Fretless guitar

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Timuçin Şahin performing with a double neck fretless and fretted guitar.
Fretless Guitar
String instrument
Classification String instrument
Hornbostel–Sachs classification321.322
(Composite chordophone)
Playing range
Range guitar.svg
(a standard tuned guitar)
Related instruments

A fretless guitar is a guitar with a fingerboard without frets, typically a standard instrument that has had the frets removed, though some custom-built and commercial fretless guitars are occasionally made.

On the fretless guitar, the performer's fingers press the string directly against the fingerboard, as with a violin, resulting in a vibrating string that extends from the bridge (where the strings are attached) to the fingertip instead of to a fret.

Musicianship with fretless guitars differ from fretted guitars:

  • They require greater finger position precision, because the position of the node of the string is continuously variable (being established by the position of the finger) rather than fixed (established by the position of a fret). As a consequence of this, chordal playing in particular is more difficult to achieve accurately
  • The string resonance is reduced, requiring more forceful plucking or modified amplification (pickups) to achieve desired volume.
  • The smooth surface of the fingerboard allows for legato playing, with smooth transitional slurs between notes

Fretless guitars are uncommon in most forms of western music and generally limited to the electrified instruments, due to their decreased acoustic volume and sustain.

Festivals featuring live fretless guitar music have been held for several years both in the US and in Europe. In New York, the first NYC Fretless Guitar Festival was held in 2005. In the Netherlands, the Dutch Fretless Guitar Festival has taken place since 2008.

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