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Five Kite guitars

Lots of people like guitars. Lots of people get into microtones. Inexplicably, some people are in both of those categories, and now we have microtonal guitars. The ease with which guitars can be microtonalized is definitely to blame.

Approaches to microtonal guitar


Using a fretless guitar is the most direct way to get microtones, which leaves the most up to your ears. Tried by many, pursued with a dogged obsession with intonation by fewer.



Refretting (or retrofretting) an existing guitar consists in adding new frets, moving existing frets and/or removing some of them completely. It is a good option for guitarists who prefer to keep the clean sound of a fretted guitar while keeping some freedom in the choice of pitches available to play.

Articles (DIY)

Tools (DIY)


Custom guitars/necks/fretboards

Instead of refretting their own guitar, some people prefer to order custom-fretted guitars, guitar necks or guitar fretboards, depending on what they already have and what they need.



Fretlets, or adjustable frets, are short movable frets that can be added to any fretboard. The shortest fretlets are wide enough for a single string, but there are also longer fretlets that cover a few consecutive strings. Due to their shorter length, fretlets can be used to access more pitches without cluttering the fretboard with too many full-length frets.

Since they are easily movable, a guitar with fretlets is perhaps ideal for a musical environment in which the musical scale varies from piece to piece. John Schneider calls his a "Well-Tempered Guitar". Wim Hoogewerf has one too.


Quick n Dirty

One tack: take a trashy guitar and move the bridge to a different spot. You'll get a (not necessarily close to equal) division of the octave with ~10-15 notes. Dan Stearns has done this, and so has David Finnamore, and more recently Jason Conklin!

Chris Vaisvil's cheap, quick and dirty temporary guitar frets - a great way to try new tunings.

Even quicker (and maybe less dirty): open tunings

An even simpler idea, without a modification of the guitar being necessary, are open tunings. See this thread on the Yahoo MakeMicroMusic list and

this article on the Yahoo tuning list for some possibilities. This is especially suitable for supersets of 12edo. (original article is missing, so the original thread is linked)

A concrete description of an open guitar tuning for 24edo can be found on (also reachable from the above thread).

The Kite Guitar

Microtonal frettings with more than 20-something frets per octave can be difficult to play. Those with fewer are usually either not very close to JI, or else are limited in modulation and/or voicing. An exception to this is the Kite Guitar (see also Kite Tuning), a guitar fretting that uses every other step of 41-edo, i.e. 41-ED4 or "20½-edo". The interval between two adjacent open strings is always an odd number of 41-edosteps. Thus each string only covers half of 41-edo, but the full edo can be found on every pair of adjacent strings. Kite-fretting makes 41-edo about as playable as 19-edo or 22-edo, although there are certain trade-offs.

The Tritare

The Tritare, developed by folks in New Brunswick, Canada, seems to be fretted to a normal 12, but because it features 3-string groups the sound is FM-like and inescapably xenharmonic. Or is it? See this Science News article.

List of microtonal guitarists


See also

Additional Links of Interest