The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #11497   Message #85840
Posted By: Steve Parkes
11-Jun-99 - 08:07 AM
Thread Name: Fretted instruments. Why (3), 5, 7, 9, 12?
Subject: RE: Fretted instruments. Why (3), 5, 7, 9, 12?
It all goes back to capos. In mediaeval times (or even before), lutinists used capos that fitted on by being bolted through the neck and fixed at the back with a sort of butterfly nut. This meant holes had to be drilled through the neck & fingerboard; when not in use they were plugged, whence the spots. I guess that they nly had holes in some of the frets because it weakened the neck. Later, and with the introduction of instrument-friendly capos, the spots were used to indicate positions on the fingerboard.

Notice that classical guitarists don't use them, and get a bit sneery about people who do. Fiddlers are even worse; in the 18th century, the viol da gamba was a gentlemans's instrument (with frets); the 'cello (without frets) was a mere musician's instrument.

I don't know what the significance is of the actual positions of the spots today, if there is any; certainly the 12th and 5th are important on the guitar. I've seen some with a spot at the 10th fret instead of the 9th, and some with no spot at the 3rd or 7th.