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View Full Version : Side Fret Markers; a Newfangled Invention?



Booksniffer
08-15-2014, 09:40 AM
I just so happens that all 4 of my ukuleles (a Brueko longneck soprano, a flat Brueko soprano, a Fluke and a Mainland concert) came without side fret markers.

As I am still very much at the beginning of my uke-learning journey and am trying hard not to look at the front of the fingerboard while I play, I do find them useful.
I have added them to 3 out of 4 of my ukuleles so far (using marker pen and nailpolish; it does come off with a little effort, nothing irreversible) so in itself it is not a problem.


It made me wonder, though; did the early ukuleles have side fret markers?

There are plenty of pictures to be found of vintage ukuleles, but none of them that I could find showed the side in enough detail.


Does anyone know if side fret markers are a recent addition?

hoosierhiver
08-15-2014, 09:42 AM
I don't think I've ever seen a vintage uke with side markers on it.

Booksniffer
08-15-2014, 11:16 AM
I don't think I've ever seen a vintage uke with side markers on it.

Thank you!

I wonder who started it?

kypfer
08-15-2014, 11:20 AM
The only "vintage" uke I've got is an old "Skylark", probably from the '60's or '70's, that's got no fret-markings at all (economy model)!

However, in the UK there's an importer that brands his instruments Vintage ... I've got one of his ukuleles with side markers but no "front" markers ... but you probably didn't want to know that ;)

Down Up Dick
08-15-2014, 11:30 AM
Whenever they were Started, and whoever started them, I like 'em. They're a lot more useful than the front ones. :cheers:

uke4ia
08-15-2014, 11:35 AM
My '50s-vintage Martin soprano has side fret markers. My '20s-vintage one does not.

janeray1940
08-15-2014, 11:38 AM
Whenever they were Started, and whoever started them, I like 'em. They're a lot more useful than the front ones. :cheers:

I've heard others say that before too. Me, I don't even notice the side ones - and the only one of the front ones I pay much attention to is the one at the 12th, since I mostly alternate between two ukes with different joins (12 vs. 14 fret) and I tend to get a bit confoozed as to which one I'm playing :)

I've had 1920s ukes and contemporary ukes, and - nothing in between. The 1920s ukes didn't have the side dots; the contemporary ones all do, to varying degrees. My 1950s guitar doesn't have them.

I got curious and googled "fret dots history (http://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#newwindow=1&q=fret+dots+history)" and while I didn't get an answer, I did learn that players of all sorts of stringed instruments have similar questions about the history and placement of the dots - not just uke players.

Dan Uke
08-15-2014, 11:51 AM
I rely mostly on the side fret dots too unless, I'm slouched on a comfortable chair, then the fretboard (FB) markers are easier to see.

To digress a little, classical guitars usually don't have fret dots on the FB while electric guitars do. Why is that?

coolkayaker1
08-15-2014, 12:32 PM
I rely on the front fret markers, largely because I play with my heels up on the desk and the ukulele fretboard tipped up toward me, being the lazy dog that I am.

(jR40, I'm on chapter five. I sure hope something happens soon. Lol).

actadh
08-15-2014, 12:41 PM
I have four vintage ukuleles - all shown in my signature. A 60's Kay , an indeterminate camp uke, a 50's Harmony, and a 40's Silvertone, None have side fret markers.

Icelander53
08-15-2014, 01:59 PM
Whenever they were Started, and whoever started them, I like 'em. They're a lot more useful than the front ones. :cheers:

I agree and I wish they would make them larger and brighter than they usually do.

Dan Uke
08-15-2014, 02:29 PM
I agree and I wish they would make them larger and brighter than they usually do.

Yup....Yup

itsme
08-15-2014, 02:44 PM
I've been known to put a couple side dots on a classical guitar before. :o Whiteout/Liquid Paper words well and comes off easily without damage.

I'm not one who constantly watches my left hand, since I'm usually following sheets in front of me. But occasionally there's a difficult jump on the fretboard, and a quick glance to the left and seeing a side dot can help me land on the right fret.

UkerDanno
08-15-2014, 03:09 PM
I mean...who looks at fret markers while playing anyway?!?!?! :confused::anyone:

CeeJay
08-15-2014, 03:31 PM
I mean...who looks at fret markers while playing anyway?!?!?! :confused::anyone:

Me...I do...not all the time or staring or anything rude ...but I do like a ready reference for where I am .......

