The finely tempered guitar

The guitar is chromatic instrument with fixed positions of the semi-tones.

The problem with frets: fixed semi-tones

The fixed position of semi-tones results in imprecise intervals and intonation of the semi-tones.
This imprecision is caused by four factors:

  • A fixed mensure due to fixed frets
  • the inhomogeneity of the strings
  • the specific traits of an instrument
  • the individual technique of each player

The solution: adjustable frets

Since guitars have been constructed, attempts have been made to eradicate the imprecision of intonation by changes to the instrument. A promising solution to the problem could only be achieved by approaches resulting in alterations to the mensure.

Fret mobile mit beweglichen Metallbünden

This was confirmed to Walter J. Vogt after extensive experiments and measurements which reached their conclusion in the Leitbild: well-tempered tuning. In test set-ups with instruments with identical strings, the measurements with precision tuners showed each guitar had varying and deviating intervals of the frets.

Walter Vogt finally managed to construct a guitar on which each of the 110 – 120 semi-tones could be precisely tuned by using adjustable frets. Shorty before his death in 1990, he completed his improved precision fretboard for well-tempered tuning.

Fret mobile Chouard

Fret mobile Chouard mit beweglichen Kunstoffbünden

« Abbildung with zoom function
In his advancement of this system, luthier Hervè R. Chouard uses frets made of high quality synthetics. They are placed in tiny tracks in order to adjust the frets into the desired position without being displaced when playing.
The synthetic material assures a clang-free sound and the frets suffer less from wear and tear than conventional frets.

Tuning the semi-tones

A modern chromatic tuner should be used for tuning the semi-tones. It takes about 30 – 50 minutes to adjust the frets to a new set of strings. Retuning is required after about 30 hours when the strings have reached their ideal tension. Additional adjusting of the frets is normally not required.

A concert guitarist does not need to interrupt his performance for retuning.

Characteristics of the finely tempered guitar

H. Chouard praesentiert seine Jazzgitarre

Finely tempered guitars sound noticeably fuller and have long-lasting sustain. The hitherto unknown harmony of tuning of the guitar leads to a new experience of sound. New possibilities and quality levels arise for musicians performing together and for recording as well.

Due to the easy playability of this new fretboard system, guitarists have more space for interpreting their music.

This new precision fretboard can be placed on any guitar and also to other string instruments with a fixed mensure, e. g. lutes and violas da gamba.