Guitar Notes with Brian Baggett

The Straight Skinny on 22- Versus 24-Fret Electric Guitars

Posted on .

Clue: it’s not just about scale length…

In this edition of Guitar Notes I’m going to talk about 22-fret versus 24-fret electric guitars, taking a close look at the advantages and differences between these two types of guitar construction.

John Petrucci BFR, EVH Wolfgang, and Ibanez Steve Vai Jem

Let’s start with an overview of scale length. A guitar’s scale is determined by measuring the distance from the nut to the bridge saddle, or in other words, the length of the vibrating string. A vital part of guitar building involves placing the 12th fret exactly halfway between the saddle and the nut. This makes good intonation possible, meaning the guitar will play in tune up the entire neck. Common scale lengths are 24.75”, 25” and 25.5”. Adding or subtracting frets from a guitar doesn’t necessarily change the scale length, and quite often does not. Instead, the components of the guitar are moved forward or backward to keep the 12th fret located correctly. It is these adjustments in the guitar’s configuration that contribute to its signature sounds and playing characteristics.

Electric guitars most commonly have 22 frets. Some vintage Fenders (and their reissues) have 21 frets. In the ‘80s, along with the groundbreaking Floyd Rose locking tremolo, 24-fret necks started to become popular. Guitar makers like Ibanez and Jackson were selling “super strats” complete with 24 frets, Floyd Rose bridges and humbuckers. Some guitar makers like Steinberger offered 24-fret models exclusively.

Finding the Scale Length of a Guitar

Finding out the scale length of a guitar is easy. Just measure from the nut to the point where the string goes over the saddle on the bridge.

Music Man Steve Morse Y2D with 25.5 Scale Length and 22 Frets

This Music Man Steve Morse Y2D has a 25.5” scale length and 22 frets.

Music Man John Petrucci BFR with 25.5 Scale Length and 24 Frets

This Music Man John Petrucci BFR also has a 25.5” scale length, BUT...it has 24 frets.

Why go with a 22-fret electric? This is the classic! The A pentatonic position above the octave is very easy to see and you always know you can bend that last fret on the high E up to E. But the biggest difference is neck pickup placement. Because there are two less frets, the neck pickup is usually further away from the bridge.This gives the guitar a warmer, more mellow tone than a 24-fret neck pickup can produce. If you are looking for a guitar that can deliver a nice jazz tone, then a 22-fret will be superior to a 24-fret guitar. This goes for the classic Strat neck pickup tone too. Even some high-power shredders including Eddie Van Halen and Joe Satriani still prefer 22-fret guitars.

Steve Morse 22-Fret EBMM D Neck Pickup to Saddle Distance

The distance from the bottom coil of the neck pickup to the saddle measures 5.25” on the 22-fret EBMM Steve Morse.

Why go with a 24-fret electric? Well there is the obvious answer: More frets! But there is more to it than that. I think the first 24-fret electric guitar I saw was Steve Vai’s Ibanez Jem. As a kid I owned some Ibanez RGs before moving into Strats, but I never really knew what if any difference there might be beyond the number of frets.The extra frets up there no doubt give the player more room to move, but what else? Once again, it’s about neck pickup placement. Remember that the scale length and midpoint octave have to be dead-on for the guitar to play in tune. When those two extra two frets are incorporated into the guitar body, the neck pickup is pushed closer to the bridge. Pickup response is just like picking response: when you pick close to the bridge the sound is bright, as you move closer to the neck, it grows darker and more mellow. Moving pickups on a guitar body has the same effect. The net result is brighter neck pickups on 24-fret guitars with their reduced distance to the bridge. For the modern rock guitarist this is a good thing. You can have a nice fat bridge pickup tone then move to the neck position without getting too muddy. The bridge and neck pickups are also more balanced from an EQ perspective in this situation. As I mentioned before, The Ibanez Steve Vai Jem is a great 24-fret model as is the Music Man John Petrucci. Watching these great players solo, you’ll see they are switching pickups constantly.

John Petrucci BFR Neck Pickup to Bridge Distance

To make room for two more frets, the neck pickup on this Music Man John Petrucci BFR is one inch closer to the bridge (4.25”). This gives the neck pickup a clearer, more trebly tone that’s ideal in high-gain soloing situations.

