Do you need 24 frets on your guitar neck, or can you get by with 22? This is one of the most common questions that electric guitar players struggle with! In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know to make the right decision!
Keep reading, and I’ll lay it all out for you in easy-to-understand terms!
You can use the table of contents below to take you to the area that interests you. Click on the little box to open it, and then click on the section of the article you want to read, or you can read from start to finish if you want the full guitar neck experience!
The Short Answer
If you want an “all-purpose” guitar that can cover any genre of music and has a warmer (thicker) sounding neck pickup, you’re probably better off with a 22-fret guitar. However, if you want a guitar with a three-octave range that has a brighter (clearer) sounding neck pickup and is better for playing Metal, you should consider getting a 24-fret guitar.
Keep On Reading (Below) To Learn More
Guitar Fret Generalizations
My sister is a rhythm player who never plays past the first four frets unless she uses a capo to raise the pitch of the chords. I’m not criticizing her playing. She is a wonderful entertainer and doesn’t care how many frets are on her acoustic guitar.
However, if you play all over the neck, the fret number may be an essential feature of the guitar you buy.
Acoustic guitars typically have 18 to 20 frets. Electric guitars commonly have 21, 22, or 24 frets. Fender guitars mostly have 21 or 22 frets, Gibsons have 22, and guitars more geared toward Metal commonly have 24, although PRS Custom 24 (fret) guitars are made to play anything.
One outstanding exception to these generalizations is the Uli Jon Roth Sky guitars, which have an average of 35 frets or more! Uli’s guitars are as much a piece of art as they are fantastic playing machines! Check out this early prototype of the Jeannie-Bianca Sky Guitar. It has 37 frets! The fretboard is scalloped, and the top notes are spaced as whole-tone steps!
Related Article ➡ Uli Jon Roth Sky Guitar Review – Fabulous To Behold And Play
Fret Number Comparison: 22 Vs. 24 Frets
Here are some comparisons and the advantages and disadvantages of guitar necks with 22 and 24 frets.
You can click on each comparison item below to learn more.
|Comparison||22 Frets||24 Frets|
|Tone||May be warmer||May be brighter|
|Neck Pickup Placement||Farther from the bridge||Closer to the bridge|
|Upper Fret Access||More difficult||Easier|
|Playing Style||All-purpose||Excellent for Metal|
Keep On Reading (Below) To Learn More About Each Topic
Tone And Pickup Placement
All things being equal (tonewoods, body style, etc.), the sound of a guitar with 22 frets tends to be warmer (thicker) than a guitar with 24 frets.
This is because the number of frets and scale length of the neck can affect the placement of the neck pickup. Twenty-two-fret guitars tend to have the neck pickup located further away from the bridge than twenty-four-fret guitars.
These neck characteristics can affect both the guitar’s tone and harmonics. Play two guitars with the same scale length but a different number of frets, and you hear a subtle tone difference.
For example, a Paul Reed Smith McCarty (22-frets) and a Custom 24 guitar both have a scale length of 25 inches, but the custom has two frets more. Both neck pickups are mounted at the end of the fingerboard, so the PRS McCarty neck pickup is farther from the bridge than the Custom 24 neck.
String Tension And String Length
The amount a string must be tightened to put it in tune determines its tension. A string’s gauge (diameter or thickness), material (nickel, steel, stainless steel, etc.), and length all affect its string tension.
The string length is measured from the machine head to its insertion on the bridge, which is different from the string’s scale length. The scale length is the vibrational length of the string (from the nut to the bridge saddles).
The longer the string length and the thicker the string gauge, the higher the string tension required to get it to pitch.
The high E-string on a Fender Stratocaster headstock will be at a higher string tension than the high E-string on a Gibson Les Paul. This is because the high E-string on the Strat has a longer string length than on the Les Paul guitar.
So, if you’re looking for a guitar with strings that are easier to bend or do finger vibrato, get a guitar with a shorter string length on the G, B, and E strings and use lighter gauge strings.
The guitar’s scale length is the distance from the nut to the bridge saddles, which is the portion of the string that vibrates. This puts the octave note to each open string halfway between this distance at the twelfth fret. This setup gives you proper intonation so that every note on each string plays in tune up and down the neck.
