Fanning the frets on guitars is nothing new; in fact, this fret design was used on stringed instruments like the opharion as early as Renaissance times. Now, the multiscale fretboard is gaining popularity again, as artists look for improved ways to get the best tone and tension with each string.
Musicians consistently come to Strictly 7 Guitars looking for better tone, string tension, playability and ergonomics. By partnering with artists to design customized instruments that meet those needs, I’ve realized just what a difference fanned frets can make.
Think of banging a giant gong versus tapping tiny finger cymbals together. With most instruments, lower notes come from larger, longer sources. Deep bass tones come from giant tubas, while smaller trumpets hit shriller pitches. Likewise, longer strings carry the low notes on harps and pianos, with shorter strings for high-pitched notes.
Traditional guitars, on the contrary, try to jam a range of pitches from all 6, 7, 8 or 9 strings onto a single scale length. That’s why certain frets may fall out of tune, higher pitches may sound brittle, and lower notes may sound floppy. The scale length may be right for one of the strings, but it’s typically not long enough for low, thick strings, nor short enough for high, thin ones.
A multiscale design fixes that. Instead of lining up parallel, frets are fanned out at an angle, with angled nuts and bridges as well. This simultaneously makes bass scales longer and treble scales shorter, giving each string its own appropriate length. On S7G’s Cobra S7 7-String Multi-scale Guitar, for example, the scales range from 25.5” to 27.5” for benefits across the whole fingerboard.
What difference does multiscale make? Here are the two biggest benefits.
Tone goes both ways
The design strengthens the tone of lower strings by elongating the scale length. For instance, the reason bass guitars measure longer than standard guitars is because thick bass strings need enough length to sustain low vibrations. If you put a bass string on a guitar, it simply doesn’t have enough room to vibrate as long — unless you increase scale length.
Meanwhile, on the treble side of the guitar, this design has the opposite effect. These strings get shorter vibrating length, which makes high notes sound brighter and clearer. They can even be tuned up higher without snapping from the tension.
When these two sides combine, the multiscale guitar can produce a range of even tones by giving each string right scale length.
Comfortable to play
Pretend you’re holding a guitar. Without bending your wrist, slide your fretting hand up and down the neck. Notice how your arm naturally makes an arc like a windshield wiper blade? The fanned fret design mimics that ergonomic motion, which naturally makes a multiscale guitar more comfortable to play.
Custom-built multiscale guitars like ours are specially fanned to match an artist’s natural movements. The neutral position for most guitarists at rest lies somewhere between the 7th and 9th frets, which is where we put the “straight fret” — the one that actually runs perpendicular to the neck.
Instead of having to sharply bend your wrist to position your fingers around traditional frets, fanned frets are ergonomically positioned around your fingers. As a result, the learning to play one is a breeze.
You might be ready to play a multiscale it you want to:
- Drop-tune low strings or tune high strings higher
- Sustain fuller tones on lower strings
- Achieve brighter tones on upper strings
- Improve intonation across the whole string set
- Even up string tension for more even playing
- Play more comfortably
- Hit a wider range of low and high pitches
- Just keep rocking
What else do you want to know about multiscale guitars? Drop me a line here with your questions, and check out to see what difference it can make for you.