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Why 3,5,7,9 fret markers?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by FunkMetalBass, Aug 6, 2012.

  1. FunkMetalBass


    Aug 5, 2005
    Phoenix, Arizona 85029
    Endorsing Artist: J.C. Basses
    I understand that having fret markers spaced every two to three frets is an obvious choice: it also allows for relatively even spacing and only 5 markers per octave, which is the highest number of unordered/structured objects most humans can instantly recognize (making it intuitively very functional).

    My question is just about the choice in frets where these markers are placed. The octave seems like a given, but some instruments use 3,5,7,10 (like the ukulele), and others even place a marker on the first fret. 3,5,7 seem to be extremely common, though. Is there any particular reason why we put markers on frets 3,5,7,9 instead of something like 2,4,7,9 or 2,5,8,10?
  2. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    It looks like it follows those used on a guitar.

    Why are 3,5,7,9 used on guitar? shrug.

    How about a SWAG?...5 and 7 have strong harmonics and the others are just spaced one away from each of those for symmetry?
  3. FunkMetalBass


    Aug 5, 2005
    Phoenix, Arizona 85029
    Endorsing Artist: J.C. Basses
    Then we can extend the question to guitars as well. Why were these frets chosen for the fretboard?
  4. PBnJBassist


    Mar 8, 2011
    Dallas, TX
    For the most part... it's decorative, practical, and history.

    Edit- Sorry, most of those links come up blank... but you get the idea. They're mostly just pictures of those guitars with inlays on the said frets.

    One more...

  5. fenderhutz

    fenderhutz Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2007
    Harpers Ferry WV
    Look where a majority of your sharps and flats fall. A,C,D,E,G. B and F are the only ones left behind on a 4 string. Add a low B then that just leaves the F behind.

    Not sure if I being clear here but you are correct on octaves to a degree.

    From the first position (and others) all non sharps and flats fall on a marker with a low B 5 string, except F. This would be if all basses included a first fret marker as some do.
  6. FunkMetalBass


    Aug 5, 2005
    Phoenix, Arizona 85029
    Endorsing Artist: J.C. Basses
    That's what I thought too, but then the 2,4,7,9 split would make more sense, IMO, as they mark the common elements in any major mode.
  7. FunkMetalBass


    Aug 5, 2005
    Phoenix, Arizona 85029
    Endorsing Artist: J.C. Basses
    Using only the open strings and third frets on a 4-string, all natural notes except B are available. No need for a first fret to achieve an F. However, the logical positions would be those that have the fewest number of accidental association, and 3,5,7 clearly fit the bill, but then the 10th fret, not the 9th, would be the more realistic choice.
  8. chadhargis

    chadhargis Jack of all grooves, master of none Supporting Member

    Jan 5, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    ....and I'm still confused.
  9. Fret Marking has been something debated and pondered for decades, if not hundreds of years. it is rumored that the secret is stored in a highly protected vault 27 stories underground at Area 51 rented by Fender and Gibson. It has also been reported that Erich von Daniken discovered the secret of fret markers on the Plains of Nascar and was to report it in his book "The Chariots of The Gods", but was threatened with his very life by a secret society that was guarding this secret. He quickly retracted it before publishing the book.

    Perhaps we will never know really why, but fret markers do make for a nice decoration.
  10. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    I allways thought it had to do with marking 3rds 5ths, 7ths 9ths, relative to the next string up open. When related to the 12 note scale.
  11. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    Use a neck without markers and you'll be fine. ;)
  12. From the little research I have done, nothing is conclusive, but it may be that the first guitar makers in about 1850, thought it would be easier to play if the frets were marked. What would have made sense is markers at 2,4,6,8,10, 12, all even numbers. but no we have 3,5,7,9 & 12. Four odd numbers and one even number. That made more sense, to someone.
  13. Strongest harmonic spots?
  14. bassmachine2112


    Mar 23, 2008
    Oh no I,ve just got used to where they are,don,t change them.
  15. FrednBass


    Feb 24, 2012
    Well... the fret 5 mark the place where the ntoe is the same as the last open string (E string 5 fret= A; last open string: A). Two frets before (third fret) and you are down two steps, making a G (on the E string), two steps up and you fall into B (all non-sharp/flat notes), so on and so forth. The 12th fret mark the octaves on the same string. To me makes sense.
    In fact, the only flat/sharp notes that fall at the same spot as the markers are the C# (E string), F# (A string) and Bb (G string). Truth be told, all non flat/sharp notes fell into markers somewhere on the neck.
    Considering the are a total of 20 notes that fall in place with a marker (considering only twelve first frets), those three flat/sharp notes seems to be just an 'accident' to the fact that the chromatic scale is not even (i mean: E and B don't go sharp).

    Of course, that's all in standart tuning.

    EDIT: Let's not forget that the 7th fret onn one string is the octave to the next one (7 th fret A= E; next string: E)
  16. spufman


    Feb 7, 2005
    Central CT
    Because that's where I'm used to seeing them! Plus those positions make sense interval-wise for an instrument tuned in either fourths or fifths.
  17. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin'

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    Fret markers came into being when guitar playing became more intricate. A lot of early music (as I understand it, and I'm certainly no expert) crowded around the lower frets. This makes sense when you realize that early guitars had tied-on gut strings! Intonation was the least of your problems up past the fifth fret, I'm sure.

    On many early guitars, the fingerboard extended to about the 7th fret; additional frets were inlaid into the top for reasons of decoration.

    So Torres (and, no doubt, other, unknown luthiers) developed the rudimentary guitar into an actual playable instrument. Concurrently (as always seems to happen) players explored the possibilities of these improved instruments, and before long one of them suggested that, now that we're playing 'way up the neck, it sure would help if we could easily tell what fret we were on. The neck dots became this aid. No historian was present, alas.

    By the time Leo Fender arrived, the fret markers were well established, and it would have been highly unusual had he omitted them on his electric guitars -- and equally unusual had he not carried them over to the electric bass guitar.

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