BV Woodworks Fanned Fret Electric Guitar

With a yellow poplar guitar body and an all maple fanned fret neck, here’s BV Woodworks’ rendition of an ergonomic electric guitar:

Poplar Electric Guitar

Scale lengths on the fanned fret neck range from 26″ to 24.75″.

According to guitar builder Brian Shultz of BV Woodworks,

My goal is to provide the player with a fresh alternative to what is currently available on the already flooded market.

Music to my ears…

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26 Responses to “BV Woodworks Fanned Fret Electric Guitar”

  1. Very cool. Back when Klein Electric Guitars were being built, Lorenzo German offered the Novax-licensed fanned frets as an option. The B&V website has some nice stuff, too.
    Good find.
    Marc

  2. Very nice!!

  3. That’s quite interesting, just that the headstock could have been larger.

    1. @Ovidiu – I would imagine the choice of a 3×3 headstock was done to address balance. As you’ve seen, many of the ergo guitars on the site go headless just for this reason. And personally, I like the small headstock but that’s just me. :)

  4. That’s cool. Finally something with FF. Klein did stop producing FF after a while, due to the limitations it imposed on the bridges that were supplied by Steinberger. There were no fixed bridges available so they had to lock and modify existing trem bridges. Sort of unneccessary waste.

    And finally I see angled bridge pickups the other way. Good! It’s of most importance that pickups follow the fanned fret strings longer scale. All pickups ought to be angled.

  5. For another take on FF, see TK Instruments, who have been featured on this site before. (TK recently moved, though, so he’s temporarily shut down until he finds the right workshop)

    Marc

  6. As Marc notes above, TK Instruments has been featured here before – primarily for the interesting headless solution that uses conventional guitar parts – Alternative Headless Guitar Design – TK Instruments. However, this particular guitar also uses fanned frets.

  7. Fanned frets seem like a great idea. Still a number of months before I have my FF guitar, and the fanning is a little less on it.

    1. @GregP – I’m looking forward to your feedback on fanned frets. Keep in touch!

  8. The trem arm doesn’t look very ergonomic. You could impale yourself on that thing!

  9. One gripe I have is that ergonomics is a package, not a feature. A guitar like this one has fanned frets – but it’s got a solid, heavy body; and a more or less standard lower bout.

    This is kind of like a meal where the appetizer is delicious but the entree is average.

    I think the Klein/Forshage lower bout, with its downturned front horn (to sit on the leg with the neck poking up), is an essential element of seated ergonomics. Any guitar that doesn’t have this is compromised for seated playing (95% of what I do).

    Weight matters. Once you exceed 7 lbs or so, you’re holding a log. My flamenco guitars are *2 lbs*!! The Forshage goes to lightweight territory (5-6 lbs) by being partly hollow. The Klein is heavier, but still passable due to its small size and (optionally) minor chambering.

    Neck dimensions matter a lot, and this is more personal. The Klein has a supple, slick feeling neck but it’s teeny. That can be good OR bad. I guess my point is in my first sentence: Ergonomics is a design philosophy that needs to affect all aspects of a guitar, not an isolated feature.

    1. @Roger – Thanks for the very thoughtful comment. A full response could go on for quite a bit but for now I’ll keep it short and comment on a couple of things.

      First, I completely agree that the ideal is ergonomics as a design philosophy – in other words an integrated approach. But in my opinion, we are in the infancy of ergonomic guitar design. If ergonomic guitars were the norm, then there would be no benefit to examining an element or two from a particular instrument. But given our current state where 1/2 century old designs are the norm, every piece of information we gather is a step toward greater understanding and appreciation of the value of ergonomics in instrument design.

      As far as solid body design goes, it doesn’t preclude a light weight instrument. In fact, a light solid body is very achievable. The Yamaha RGX-A2 with its Strat style body weighs a mere 5.5 lb. Even an amateur’s first attempt at a guitar build, my own in fact, came in at a hair over 6 lb. The only steps I took toward reducing weight were starting with a 1.5″ body blank rather than the typical 1.75″ and routing out a largish control cavity. Considering I used common alder for the body, the rather heavy Steinberger R trem bridge (well over 1 lb by itself) and built it based on the larger Klein harp body, it’s clear that controlling weight shouldn’t be that great a challenge.

      As far as the BV guitar design, it’s a variation on the Ovation Breadwinner which quite a few consider a significant ergonomic improvement over standard instruments. Even Chris Forshage acknowledges the Breadwinner as one of the sources of inspiration for his ergonomic guitar – along with the Klein and the Teuffel.

