All fretted string instruments have one thing in common.
It is impossible to answer how many frets they have with a single number.
With some instruments, there is a standard number of frets.
And then a whole bunch of common variations with more or fewer frets.
But if you want to know how many frets on a bass guitar, it’s not so simple.
There is not one standard number of frets.
Instead, there are a few different numbers of frets that are all considered “standard.” Let’s take a look.
Table of Contents
- 1 How Many Frets On A Bass Guitar?
- 2 Number Of Frets On A Bass Guitar
- 3 Frets On Bass Guitar: Conclusion
How Many Frets On A Bass Guitar?
The standard options on the market are basses with 21, 22, or 24 frets. In some cases, there are also basses with 19 and 20 frets, but they’re not as common. These are usually bass guitars with shorter scale lengths.
Why Does A Bass Guitar Need Frets?
Guitars and bass guitars are some of the simplest instruments to play. This is due to one of their main features: they have frets on the front side of their necks.
They allow you to hit the pitch of every note perfectly and not worry about going slightly sharp or flat, as is the case with fretless instruments.
The distance between two frets equals one semitone. If you play one note on one string, move your finger one fret forward, and you’ll raise the pitch by exactly one half-step.
And move it one fret closer to the headstock and you’ll lower the pitch by one half-step. This sounds complicated, but you learn the notes eventually. Practicing bass guitar scales is a great way to do that.
Frets on any instrument are made of specialized fret wires, designed to withstand the pressure of metal or nylon strings. In the case of bass guitars, we’re talking about very thick metal strings that can do long-term damage to the frets.
Essentially, frets are like markers in a way, determining notes on your instrument’s fretboard. They help you play with accuracy and precision without having to think too much about hitting the perfect pitch of each note.
Of course, squeezing the string too hard can bend it slightly, which makes it sound a bit sharper than it’s supposed to. But the frets still make it much easier to keep your playing in the perfect pitch.
You’ll have to practice how to apply the right amount of pressure in order to play a proper individual note for the given setting, while not pressing the string on a given fret too hard, thus changing the pitch.
Another big advantage of a fretted instrument is that you’ll be able to find the note that you need much quicker. It makes all bass guitar playing styles easier. Without frets, you’d most likely need to seek the note on the neck and develop a perfect pitch in order to do so.
In short, frets provide you with the means of “orientation” on your neck. You can memorize the shapes of chords on bass guitar, intervals, and scales, and simply play whatever you need in any given moment. It’s exactly the same principle as with the regular guitar.
Number Of Frets On A Bass Guitar
The number of frets on a bass guitar differs from model to model. The most common numbers of frets are 21, 22, and 24.
In some instances, you can also find 19 or 20 frets. This is not uncommon, especially on instruments with shorter scale lengths like the Squier Bronco.
While 21 and 22 frets are the standards, 24 is more common with many contemporary bass guitars, especially 5-string ones.
Having 24 frets means that each string can go two octaves higher than its original “open” pitch. While this many frets is not as common as on regular guitars, it is becoming more popular. Having so many frets gives bass players the option to play some lead sections as well.
For a good example of this, see bassists like Les Claypool or Tal Wilkenfield, who actually made our list of the best female bass guitar players.
There are also some bass guitars with more than 24 frets. But this is pretty rare and is usually reserved for customized instruments that are experimental in nature and have 5, 6, or even more strings.
Overall, the standard number of frets on most bass guitars is 21, 22, or 24, with 24 still being somewhat less common.
Another important issue to talk about are fret sizes. This is something that you should be aware of no matter the type of frets instrument that you play.
When we’re talking about the fret size, we’re talking about the metal wires themselves and their dimensions.
The size refers to both their width and height. To put it simply, it’s how fat one wire can get. The size can significantly impact your performance.
Common sizes are referred to as small, medium, jumbo, and extra jumbo. There are some abbreviations or just shorter marked names, like “XJ” for extra-jumbo or “J” for jumbo.
