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Thread: Dot positions, why 3, 5, 7 and 10?

  1. #1
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    Default Dot positions, why 3, 5, 7 and 10?

    I’ve been playing a while and reading this forum for a few years but I haven’t seem this question asked before. Dots on the fretboard are handy and I’m glad of them but why are they positioned at the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 10th frets?
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 12-01-2020 at 09:27 AM.

  2. #2
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    if you play open, 3, 5, 7, and 10, you get the pentatonic scale.

  3. #3
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    Hey, let's not forget the dot on the 12th fret. This dot is here when the 12th isn't too obvious (like when a uke has more than 12 frets).

    Let's answer your question with a question:
    If they put dots on every fret, then would you agree that the dots then become useless?

    The dot placements are selected to best help you navigate the fretboard without putting too many dots (which would cause confusion). Sometimes the dot on the 10th is moved to the 9th fret too. So their locations aren't set in stone. In fact, if you've ever played a classical guitar, you'll know that those guitars don't have any dots at all.

    So, we don't want too many dots and we don't want no dots; that leaves the few dots you mentioned. Now, on to their placements. The placement must the spread out so that you can have visual markers for the entire fretboard. Ok, that means no adjacent dots. How about a dot next to the nut at frets 0 and 1? That's kind of a waste isn't it because there's already that big nut there to tell you "this is fret zero", and the "no adjacent dot" rule means fret 1 dot will be redundant.

    So, we've eliminated dots on frets 0 and 1. Now, how about fret 2?

    Now, a lot of ukulele stuff is taken from guitars. Maybe moving the dots around on the uke vs guitar isn't too bad an idea since the uke the tuned gCEA. But anyway, things are what they are.

    So, let's see about putting a dot on fret 2. That dot would mark the notes: A, D, F#, B; looks not too bad from a C-major scale perspective. I.e. you'll be able to find all those nice diatonic notes on all the strings (and F# too, which is a note on the commonly used G-major scale). So, for the ukulele, I'd say a dot on fret #2 isn't a bad idea since we play a lot of C- and G-major songs.

    But how about moving that fret #2 dot to fret #3? This has an immediate benefit of making fret #3 easy to identify, which automatically makes fret #2 easy to identify (remember our no-adjacent-dots rule). So, you get all the benefits of a dot on #2. Because of the no-adjacent-dots and no-dots-everywhere rules, to further we can push up the dots on the fretboard, the better (because we'll end up with less dots).

    There you go. Let's put one on fret #3.

    You can use similar argument for the rest of the dots. Except for the 12th dot. The 12 is an octave and it is a central reference mark. So, when you get close to the 12th, you can work your way down the fretboard. Therefore, many guitars put a dot on the 9th (which is the 3rd fret down from the 12th).

    Oh, BTW, I just made the whole thing above up. But it makes sense to me

    I'd like to heard others views.

  4. #4
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    I'm pretty sure it's mostly tradition, with modern luthiers following what earlier luthiers did. And those weren't always consistent with each other, so you have different traditions. Specific explanations for the historical choices are mostly made up.

    5th 7th and 12th are natural harmonics. Yummy!
    3rd & 9th/10th are so there aren't such large gaps between the others.
    9th vs. 10th is a discussion in and of itself See 9th or 10th fret position marker? (ukuleleunderground.com)

    Of the three ukes I have in reach, all have 5,7,12. One has 3. Two have 10. One has 9. One has 15.

  5. #5
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    In the beginning, people put them wherever they wanted. I read that the dots on a banjo were there due to pentatonic scales on each string (@3,5,7,10,12,15,17..., agreed upon by the guild of banjo makers in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Mandolin makers followed suit, but Guitar makers didn't get the memo. Electric basses came much later in the game and copied guitars. Ukes probably followed mandolins and banjos from the get-go.
    Last edited by Mike $; 12-01-2020 at 01:37 PM.

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    Early Martins were 5, 7 & 9. That was odd.

    28.jpg
    John

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    I have tenors with dots at the 3rd and some without. I am indifferent to having one there.

    Almost all have 5, 7, 10 & 12. Some have dots at the 15th.

    My Kamaka HF-3 tenor had front markers at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th & 15th, but a side marker only at the 7th.

    I like my tenors that have no front markers, only side markers. I prefer double dots at the 7th and 12th which makes for fast recognition.
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  8. #8
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    My thanks to all that have responded to my original post.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike $ View Post
    In the beginning, people put them wherever they wanted. I read that the dots on a banjo were there due to pentatonic scales on each string (@3,5,7,10,12,15,17..., agreed upon by the guild of banjo makers in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Mandolin makers followed suit, but Guitar makers didn't get the memo. Electric basses came much later in the game and copied guitars. Ukes probably followed mandolins and banjos from the get-go.
    That seems like a logical explanation to me. Dots were needed and the pentatonic scale was an existing functional template that provided an easy standard for all to follow.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Graham Greenbag View Post
    My thanks to all that have responded to my original post.



    That seems like a logical explanation to me. Dots were needed and the pentatonic scale was an existing functional template that provided an easy standard for all to follow.
    I have always felt that the pentatonic dots were also a homage to the African banjo and music that the slaves brought with them and which became the cornerstone of American music.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ukecaster View Post
    Early Martins were 5, 7 & 9. That was odd.

    28.jpg
    My Martin guitars have dots at 5,7,9,12,15 so maybe there's a correlation there. I would prefer my ukes have dots at 9 instead of 10 probably because I'm used to that on guitar.

    Also, I don't care about fretboard markers as I only use the side markers.

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