7.8.23

An Oddity Lost to Time

This story is about an avenue that could have been taken. An unexpected branch in the modus operandi of instrument design that never reached orthodoxy.

You may know that most of the world’s modern fretted instruments join the body at the 16th fret. Leo Fender and the popularity of the Telecaster and its family finalized and cemented this contract.

But did you know that Leo’s last instrument offering to the Fender universe joined the body at the 10th fret and had only fifteen frets total?

John Paul Jones with a Fender “Bass V”

Well it did.

It was a sensible move given that CBS wanted to increase profit and were using thinner and softer grade wood for necks. Warpage had become a serious problem and was limiting the playability of instruments with longer necks. This is still a problem with most factory produced stringed instruments today yet fashion persists against rational engineering.

The Bass V solved the problem via retreat.

By shortening the neck, body join, and number of frets, (not the scale length mind you, which remained at the established 34”), and adding a higher pitched C string we preserve the range of the instrument but we eliminate the problem of playability clearance in the upper register due to neck ramp/bend. This remains the elephant in the room wearing the emperors clothes with a Cheshire grin and a silent smirk.

Problem solved. Onward into the realm of resonance….