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Why a 12 Fret (to the body) Guitar? Condenser Microphones
Old 23rd March 2010
Lives for gear
Why a 12 Fret (to the body) Guitar?

I recently test drove a number of new guitars at Spruce Tree, Madison Music and Dave's Guitar Shop in Wisconsin. At Spruce Tree, I explained that I liked the sparkle of a Martin but felt that they lacked warmth, and that some smaller luthiers, like Froggy Bottom, and some Gibsons sounded better to me. She suggested I try some guitars that are 12 frets to the body.

First a bit of history: until the mid-30s, all guitars were 12 frets and most had horizontal tuners with slotted headstocks (like classical guitars). As the search for more acoustic penetration went on, first Martin then Gibson and others switched almost all guitars except the small "parlor" guitars to 14 or even 15 frets. This changes where the bridge sits on the top and greatly changes the bracing, resulting in more treble and bass, a more "forward" sound if you will. All of the iconic, expensive guitars you've heard of: the Gibson Dove and SJ200, the Martin D28, D35 and D45, the 000-45, the OM-45 are all 14 fret guitars. You can now buy "vintage reissue" guitars like the OM-45V that are 12 fret guitars.

OK, so what's special about 12 frets? Well, the change in bracing and positioning of the bridge results in a guitar that, in general, feels smoother and richer. It loses some of the treble bite, and the bass thump that a great dreadnought will have (or even that a medium sized guitar has) but gains a midrange that's very attractive to my ears. They seem to play a little easier, too, although I suspect that's just an illusion. They seem to be more resonant, ringing loudly without becoming compressed. My absolute favorite was a Bourgeois with a Koa back and cedar top. It was also $5k, exceeded only by the Froggy Bottom that I enjoyed at $6k, too much for a toy I didn't need. I found a few smaller bodied Washburn and Martin guitars at Uncle Ike's, but they had HUGE necks (being vintage reissues), too much for me. Finally I found happiness at Dave's, a used Larrivee OM-10 in mint condition: rosewood back, spruce top, ebony tuners, snowflake inlays: perfect.

So, if you're tired of that same old Martin sound, try a 12 fret guitar and see if the differences appeal to you...
Old 25th March 2010
Lives for gear
Unclenny's Avatar
Originally Posted by drbob1 View Post
So, if you're tired of that same old Martin sound, try a 12 fret guitar and see if the differences appeal to you...
I love the way they play and sound........lots of clear resonance from such a small package

As a songwriting guitar this 12 fret Stella, circa 1966, is my favorite......serious old-timey tone.
Old 8th April 2010
Gear Maniac

I used to own a Martin HD28, which I thought would be my holy grail guitar. Unfortunately, it was actually a bit too loud for my singer-songwriter material. I also felt that the rosewood back and sides imparted a somewhat overly bright, almost metallic tone to the B and high E strings.

That is when I came across a Martin OOO15-s, an all mahogany (solid wood) 12 fret guitar that I fell in love with. In fact, my wife, who was pregnant at the time with our first child, said that every time I picked up that guitar to play at the shop, our son jumped in her womb. Needless to say, I bought the guitar.

Now the HD28 was about $1900 at that time, and the OOO15-s was only about $500. Over a period of several months I found myself gravitating more and more to the smaller, less expensive guitar. The tones, due to the mahogany (even the top) and the 12 fret configuration, were woody and warm to my ears. The guitar was not too loud and perfect for my style of music. It also has a wider fret board for greater ease in fingerstyle.

I ultimately sold the HD28 and bought my recording gear.

Another happy 12 fret guitar owner!
Old 16th April 2010
Lives for gear
Ty Ford's Avatar

Too loud for singer-songwriter stuff?

Maybe you're overplaying. I see/hear this in our local group; Welcome to The Baltimore Songwriters Association (BSA)

During some of our song circles, the folks who don't play out much have a tendency to get a bit excited when presenting their new song and play too loud. (it's the corollary to playing too fast)

Once you realize that you're losing it either way, you can back off. Life gets instantly better and so do your performances.

I have a D 28s Martin (12 fret) and like it a lot. I bought it new @ 1969. It's more balanced across the strings than a standard D28, but it can be plenty loud. I loaned it to a guy one night at an open mic and he overplayed the crap out of it. I have never heard that guitar sound THAT bad before.

Here it is with the K&K Pure Western Mini pickups.


