Mathematically, the variance between a 12-fret $4 neck and one that has 14 frets might only be two, but it goes further than that when talking about sound and feel.
First off, however, what does 12- vs. 14-fret guitar mean?
This refers to the position where the neck meets the body of the guitar. So on a 12-fret guitar, the neck hits the body at the 12th fret, and on a 14-fret guitar, it’s at the 14th fret.
At Fender, the $4 boasts a 12-fret neck (with 19 total frets on the fingerboard), while the $4 has 18 total frets but meets the neck at the 12th fret.
Nearly every other Fender acoustic has 14 frets clear of the body, and that includes all besides the Parlor in the $4.
A big difference between 12-fret and 14-fret guitars is the location of the bridge.
A 12-fret guitar has its bridge further from the soundhole, closer to the lower bout, allowing it to sit on a more flexible place on the top and offering more sustain on smaller bodies.
“The 12-fret bridge is sitting farther back into the meat of the guitar,” said Fender Acoustics Vice President of Product Development Brian Swerdfeger. “It’s the widest part of the lower bout. 12-fret guitar guitars tend to be warmer, fuller sounding, because of where the bridge is located.”
On the other hand, a 14-fret guitar, with the bridge closer to the soundhole, can be brighter, with more attack on the highs.Comfort is another difference between these two guitars. Players who have a more compact frame might be able to draw the body of a 12-fretter closer to themselves.
“When you move the neck into the body, you have less of a reach,” Swerdfeger said. “So for people with a smaller frame, a 12-fret neck can be more comfortable because you’re not reaching so far down the neck.
“For the person that finds it more comfortable, it’s easy to play. But for the person who traditionally plays a 14-fret guitar, they can feel cramped. If those people who are playing on the seventh or eighth fret, their elbow can get jammed into their body.”
At the end of the day, it’s a matter of personal preference. Tone, style and comfort all contribute to whether a guitar is right for you. And you’ll only figure that out by playing them both.
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