A Revolutionary New Guitar Fretting

The Beauty of 7-limit Just Intonation

The Freedom of an Equal Temperament

With the Kite Guitar, common chords sound smoother while new intervals bring exciting expressive possibilities.

Cindy Lail's 8-string baritone guitar built (not merely refretted or converted) by Tonedevil Guitars

The Kite Guitar (or bass, mandolin, banjo, etc.) has 41 notes per octave instead of 12. 41-ET (equal temperament) or 41-EDO (equal division of an octave) approximates just intonation to within 3-6 cents, and chords sound gorgeous! But a guitar with 41 frets per octave is impractical. The Kite Guitar cleverly omits every other fret. Thus while the frets are closer together than a standard guitar, they're not so close as to be unplayable. The interval between open strings is usually 13 steps of 41. 13 is an odd number, thus all 41 pitches are present on the guitar. Each string has only half of the pitches, but any adjacent pair of strings has all 41.

Omitting half the frets in effect moves certain pitches to remote areas of the fretboard, and makes certain intervals difficult to play. Miraculously, it works out that the remote intervals are the ones that don't work well in chords, and the ones that aren't remote are the ones that do work well. For example, the sweet 5-limit major 3rd, a 5/4 ratio, is easily accessible, but the dissonant 3-limit or pythagorean major 3rd 81/64 isn't. (3-limit & 5-limit refer to the largest prime number in the frequency ratio.)

In addition, important 7-limit intervals like 7/6, 7/5 and 7/4 are easy to play. This means the Kite Guitar can do much more than just play sweet Renaissance music. It can put a whole new spin on jazz, blues and experimental music. The dom7 and dom9 chords are especially calm and relaxed, revealing just how poorly 12-tET tunes these chords. But dissonance is still possible, in fact 41-tET can be far more dissonant than 12-tET. And 41 notes means that the melodic and harmonic vocabulary is greatly expanded, allowing truly unique music that simply isn't possible with 12 notes.

The Kite Guitar has 1.7 times as many frets as a standard guitar. Even with these additional frets, the Kite Guitar is still quite playable. The interval between open strings is usually a major 3rd, not a 4th. Thus new chord shapes must be learned. However, the Kite Guitar is isomorphic, meaning that chord shapes can be moved not only from fret to fret but also from string to string. Thus there are far fewer shapes to learn. (Open tunings, which are non-isomorphic, are also possible.) Tuning in 3rds not 4ths reduces the overall range of the guitar. Thus a 7-string or even an 8-string guitar is desirable.

Jim Snow's 7-string Ibanez guitar, converted by himself

The Kite Guitar is not a brand or a specific product. We are freely sharing this idea with the world. We sell pre-slotted fretboards that your local luthier can install. If you live in Portland OR, we can do the installing/fretting ourselves. We can also refer you to more experienced luthiers and fretboard makers. (The Kite Guitar was only invented in April 2019, and we're still gearing up.)

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