The guitar, unless you hadn’t noticed, is a fretted instrument. See those raised metal strips along the fretboard? Those are the frets. Many other stringed instruments don’t have them. You won’t find them on the violin, viola, cello, or double bass, for example.
So how many of these little metal strips does the average guitar have? Well, like everything to do with the guitar, it depends. But don’t fret (sorry!), in this article you’re about to find out.
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How Many Frets Does a Guitar Have (Usually)?
The number of frets on a guitar depending on the type of guitar (electrics differ from acoustics), and to some extent, the model (whether it’s a Strat or a Les Paul, for example).
As a rule of thumb, most modern guitars have somewhere between 19-24 frets. Acoustic guitars are on the low end (usually around 20 frets) and electric guitars with slightly more, around 22 to 24 frets.
There are plenty of exceptions though, some old skool acoustic guitars from the 1800s used to have just 14 frets! While some modern guitars made for shredding have as many as 39!
Number of Frets on Acoustic Guitars
The number of frets found on acoustics is typically lower than on electric guitars. Standard classical and flamenco guitars have 19 frets, with the guitar neck meeting the body at the 12th fret (at the heel).
The soundhole placement on classical guitars usually means that the fingerboard stops around fret 18 or 19.
Steel-stringed acoustic guitars typically have a few more frets, around 18 to 20, with 12 to 14 frets above the body (there will usually be 6 to 8 frets between where the neck meets the body and the soundhole).
You’ll often hear guitars referred to as a ’12 fret’ or ’14 fret’. This refers to the number of frets from the nut to the body, and players often have a preference for one over the other.
However, not every type of steel-string acoustic. Parlor guitars (one of the small guitar types) tend to have fewer frets.
Why don’t acoustic guitars have more frets? Well, frets much past 12 get very harder to play, particularly for chords. Yes, cutaways help, but you are still blocked by the body of the guitar.
- Ortega 3/4 size (classical guitar) – 18 frets
- Washburn R314KK (vintage parlour guitar) – 18 frets
- Taylor Big Baby – 20 frets
- Martin D-28 – 20 frets
- Gibson Hummingbird – 20 frets
Number of Frets on Electric Guitars
Modern electric guitars, including baritone guitars, have between 21 and 24 frets (but most often 22) and connect to the body around the 17th fret. Short scale guitars, like the Les Paul, often have fewer frets, too.
- Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster – 21 or 22 frets, depending on year and model
- Fender Jaguar and Jazzmaster – 22 frets
- Gibson Les Paul – 22 frets, joining the body at the 16th fret
- Gibson SG – 22 frets, joining the body at the 19th fret
- Epiphone ES 335 Limited Edition – 22 frets
- PRS S2 Custom 24 – 24 frets
- Superstrat – 27 frets (25 frets at the 6th string)
- Ibanez RG550XH – 30 frets
- Washburn EC36 – 36 frets
- BassLab Jinmoid – 39 frets + 1 zero fret
Does The Number Of Frets On A Guitar Matter?
In short, yes it does! Here are the main reasons…
Think about your favorite guitar solo. Chances are, some if not all of it was played high up the neck. In a lot of rock music, it’s common to play high up the fretboard, around the 17th fret, and beyond.
Many of the great guitar solos are found in this position. It’s not so common to play acoustic guitars much above the 14th fret, though.
Neck Pickup Tone
When you add more frets, the position of the neck pickup gets pushed back a little more towards the bridge. This, in turn, changes the tonal quality of the neck pickup giving it a brighter sound as it’s nearer the bridge (the nearer a pickup is to the bridge, the brighter it will sound because of the increased tension of the strings there).
A word of caution: many think that the number of frets is the same thing as scale length. Not correct. Scale length is measured from the nut to the bridge and does not take into account the number of frets.
So, now you know most guitars have somewhere between 19-24 frets as standard. Grab your guitar and count how many you have, you may be surprised what you find!