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12 vs. 14 frets

M

Member 995

I almost bought a 00 Martin a few years ago. It was an Authentic model that sounded fantastic. Unfortunately, the neck was uncomfortable for me. The combination of a wide neck (1 7/8” nut on that one) and the quicker taper to the heel due to the 12th fret made things not work for my hands. I ended up with an OM18 that works better.

Long way of saying: play the guitar first to make sure it suits you.
 

veinbuster

Member
Messages
721
I have 2 12 fret guitars and like them a lot. Nice compact feel. Sound is as good as a 14 fret.
I don’t play much that need more frets. I can comfortable reach to the 15th on the skinny strings.
 

Jayyj

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
10,118
It is worth noting that there is another 12-fret style body, the Gibson Smeck-style, where the bridge and soundhole are located further back on a 14-fret body. My Bourgeois is like that, and it it the best sounding guitar I have ever played for slide; I don't know how much the changed bridge location has to do with that. It also has a cutaway, a compromise that could be considered for any 12-fretter.
It's the same with the L-1/L-00 body style, the 12 fretters were identical guitars with the bridge moved further into the lower bout. It's hard to assess how much difference it makes on L styles as they change so much throughout the decade and the 12 fretters were much more delicately braced as well as the change in bridge location, but my theory (which is a TGP approved theory where there's no science whatsoever to back it up but I'm still going to confidently present it) is that the soundboard probably does work a bit more efficiently if it's right in the centre of the lower bout making the whole area work like a speaker cone.

That said, since you own a 14 fret L-00 I don't need to tell you the 14 fret ones are still pretty spectacular!
 

jklotz

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,872
I had a Taylor 322ce 12 fret for a long while. I ultimately ended up selling it as I'm just not a hog top guy, but of all the hog top guitars, I did enjoy that one.

I play primarily fingerstyle and do capo up on a lot of songs to get a different timber. A 12 fretter is the only guitar that I really need a cutaway for. If you get one, you may want to try to find one with a cutaway.
 

Tony Done

Member
Messages
7,617
It's the same with the L-1/L-00 body style, the 12 fretters were identical guitars with the bridge moved further into the lower bout. It's hard to assess how much difference it makes on L styles as they change so much throughout the decade and the 12 fretters were much more delicately braced as well as the change in bridge location, but my theory (which is a TGP approved theory where there's no science whatsoever to back it up but I'm still going to confidently present it) is that the soundboard probably does work a bit more efficiently if it's right in the centre of the lower bout making the whole area work like a speaker cone.

That said, since you own a 14 fret L-00 I don't need to tell you the 14 fret ones are still pretty spectacular!

That's good info, thanks.

Re bridge location. I thought the same as you, but when I discussed it a while back with Alan Carruth, a very technically-minded luthier, he argued that it was probably more complicated than that. He used banjos as an example, noting that their bridges are always off-centre, even though it would be very easy to build them with a centred bridge.
 

Jayyj

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
10,118
That's good info, thanks.

Re bridge location. I thought the same as you, but when I discussed it a while back with Alan Carruth, a very technically-minded luthier, he argued that it was probably more complicated than that. He used banjos as an example, noting that their bridges are always off-centre, even though it would be very easy to build them with a centred bridge.
I think that's the thing about us TGP pundits vs actual experts, we think we have it figured out, they know it's more complicated!

I find the best people for this sort of stuff are always those with a background in commercial building because they're the guys that can actually repeat a design multiple times and understand what difference a single change will make. I've built a bunch of guitars over the years but never the same thing twice, so I'm pretty much as in the dark as I ever was...
 

WordMan

Wax Rhapsodic
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
9,851
That's good info, thanks.

Re bridge location. I thought the same as you, but when I discussed it a while back with Alan Carruth, a very technically-minded luthier, he argued that it was probably more complicated than that. He used banjos as an example, noting that their bridges are always off-centre, even though it would be very easy to build them with a centred bridge.
Waitaminnit - let me go get my non-existent PhD in Acoustics.

Okay - I am totally *not* wearing a PhD badge ;)

When I have spoken with real experts, I think centering a bridge is like Not Tempering a Piano - i.e., it is more likely, if centered, to emphasize the principle tap tone note of the top wood and its higher-orders a bit too much. Kinda like a piano tuned to true, mathematical non-tempered A - you really only want to play in that key or related ones.

Putting it in a good 12-fret location is like Equal Temperament - you balance maximizing transfer of vibrations and an even spread of harmonics. A 14-fret location is simply less optimal vs. that “tempered” sweet spot.

I am so, so, so very open to having an expert who just doesn’t play one on TV correct this, but it is what I have mentally processed over the years.
 
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DRS

Member
Messages
12,503
I'm a 12 fret guy all the way. I love the comfort. I play in the classical position and a 14 fret stretches my arm out another 1 1/2 inches. I love the full sound.
I have a Larrivee SD 50 slope shoulder dreadnaught. A fantastic sounding guitar. There are a couple of fingerstyle songs that I need to fret above the 12 fret and that is a problem but 98% of the time, it isn't. I and thinking about getting a 12 fret 00 with a cutaway made. Or Larrivee has a Tomny Emmanuel sig guitar which is a 12 fret L style body with a cutaway.
 

Frozen Rat

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,342
I think it's simple: If you play the upper frets get the 14, if you don't, the 12 is even better. Personally I have a 14-fret 00 because there are quite a few songs I play where I have to get up to the 17th and 18th frets.
 

WordMan

Wax Rhapsodic
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
9,851
12-fret dreads are just heavy artillery, to me. They sound *amazing* - if a good guitar is supposed to “ring like a grand piano” these ring like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir ;)

But it is a niche player to me, as a result. Dirty Harry looks all badass with that .44, but it really is best suited for standing off with punks who may or may not feel lucky.

If I drive a big 12-fretter with any intent, I overpower my own vocals, and it’s like showing up with a Marshall Stack to a garage jam if I were to play with others. I was *this close* to getting an old Roy Smeck for a couple of years - had a couple of fine Haggles that fell through - and ended up with my ‘31 12-fret L-1 instead. Opposite end, and I realized that I liked what 12 frets could do for a Small vs. how it jacks up a Big.

Everyone’s mileage varies - all respect!
 
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