Ty Ford

Last edited by Ty Ford; 22nd July 2012 at 05:28 PM.. Reason: repair link
Old 16th April 2010
Deleted User
had a D28S (slot head 2" nut width and 12th fret joint) it was BU far the most even tempered guitar I have ever played.. wonderful for finger style. same harmonic content and volume all over the neck

...but since I don't play fingerstyle I sold it and bought a Marshall 1/2 stack, a Les Paul and a Seagull cutaway with Baggs blender...with the money.. I am using all of them very much .. and the D28S is as happy as any piece of wood in the hands of a very good finger style player.

happy ever after...
Old 23rd May 2010
Gear Nut

I have a 12 fret Larrivee Pete Anderson OM. I've noticed that compared to two D-28 size guitars of mine, it is less prone to feedback when amplified, so I can actually play it louder in a band than I can my larger acoustics. That's a plus for me, as well as the sweet, balanced sound it produced unamplified.
Old 29th May 2010
Lives for gear
guitarmax_99's Avatar

I like the sound of 12 some 12 fret models, but I'm used to playing 14 fret models. The ability to access the 12th fret (for harmonics and octives) is easier for me on 14 fret models. Oh yeah, the other thing I don't like about most 12 fret models is the choice of many builders to go with slotted headstocks on those guitars (or so it seems). I find them cumbersome to change strings on (even if they do provide more tension on the nut - big deal!). But yeah, I've played some really nice, warm sounding 12 fret models.
Old 29th May 2010
Lives for gear
rkopald's Avatar
Originally Posted by rogerbrain View Post
had a D28S (slot head 2" nut width and 12th fret joint) it was BY far the most even tempered guitar I have ever played.. wonderful for finger style. same harmonic content and volume all over the neck
Interesting...So a 12 fret acoustic has better intonation than a 14 fret jobby?
Is that a function of the scale length?
I've been playing guitar for damn near close to 30 years, and there's still so much about the engineering/construction side of things I don't really know about.
I do know that I love the wide open, woody and almost piano like sound I can achieve with my dreadnought. When I'm not strangling the neck like it's tonights dinner of course..

[Edit:Holy hell does that new Santa Cruz 1929 mahogany model sound like butter! I want one.]
Old 9th September 2010
Gear Maniac
ArnieInTheSky's Avatar

Joining the guitar at the 12th fret increases the amount of resonance and heighten bass response . It achieves this the same way classicals do. As you move the neck joint further into the guitar, you push the bridge back. Now the stress of the strings is away from the center of the guitar, the most resonant part of the top. This allows more freedom of movement for the top, increasing resonance.
Old 23rd November 2010
Here for the gear

from the horse's mouth

YouTube - [MUSIK MESSE 2010] Taylor Guitars - 12 Fret
Old 4th December 2010
Gear Addict

Why a 12 Fret (to the body) Guitar?

Old 9th December 2010
Lives for gear
Unclenny's Avatar
Originally Posted by ArnieInTheSky View Post
Joining the guitar at the 12th fret increases the amount of resonance and heighten bass response .
After playing that 12 fret Stella for a few years I recently came into a 1933 Kalamazoo....14 frets.

Now, this Kazoo has some serious tone and I can't get enough of it, but after reading that comment about 12 fret tone I pulled Stella back out and there really is something to be said for it.
Old 18th December 2010
Here for the gear
Geo Adams's Avatar

the 12 fret to body 000 model (Martin) with a 25.4 inch scale length was the result of many years if not centuries of development. The combination of the scale length places the bridge nearer to the center of the lower bout the on the soundboard which is 15 inches wide on a 000 model, this is thought by many much more knowledgeable than myself to be the optimum design for finger style playing = the most efficient string tension in relation to the soundboard diaphragm. This, on a well made instrument made of the right materials gives a full tone with the lightest touch, good note separation and awide volume dynamics .
It was a virtuoso banjo player Perry Bechtel who wanted access to more frets and fashion being what it is, once he was seen playing a 14 fret, everyone wanted one which has lead to the 14 fret acoustic guitar
Heres how we have 14 fret to body guitars
The 14-Fret Bet
also see
Welcome to Schoenberg Guitars!!!
Old 25th December 2010
Lives for gear
Geo, great information! Thanks.
Old 23rd March 2015
Here for the gear

I have had a Norma 12 fret acoustic since 1966. It's still my oldest best friend. Not an expensive guitar, but had a good shop "set it up" for me...
Old 23rd March 2015
Gear Guru
FFTT's Avatar

You chose wisely.

Larrivees record like a dream and the smaller body styles cut through very well
in a busy mix.

I went for a P-10 Parlor but the OM series is great too.

The only thing to watch on a Larrivee are the tuning machines.
Larrivee sent me a new set in chrome after my ivoroid tuners stripped inside
the finger grips.
Old 23rd March 2015
Lives for gear
noah330's Avatar
I love both of mine, but for me I like the old little Martin guitars for that size:

Old 23rd March 2015
Gear Guru
FFTT's Avatar

Noah, you you you, Shameless Hussy!
Old 23rd March 2015
Lives for gear
I have a couple of 'Hudson" models. the 'little wing" 12th fret and a 'HD-ST" 14th fret parlour. The little wing is a fingerpicker only with a great tone and the other has some incredible bass for a small guitar, strumming on this HD is very satisfying, although picking on it is somewhat duller than the little wing.Putting a capo on it though can improve it tremendously. I went for the Hudson brand as they are lefty. The little wing is one of their top models
Nice to have that 14th fret job though for some added strumming. I use flexible core strings on them.

little wing recorded straight to cam, says the uploader.

Similar to HD-ST
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