Quarter tone frets - Finally finished the project! Read...
Finally, i've been able to complete what i wanted to do for a long time-adding quarter tone frets to a guitar. The victim is/was a blondeish Squier tele. The process itself was pretty simple, besides finding someone with the right equipment(fret saw and wire) to help me with it. No complicated calculations or measuring was necessary, since all of the frets would go in right between the present ones.
We were unable to find fretwire identical to the one that was used for the frets already there, so the new frets are slightly different looking than the rest. This turned out to be helpful in navigating the fretboard, since it directly shows which notes are "off".
Only the spaces between the 12 lowest frets have been fitted with a quarter tone fret. For a while i considered fitting the whole neck, but this arrangement turned out to be more practical. Not only would it be hard to play in the highest positions due to the small fret distances, but this also means that the higher positions are entirely "regular" tuned notes when i want to keep to that.
So finally, i could put on some strings and tune up. The moment of truth! I started with an opening tuning, exploring the various unusual intervals that i could get with the new frets. There was a lot of melodies to be found in the different modes that i sort of created while playing with it. In fact in a way it was like getting a totally new ear for music right away!Some of the leading tones have a kind of chiming, powerful sound thats hard to describe. I'm really eager to see what kind of compositions i can get out of this.
Later the same night, i was able to do the first real test. There was a open blues jam at a local club, which usually means a few worn-out cover songs and 10 SRV clones. This night was no different, until i decided to join in for some 12-bars. (Most of them went "what the hell is that?" for a short period, then turned to disinterest.)
The quarter tones actually went in the blues style pretty well, as i could focus on the "weird intervals" (blue notes for some) without just using them as transitions through bending. I used a gritty, blues distorsion and i played some pretty fast phrases, shifting down or up in quarter tone steps. Which worked great as an attention grabber, but the musicians were less impressed (blah, a gimmick and not useful musically.)Well for me it was just a proof of the power, or potential power of quarter tones!
The next day, i had a meeting with the yet unnamed prog/art rock trio, and we quickly started to work on some stuff. Now i worked more with the harmonic possibilities, and i got some great Nirvana-style dissonances and very eerie lines when moving the notes in chords around. I am especially fond of the "major-minor inbetween" third, and the matching seventh. The bass player had a hard time following the root notes i was playing, and he's gonna get (or borrow) a fretless bass to play from now on, if we are going to work on this seriously. Unless he decides to let me modify a bass with quarter tone frets to go with it, of course...
Well this has just been a start of course. I'm working to find out more chords and scales for it, and i might do some kind of all-guitar overdub projects that i'll let you hear here. Until then... just a reminder that simple experiments can lead to a lot being discovered.