The Fanned fret bass, also known as Multi-Scale instantly look out of whack and are a little daunting when you try them out for the first time, the truth is they are surprisingly comfortable and not overly hard to get used to! The last few years have seen these basses become more common even in the commercial market. This design of bass is usually found in the world of bespoke extended range luthiers but brands such as Dingwall, Ibanez and ESP Guitars have brought these basses into the limelight and more importantly into an accessible price point for bassists the world over.
The idea isn’t that foreign when you think about it. Each string gains length as you move down the octave very much like piano wire. The higher strings are shorter whilst the tension remains constant through the longer, lower register. This produces an even tone across all strings and tightens the tone of drop tunings and B strings on extended range offerings.
Bass legend Leland Sklar is a huge endorser of fanned-fret basses, his signature Dingwall can be seen in stadiums all over the world with Phil Collins and Toto to name two. The design of his signature basses mirror Leland’s love for Hot-Rod cars whilst he chooses mandolin styled fretting to give an organic, woody tone.
Whilst fanned fret basses will not replace standard fretted basses entirely it is obvious that they have made enough of an impact to stay in the arsenal of gigging bass players all over the globe. Bassists looking for ‘piano like’ tone and even tension across all strings will find fanned fret basses to do the job and sound great whilst doing it..