      I also agree that the Klein/Forshage/Toone lower bout is an important factor in seated ergonomics. But does its lack mean a guitar isn’t ergonomic? That depends. It depends on what your intended use is. If seated playing is your primary use then I would say the bout design is a key factor. But what if your concern is playing while standing? Then the lower bout shape becomes secondary to concerns such as weight. So the bottom line is that the specific ergonomic features will vary on the problem(s) that you’re trying to solve. In that way it’s no different than the way an engineer defines a situation and then looks at ways to either solve or mitigate elements of a problem.

      But coming back to your point about ergonomics as a design philosophy, I’m with you. But in the scheme of things, we’re still very much discovering what that means…

  10. You’re right Roger. About the “The Klein has a supple, slick feeling neck but it’s teeny. That can be good OR bad”

    The main thing with all headless, and Kleins, that you can’t vary the nut width that much – if at all. 43 mm it is. At least mine. Too narrow for me. I am grown up with classical guitar and the 80’s non-radiused Jackson/Charvel monsters (which had a bunch of other problems.. :-)) . I think a wider nut width benefits from an ergonomic standpoint but this is entirely up to the individual. I have also heard that neck back shape can be a even more contributing factor to anything “ergonomic” than any nut width or radius. C-shape, U-chape, Boatneck, Bat-shaped and whatever.

    Klein did, or at least had plans to, perform a HAND SCAN of a customers hands just to make a neck for that hand. However, the nut width (zero fret in this case) was the same due to that all headpieces where made to the same dimensions. There are no “individual” headpieces just like there are individual ones at the bridge end of things. That would be a nice feature to have different width headpieces or individual so that you can have almost 2 inch (ca 50 mm) widths if you like. Or narrower! I think first frets string bending are made easier with wider nut widths, because it takes a little more room and space before the other adjacent strings catches up with your bend and makes it harder. Especially country bends. I’ve alway wondered why the width has to widen as you move towards the bridge, but that’s a whole another topic really! Not seen any totally convincing explanation on this as of yet.

    But as we are discussing this, it becomes more and more apparent, that what’s “ergonomic” to one person is definitely and TOTALLY “unergonomic” to some others.

    I, for example, have discovered the “wiggling” bit of ANY headless guitar when playing very intense, and fast, and doing a lot of fast chord changes and jumps along the neck. Especially when tapping. I tend to miss certain strings, not hitting them right on, because it’s easier to knock the neck out of position (back and forth motion) with headless than with a headstock.

    Try this experiment for yourself:

    1. On a headless guitar – any – do a right hand tap on the neck, watch the headpiece or the end of the neck bounce back and forth. Do the tapping with chords or one or two notes. Accelerate the speed as you go along and watch the top of the neck bouncing in and out very easily.

    2. Do the very same on ANY headstock guitar. Watch the headstock end of the neck and see HOW MUCH GREATER FORCE it is needed to make it whack – or wiggle – the neck in and out of position. When tapping and doing a lot of hammer ons and pull offs, there’s a certain amount of force needed to make any note jump out clear and loud. You can’t back off and have to “baby” each tap. Then it’s too weak.

    My gripe with ergonomics, is that ANY fingering on the neck, or ordinary playing should not cause the neck or guitar to move in any direction at all, even the tiniest amount. So LIGHTWEIGHT is not THAT important to me. It’s more easier to move a lightweight guitar with just the slightest finger tap, than a heavier weighted and balanced guitar. Say an ordinary hollow body, or “jazz box” like a Gibson 335 or ES-175 are lightweight, but yet they have headstock and don’t wiggle that much in any case. They don’t neck dive either.

    The Ovation Deacon/Breadwinner was kind of cooler than Klein – after all. In this regard at least. All other things on that guitar made a lot left to desire. :-)

    Note, that a headstock does not necessarily has to be HEAVY and needs to neck dive. That is totally counterproductive. I bet that you can’t even remedy this even if one tried to make a headpiece for headless that was made out of lead. Or even putting in some heave lead weights at the top. It’s the overall LEVER effect of a headless guitar – or any – that has to be adressed. The in and out motion, not the up and down motion or neck diving balance.

    It gives more log to the fire, about my earlier opinions about making a guitar – any – stand still and be still and be totally removed from the human body. I e not wearing it at all. Considering “Jeff Healey” style of playing, pedal steel players and so on.

    /Mats

  11. Oh, sorry for weighing in again. The trem arm. Yes, that’s a whole other world. Some people needs long arms, some like shors ones, holding them while playing, picking. Just ordered and received one of CALLAHAMS trem units with a 64 trem arm, shorter than stock, like David Gilmour, Jeff Beck, Terje Rypdal uses. It’s short enough to be out of the way, long enough and ANGLED perfectly to make a serious dive bomb without getting tired. Vintage Strat only.

    The Steinberger S and R (and TT) are great but too chunky. Their arms has a tendency to “self-drop” no matter how tightly you fit them.

  12. Don’t worry, I wasn’t being completely serious with my trem arm comment!

    Yep – obviously Breadwinner-inspired, which is always a good thing in my book.