The scale length does not necessarily change by changing the number of frets on the neck. For example, a vintage Stratocaster has 21 frets, and an Eric Clapton Signature Strat has 22 frets, but both guitars have a scale length of 25.5 inches.
Scale Length Is Highly Variable
The scale length of a guitar does not necessarily determine its ease of playability. For example, I find a Gibson Les Paul and SG easier to bend strings on than a Gibson Explorer because of the headstock configuration (string length), even though they all have a 24.75-inch scale length.
Scale length, like fret number, is determined by the manufacturer. As you can see from the table below, there are a wide variety of scale lengths.
|Guitar||Scale Length (Inches)|
|Fender Stratocaster, Telecaster, & Jazzmaster||25.5|
|Paul Reed Smith McCarty & Custom 24||25.0|
|Gibson Les Paul, SG, Flying V, Explorer, and ES-335||24.75|
|Fender Jaguar and Duo-Sonic||24.0|
|Squier Classic Vibe 60’s Mustang||24.0|
|Sterling by Music Man Cutlass CTSS30HS||24.0|
|Rogue Rocketeer RR50||23.25|
|Squier Mini Stratocaster and Jazzmaster||22.75|
|Jackson JS Series RR Minion JS1X||22.5|
|Oscar Schmidt OS-30||22.5|
|Starshine ¾-Size Explorer-Style||22.5|
|Ibanez miKro GRGM21||22.2|
|Ibanez miKro PGMM21||22.0|
Upper Fret Access
Typically, guitars with more frets have easier access to the highest notes on each string. However, this isn’t always true. The other things that can make a difference are how the neck is attached to the body and the cutaways.
For example, guitars with a neck-through-body design are much thinner where the neck meets the body because it is not attached at that point. This Ibanez Prestige guitar gives you excellent upper fret access with 24 frets and neck-through-body carve-out (the best of both worlds)!
Guitars like the Gibson SG have horns with very deep cutaways all the way down to the 22nd fret! This Pelham Blue Gibson shows how the body design gives excellent upper fret access. However, the SG’s neck is more likely to break where the neck is glued into the body if the guitar is dropped. This weakness is due to a lack of reinforcement!
Related Article ➡ Why Do Electric Guitars Have Horns – Astonishing Revelations
The “Rule Of Fifteen”
I have a guideline that I often give to players trying to decide how many frets they need on a guitar neck. I call it the “rule of fifteen.” What I tell them is If they don’t play above the 15th fret, they don’t need 24 frets, assuming they like the tone of a 22-fret instrument.
This area is what Angus Young has referred to as the “dusty end of the neck.” Sometimes I can tell how much of the neck a guitarist plays simply by examining the instrument.
If you’re a lead guitar player, a 24-fret neck will give you a three-octave range on each string with better access to the upper frets and a brighter neck pickup!
Generally speaking, 22-fret guitars are more for all-purpose players. Depending on the guitar make and model, they can easily cover all musical styles, including Pop, Country, Folk, R&B, Soul, Jazz, and Rock.
Although 24-fret guitars can also cover a wide range of musical styles, they are typically designed more for Metal players. Of course, 22-fret guitars can also play Metal, but 24-fret guitars tend to have hardware and electronics that are optimized for the Metal sound and playability.
You can’t really compare the cost of 22 and 24-fret guitars. Fret number may be one factor that can increase a guitar’s value, but there are many other important considerations, such as tonewoods, hardware, electronics, country of manufacture, collectability, and instrument age.
For example, a 1954 21-fret Stratocaster and a 1959 22-fret Les Paul, both in mint condition, can each sell for over $250,000!
Compare that to an excellent instrument, like an Ibanez 24-fret Steve Vai PIA guitar that sells for about $3,500 new.
Guitars With 22 Frets
Although the vintage Fender electric guitars have 21 frets, the modern Fenders can have 22.
Here are some guitars that have 22 frets.