CeeJay

Nickie
08-15-2014, 03:39 PM
I care about side fret markers more than front ones. I really like it when the 12th fret is specially marked (e.g. double dotted), and I wish they would move both front and side 15th fret markers to the 17th fret, for consistency with the lower neck 5th fret marker and greater visual distinction in spacing. As the frets get closer together, the 3-fret spacing and 2-fret spacing don't look all that different. For the same reason, I don't like 3rd fret markers--just visual clutter reducing the usefulness of the other markers.

Me too, I can't see the front markers. I don't have side markers. I wonder if someone can put them in for me....I didn't need them, of course, when I only played in the 1st position, but playing up the neck, I do!

KnowsPickin
08-15-2014, 03:40 PM
White out works pretty well to apply side markers to frets. I used it when I started playing stand up bass. I put a light mark at the 5th, 7th and 12th fret points on the fingerboard, just as a quick reference on which to base everything else. Worked nicely and came off with a fingernail.

Ukuleleblues
08-15-2014, 03:48 PM
White out works pretty well to apply side markers to frets. I used it when I started playing stand up bass. I put a light mark at the 5th, 7th and 12th fret points on the fingerboard, just as a quick reference on which to base everything else. Worked nicely and came off with a fingernail.
I use a white out pen, no damage.

I just upgraded my old uke I perform with all the time with "real" side dots. I"ll post a pic. Looks great. (new tuners too)

janeray1940
08-15-2014, 03:50 PM
(jR40, I'm on chapter five. I sure hope something happens soon. Lol).

Well, if nothing happens soon... at least it's fairly short :) Mine's "in transit" from the library. Probably means I'll see it Monday.

brUKEman
08-15-2014, 04:06 PM
My way is to buy 1/4" round (dots) from Staples. They are removable and stick pretty well without leaving a residue. They occasionally fall off but I keep some in the case for an emergency. I put them on 5, 7, 10, & 12. They come in colors so you can put whichever color you want on any fret.

Teek
08-15-2014, 05:03 PM
My 1940s Martin soprano has side dots. And 17 frets, yeehaw!

Yknot
08-15-2014, 05:04 PM
I have 3 c. 1920's banjo ukes, and none of these originally had side dot markers. I have added side dots to a couple of these instruments in which the original fingerboard was in need of replacement. I have also added side dots to the new ukes I am building, primarily because I have sold several to guitar players, and they miss those dots. In fact, I found that was the first thing they asked for prior to my routinely fitting the markers. Consequently, I now apply dots as a matter of course. What I use is the 1/16th inch plastic rods available from Stewart-MacDonald, which fit well within the c. 3/16" thick fingerboards. I measure, mark with pencil and then with an awl point, the location of the dot. I then drill with a 1/16" bit, install the rod with a touch of AC glue, and saw off when dry. A touch-up with fine sandpaper finishes the job.

brimmer
08-15-2014, 05:17 PM
I like to have one side fret marker at the 7th fret. If my uke doesn't have one, I put on a fret mark sticker. The company that makes the ones I use is called Rosette. Of course you could use white out or some other kind of sticker, but the ones made by Rosette look better, and once you stick them, they stay stuck - until you want to remove them.

Down Up Dick
08-15-2014, 05:37 PM
I have made dots for lots of stuff. Here's how: I use a hole punch and punch holes into something like address label paper. Then I take the "holes" out of the punch, split 'em apart, and I have sticky backed dots. They stick a pretty long time. I've had a couple on my old pineapple uke for quite a while.

Yknot
08-15-2014, 08:55 PM
Fret markers are just bling for anyone who does not know the notes on the fretboard, they are only useful if you know what you are looking for in terms of making chords or finding notes.

Having built a respectable number of classical guitars, I can find a lot of agreement with Bill. However, when I worked with and adjusted to the musicians and my ukuleles, side markers seemed to be a matter of import to them (likely, mostly guitar players). Consequently, for relatively small cost, I've added them to all my ukuleles. These side-dot ukes have always found a home. Even if they're played so the fretboard makers are only visible. If the players are more comfortable with the side dots, I'll put them in. Not a big deal.

