22 Frets VS 24 Frets: We Explain The Fascinating Differences!

By Christoper Horton •  Updated: 05/12/22 •  16 min read

You have probably heard the arguments regarding 22 frets VS 24 frets when it comes to guitars. Today we break down the science of why, and how it all works.


22 Frets VS 24 Frets: Does It Matter?

Guitarists can be really persnickety people when it comes to the features and design of their instruments. I have never once used the word “persnickety” in my life when describing a group of people, but it seems absolutely appropriate. I feel like any other word I use may come off as offensive but let’s be real here, we can be very picky people.

I think that one of the reasons this may be true, is that guitar is a very insular community. We are pretty myopic when it comes to our views on the guitar. We play instruments that have not changed their design since the inception of electric guitar, but we also play headless multi-scale 8 string guitars. We have so many options when it comes to what the type of electric guitar we play.

But like I said, we are very insular as a community. Unlike the classical musicians, who are more broad in their knowledge of instruments. The classical instrument buyers also usually buy one or two instruments and own them for life. This is because a nice cello or violin can run you upwards of $50,000. As guitarists, we have a much broader range of choices (and budget), and most of us own more than just one guitar.

But that’s because we have so many options, and so many budget choices. Some of us would rather own five Epiphone guitars, instead of one Gibson. The same goes for Fender and Squier guitars, since both can be affordable or expensive. We are pretty far away from what a classical musician would pay for an instrument. But there is another reason to own more than one guitar…

Every guitar sounds different, even the same brand/model can sound different depending on how it was built. Different guitars have a vast array of scale lengths, body designs, pickup configurations, and overall style. We have a massive amount of options to choose from, and they all affect the tonal quality of the guitar’s sound output. But one that isn’t talked about much is 22 frets VS 24 frets in guitar design.

The whole 22 frets VS 24 frets argument started coming up when Ibanez, and other companies started making the “Super Strat” style guitars. For some players, it doesn’t matter at all, while other guitarists insist on one style or the other. Why would it even matter though? These are just the number of frets on a guitar, right?

Surely two extra frets on the high end of the neck couldn’t possibly make such an impact? Well, it actually does have a bit of an impact on your tone, and it really comes down to simple science. Today we are going to look at the difference when it comes to 22 frets VS 24 frets, and see what the fuss is all about. So strap in, because it is going to be a slightly strange scientific journey that comes down to some rather small measurements… that add up to big differences.


22 Frets VS 24 Frets: Why Would You Need 24 Frets?

22 frets vs 24 frets
Ibanez RG: A Great Example Of 24 Frets

This is the first question you usually hear in the 22 frets VS 24 frets argument. To be fair, this is a very valid question. When you think about most classic guitars, they either had 22 or 21 frets depending on the brand. Acoustic guitars have even less than that! So players often ask “Do you really need those extra two frets to play efficiently?”

Well, I guess it really depends on the player. Steve Vai was one of the flag-wavers for 24 frets in the early 80’s because he often needed that extended range for his solos. This is why he created the JEM with Ibanez, and eventually the RG Series. In fact, 24 frets have become a standard feature on most “shredder” style guitars since the 1980’s. Obviously there is a reason for having those extra two frets, and it makes a lot of sense on paper:

Having 24 frets gives you a full two octave range on the guitar’s fretboard. This allows you to play more notes without reaching for the higher strings. Having 24 frets also allows you to hit the extra octave of scale patterns that you cannot reach with 22 fret guitars without full step bends. 24 frets also allows you to reach higher notes when two-hand tapping/harmonics.

However the innovator of modern two-hand tapping, Eddie Van Halen, famously used 22 fret guitars. I think we can all agree that Eddie was a “shredder” and he blazed the trail for guitarists that wanted to play melodically and fast. So this complicates the 22 frets VS 24 frets comparison. Eddie and Vai are both amazing shredders, so it must come down to personal preference. But what are the factors that influence that preference?

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The argument of 22 frets VS 24 frets among guitar players usually states that you can still hit those higher notes by bending the string at the higher frets on a 22 fret guitar. This is true, and many players over the years have hit soaring high notes long before 24 fret guitars. You can definitely bend those higher notes up a full step, but some players would rather have them readily available. Tapping is also an important point, especially if you want to hit those higher notes as the root.

But this is all preference, and I promised you some science. There is a good reason why some people choose 24 fret guitars over 22 fret models. It has almost nothing to do with the access to extra notes, as you would expect. It might not even be something you were aware of, and you just follow your ears. But it does have a lot to do with the overall tone of the guitar, and some design choices.


22 Frets VS 24 Frets: The Sounds

22 frets vs 24 frets

I think we can all agree that “tone” is a very subjective thing. Some people listen to Pantera and think that Dimebag had the worst metal tone in the history of guitar. Even classics like “Crazy Train” aren’t safe from internet criticism regarding “tone”. But where does tone fit in when talking about 22 frets VS 24 frets? The answer can actually be surprising, because it makes a difference for a good, scientific reason.

