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Thread: 12 fret vs 14 fret.. which one do you prefer? Why?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
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    Question 12 fret vs 14 fret.. which one do you prefer? Why?

    I came across a mention of preference for a 12 fret neck (the next joins the body at the 12th fret) vs a 14 fret neck.
    Which fret the neck joins the body from what I can tell impacts where the bridge is located for a given body size and how easily the higher frets are accessible.
    I have been wondering what are the trade offs people have in their minds and why the preference of one over the other? I can see why some one would prefer 14 fret as it makes higher frets more accessible without a cutaway. Also, most super tenor/concert/sopranos have to make the neck join the body at a higher fret to keep the location of the bridge at the sweet spot for a given body and bracing design...
    Thoughts?

  2. #2
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    Grand Rapids, MI
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    On guitars I prefer 12-frets and nothing larger than a 000

    On ukes, I have no strong preference
    Concert: Lanikai LU-21C (Southcoast MU)
    Soprano: Kala KA-PWS (Southcoast Machete)
    Baritone "Rennaissance Guitar": Kala KA-SBG (C-Linear with Worth BL-LGs currently.)
    Tenor: Kala ATP-CTG (Southcoast LMU-NW
    Tenor "Low G': Kala KA-FMTG (Southcoast LML-NW
    Tenor: Kala SRT-CTG-E (Southcoast LMU-NW
    Baritone "Nui": Pono NS-10 (Worth B-B)

  3. #3
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    I'm good with a "12-fret joiner", as I hardly ever have occasion to play past the 7th fret (I pretty much use the ukulele to accompany myself singing), and it just seems simpler and more compact that way.

  4. #4
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    Nov 2011
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    Ma., Ga., Fl.
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    !2 frets for strumming and 14 frets for fingerpicking.

  5. #5
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    I'm a strummer/would be singer. A twelve fret soprano is all I need. (So why do I have two dozen of 'em?!) I sometimes venture as high as the tenth fret, but beyond that is terra incognita. If access is needed to the dusty end of the fret board, a strong argument can be made for joining at the fourteenth fret, or even higher. This requires consideration of how it will affect the position of the bridge, but that is easily arranged at the design stage.

    John Colter

  6. #6
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    I've rarely found a song that sent me past the 12th fret, so I'm fine with it for playability. For me, it's more aesthetics. A concert with less than 14 frets to the body can sometimes look a little stubby to me.
    Glenn

  7. #7
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    I have a tenor with 12 frets to the body and a tenor with 15. For my playstyle I rarely venture far enough up the neck for this to make a difference with regards to room at the higher frets, though I can attest that the 15th fret join allows easy access to several additional frets.

    If I focus on the differences, it is fairly obvious that the ukulele with 15 frets to the body feels larger. My left arm is angled noticeably farther out from my body when fingering open position chords on the 15 fret join.

    In everyday practice, if I'm not consciously focusing on the differences, it is a complete nonfactor. I never really notice the difference, and the experience is so familiar that I can switch between them without any appreciable impediment.
    Last edited by MopMan; 12-08-2019 at 08:39 AM.

  8. #8

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    I have a 12 fret tenor. Lack of frets was what I liked the least about it when I first considered purchasing it. But it plays beautifully and has a unique and wonderful sound. I think the neck was intentionally kept short to enhance the sound, but I'm not sure.

    I think the new KoAloha tenors reduced the number of frets to the neck from 15 to 14 to place the bridge in a way to optimize their sound.

    I don't know why else makers would use fewer frets, except to improve sound. Several others have mentioned not needing more than 12 frets, but I wonder if someone could explain why 12 frets would ever be preferable to 14.

  9. #9
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    I'm good with 12 frets: more room to vary the right hand position for color changes and 12 frets joiners seem to be a wee bit more responsive to vibrato. Besides, it's really blinky beyond the 12th fret, so I rarely use any notes beyond the 15th, albeit I don't mind having a 19th fret to mark out the high E harmonic.

  10. #10
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    I too prefer twelve frets to the body and I also suspect that fourteen is more about show and marketing than anything much else (bigger is almost always perceived as better).

    My own playing, which is typically on a Soprano, covers both strumming to sing along to and finger picking of tunes. Most but not quite all of what I need is covered by the first seven frets and after that one increasingly runs up against the limitations of what a plucked instrument can do with a short string. Obviously string length remaining at any particular number fret varies with scale length and larger instrument body’s can make best use of what little input a short string can give. Build quality is also a factor, in terms of extracting everything possible from a general design. However, as above by an expert player and teacher, there’s a point at which things get plinky and hence there’s little merit in having an excessive number of frets because such designs can but struggle to produce the tone, pitch and volume wanted.

    The twelve fret to neck gives a more compact size (which I find helpful), and it adheres to the traditional design which doubtless settled on twelve frets to the neck for reasons that still have merit today. The fourteen fret to neck design provides additional fretboard space to allow easier access to notes that are virtually never used by ‘normal’ players - so basically it’s salesman’s gimmick and ‘just in-case’ solution to a problem that ‘normal’ folk don’t actually have.
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 12-07-2019 at 09:56 PM.

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