12-Fret vs. 14-Fret Guitar Styles: Which Is Right for You?

You may have noticed that one of the main categories that differentiates acoustic guitars is whether they have 12 frets that are clear of the neck joint versus having 14 frets. To make sure you completely understand what this means, we are referring to the number of frets on the fingerboard where it meets the body of the guitar.

The older of the two style is a 12-fret design, which was in use by guitar makers back to the 1930s and beyond. Since then, most acoustic guitars employ a 14-fret design. Again, this isn’t about the total number of frets on the guitar (typically about 20); just the frets on the part of the fingerboard that’s apart from the body.

Note that on the Pro Series CP3 NYK, the 12th fret is where the neck meets the body of the guitar.

On the new Limited Edition Series CP3NY (shown in Gloss Orange), the neck joint begins at the 14th fret.

Why does Takamine make both 12-fret and 14-fret guitar types? First and foremost, the two guitars will sound markedly different. Both guitars have the same scale length, so the string tension doesn't change. On the 14-fret models, the bridge of the guitar is closer to the sound hole, creating a broader dynamic range and less midrange content. However, the 12-fret models move the top wire speedily, so dynamics are quicker, but more limited (this is actually great for recording and fingerstyle). Also, the 12-fret guitar has noticeably more midrange content than the 14-fret variety. This is due to the bridge being positioned more in the middle of the soundboard (like a classical guitar). Both are useful, and both sound wonderful in their own unique way.

For an example, take a look at Takamine’s New Yorker-shaped guitars which have recently seen a tremendous upsweep in popularity. Takamine makes quite a few of these such as our new CP3NY (available in Gloss Black, Gloss Molasses, and Gloss Orange versions). These models all incorporate the more current 14th-fret neck joints. Occasionally, Takamine will create New Yorkers with a 12th-fret neck joint, such as the CP400NYK or the CP3NYK.

Take a look below and compare Linda Taylor on the CP400NYK to Jake Allen on the CP3NY to hear the difference!

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