Industrial Design Award, 1992
The Fanned Fret Concept
The NOVAX ® Fanned-Fret ® concept evolved from a desire to
produce an instrument with balanced tone and string tension. As
a guitar player and professional repair technician with
extensive experience, Ralph Novax had grown dissatisfied with
the performance of instruments as they existed. Lack of
definition in the lower frequencies, harsh, percussive trebles,
and general "muddiness" of tone seemed pervasive, even when the
performance of these instruments was optimized. Experimenting
with composite materials and state-of-the-art electronics only
made matters worse by highlighting these problems. Ralph's
repair experience led him to examine scale length as a possible
What Is Scale Length?
The vibrating length of the string (the "scale length") is
determined by the "nut" and the bridge "saddle." Fret placement
is a ratio based on scale length so longer scales have more
distance between frets.
Why Is Scale Length Important?
Scale Length influences both the tonal quality of the notes
produced and the tension of the string at a particular pitch.
The tonal effects of scale length are crucial to the final tone
of the instrument. Woods, hardware, and electronics act as
"filters" to string tone. They do not produce tone of their own
and only modify input from the vibrating string. If particular
harmonics are very strong, or altogether absent, those
characteristics will be present in the final tone of the
Why Fanned Frets?
The "fanning" of the frets results from manipulating the scale
length of the bass side of the neck relative to the treble side:
the fret spacing is wider for the long scale and closer for the
Looking inside a grand piano, or at a harp, we see that the
string lengths vary with the pitches of the strings. But fretted
instruments are traditionally constructed to a single scale
length, negating the benefits of scale length relative to pitch.
Since there are relatively few strings on most stringed
instruments, compromises are made and string gauges are
manipulated for workable results. Players, accustomed to the
compromises of single scale-length construction, are often
pleasantly surprised by the richness and clarity of Fanned-Fret
® instruments. When the fanned-fret concept is applied to the
six-string guitar, the resulting instrument has a "focused"
sound - clear, articulate and balanced. Some players say "more
in tune" or "more accurate."
One of the real advantages of the Fanned-Fret ® concept lies in
its application to instruments like the seven-string guitar,
eight-string guitar, five-string bass, six-string bass, baritone
guitar, and mandolin. The range of tunings and number of strings
force compromises that make these instruments poor performers or
even impractical when constructed with the traditional single
scale-length. The fanned-fret concept addresses those problems
and makes these instruments playable and practical.