Fan fret acoustic guitars - opinions please

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ToneControlToneControl Frets: 5353
Has any one got one, or spent a lot of time trying one out?

I tried one in Coda, and could play it, but no idea if it improves the sound
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  • GTCGTC Frets: 8
    I'm scheduled to go over to Glastonbury luthier Alan Miller shortly to give his new lefty fan-fret acoustic model a test run. I'll let you know how it goes.

    I had a brief trial with one before and was surprised how easy it was to adjust to. I can't remember there being much difference in the tone to a conventional parallel fret guitar - but I think I may have been pre-occupied with the fan-fret novelty and the sheer craftsmanship at the time
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  • ToneControlToneControl Frets: 5353
    I got used to one quickly enough in Coda, but I ask myself:

    Do the fan frets make it easier to play (because of the natural angle of the wrists)?
    Is the sound noticeably better?
    Is maintenance more difficult?

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  • guitarfishbayguitarfishbay Frets: 7516
    I briefly owned an Ibanez fan fret but sent it back because I’m terms of actual tone it wasn’t anywhere near my main instrument. I am a fan of fan fret basses.

    I don’t really buy in to the easier to play thing, I just think it’s different and you (most likely) adapt.

    The sound still depends on the quality of the rest of the guitar. 

    Maintenance is the same mechanically, the only thing that’s different is fretwork would be a bit different due to the changing angle, ditto if you have to make a new nut/saddle. Setups aren’t any more difficult.
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  • barry2tonebarry2tone Frets: 101
    edited April 30
    I'm used to playing an Avian f/f now, and going back my to old classical (which now lives with my Sis') over the Easter weekend, felt marginally more difficult on the straight frets.  

    Not sure it makes a difference to the sound in the way the board, bracing, body and strings do. Find the intonation is sweeter to my ear than anything else I've played.  But never had anything in the price bracket, either.  

    Surely the biggest pal Fanfret has on his team is Physics, extending the bass range of 6-string tunings and keeping the trebles sweet?  [Songbird scale lengths 645 mm - 660 mm.]

    Coming up to my first string change, so can't comment on maintenance yet.


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  • ToneControlToneControl Frets: 5353
    I'm used to playing an Avian f/f now, and going back my to old classical (which now lives with my Sis') over the Easter weekend, felt marginally more difficult on the straight frets.  

    Not sure it makes a difference to the sound in the way the board, bracing, body and strings do. Find the intonation is sweeter to my ear than anything else I've played.  But never had anything in the price bracket, either.  

    Surely the biggest pal Fanfret has on his team is Physics, extending the bass range of 6-string tunings and keeping the trebles sweet?  [Songbird scale lengths 645 mm - 660 mm.]

    Coming up to my first string change, so can't comment on maintenance yet.


    the intonation will be down to quality levels I think

    15mm is not much though, is it? Could that have much effect?
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  • barry2tonebarry2tone Frets: 101
    edited April 30
    No, 15 mm isn't much, but a friend has one with much greater difference, and that gets challenging for chord work near the nut. So variability of scale affects play-ability.

    Also note where the builder places the centre of the fan. The Avian is at the 7th fret, which works well for that neck length..

    What tempts you?
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  • I am hugely biased - I have 20 clients out there with my fanfret (variable scale) guitars. Great for dropped tunings, intonation is better and powerful sound from the bass end. Mine have 40 mm extra on the bottom string.
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  • ToneControlToneControl Frets: 5353
    I am hugely biased - I have 20 clients out there with my fanfret (variable scale) guitars. Great for dropped tunings, intonation is better and powerful sound from the bass end. Mine have 40 mm extra on the bottom string.
    what makes the intonation better?


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  • barry2tonebarry2tone Frets: 101
    edited May 1
    Intonation can be used in more than one sense.

    My understanding is that it's to do with keeping string tension approximately the same, whilst reducing variation in string diameter, across the range of the instrument.  Blah blah, something about overtones and string tension, but here my physics gets misty...    

    Pianos and harps more obviously use this variation of string length to preserve "tone" across the scale.

    Does it matter?  I'm with the Wiki view;
    "With regard to tone, a longer scale (e.g. Fender Telecasters with 25.5 inch (648 mm) scale length) favors "brightness" or cleaner overtones and more separated harmonics versus a shorter scale (e.g., Gibson Les Paul with 24.75 in (628 mm) scale length), which favors "warmth" or more muddy overtones"

    With Gibson scale length, I find myself wanting to dodge the first 4 or 5 frets on the bottom E string for what perhaps feels, as much as sounds, "flabby."

    The wider availability of string sets for dropped tunings nowadays is another way round the challenge, but length does matter. 
    How much it matters is personal.  



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  • ToneControlToneControl Frets: 5353
    edited May 1
    Intonation can be used in more than one sense.

    My understanding is that it's to do with keeping string tension approximately the same, whilst reducing variation in string diameter, across the range of the instrument.  Blah blah, something about overtones and string tension, but here my physics gets misty...    