Where your pickups are located on a guitar has a massive impact on how they output sound. We recently talked about this when we went over the different pickup positions, and how to use them. We looked at the two most popular guitars: Dual humbucker models, and triple single coil models. Both types of guitar have the same thing in common:

The neck pickup is almost always going to be warmer, and have more bass response. While the bridge pickup will almost always be brighter, and have more treble focus. The middle position is usually a blend of both pickups on dual humbucker guitars. On triple single coil guitars, the middle position is usually the middle pickup by itself.

This is because the closer you get to the neck itself, the closer you are to the vibration of the string. The string oscillates more towards the neck. The string doesn’t ring out as much the closer you get to the bridge, since the bridge is the “termination point” for the string. The frequency response is more “tinny” or treble focused the closer you get to the termination point: The bridge.

So where the pickup is located has a huge effect on the tone that you get from it. You can have two of the exact same model humbuckers in a guitar, and the neck pickup will always sound different from the bridge pickup. This is because of the physical location of each pickup. The closer the pickups are together the more they will sound similar. The further the pickups are apart from each other the more diverse the sound will be between the two.


So what does this all mean regarding 22 frets VS 24 frets?

A 24 fret guitar’s neck and bridge pickups is pushed back to accommodate the extra two frets on the longer neck. This means that the neck pickup loses its distinct tone, and has more midrange and treble since it is slightly closer to the bridge. Likewise, the bridge pickup is closer to the neck as well on a 24 fret guitar, changing the tone. The gap between both pickups are also closer to each other on a 24 fret guitar.

Don’t believe me? If you have a 22 fret and 24 guitar, measure the distance between the pickups on each guitar. The make and model will vary between brands, but the measurement should be about a three quarters of an inch, to a full inch of difference. I did a test on my two favorite Schecter guitars to show the difference in the following example.


22 Frets VS 24 Frets: Testing And Results

22 Frets vs 24 frets
My Two Test Guitars

For testing out the 22 frets VS 24 frets pickup positions, I picked two of my most used and favorite studio guitars. I bought these guitars specifically for the features that they provide. One of those features was the scale length, another was the number of frets. This are both “rock/metal” guitars without a doubt, but the features are what sets them apart, and they couldn’t be more different.

On the left, we have my Schecter E1 Koa. The specs that are important to this test are:

On the right, we have my Schecter Hellraiser. The specs that are important to this test are:

Both guitars are ” Set Neck” designs. This means that both guitars have no neck heel, or bolt on heel joint on the back. The necks should be seated somewhat similarly to the bodies, despite the difference in shape.

Like I previously stated, I bought these guitars because of the features listed above. They feel very different because of the scale length, but they also sound very different because of the number of frets and pickup positions. This was intentional when I purchased the guitars, because they definitely have different tonal characteristics.

The Schecter E1 Koa is a more traditional design with 22 frets, and has all of the specs that you would see in a Gibson. The Hellraiser on the other hand is more modern, has a Fender scale length, and 24 frets for reaching the high notes. But what sets these two guitars apart the most, is the location of the pickups.


22 Frets VS 24 Frets: The Test Results

22 frets vs 24 frets

Disclaimer: I am not a luthier by any means, I do simple repairs. I could not find a reliable source on how to measure the distance. Some people said pole piece to pole piece. Other articles said pickup to pickup. I devised my own way, and it still clearly shows the difference, which is why we are here!

My results were pretty drastic, but I already knew that they would be. This is not the first time I have checked the distance between my pickups before. As I have said earlier, some guitars may be slightly different when it comes to the actual measurements. But one thing is definite when it comes to 22 frets VS 24 frets: The distance is totally different between the two guitar designs.

The 22 fret guitar measured almost exactly 3 inches from the bottom of the neck pickup to the top of the bridge pickup. To be precise, it came out to be about 3.1 inches between the two pickups. This will vary from guitar to guitar, because necks are made/designed/set differently.

The 24 fret guitar measured at about 2.2 inches from the bottom of the neck pickup to the top of the bridge pickup. This means that there is a difference in almost a full inch between the two guitars. Again, this may be different depending on the brand and model of 24 fret guitar.

Both guitars also showed about an inch difference between the base of the neck, and the edge of the bridge pickup. The 22 fret guitar of course had a longer distance from the base of the neck to the bridge pickup. The 24 fret guitar’s bridge pickup was closer to the base of the neck.

So 22 fret guitars are more spaced out between the base of the neck, and the pickups in general. The 24 fret guitar has the pickups closer to the neck, and the pickups themselves are closer together. Lots of people say that a 24 fret guitar is kind of “smooshed” together when it comes to pickup spacing. I can see that, and understand why people make that comparison.