Let’s review. If you want classic jazz and Strat neck tones, go with a 22-fret electric. If you play high gain solos and like to move from the bridge to the neck pickup, consider a 24-fret. But this is just a starting point. Always use your ears and remember there are no real rules! Also check out the PRS Custom 22 and Custom 24. Same guitar... one with 22 and one with 24 frets. They offer a great way to hear and feel the difference between the two configurations. Until next time...keep playing!

Read all Guitar Notes posts here.

Visit www.privatereserveguitars.com or contact Derek White directly at 866-926-1923. He can get you the absolute lowest price on your dream guitar. Connect with Private Reserve Guitars on Facebook and Instagram.

Brian Baggett Private Reserve Bio

Brian Baggett is Video Presenter for Musician’s Friend Private Reserve Guitars. He curates the Private Reserve guitar collection on video, visits guitar factories and works closely with luthiers and signature artists to gain insight into the greatest guitars being built today. He is also a professional guitarist playing every Wednesday and Saturday night at The Green Lady Lounge in Kansas City. A former jazz guitar professor, Brian continues to teach guitar lessons and has a book and DVD titled Keys To Unlocking the Fretboard. Find Brian on Facebook and twitter.

Tags: Electric Guitars Private Reserve Guitars Guitar Notes

Comments  

# Jimiblues 2017-01-06 19:53
Great article....the majority of people I come across automatically think more=better which could be further from the truth. The reason I bought a js1000 was because it was 22 frets...I don't play high enough often enough to justify comprising the neck pu tone. You can convince yourself all you want but ill take the 22 fretter all day.
Reply
# Allen Tomas 2016-08-08 00:34
I found a Fender Stratocaster with 24 frets .It was bright red leopard pattern with the Bud light logo. It was beat up ,I want to find one without the logo.
Reply
# Allen Tomas 2016-08-08 00:31
Also I did find one 24 fret Fender stratocaster. Bright red leopard pattern, Bud light logo.
Reply
# Allen Tomas 2016-08-08 00:25
The theory of the tone of the neck pickup explains a lot. Otherwise every guitar would be made with 24 frets.
Reply
# Bernard 2016-04-22 06:30
Among my guitar collection, I have three electrics with 24 frets: A Gibson L6-S that I bought new back in the mid 1970s, a Rickenbacker 360 and a Ricky 370/12. Interesting that you suggested 24 fretted guitars were not (usually) suitable for jazz Brian because my Ricky 360 certainly can supply the right tone for jazz (or most other genera for that matter). Although perhaps that may be (at least in part) because it is a carved top semi-hollow.

I love all my guitars but the necks on those mentioned above that have 24 frets sure make playing up high much easier than those that I have with 21 or 22.
Reply
# scallops too 2016-01-10 08:57
might as well scoop those frets out if you're adding some playing length to get the benefits of playing in the attic and getting there fast. 24 frets are like 11 on amp, everybody makes fun of it, but its nice when your running notes.

Neck tones depend more on the type of pickup than just the scale length.no reason you can't play jazz on 24fret, though alot of jazz players are just playing chords, so they really don't need the extra frets. If you solo though, its handy to have a few extra notes in your pocket.
Reply
# Bart 2016-04-12 11:02
I don't know why some people have such disdain for 24 frets or even "pointy" guitars, or anything that isn't a Strat or a Les Paul. What remarkably bland lives they must lead.

I like having extra notes and room, and a trem that can dive and pull up. I mean really, why not?

As for this article, I liked it, thanks to the author. As for neck pickup tone, I like it crisp, but I also turn my neck pickup tone dial all the way down sometimes too. It's more than bassy, and warm enough for me.
Reply
# Andre 2015-09-01 04:53
This, my friends, is why Steve Vai was not only my most favorite among the guitar virtuosos, but also why I stick with the 24 fret set up. Cheers and thanks for the clarification on this situation.
Reply
# Bart 2016-04-12 11:09
I guess you've seen "I know you're here" (the full version) from his set at 2003's "G3 Live In Denver"? That's definitely way up high on my favorite guitar performances list.

3 necks with a total of 48 frets? I would love to get to play on really top notch gear like the pros. I'm just too darn poor. Oh well, like Prince said "I'm rich on personality!"
Reply

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