The Wee Lowden Fanned Fret vs. Standard
Currently in the shop, we have two gorgeous Redwood/Rosewood Wee Lowden guitars. One has a fanned-fret while the other has a standard fret. So what is a fanned-fret and what is the tonal difference between these two guitars?
Fanned-fret guitars are characterized by a multi-scale fingerboard and “offset” frets that extend from the neck of the guitar at an angle (much like the strings on a grand piano.) This is different from the standard horizontal arrangement on other guitars. Players of this style of guitar claim to have more comfort, better ergonomics, better intonation, and better control of the tension of the strings across the fretboard.
The idea of fanned frets is, in essence, to combine the baritone or bass guitar with the regular guitar in one instrument. Fanned-frets strengthen the tone of the lower strings by giving them a longer speaking string length. They also help the high string to be tuned higher than is possible on a conventional guitar. By giving it a shorter vibrating length, it enables a higher-tuned string that won’t break under the tension.
So how does the sound compare?
“When I first began to design our multiple scale (fan fret) guitars, logically I thought it would increase the depth of bass response – similar to the way a grand piano does due partly to the longer string length. Some folk had mentioned to me that the tuning would be more accurate. I had trouble seeing how that could be and when the time came to test it out ….. the tuning accuracy was similar to a normal single scale guitar but the bass response was indeed deeper. Then of course logically I began to think a Wee Lowden with the smaller soundbox (already voiced for extra bass) would be even better as a fan fret and the bass would be even deeper than our single scale Wee Lowden. It has turned out to be true – not a day and night difference – more subtle but definitely there!” – George Lowden, Luthier