Two acoustic guitars from Fender

12 fret vs 14 fret

Most of us will be playing 14 fret acoustics – 99% of acoustics come this way – although until the 1930’s all acoustics were 12 fret. Band players wanted to compete with the loudness of a banjo so they asked for more volume and the 14 fret guitar was born, taking the world by storm.

You can still find 12 fret guitars in the catalogues of some makers and you should try one. Personally, I prefer the ‘slinkier, looser’ feel of a 12 fret which suits my style of playing more. And, at the end of the day who goes up the dusty end on an acoustic anyway?

12 fret guitars certainly ‘feel’ different and to me, easier to play. Some say they are just for fingerstyle players but I have no problem strumming hard, and they are surprisingly loud for a small bodied guitar.
For volume, modern guitars come with pickups so no problems there!

Three 12 fret acoustic guitars

Here’s what the major makers have to say about 12 frets:

Taylor

A 12-fret guitar is a guitar whose neck joins the body at the 12th fret instead of the 14th. The result is a slightly shorter neck that brings your hands closer together and shifts the bridge closer to the middle of the lower bout. Our 12-fret configuration is typically paired with our compact Grand Concert body.

So why would you play a 12-fret guitar?

• Lower string tension for a slinkier, more relaxed feel
• A boost to midrange presence and power
• A more intimate playing experience

Fender

12-fret guitar guitars tend to be warmer, fuller sounding, because of where the bridge is located.” On the other hand, a 14-fret guitar, with the bridge closer to the soundhole, can be brighter, with more attack on the highs. Comfort is another difference between these two guitars.

Martin

Martin started building 14-fret dreadnoughts in 1934. These guitars had a brighter and louder sound than their 12-fret counterparts, allowed for further access up the fretboard, and could hold their own against hard strumming while delivering single-note runs with clearer articulation and definition.

Soon, the industry was rapidly making the transition to 14-fret models, and today they dominate the acoustic guitar landscape.

So, which is better, a 12-fret or 14-fret guitar?

The answer depends on what kind of music you play and the tone you want to achieve. Classical guitars continue to have 12 frets to the body in part because it places the bridge in the center of the lower bout, based on a traditional scale length of 25.6″ (650 mm).

This placement tends to maximize the ability of the top to vibrate, which can create that complex, almost pianistic tone that we associate with the classical greats.

Fingerstyle players may find a 12-fret tone very satisfying, while a bluegrass artist or singer-songwriter may find it too subtle, bass-heavy, or unfocused when pushed.

So, there you have it – go try one today!

Links to other pages

Choosing an Acoustic pickup
Signature Guitars
Electric Guitars