Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article! today we're taking a look at those small white dots (or other shapes) that we find often on the fretboard of our guitars and basses, the inlays!
Inlay dots are small pieces of a material that may vary (from plastic to abalone to pearl) that gets installed in a guitar or bass fretboard in order to help the player finding the right fret to press: the use is therefore both for learning and for aesthetic purpose.
Inlay dots may come in the most various shapes and sizes: from the circular ones, which are by far the most common, to the "sharkfin" type, from the trapeze shaped ones to more creative shapes like the classic "birds" of the PRS guitars.
Inlay dots can be set in the part of the fretboard where the player puts his fingers and/or on the side of it, so that only the player can see them.
A luthier, in order to install the inlay dots on a fretboard, needs to carve the shape into the fretboard, glue the inlay into the hole, and once the inlay is perfectly fixed, to smooth out the whole fretboard until you can't feel any step between the fretboard and the inlay. It must feel like part of the fretboard in a perfect continuity.
Usually inlays are set in a classic scheme, in order to make the player to know where the octave ends and the new one starts: single inlays on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, double inlays on the 12th, single inlays on the 15th, 17th, 19th, and 21st, and if present, double inlays on the 24th.
Advantages of such scheme include its symmetry about the 12th fret and symmetry of every half (0-12 and 12-24) about the 7th and 19th frets. Anyway sometimes there are also less classic and more creative patterns.
An interesting new way of using inlay dots has risen to success in the last decade by some famous guitar player (like Herman Li of Dragonforce and Devin Townsend): to wire the inlay dots with leds or optic fiber (passing through a canal inside the fretboard), in order to make them light in the dark of the stage, for both show and playing purpose.
There are also fluorescent inlays that glows in the dark without the need of a battery, but obviously the light produced is much inferior.
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