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Hard To Play Top Frets


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It seems my hands are too big. The girls are always complementing me on this attribute of course, but I find it hard to play the top 5 or 6 frets of my guitar due to the width of my fingers. :D

I've read a lot about scalloping on this forum but only in the sense of how to do it etc., not reasons for, so would this make them easier to play? What else would help?

Many thanks,


Edited by lamby
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you mean the space between the frets feels too small ? If that's the case, find out how wide the frets are. If they are jumbo wide, then a thinner fret can help a little. For example: it's no problem for a neck to be fretting with Dunlop 6100 up to the 12 or 15th fret, then a thinner wire like Dunlop 6105 the rest of the way. as long as the fret-wires have the same height, it's as easy as a fret-job with the same wire on the whole neck.

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I've read a lot about scalloping on this forum but only in the sense of how to do it etc., not reasons for, so would this make them easier to play?

I don't think I could ever stress how absolutely awesome I think a scalloped fretboard is! Even if you don't like Malmsteen, it is like playing on a stick of butter, or something. The rationale behind it is the fact that when you fret a note your fingertip often comes in contact with the fretboard as well as the string, due to the height of the fret. If the frets are really tall, your fingertips might not touch the fretboard, but this limits you to always having to have super-high frets.

Taking 1/8" out between the frets makes a tremendous difference, though on my guitar there's only about 3/32" removed at the lowest spot and it's a "spoon" scallop job, as I call it since most wood is removed right next to headstock side of fret, then following the shape of a spoon to the previous fret. I find I can play chords with so much more ease and bending is just phenomenal. It does make it a little bit easier playing higher up on the neck, but that would in no way eliminate your problem, though I say go for scalloping nonetheless. :D

What else would help?

Well, aside from the narrower frets, not much. I wouldn't waste time going to a longer scale, as the difference on the higher frets is negligible. For instance, if we compare a Gibson 24 3/4" scale against a standard 34" scale bass, we find that the distances between the 17th and 18th frets don't change a whole lot. By changing the scale length over nine inches, you only get an extra 0.19" between those frets, and between a Gibson and a Strat the difference is only .02".

The best solutions I can think of? Find a different instrument or spend a lot of time developing your fretting attack to be insanely precise, assuming your hands aren't Sasquatch-like.

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Hey There Lamby...

I suffer from the same affliction. I have massive hands/fingers. It wasn't a conscious decision, however, I opted to play on scalloped boards from the mid eighties to just recently when I switched over to standard boards with massive frets installed. The large frets don't make for as smooth of a feel, however, it it's about the closest thing I've been able to find. Like others have mentioned, it's the easiest way too keep too much of my fingertips from touching the wood on the fretboard.


The first one would be to go with the biggest frets you can get ahold of. Dunlop 6100s are generally accepted as being the largest with a crown height between 52/1000" and 57/1000".

Another thing you might wanna consider while avoiding scalloping is to use two different widths of fret wire. Years ago I played a Jake E. Lee guitar that used two different widths of fret wire... The crown on both sizes were right at 55/1000" so the height was the same. From the 1st to the 12th fret they had a wide high (100/1000" or so) and high (55/1000") while the 13th through the 22nd fret was of medium with (90/1000" or so) and a high crown (55/1000"). The only differeence is really the feel. The narrower frets seemed to offer up a little more in the way of 'grip' on the higher frets.

Another is to go with a longer scale instrument. Most of us use 24 3/4", 25" or 25 1/2" scales. Check out some of the stuff with longer scales like Jim Soloway's stuff...

Soloway Guitars

The other thing I did to make it easier on myself was to modify the way I played on the higher frets. Playing notes one semitone apart became a rarity. I started using a lot more wide intervals so I could get some space between my fingers.

I hope things work out for ya, Senor.


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