"High fret access" - bit of a misnomer isn't it?

Discussion in 'General Music Discussion' started by ilyti, Mar 17, 2014.

  1. ilyti

    ilyti Lazy Ryebread Viking

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    Yep, I wanna discuss this.

    I believe what we typically refer to as "high fret access" should really be called something along the lines of "high fret comfort".

    I think "access" implies that if the shape of the heel isn't contoured you simply wont be able to physically reach the high frets, or at least that it will be difficult. As if the guitar says "ACCESS DENIED" and you can't play your song. Personally I have not found this to be the case. There is nothing in the 15-22 fret range that I can play on my Ibanez that I can't play on my Gibson. It is just a smoother ride with the Ibanez. It's not like the Gibby in any way restricts access to any of the frets. Didn't seem like Vai had any problems on PaW either before the "all access" neck-joint was introduced. Stick a Les Paul in Shawn Lane's hands and he could still do his signature wide-intervallic phrases. I could list others. So it seems to me that insisting on "great high fret access" is really not as important to the actual playing of the guitar than just how comfy and sleek it may look.

    Now I'm starting to realize I bought into the opposite thinking when I bought my Ibanez. I was so impressed with the comfort of the high fret range that I ignored many other aspects of the guitar.

    So, what about you guys? If you take a guitar with by definition great high fret access and compare it to one with by definition poor high fret access will you be able to play anything on the first that you can't play on the latter? Would you be turned off by a guitar that was great in every other way, but happened to have a bulky neck joint?
     
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  2. Khaerruhl

    Khaerruhl SS.org Regular

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    I think it's a luxury thing. It's a damn nice thing to have in my book, but I won't be crying over the fact that a potential guitar I want doesn't have something similar to an AANJ. For instance, my three Ibanez guitars that I use all have various versions of neckjoint. My oldest Roadstar RG has the bulky square bolt-on neckjoint with a metal plate, the RGA72TQMz has a set-in neckjoint, and my Iron Label 7 has a bolt-on AANJ neck. Interestingly enough, the Iron Label is the least comfortable to play at the 24 frets... Could be because Im not used with the actual guitar yet, but Im not sure. None of the guitars feel uncomfortable to play with though. In fact the Roadstar RG with the bulky square heeled neckjoint is actually the one I prefer playing up high on, closely followed by the RGA.

    Point of interest! Paul Gilbert thinks a thick neckjoint helps the tone of the guitar more than a thin one. Even to the degree that the Fireman guitars, and the new PGM, all have a substantially thicker neckjoint compared to his earlier signature models.
     
  3. HeHasTheJazzHands

    HeHasTheJazzHands SS.org Regular

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    Nope. Prefer my Squier Strat (standard neck plate 4-bolt deal) over my RG7321 (AANJ) in sound, feel, and playability, to be honest.
     
  4. Necris

    Necris Bonitis.

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    Yes, it is a misnomer.

    Complaints about fret access are largely nothing but pure whining. I have played plenty of guitars from a variety of different brands and I have yet to find a single guitar where a large heel even slightly hindered my access to the upper frets.

    If this is you, you're probably an asshole.
     
  5. Lorcan Ward

    Lorcan Ward 7slinger

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    I don't think it makes much of a difference. Its only when the cutaway starts past the 19th fret that you start running into problems.

    [​IMG]

     
  6. Mprinsje

    Mprinsje st. anger ain't bad!

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    I love bulky neck joints, i have a squier tele that has a really square joint and i think it's way more comfortable than, for instance, a neck thru, where i always feel my thumb slides off. (even if it doesn't)
     
  7. Señor Voorhees

    Señor Voorhees SS.org Regular

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    It's not really a misnomer. An elevator makes the 300th floor more easily accessible than stairs in the same way that my KM-7 allows easier access to the upper frets compared to my omen 8 or an acoustic. (Especially with no cut away.) You can stil get there, one just makes it easier than the others.

    I've rarely, if ever, heard someone say "inaccessible." The term I've always heard, and use myself, is "ease of access." To claim that every single guitar has the same amount of ease to reach those upper frets is just an outright lie. Especially when dumb stuff like that flipped body strat exists. (Where the neck is bolted to where the strap button usually is.)

    Edit:for the records, I have no issue with using the stairs or bulky difficult joints. But this is about mislabeling, and I don't think the term is out of line.
     
  8. ilyti

    ilyti Lazy Ryebread Viking

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    I hear ya. But still, stairs or elevator is more about comfort than access. Especially if you can run up the stairs as fast as the elevator, and that's how I feel about bulky heels. "Access" may be easier or more comfortable on a sculpted heel, but do you actually notice when playing? At least to the point that playing something becomes easier on the sculpted heel than the bulky one. That is the question.
     
  9. fps

    fps Kit

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    Nope I know exactly what people are talking about with high fret access or similar phrases, it's about how easy it is compared with other guitars to reach and play the highest frets. The clue's in the words, no?
     
  10. TheHandOfStone

    TheHandOfStone E♭M7(♭5)

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    It's not a big deal to me, but that's because I don't like 6th-octave notes that much anyway. It totally makes sense to optimize for fret access if that's your thing, so that "the only limitations you have while playing this guitar are the ones you set on yourself." *cue :shred:*
     
  11. Señor Voorhees

    Señor Voorhees SS.org Regular

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    Yes, actually, heels do indeed make things easier or more difficult. Especially in poorly designed guitars, like those stupid as shit "FlipOut" Dewey Decibel guitars. (not impossible to reach the upper frets, but definitely will hinder your playing.)