- Fender Aerodyne Stratocaster
- Fender Aerodyne Telecaster
- Fender Jim Adkins JA-90 Telecaster
- Fender Jeff Beck Signature Series
- Fender Eric Clapton Signature Series
- Gibson Les Paul
- Gibson SG
- Gibson ES-335
- Gibson ES-185
- Paul Reed Smith McCarty
- Epiphone Explorer
- Ibanez JS-100
Most of the Gibson and Epiphone electrics have 22 frets.
Guitars With 24 Frets
- Fender Stagemaster Strat
- Paul Reed Smith Custom 24 Series
- Ibanez RG Series
- Ibanez Jem77 Series
- Ibanez PIA3761 Series
- Schecter C-1 FR-S SLS
- Charvel Pro-Mod DK24 HH
- Jackson Dinky Arch Top DKA
- ESP LTD EC-1000
- Ernie Ball Music Man JP15
- Ibanez Joe Satriani Signature JS2410
Many of the 24-fret guitars are designed to play Metal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the questions I get asked about guitar frets.
If your question does not appear here, please put it in the comments, and I will get right back to you with an answer.
How Do You Take Care Of Frets?
Clean all frets after each time you play by wiping them down with a soft cloth. When the strings are changed, thoroughly inspect all frets for wear and remove all grime from the fretboard and the sides and tops of each fret.
Is Fret Polishing Necessary?
No, it’s not necessary as a maintenance procedure. Frets are crowned and polished at the factory. Fret polishes and polishing cloths are available, but if the guitar does not play properly, you may need to have the frets professionally leveled, re-crowned, and polished.
Should All Frets Be The Same Height?
Yes, every fret should be the same height from the bottom of the fretboard to the top. Uneven frets will eventually need to be professionally leveled to allow the guitar to play properly and sound right.
How Often Do Frets Need To Be Leveled?
Frets need to be leveled if they are worn down to the point where they buzz when fretted or the guitar cannot be properly intonated, even with a truss rod adjustment. This can happen over time if the frets become uneven, pitted, dented, or worn down from bending strings.
How Often Should Frets Be Replaced?
Frets will need to be replaced when worn to the point that they can no longer be properly leveled and crowned or are too low on the fretboard to allow you to bend strings or do finger vibrato comfortably.
What Fret Size Is Easiest To Play?
That depends on what genre of music you play and your playing style. Generally speaking, if you are a beginner or play rhythm guitar(chords), small to medium frets with a curved fretboard allow you to slide your fingers easier and are more comfortable for chording notes. If you play lead guitar (melodies or solos) and bend strings with finger vibrato, jumbo frets with a flat fretboard may be best. Players that like performing rhythm and lead may prefer a medium fret size and somewhat curved fretboard.
Final Thoughts On Do You Need 24 Frets?
I hope you found this article useful and that it helped point you in the right direction for choosing a guitar neck.
You might be better off with a 22-fret guitar if you play several musical genres, while 24-fret guitars may be better for Metal players. Twenty-two-fret guitars have the neck pickup farther from the bridge and tend to be warmer (thicker) sounding than 24-fret models that have the neck pickup closer to the bridge.
Upper fret access can improve with the number of frets, but not always. Twenty-four-fret necks give a three-octave range on each string. The cost or resale value of each guitar can differ, regardless of the fret number.
Vintage Fender electric guitars have 21 frets, and some modern ones have 22 or even 24 frets. Most Gibson guitars have 22 frets. PRS and Ibanez guitars have 22 or 24 frets. Scale length does have to change with the number of frets. String tension is primarily determined by a string’s gauge, material, and length.
You should play a variety of 22 and 24-fret guitars with various scale lengths and pickups to see which one plays and sounds best.
Here’s a video from Warmoth Guitar Products that demonstrates the difference in the sound of a neck humbucker pickup farther from the bridge, like you would have on a 22-fret neck, versus closer to the bridge, like on a 24-fret guitar. You can hear the subtle difference in both positions.
Tell Me What You Think
Please leave a comment below if you enjoyed this article, have any questions about guitar necks, or want to give your point of view. I will be happy to help you.
- Do you prefer the sound and playability of a 22 or 24-fret guitar? Why?
- What single neck design factor do you think makes a guitar sound best
- Can you hear the difference between a neck pickup on a 22 vs. a 24-fret guitar, all things being equal?
- What else is on your mind?