the strings and this would lead me to the shorter scale lengths. My starting point would be a 35" B and a 32" or 33" G. If I put the vertical at or around the 5th-7th fret (where I spend most time) I get something like a 1" off set at the nut which sounds quite reasonable.

    For those of you with multi-scale experience, what would be your recommendation on B & G lengths and vertical fret, given what I'm trying to achieve?

    Supplementary question 1: In real life does the fret board look better with a vertical fret or with the vertical point between frets (i.e. no exactly vertical fret)?

    Supplementary question 2: There doesn't seem to be much consensus on whether to angle the p/ups or not. My guess is that if you don't you end up negating a lot of the reason why you use a multi-scale in the first place (i.e. even tone). Any opinions?

    Many, many thanks for your help in advance.

  2. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    Well, I've been playing Dingwalls exclusively (almost) for about 5 years. Here's my take.

    Making the scales shorter could darken up the tone. Additionally, you might want to consider your electronics and wood choices in this department as well as these can make a significant effect on this.

    I would say that it is nice to have the vertical fret at around 7. This seems to make the fretboard fairly symmetric (that is the same amount of fan near the nut as near the last fret). If anything I would move it higher (9 maybe) rather than lower as if you make it lower you could end up with a high end that it too fanned and will need a significantly larger cutaway and could look awkward.

    I personally like the 37" B and 36.25" E on my Dingwall. However, this gives quite a clear tone and you might want to consider other lengths (as it seems you already are).

    I don't know which looks better as far as actually having a vertical fret or not. I'm not even sure if the 7th fret on my Dingwall is vertical. It looks closest, but I'm not entirely sure. I think it would make little difference.

    I've never played a fanned fretted instrument with straight pickups. I believe Jean Baudin's Pac Man bass has vertical pickups, and I've heard no complaints from him on tone. I'm not sure that it's necessary to do this... I think it fits with the looks a little better (especially the bridge).

    Hope this helps. You may also want to contact Sheldon Dingwall about some of your questions... he probably knows the most about this system as applied to bass guitar.
  3. Like Geoff I've played only multiscale Dingwalls (since 2001)
    I'm not sure what you mean by darker tone, but when i capo my Dingwall at the first fret (makes the scale 35.25E-33G), and retune it, it makes the bass sound more Fender-like, less sustain, quicker decay. I'm in the process of having a shorter scale Dingwall made just on this premise. I felt that the Bart equipped Dingwalls sounded dark and aggressive. I think Geoff is right on w/ getting a darker tone using specific electronics and wood choices. The Novax board will help w/ playability and evenness of tone.
    Angled pickup or bridge, your call. I've seen arcadias, Conklins, and Novax instruments w/ non angled P'ups. IIRC there is even a Dingwall that had non angled p'up/bridge(looked like an EB 'Ray), my guess is that angling the p'up improves tone but i'm not sure. Mr Conklin or Dingwall may have better answers
  4. Sheldon D.

    Sheldon D.

    Oct 3, 2001
    What Geoff and Frank said.

    Regarding pickups, we did perpendicular pickups originally and had to lower the bass end of the pickup a fair amount to balance the output of the B with the other strings. If you've ever played a Fender P, you'll know what I mean.

    When we rotated the pickups so that the coils lined up harmonically across the strings, we had a much better balance of output and tone. I didn't like the look initially but it quickly grew on me and now the old way looks weird.

    I'm really biased, but I'd think that a longer scale with the trebles rolled down would be more aggressive sounding than a shorter scale. YMMV
  5. lowrez

    lowrez no.

    Nov 27, 2004
    New Englandish
    If you are building this or having it built by someone remember to pay your 75.00 to Novax.
  6. Thanks that's exactly what I needed to hear. Logic would seem to say this but it's nice to hear it's so in practice. Next question therefore is where to get p/ups with the correct pole spacing, which I guess will be quite drastic for the bridge p/up.
  7. I'm outside the US so that isn't strictly necessary. Having said that I will get a licence from Novax as they also offer support with it and as I'll no doubt be spending a shed load on this bass $75 to ensure we get it right seems well worth the investment.
  8. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    You could use pups that are blade-type internally, and sense across the entire width. I think some Barts may be this way as well as EMGs. Without doing the math, I would guess that a pup made for a standard 6 string would be long enough to work on a slanted 5.
  9. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Technically you wouldn't be getting a license, since they cannot license use for instruments offered for sale outside of the US. But you would get the support.
  10. That's interesting, I only want the support and am more than happy to pay for it, but how would they know I wasn't going to sell it back to the US in which case I would need a licence? All very complicated - interestingly it's not possible to patent something like fanned frets outside the US.
  11. Yeh, I'd thought about that but I've got absolutely no experience of blade p/ups - can you get the same sort of growl that normal poled p/ups can give or do they have a smoother response?
  12. jvbjr


    Jan 8, 2005
    I would go 37"~34" myself, I have two Novax guitars/basses.

    You can make the scale length sound darker with flat wounds, tape wounds and your EQ, you can NEVER get rid of low B flop with those items however.

    The reason for fanned frets is better tuning given an even tempered, 12 tone scale western music is based upon. Like a piano, the strings get longer as they get thicker and play lower notes.

    If you have ever looked at the Novax website or studied Just Intonation you would see what Ralph is trying to accomplish.
  13. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    AFAIK, it is certainly possible to file for European or Japanese patents in order to protect one's intellectual property in those regions. The US patent that Nokak holds protects only instruments offered for sale in the US. It is possible he has other, foreign patents-- I had not considered that. If you were interested, you could do a search from this page.

    I seem to remember someone saying that non-Japanese citizens could not file patents in Japan; but that could be completely wrong.

    AFAIK if you made a product in violation of a US patent and then offered it for sale in the US, in order for the patent holder to recover damages, he'd have to a) know about it and b) prosecute. This probably only applies to the original sale of the product, though.
  14. Cheers Frank. I've followed up with Sheldon on this one - it seems we have the same line of thinking.
  15. Thanks, everyone for your input - most valuable.

    You know I've spent so long looking at fanned-fret basses that when a I see a "normal" fingerboard it looks odd!
  16. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    Yep, I really get that from the playing position. The normal basses look like they're angled the wrong way.