    1. @GLW – I didn’t think you were. :)

  13. Mats, you wrote: “I’ve alway wondered why the width has to widen as you move towards the bridge, but that’s a whole another topic really! Not seen any totally convincing explanation on this as of yet.”

    The best explanation I’ve heard is this: “Necks taper because you want strings close at the nut, so you can make chords easily, and spaced put at the bridge, so you can easily hit individual strings cleanly.”
    Source: Why does a neck taper?

    It makes sense to me.

    BTW, Brian May’s Red Special has a nut width of 47 mm but is only 51 mm wide at the 12th fret, so it tapers very little. Perhaps it suits his playing style. He uses a sixpence for a pick, and I suppose it it quite precise and needs little room between strings.

  14. Just a comment on the nut width of “all headless guitars.” On Chris Forshage’s guitars, he utilizes a mini “headstock” extension above the nut, to which the headpiece is attached. So the head can be narrow enough for the hardware, but the actual nut width can be wider. Mine is 1 11/16″ but I am sure you could get 1.75″ or more. I happen to have a zero fret on mine, but most of them have a standard bone nut.

    And the TT on my Klein never drops. You just have to adjust it so the metal catch thingie stops at the lock post when the bar is at a comfortable place.

  15. Well, I meant all “stock” headless guitars with Steinberger original hardware, and just the usual zero fret. I can’t rember Klein ever built anything wider than “stock” at the “nut”. While the widening of strings makes sense, it is less tapered towards the bridge on classical guitar, and I remember Alan Holdsworth resorting to DeLap guitars just because he wanted the same width all along the strings length. I’ve tried those guitars with same width and I find it better to play chords on first few frets. Especially in conjuction with open strings.

    On another note, slightly nitpicky though, I have objections about anything being totally perfect intonated and in tune when a string actually performs a diagonal line from the nut to the bridge. It’s jsut the middle strings that are the closest to “perfect”. No matter how slight, all frets and fret calculations are made with the assumption that a string is in a perfectly straight line. But it isn’t. I’ve heard this too, about conical or compound radiuses of a neck. The radius of the frets PLUS the tapered string angle – i e width increasing as you go towards the bridge – contributes to intonation deviances, only if ever so slight, and hardly noticable. That’s why people have to invent compensation systems such as Buzz Feiten (which I nickname Bluff Feiten) and so on.

    Yeah, my S-trem arm “metal catch thingie” is probably too worn out. The “metal catch thingy” I have tightened like hell, it slips anyway. But I’ve encountered other trem-arms on Steinbergers, they suck too. In THAT department.

  16. Think is was Todd Keene too, who had objections about raiduses and tapered strings. He’s as straight as me, and I wanna go straight as possible all of the time. Strings that is. No offense intended, snide remarks intended to those of any sexual orientation. Just guitars and strings and necks only! :-)

  17. Now, are there anyone else who’s discovered this “wiggling” bit of the neck when playing your headlesses? Forshage, Klein or Steinbergers?

  18. Honestly, I have no wiggle issues. :) And my hands get used to different neck geometries very easily. My ergonomic hot spots are my back and neck. That is why I lean towards light weight and seated comfort as top priority features. Once you stand up, it becomes about weight (still) and balance. A neck heavy guitar is a problem, as is a plain old heavy one like a Les Paul.

    There are macro and micro ergonomic issues. Macro level would be things like weight and body positioning; these are things that, when incorrect, cause fatigue and discomfort.

    Micro level would be things like control placement and ease of use. These factors generally do not affect one’s musculo-skeletal health, but they affect ease of play and control.

    Both are important, but micro ergonomics can be excellent even on a 15 lb guitar! :) So it’s the macro stuff that needs to be solved first, and which is the hardest to find in “standard” guitars.

  19. @Roger – Your description of macro vs. micro ergonomic issues is as good a break down as I’ve ever heard. As you say, the macro issues are the greatest challenge. We can all find instruments with a detail or two that help playability but these aren’t the types that address musculoskeletal disorders or MSD’s. Great summary!

    I am curious though – What do you think about picking arm support? How big an issue is it? Or is it an issue at all? My current thinking is that more important than picking arm support is a guitar body that displaces the picking arm as little as possible. In other words, the shape should permit the arm to remain in as neutral a position as possible.

  20. Picking arm support… it’s interesting, but the artifact of having the neck lifted up (a la Klein, etc.) is that the right hand picking position moves up along with it. And I agree that this is not a 100% positive situation. The picking arm must form a more acute angle at the elbow to compensate for this. If you drop the arm down, it does seem to relax.

    If you point the neck more vertically – cradle the guitar between your legs (like John Stowell, johnstowell.com), you can improve this situation a bit. But it’s yet another funky position to get used to.

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