The scale length is not affected at all on either guitar. The 24 fret guitar just has the bridge and pickups closer to the neck, it is still a 25.5 scale. The difference is that the neck joins the body at a different spot on 24 fret guitars than it does on 22 fret guitars. The scale length is never changed, but the pickup placement and spacing definitely is different. 22 frets VS 24 frets is all about the spacing from the neck to the pickups.

So that is the science for you. There is certainly a difference when it comes to 22 frets VS 24 frets. The pickups and bridge are always going to be set a little closer to the neck on a 24 fret guitar to accommodate 24 fret guitar build style. But what does this mean when it comes to tone and the overall sound?


22 Frets VS 24 Frets: Tonal Differences

Guitar pickup positions
Ibanez 24 Fret JEM JR

This is where the science gets up, and walks out the nearest door because science is no longer needed. But thank you science, before you leave…you were great! What matters now, if your preference. When it comes to 22 frets VS 24 frets, neither is better. They are just different, like most things that involve guitar. It is up to the player to decide, and weigh the pros and cons personally. One thing we can take away, and this is as simple as it gets:

Putting two pickups closer together (24 frets) will make them sonically closer in tone and sound, and the closer together they are the more they will sound alike. Placing the pickups further (22 Frets) apart makes the difference between the pickups more evident when you switch positions, and they sound much different from one another.

The pros of having a 22 fret guitar is that the neck pickup will have that classic warm sound that you associate with Les Paul guitars and some semi-hollow jazz style guitars. Likewise, the bridge pickup is further from the neck, and gives you a really “biting” tone. A Telecaster is the perfect example of this “biting” sound. The 22 fret guitar is a classic for good reason, and it isn’t going anywhere.

The pros of a 24 fret guitar is the upper access and a full two octave range of notes at your disposal. The compromise to some is the pickup placement. It is true that the neck pickup will not be as warm as a 22 fret guitar, and the bridge pickup might have a little more bass frequency. But this is one of the reasons that metal players prefer this setup. Ibanez guitars are famous for having a middle single coil to add more flavor to the sonic palate.

The cons of both designs? I honestly don’t have any cons, personally. The whole 22 frets vs 24 frets argument has never really applied to my guitar style. At the end of the day, guitars are tools for making music. A 22 fret guitar may have the tonal characteristics that you need for the sound you are looking for. In other cases you may need a 24 fret guitar to pull off a solo idea, or fill a sonic gap in recording.


22 Frets VS 24 Frets: Final Thoughts…

I see people argue about the virtues of each of these models all the time, and that’s a little bit silly don’t you think? We all choose guitars based on what we need to create. At the beginning of the article I talked about how guitarists have so many options to choose from, and we should be grateful for that. There are guitars at every price point that will suit players of any style or genre.

I like having a wide variety of guitar types because I never know when I may need a sound. One thing is for sure, guitars all sound different no matter how many frets they may have. Sometimes you need a single coil Strat tone for a song, and other times you need a heavy hitter like my Schecter Hellraiser. It depends on the song that I am trying to create!

So there is no clear winner when it comes to 22 frets VS 24 frets. These are just different tools for different jobs. If one suits your sound more than the other, then that’s all that matters. Both are technically correct. Pick the guitar that inspires you, and make some awesome music with it!

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22 Frets VS 24 Frets, Which Is Better?

Better is pretty subjective. 22 fret guitars have different pickup spacing than 24 fret guitars. The pickups on a 22 fret guitar are spaced further apart than on a 24 fret guitar. But a 24 fret guitar offers a two octave range.

22 Frets VS 24 Frets, What Is The Difference?

A 24 fret guitar’s neck and bridge pickups is pushed back to accommodate the extra two frets on the longer neck. This means that the neck pickup loses its distinct tone, and has more midrange and treble since it is slightly closer to the bridge. Likewise, the bridge pickup is closer to the neck as well on a 24 fret guitar, changing the tone. The gap between both pickups are also closer to each other on a 24 fret guitar.

Do I Need A 24 Fret Guitar To Shred?

Absolutely not! Eddie Van Halen famously used 22 fret guitars because he liked the sound better. There are tons of great players that use 22 fret guitars, such as Slash, who have no problem reaching the upper register of the fretboard. They reach those high notes by bending in the upper register.

Why Do 22 Fret Guitars Sound “Warmer”?

A 22 fret guitar is more “spread out” when it comes to design. The pickups are spaced further apart than a 24 fret guitar because of where the neck meets the body. This means that the neck pickup is closer to the neck itself, resulting in a warmer sound.

Christoper Horton

Christopher has been playing guitar and piano for 27 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. He has toured for years with several bands and music projects. He worked in LA as a studio musician and engineer working with bands like IAMSOUND, Baroness, Kylesa, Black Tusk, Reflux, and Tripping Daisy. In between giving private lessons, he is recording a solo album for 2022-2023. Christopher plays Schecter guitars, BOSS amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.

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