    Just because you're willing to overlook bulky heels, doesn't mean everyone else is. (and they shouldn't, just as they shouldn't expect you do shy away from them.)

    It's just undeniable that some guitars have easier to reach high frets, therefore "fret access" or "ease of access" are not misnomers. Of course, what one considers great access, somebody else might not, but I think it's safe to say most folks have a general idea of what "easily accessible high frets" means.

    Basically, I can play on bulky heels, but I prefer not to because it's uncomfortable to me. Doesn't stop me from loving LP's though. Especially for rhythm playing, which is my main thing anyway so upper fret access means very little to me to begin with.
     
  12. The Hiryuu

    The Hiryuu Dot dot dot.

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    Have you ever played a Les Paul? Granted, it's more the atrocious cutaway than the heel in that case.

    Otherwise, I'm guessing you don't go down to the lower strings on the higher frets much at all.
     
  13. edsped

    edsped SS.org Regular

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    It refers to ease of access, which yes, translates to comfort.

    And honestly if a guitar has a big-ass blocky neck heel then yeah, it could be a dealbreaker. I mean, I think it's ridiculous that rosewood fretboards are deal breakers to some people. At least a blocky neck joint is more than just aesthetic.
     
  14. rastachild

    rastachild Well-Known Member

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    i prefer square heels to aanj's and even neck thrus (mainly because i prefer the tone of a bolt on to a neck thru), but i think it's obvious that less mass in the area where the neck and body meet, which is where the highest frets are also located, means it's going to be easier to access those frets. one of the easiest guitars that i've ever played in the upper register was my washburn n4. that stephen's extended cutaway basically removed the heel entirely in the upper fret area and it was much easier to manuever around.

    that being said, i have big hands and have never felt as though i had significant problems reaching upper frets on any guitar. my main guitars right now are a fireman and several ibanez rt's, so i am a full on big neck/big heel guy. but easy upper fret access = more comfort in the upper fret area.
     
  15. ilyti

    ilyti Lazy Ryebread Viking

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    Alright, I get that it makes a pretty big difference to some people, and that's all I needed to know. I just wanted to put it out there that maybe it's not all it's cracked up to be. I mean, I grew up thinking I could never play a bolt-on guitar because I'd played a few strats and teles and didn't at all like the way they felt on the top frets. Its not that I can't reach the notes, just didn't like the feel. That's why I think its for the most part a comfort thing, like the forearm contour or tummy cut than something that actually affects playing, like action, neck shape and fretboard radius. And I realize that all those comfort things can be very important to some people.

    I'm also surprised to learn that some guys prefer 'em bulky.
     
  16. Lord Voldemort

    Lord Voldemort SS.org Regular

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    I have to respectively disagree.

    I have three Fender guitars, two MIM Teles and one Jim Root stratocaster. I can't play beyond the 17th fret on either tele; I just can't, it's too damn bulky, and at the very most I certainly can't bend a say 21st fret on anything below the B string (but bending in general is difficult up there on any string). The Jim Root however is less bulky and has a little cutaway on the heel, and playing up there is a breeze.

    I also have a Dean RC7, with obviously the GIANT cutaway and that guitar literally makes it as easy to play up there as it is to play 15 and below.

    Just my experience though.
     
  17. thedonal

    thedonal SS.org Regular

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    I'm finding that more things than just the heel affect it.

    The neck shape affects hand position and the width of the cutaway too.

    As I'm getting a bit more disciplined again, doing warmups/scales on my (2002) RG550, I'm finding that the cutaway isn't quite big enough for my hands.

    The thin Wizard neck makes me put my thumb on the back of it and my hand reaches more widely around the neck. I know that this is 'correct' practice but..

    My Strats and Epi Les Paul have rounder, thicker necks and I'm more comfy with the thumb around the neck rather than behind it, which subsequently means my fingers are closer to the neck when I play this way, so the cutaway is less of an issue (thought he heel is quite big on LP guitars, my HRR strat has a beveled heel that makes upper fret access more comfable).

    I have fairly long fingers tho, so I guess they can reach a little more around the neck in this way...

    So it's a bunch of factors for me. But for a thin neck guitar, I'd consider a more flared cutaway to allow for this in the future (when I can afford to buy guitars again! :D)
     
  18. hairychris

    hairychris Hairy Old Bloke

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    It does make a difference, but to me it's kind of irrelevant as I don't spend much time up there.

    The heel/cutaway of Carvin's 6 string DC series of guitars is the only combination where I have been able to comfortably fret the 24th fret on the bass string and usefully do things with other fingers.
     
  19. abandonist

    abandonist Banned

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    You can't say this. You'll be banned!
     
  20. VBCheeseGrater

    VBCheeseGrater not quite a shredder

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    Occasionally i come across the guitar where it is truly a pain to play past say the 17th fret. I have big hands too. My Iceman for instance, my hand kinda gets caught up in the cutaway. I'm guessing technique comes into play as well.

    Real world example - We play "Bat Country" in our cover band. The other guitarist, a Les Paul guy, specifically asked me to do the high harmony due to him playing a les paul and me usually playing an RG. I'm sure he could do the higher one, but he knew it'd be a bit of a pain, so preferred to do the lower part.
     

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