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View Full Version : 12 frets versus 14 frets



hammer40
07-15-2012, 08:19 PM
I have seen some tenor ukes with 12 frets to the body and some with 14 Frets to the body. I was wondering how many here actually play songs frequently at or beyond that 12th Fret versus the 14th? Is it really that advantageous to have 14 Frets to the body? I currently have a Tenor with 14, so just wondering about the difference it would really make playing.

tigersister
07-15-2012, 10:45 PM
It just depends on how and what you play. I generally do not play that high up on the neck, but I'm going through the Fingerstyles Solos (http://www.amazon.com/Learn-Play-Fingerstyle-Solos-Ukulele/dp/0786673427) book and there are arrangements in it that go all the way up the neck. Some people even play past the 14th fret and that's where a uke with a cutaway comes in handy.

nohoval_turrets
07-15-2012, 11:45 PM
One advantage of having 12 frets to the body is that it makes it easier to transition from other 12-fret instruments. That would include most sopranos and concerts, but also classical guitar.

If you're used to the 12 frets, you use the body join as a landmark to navigate to the other, lower frets. I came from classical guitar and I still sometimes make mistakes due to the extra two frets. But you just adapt.

Most arrangements I've seen don't go beyond the 12th fret, but if you're just improvising, the option is nice.

Fuengi
07-16-2012, 01:04 AM
Occasionally I'll venture up to the seventh fret but beyond that it's a wasteland...

dkcrown
07-16-2012, 01:43 AM
If the scale length is the same on both ukes, usually 17" on a tenor, then the spacing between the frets will be greater on the twelve fret fingerboard. Something to consider if you have difficulty stretching on some chord shapes. Or if you are used to the wider fret spacing of say a guitar, then you might prefer the twelve fret fingerboard.

ukuhippo
07-16-2012, 01:58 AM
If the scale length is the same on both ukes, usually 17" on a tenor, then the spacing between the frets will be greater on the twelve fret fingerboard. Something to consider if you have difficulty stretching on some chord shapes. Or if you are used to the wider fret spacing of say a guitar, then you might prefer the twelve fret fingerboard.

Huh, I thought fretspacing was the same on all ukes with the same scale. Did I get that wrong?

Nuprin
07-16-2012, 02:15 AM
I regularly play up to the 15th fret...there are a few songs that I'll go up to 17. I find that with a 14-fret-to-body uke, it's easier to play those higher frets than a 12-fret-to-body.

southcoastukes
07-16-2012, 02:38 AM
Huh, I thought fretspacing was the same on all ukes with the same scale. Did I get that wrong?

you're correct - dk has just not yet had his morning coffee.

BTW: 16 frets to the body is where you want to be (longnecks!).

barefootgypsy
07-16-2012, 02:55 AM
you're correct - dk has just not yet had his morning coffee.

BTW: 16 frets to the body is where you want to be (longnecks!).Ah, thanks for that, I'd wondered what the actual definition of a "longneck" was - thought perhaps it was 14 frets to the body - but now I know! My uke has 14, and I do go up to 10 on the fingerboard - I prefer that extra little bit of room - but it isn't crucial.

southcoastukes
07-16-2012, 03:14 AM
Ah, thanks for that, I'd wondered what the actual definition of a "longneck" was - thought perhaps it was 14 frets to the body - but now I know! My uke has 14, and I do go up to 10 on the fingerboard - I prefer that extra little bit of room - but it isn't crucial.

There's no actual definition as far as frets to the body. It just means a longer scale than normal - which, of course, gives you a longer neck.

The number of frets to the body should be determined by the shape of the body itself. There's a sweet spot on the soundboard where the bridge should be placed for best effect - after that, which fret joins the body just falls into place.

With us, it happens to be 16 - both on our 17" scale w/ concert body, and 20" scale w/ tenor body. Someone else's body shape could give a different number, just like you have two different numbers on the standard Tenors referenced here.

barefootgypsy
07-16-2012, 03:26 AM
There's no actual definition as far as frets to the body. It just means a longer scale than normal - which, of course, gives you a longer neck.