Dan Uke
08-15-2014, 09:07 PM
Fret markers are just bling for anyone who does not know the notes on the fretboard, they are only useful if you know what you are looking for in terms of making chords or finding notes.

then some might need a 5 fret uke since the rest are bling...a 2 string uke would be perfect!!

kypfer
08-15-2014, 09:48 PM
Fret markers are just bling for anyone who does not know the notes on the fretboard, they are only useful if you know what you are looking for in terms of making chords or finding notes.


then some might need a 5 fret uke since the rest are bling...a 2 string uke would be perfect!!

:)

Indeed, lets go the whole hog and do away with frets completely. A length of string tied to a broom-handle stood on a wooden box, anyone? ;)

Seriously, though, anything that makes life easier so's I can play music without too much struggle is good for me!

All power to those who can manage without or never used fret markers, I envy you ... I'll bet if you play keyboard all the keys are the same colour, your harp strings are all the same colour ... and you've done away with that annoying decal on the gearstick in your car that tells you which ratio is where ;) ... for the rest of us mere mortals, give us markers :)

thenewb
08-15-2014, 09:59 PM
Why you guys need fret markers? All you need to know is open C, F and G7 chords! In fact all you need is the first three frets ;)

Fret markers are great. I get lost below 5th fret. Really helpful especially learning a new song. If there isn't one I'll have them installed with the help of a local luthier.

ukantor
08-15-2014, 10:41 PM
Hi Newb,

Don't you mean you get lost ABOVE the fifth fret? Lower notes are lower on the fretboard, higher notes are higher...........

Some time back, I realised I never play any higher than the tenth fret. So the next ukulele I made had only ten frets. It has side marks at the fifth and seventh, and the neck joins the body where the twelfth fret would have been.

Works for me, but now I have a yen for one with a longer body and a neck that joins at the tenth. I'll make it, one of these days, if I live long enough.

John Colter

Booksniffer
08-15-2014, 10:43 PM
Interesting!
So, with one exception, it seems like they are a pretty recent invention.

As I venture further up the neck, I do find them useful - not essential, but it does shorten the learning curve.

This morning as I woke up I found myself thinking about those poor violin players; no side fret markers, no front fret markers, no way to look at their frets while playing... Heck, not even frets!
Us ukulele players have it relatively easy.... ;)

Ukuleleblues
08-16-2014, 01:38 AM
Here is what I use to add markers. Super easy. drill 1/16 hole 1/8 deep, drop of glue, cut, scrape, polish.

http://www.stewmac.com/Materials_and_Supplies/Binding_and_Trim/Side_Dots/Plastic_Side_Dot_Material.html

thenewb
08-16-2014, 04:33 AM
Hi Newb,

Don't you mean you get lost ABOVE the fifth fret? Lower notes are lower on the fretboard, higher notes are higher...........

Some time back, I realised I never play any higher than the tenth fret. So the next ukulele I made had only ten frets. It has side marks at the fifth and seventh, and the neck joins the body where the twelfth fret would have been.

Works for me, but now I have a yen for one with a longer body and a neck that joins at the tenth. I'll make it, one of these days, if I live long enough.

John Colter

Yeah you are right, the higher notes on the fretboard.

That's one song that requires a note on a 19th fret, 1st string. Hehe, thankfully my tenor has 19 frets. Most of the time the songs I played uses only the 12 frets.

janeray1940
08-16-2014, 04:57 AM
That's one song that requires a note on a 19th fret, 1st string. Hehe, thankfully my tenor has 19 frets. Most of the time the songs I played uses only the 12 frets.

That's not, by any chance, a song out of the John King classical book? A few of the songs have notes on the 19th fret, but the expectation is to play a harmonic at the 12th fret rather than to actually fret the 19th. Very few ukes outside of tenor sizes even have 19 frets - I play mostly concert size, and these typically have 15 to 18.

thenewb
08-16-2014, 05:15 AM
Yes it was John King's classical book. I think that song was Fur Elise, it too fast for me to get the tempo right. I remember it was a lot easier on the piano.


That's not, by any chance, a song out of the John King classical book? A few of the songs have notes on the 19th fret, but the expectation is to play a harmonic at the 12th fret rather than to actually fret the 19th. Very few ukes outside of tenor sizes even have 19 frets - I play mostly concert size, and these typically have 15 to 18.