Of course, these are all pretty much rough estimates and there aren’t fully standardized fret sizes under these specific names. In fact, there are many “in-between” sizes and dimensions.
Bass guitars mostly come with jumbo frets. With the larger size, at least compared to regular guitars, it’s easier to have full control over your fretting work. It helps a lot, especially when playing chords and chord progressions on bass.
Additionally, larger frets keep the strings away from the wooden fretboard itself, which can reduce any potential damage in the longer run.
Larger frets, like extra-jumbo ones, are usually the trait of more virtuosic instruments. With these kinds of frets, you don’t need to apply as much pressure as you would with smaller frets, in order to get a proper sound from you instrument.
Scale Length And Distance Between Frets
Another important thing to bear in mind is the bass scale length. Although not directly related to frets, it’s a parameter that you need to be aware of when you’re playing a stringed instrument.
In simple terms, the scale length is the distance between the nut and the bridge. It represents the entire practical usable length of an individual string on your instrument.
As far as bass guitars go, the standard scale length for 4-string models is 34 inches, which is around 86 centimeters. This is the major difference between baritone guitar and bass.
There are also bass guitars with shorter scale lengths, most commonly 30 inches. These are useful for younger players, those who have smaller hands or who just prefer to have a smaller instrument.
5-string bass guitars come with longer scale lengths, usually 35 inches. There are also longer scale lengths, like 36 inches, which are more common with extended-range bass guitars (those with more than 4 strings).
So what does this have to do with frets? Well, scale length impacts the distance between the individual frets on your instrument’s fretboard. This means that if you have a longer scale length, the distance between individual frets will be larger.
Access To Higher Frets
With more frets also come specific ergonomic and design traits that will help you enhance your performance.
Having more frets might make no practical sense if the access to higher frets is not made easier. The easiest way to enable easier access to higher frets is to have a double-cutaway body design.
However, the cutaways should go deeper than usual and there should be a few other modifications to the design that would make the access more comfortable. This includes special smoothened edges or specially designed indents on the cutaways.
The backside of the neck is also important in these areas, especially where the body meets the neck.
In more recent years, both basses and guitars are designed to provide you with a much smoother heel. This enables you to access these higher frets with ease, almost as if you were playing anywhere else on the neck.
So, if you’re looking for a bass guitar with 24 frets, make sure to check its ergonomic qualities as well. you want to actually be able to use those extra frets.
Does The Number Of Frets On A Bass Guitar Matter?
One of the most common questions among guitarists and bass guitarists is whether having more frets matters. There’s no right or wrong here as it all comes down to your personal preferences.
If your music and style of playing do not require you to go higher, there’s no need to have a bass with 24 frets. It’s just more frets to clean when cleaning your bass guitar.
On the other hand, if you’re also fond of playing lead sections on the bass guitar, then it might make sense to get one with more than 21 or 22 frets.
The general rule is that the instrument will cost more on average, if it has more frets. This is another factor to bear in mind when considering buying a bass with more frets. Tuning your bass guitar is always the same, no matter how many frets you have. The same goes for setting up your bass guitar.
Fretless Bass Guitars
Fretted instruments have one big downside. You can’t have the perfect glissando and perfect vibrato on a regular fretted bass.
This is where fretless bass guitars come in. In this regard, this type of bass guitar is pretty much like upright basses. They can cover the same range as a fretted bass, although you’ll have to develop a sense of pitch in order to hit the notes perfectly.
Another advantage with fretless basses is that you don’t have to worry about fret buzz. Of course, the fretless bass is usually intended for advanced musicians and it requires more practice than a regular fretted one.
Frets On Bass Guitar: Conclusion
There is not one single standard number of frets on a bass guitar. 21, 22 or 24 are all standard and 19 or 20 are fairly common too. For most beginning bassists, the number of frets won’t make a huge difference, unless you have specific requirements.
For example, if you want a bass you can use to play lead, 24 frets would be better for you. If you prefer a smaller instrument (i.e. one with a shorter scale length), you’ll probably get one with 19 or 20 frets.