    Pianos and harps more obviously use this variation of string length to preserve "tone" across the scale.

    Does it matter?  I'm with the Wiki view;
    "With regard to tone, a longer scale (e.g. Fender Telecasters with 25.5 inch (648 mm) scale length) favors "brightness" or cleaner overtones and more separated harmonics versus a shorter scale (e.g., Gibson Les Paul with 24.75 in (628 mm) scale length), which favors "warmth" or more muddy overtones"

    With Gibson scale length, I find myself wanting to dodge the first 4 or 5 frets on the bottom E string for what perhaps feels, as much as sounds, "flabby."

    The wider availability of string sets for dropped tunings nowadays is another way round the challenge, but length does matter. 
    How much it matters is personal.  



    I thought that intonation just means "accuracy of pitch" - on a guitar meaning pitch when fretting a note on a correctly-tuned guitar

    I don't know the technical terms for the other issues you raise.

    I know that if strings are too loose (especially the bottom string), the pitch goes off for a fraction of a second just after it is plucked, AFAIK it goes up in pitch for because you've stretched it, and also the vibrations increase the tension too, which has a reduced effect as the note decays. With higher-tension strings (for the same pitch), this effect is a smaller percentage of tension, and so has less effect on pitch. Also I assume that with higher tension, you can't stretch the string so much with a normal pluck.
    This is why tuning can be a problem for people who pluck gently whilst tuning, then hard when playing.

    btw Some artists have used this flub effect as part of their sound, I think Pat metheny has used it, you can get a sound that sounds a bit like a plucked double bass

    I think this Dave Gilmour intro is played on some slack-stringed instrument: https://open.spotify.com/track/0CQJjyQKtXbBTuMvMMFpzf?si=LsAK8w8_RIusIvwDrwh4lw


    I also know that putting baritone strings on a normal-scale guitar and tuning it down 5 semitones makes it sound strange, I have had various guitars up to 30 inch scale, which sound OK dropped 5 semitones, although the top 2 strings then sound odd. There is definitely a sweet spot for guitar gauge and pitch for each instrument. I even found this on my (very short scale) tenor guitar, which if tuned "correctly" with normal tenor gauges, sounds shrill and unbalanced

    My understanding up until now was that fanned frets could alleviate this by allowing higher tension longer strings whilst keeping the highest strings short and at the correct tension to sound "normal"
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  • BidleyBidley Frets: 2218
    I have a fanned fret acoustic, very subtle fan though. The biggest improvement I found was the balancing of string tension across all strings, which is nice for fingerpicking.

    Aside from that it's just a preference thing really. Some people like playing them more, some don't. They're no better or worse than a parallel-fretted guitar I don't think.
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  • ToneControlToneControl Frets: 5353
    I also wondered if guitar techs charge more to maintain them, e.g. fret replacements, fret dressing, set ups, replacement saddles, pickup installations
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  • Fanfretman1Fanfretman1 Frets: 1
    Variable scale instruments go back a couple of hundred years when it was noticed that fatter strings sound better when given a longer vibration length.  Also, on modern fan fret guitars you can drop the E string down to C without it going flabby. However, to tune upwards adds a lot of tension. Fret replacements etc. should not cost more as it is the same job as a parallel fretted guitar. I have some demos on Youtube but I am avoiding advertising on this site.
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  • GTCGTC Frets: 8
    GTC said:
    I'm scheduled to go over to Glastonbury luthier Alan Miller shortly to give his new lefty fan-fret acoustic model a test run. I'll let you know how it goes.

    I had a brief trial with one before and was surprised how easy it was to adjust to. I can't remember there being much difference in the tone to a conventional parallel fret guitar - but I think I may have been pre-occupied with the fan-fret novelty and the sheer craftsmanship at the time
    Last Friday, I had the opportunity to have 20 mins or so giving Glastonbury luthier and Fan-fret specialist, Alan Miller's, left-handed version of his latest model a trial run (photo attached).

    In summary a beautiful instrument in tone, playability and appearance. I particularly liked the Mexican rosewood fingerboard. The top is spruce with a nicely-figured walnut back and sides. There is a side sound hole in addition to the conventional top one. Like Fyldes, it uses a zero fret. The craftsmanship and attention to detail was impressive.

    Playing felt very comfortable and natural immediately despite me not being used to fan-frets - with no problems going back or forth with a conventional guitar. Some of the five-fret chord stretches at the lower frets were a bit more difficult but not worryingly so. The tone on the trebles and middles were on par with any conventional guitar I've played. The basses were definitely stronger and more resonant.

    I didn't try it in any open tunings, using standard throughout, apart from a quick dropped D on the 6th string.

    I couldn't see any reason why maintenance should be more expensive - unless, say, the specially shaped bridge needed replacing.

    Overall, I'm not sure I need one for my mainly fingerstyle / standard tuning playing - but I'd like one. Perhaps next year …….


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