The number of frets to the body should be determined by the shape of the body itself. There's a sweet spot on the soundboard where the bridge should be placed for best effect - after that, which fret joins the body just falls into place.

With us, it happens to be 16 - both on our 17" scale w/ concert body, and 20" scale w/ tenor body. Someone else's body shape could give a different number, just like you have two different numbers on the standard Tenors referenced here.That is SO interesting, thank you for posting this! Always so much to learn about the ukulele..... :)

strumsilly
07-16-2012, 04:02 AM
with 12 frets you usually have little or no fretboard over the body, and some would argue that the top will be free to vibrate more that way. it is also easier for me to fingerpick without the fretboard in the way, if that makes any sense.

southcoastukes
07-16-2012, 05:12 AM
with 12 frets you usually have little or no fretboard over the body, and some would argue that the top will be free to vibrate more that way. it is also easier for me to fingerpick without the fretboard in the way, if that makes any sense.

Yes, it makes sense. Easier to pick and strum as well. It's why Cuatros and the old ukuleles were both built with flush fretboards.

We're going to do that with our new model longneck concerts. How about those 16 frets to the body with no fretboard at all in your way! For those who want the 17th & up, the longneck tenor goes to 20, but with an extended fretboard. First new concerts head north this week - can't wait!

As far as sound being better, we'll see. I'll be pleasantly surprised if it turns out to be true. There are some luthiers like Rick Turner who go to great lengths to try to get some extra vibes that way. And that's what you have to do - go to great lengths.

Two things hinder vibration above the soundhole. One is the neck joint. To really get somewhere with this approach you need to do some unusual things inside in that regard.

Our neck joint is about as bad as possible that way - we build with the old Spanish foot - the neck structure comes down the inside of the soundboard all the way to the soundhole. Don't think there's much chance that area will vibrate. Just the same, that kind of joint produces such a stable structure that in our experience, it makes up for any dampening above the hole by transfering sound better as a whole (to say nothing of just giving an all around more stable platform).

The other problem I see with that idea is the hole itself. It kills vibration in the upper bout just by being a big hole in the vibrating surface above the bridge. It's why when people try to get something out of the upper area of the soundboard, lots of times you'll see them move the soundhole up into the upper bout.

In short, unless someone has done a lot of reengineering, I don't think having less fretboard overhang by itself will help the sound.

janeray1940
07-16-2012, 05:47 AM
I was wondering how many here actually play songs frequently at or beyond that 12th Fret versus the 14th?

I find myself playing the 13th-15th frets a lot. I play soprano, so I've never really seen any advantage to the 14th vs. 12th fret join, but with a tenor it might make a difference.

Even if you aren't playing that high up the neck now, you never know what you'll need in the future. When I started playing, I figured 12 frets was enough - I didn't expect to do much beyond first-position chord strumming. Pretty soon I outgrew my 12-fret uke and got one with 15 frets. Then one with 16 frets. And most recently, one with 19! So, I'd say it's a good thing that you've got those 14 frets to the body even if you aren't using them now.

Bob Bledsoe
07-16-2012, 05:51 AM
I have a number of pieces I play all the way up the neck. I wouldn't want a 12 fret to the body uke because it would limit what I could play. I do like the idea of not having a fretboard in the way for finger picking though. It didn't occur to me that was a problem until it was mentioned here. My fingers are always hitting that fretboard overhang.

PinoyUker
07-16-2012, 06:57 AM
Songs like "Kiss From A Rose" use the 14th fret I think. Havent played it in ahwhile.

OldePhart
07-16-2012, 07:08 AM
Huh, I thought fretspacing was the same on all ukes with the same scale. Did I get that wrong?

No, you got it right. If the spacing between the frets was different the notes would be off - talk about intonation problems! :)

Mouthy1
07-16-2012, 08:34 AM
Actually the 12 frets are spaced the same and the scale length is the same but the bridge is moved further back in the soundboard which lets the sound board have more space to vibrate and it gives it a deeper/richer sound. This is a guitar maker trick. I have several guitars and one is a 12 fret guitar. It has much more low end and depth to the sound despite it being Mohag.

