Excuse my ignorance, but I come from a diatonic (stick dulcimer) background and we don't use fret markers.  Now that I'm trying to cross over to the chromatic world, I notice that there seems to be a lot of inconsistency when it comes to fret markers, especial with regards to fret 9 verses fret 10.  A lot of folks seem to prefer to put a fret marker at fret position 9, while others put it at fret 10.  Which is correct, and what is the "logic" behind it?  I'm getting ready to put fret marks on a chromatic fretboard and I want to do it right.



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In most cases, fret markers go at 3,5,7,9,12,15,17,19,21,24 frets for chromatic fretted fingerboards. Ukuleles are sometimes different.

Not sure if there is a right or wrong way for 9th fret (vs. 10th fret), except that I will say most guitars will have marks at the frets I listed above.

Standard gits fret markings is (sometimes) 3, (always) 5, 7, 9, 12, ( and assuming you go higher) 15, 17, 19, 21, 24. Yes, there is a dual logic to it. You're going for the tempered chromatic, 12-tone scale on each string, such that the octave is reached at the 12th fret, right? So open E to 3 fret is a G, or a 3rd above E, 5 fret is a B, a 5th above E, etc. Also, it is a human finger spacing issue, as well as a human hand nerve issue. There is one nerve controlling fingers 1 and 2, and another for fingers 3 and 4. Fingers 1 and 3 are stronger, with slightly more trunk nerve than the other two. This allows you to play a relative whole note fretting from 3-5, 5-7, and 7-9 with ease across most of the fretboard. If you map out a 6-string fretboard, you'll see the patterns for major and minor , and a bunch of other scales, no matter which key note you start on. Does that make sense?

I put all mine at the 10th, mainly because almost everything I play includes the 10th fret. Almost all songs with a slide that I play use the 10th. But that's just me.

As do I.  I made my first 2 builds with the traditional layout, but I quickly wished I had put them on the 10th as part of the pentatonic scale.  Now I have enough practice to switch back and forth effortlessly, but I still mark the 10th rather than 9th.  Also of note, my guitars are 3 strings tuned 1 5 1.

Thanks, Scott.

I have a factory-made banjo and a factory-made ukulele and both have the fret mark on fret 10 instead of fret 9. So, it might be that I'm confused because I've been looking at instruments that are not guitars. I'll have to stop by a guitar shop and see how they do it. I did search CBN and more builders seem to use a fret marker at fret 9, although a few put that fret mark at fret 10. I also got a good idea from the CBN search for making the fret marks easily by drilling holes, filling them with solder and sanding flush. I think I'll give this method a try.


On a guitar it's #9 but most other fretted necks mando, banjo etc it's #10..
I once asked a luthier about it who told me its the key of c, don't know how true that is..
I skip it and do the bare minimum, 5,7 and 12 and their octaves only

I like that system.  I am making big marks at 5, 7, 12 and small ones at 3, 9, 15, 17

Hi All,

Thanks for the feed back.

Ron, I think I only partly understood what you are trying to say. It does seem the fret markers are placed at odd increments relative to the open note (3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th) plus the octave. Placing them 2 half steps apart seems a good strategy if you want to find a note that's a whole note above the current one. I'm not sure I fully comprehend this, but I guess I'll just need to accept it.

On my few earlier chromatic builds I used my own fret marking system which was to color the diatonic frets (finger positions) differently than the accidentals and then marking fret 11 (that pesky diatonic fret 6.5) differently. But, while this scheme works for folks coming from a diatonic (dulcimer) background, it's not what the rest of the world is using.

I think that if a fret marking system were developed "from the key of C Major", then they should mark the frets that map to the "w-w-h-w-w-w-h" (major scale whole and half step) pattern, which would be frets 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 12 (and perhaps repeating for the next octave). This would be like the diatonic fret scheme I used but would be Ionic mode instead of Mixolydian mode (meaning I'd have to mark chromatic fret 11 (diatonic fret 6.5) "normally" and then maybe specially marking fret 10 (diatonic fret 6) so I could easily find it for Mixolydian mode music).

But, I think I'll go ahead with the standard guitar fret marking for this build and if I find it too confusing, I'll add diatonic fret markings to the top side of the the neck. Hopefully by playing a bunch of diatonic songs I know on a chromatic neck I can begin to transition to chromatic. My fingering style will have to change, as I currently play with just my index finger on the melody string and I need to learn to play with multiple fingers and finding notes across multiple strings. This new instrument is a 4-stringer chromatic box guitar with a 4-pole bass magnetic pickup.


Hmm that'd be true if you had a C string...
But on a guitar you have an E string down the bottom so you'd expect it to be te third mode of C or E phrygian.. And low and behold.. (Bear in mind many old gitts have a dot at fret one as well. Eg les Paul custom)
And bottom strin on a mando is what, G??
So you'd expect the fifth mode of C, G mixo... And yep there it is...

Wow, I thought I knew the answer as 9th right away. But then I read Bad Finger's post about the pentatonic scale and that makes a lot of sense. I have some thinking to do.

Well the tenth fret (on a i string) is part of the MINOR pentatonic, but the ninth is part if the major one so tomayto tomarto you know??


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