Ukejenny
08-16-2014, 05:39 AM
I have one ukulele with some side fret markers and the other two do not have them. I miss them. I've thought about getting some on Ebay - they have some different colors. These are the same sellers of the rosette stickers, and the inlay stickers.

http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2050601.m570.l1313.TR0.TRC0.H0.Xside+fret +sticker&_nkw=side+fret+stickers&_sacat=0

janeray1940
08-16-2014, 05:46 AM
Yes it was John King's classical book. I think that song was Fur Elise, it too fast for me to get the tempo right. I remember it was a lot easier on the piano.

It's a challenging piece on uke! I've been working through the songs in that book in order of appearance for 5 years now - not sure if they are indexed in order of difficulty, but I found Fur Elise really hard. I'll get there someday :)

Dan Uke
08-16-2014, 07:18 AM
I have one ukulele with some side fret markers and the other two do not have them. I miss them. I've thought about getting some on Ebay - they have some different colors. These are the same sellers of the rosette stickers, and the inlay stickers.

http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2050601.m570.l1313.TR0.TRC0.H0.Xside+fret +sticker&_nkw=side+fret+stickers&_sacat=0

I should have bought some, instead I took my Kamaka back to the factory to have it drilled in. :p

Steveperrywriter
08-16-2014, 08:02 AM
When I started playing a classical guitar, back in the day, there weren't any fret makers on it, top or sides. The guy who eventually made me one allowed as how he'd put one at the seventh fret if I wanted, so I had him do so, even though I felt as if I were cheating when I looked at it ...

I have one uke, twelve to the body, no markers; and two that are fourteen to the body with markers top and sides. I'm trying to learn not to look at the fretboard, but I'm not there yet, so the dots help.

On the unmarked one, I put a little sticker on the side at seven, another at fifteen.

If you are looking for quick and easy, go to the drugstore and get a packet of fingernail stickers. They work fine, stay on unless you peel 'em off, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

So I cheat ...

It doesn't bother me any more. I'll take any help I can get ...

Ukejenny
08-16-2014, 09:55 AM
If you are looking for quick and easy, go to the drugstore and get a packet of fingernail stickers. They work fine, stay on unless you peel 'em off, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

So I cheat ...

It doesn't bother me any more. I'll take any help I can get ...

Fingernail stickers - great idea!

brimmer
08-16-2014, 10:37 AM
Lots of great fret dot hacks have been suggested, including some permanent solutions. If anyone is interested, the Rosette brand stickers are cheap, under $10 at everyone's favorite online superstore. If applied correctly they almost look like drilled-in side dots.

Jools1050
08-16-2014, 12:31 PM
I drilled a slight indentation in one of my old classical guitars and glued fake diamonds in there at the relevant frets. Look great when the light catches them, will do my ukes when I get time.

geetee
08-16-2014, 12:39 PM
I had a vintage 1920's Weissenborn soprano ukulele which had fret markers on the fifth and seventh frets. They were not round dots, but inlaid lines that extended into the side of the fret board. They were easily visible from the top or side. Newfangled? I don't think so.

I used it as a trade with MGM who posted a brief sound sample on his YouTube channel.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7I8lqDObvqs

You can also see an example on Tony Francis Instruments site. http://tonyfrancisinstruments.blogspot.co.nz/2013/08/weissenborn-ukulele-repair-pt-4.html
Scroll to bottom of page for close-up of markers.

kypfer
08-16-2014, 09:47 PM
They were not round dots, but inlaid lines that extended into the side of the fret board. They were easily visible from the top or side.

NEAT ... now that, I like :cool: :drool:

BlueSockMonkey
08-17-2014, 03:55 AM
My 1940s Martin soprano has side dots. And 17 frets, yeehaw!

My 1942 Martin Style 0 does not have side fret markers. Since I'm one of those people who sometimes gets lost higher than the fifth fret, I miss 'em when they aren't there.

strumsilly
08-17-2014, 04:36 AM
I like them and miss them when they aren't there. Favilla baritones have them on 3,5,7,9,12,and 15. a little overkill but better than not there.

Ukuleleblues
08-17-2014, 02:01 PM
I added these to my old harmony I play all the time, upgraded the tuners too,

https://picasaweb.google.com/114208724970218454913/Dots?authuser=0&feat=directlink