I am selling the 12 fret Boat Paddle and that is what they do is move the bridge back way far on the soundboard. Here is a link to Boat Paddle and you can look at the bridge....wayyyyyy down there!
http://www.boatpaddleukuleles.com/instruments.php

southcoastukes
07-16-2012, 09:13 AM
I had mentioned earlier that there should be a sweet spot on the soundboard that determines where the bridge is placed, and that the frets to the body number is determined by that, the scale, and the shape of the body itself.

Be careful about makers who shift the bridge around with no consideration for the sound. It happens a lot. The boat paddle folks have an excellent reputation, and I'd be very surprised if they'd ever be guilty of this. With the shape of their soundboard, it would seem likely they'd get their best sound with a lower placement.

With conventional soundboards, you most often need to be somewhere around the middle of the lower bout -it can vary a little. What you should be careful about are instruments that give you extra frets by moving the bridge up. It's more common than you'd think, and it almost always has an adverse effect on sound.

In our case, for example, to get what we wanted in the way of frets to the body, we designed a body shape that was a little shorter, but a little wider than a conventional concert. That gave us a standard soundboard area below the soundhole, our optimal bridge placement, and our 16 frets to the body.

Just moving the bridge around on the same body is a cheap way to go - one that compromises sound.

dkcrown
07-16-2012, 10:03 AM
you're correct - dk has just not yet had his morning coffee.

BTW: 16 frets to the body is where you want to be (longnecks!).

Thanks Dirk. Gotta stop having those shots of tequilla for breakfast.:)

Dan Uke
07-16-2012, 10:22 AM
I wouldn't buy a concert or tenor that is attached at 12 frets to the body but that's me.

pulelehua
07-18-2012, 05:29 AM
I had mentioned earlier that there should be a sweet spot on the soundboard that determines where the bridge is placed, and that the frets to the body number is determined by that, the scale, and the shape of the body itself.

Be careful about makers who shift the bridge around with no consideration for the sound. It happens a lot. The boat paddle folks have an excellent reputation, and I'd be very surprised if they'd ever be guilty of this. With the shape of their soundboard, it would seem likely they'd get their best sound with a lower placement.

With conventional soundboards, you most often need to be somewhere around the middle of the lower bout -it can vary a little. What you should be careful about are instruments that give you extra frets by moving the bridge up. It's more common than you'd think, and it almost always has an adverse effect on sound.

In our case, for example, to get what we wanted in the way of frets to the body, we designed a body shape that was a little shorter, but a little wider than a conventional concert. That gave us a standard soundboard area below the soundhole, our optimal bridge placement, and our 16 frets to the body.

Just moving the bridge around on the same body is a cheap way to go - one that compromises sound.

This is what I thought! I asked a luthier and he said no, but if you look at his ukuleles, the 12th fret join puts the bridge at a point where it looks like it should vibrate freely. The 14th moves the bridge up into an area where it looks like there should be less movement.

Thanks. Having that "I'm not crazy after all" feeling.

didgeridoo2
07-18-2012, 07:16 AM
This is what I thought! I asked a luthier and he said no, but if you look at his ukuleles, the 12th fret join puts the bridge at a point where it looks like it should vibrate freely. The 14th moves the bridge up into an area where it looks like there should be less movement.

Thanks. Having that "I'm not crazy after all" feeling.

The William King LS tenor has a larger "Texas size" body to place the bridge in a sweeter spot while joining at 14 frets. It's also 18" scale.

Dan Uke
07-18-2012, 07:47 AM
I currently have a uke being made and I asked the bridge to be moved up to connect the neck at the 14th fret. The luthier and I discussed this and he was somewhat concerned as he was planning to use the same bracing pattern. However, to compensate for the change, the soundhole will be at the upper top to give more surface are to vibrate. I will keep everyone posted.

This would also be a good question in LL to get more input from the luthiers.