I was wondering, how often does it happen to "run out of fretboard" like Tommy Emmanuel (almost) does in this video around 0:30 ? Do you ever feel limited by the range of the guitar while improvising ?

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    Note that the available fretted notes and the range of the guitar are two different things. Cf. Duane Allman's slide solo before the piano breakdown in Layla. – Todd Wilcox Feb 8 '16 at 14:32
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    Thanks for the brilliant link! They had already changed the key from its more usual Am/C into Em/G, probably to be able to get the high notes in. It's often an option used to accommodate the range of a particular instrument. – Tim Feb 8 '16 at 14:55

I "run out of fretboard" very frequently on guitar, but not while improvising, and not at the high end. When writing, I often wish I could play lower on the guitar.

I also play piano/keyboards and bass, and I like to be able to have a good low-end as a foundation in music that I write. On piano I can have it all, more or less, but even then I don't spend a lot of time playing the highest octaves on piano, but I do play down in the lowest octaves frequently.

Most of the time, I don't much care for the sound of the very highest notes on a guitar, so I'm not motivated to go above the 15th or 17th fret on the high E string in most cases.

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    Have you tried baritone and seven string guitars (which aren't a new idea, I bought one in Russia in the '60s) – Tim Feb 8 '16 at 14:47
  • @Tim No, but I can just barely get my hands around a standard Fender or Gibson neck, so seven strings have never interested me. Regarding baritone, the issue isn't so much what the lowest note is per se (despite what I wrote in my answer), but that I always want a lower note. When I'm playing bass, I wish I had a five string, even though I'm an entire octave below the lowest note on guitar. When I'm playing piano, I want another octave on the bottom. It's only synthesizers that I can make go so low that I find the sound to be useless. – Todd Wilcox Feb 8 '16 at 14:50
  • I do loves me some Whammy pedal doubling an octave below, though. – Todd Wilcox Feb 8 '16 at 14:52
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    That was one of the reasons I changed to 5 string bass many years ago! However, I did pose a question about using a 4 string with BEAD tuning (and obviously thicker strings!). I did the change over a couple of years ago, and the result is great. Did it with a Bass Collection SGC Nanyo - my favourite bass guitar maker - and it also stops people from borrowing it on gigs! Incidentally, there are two distinct string spacings on 5ers - all 5 in the space of normal 4, or, my preference, 5, normally spaced out. – Tim Feb 8 '16 at 15:02
  • @Tim I'm suprised that bass players would be so put off by BEAD tuning that they wouldn't want to borrow it, but I suppose if a bass player said "BEAD? I can't do that" to me I would be relieved that they will not be exercising their inability to just move everything up one string on one of my instruments. And now I might have to go look at string sets and switch to BEAD because that sounds like a way to not "have" to buy a 5-string. – Todd Wilcox Feb 8 '16 at 16:31

To avoid running out of fretboard it is useful to be comfortable with a number of different scales and know how to play "beyond fret 0" when doing scales focused on a barre chord position/chord shape.

But then practising scales is not a popular occupation...

  • I'm struggling to understand how this answers the question. – Tim Feb 12 '16 at 15:09

I run out of fretboard frequently when I play solos on my acoustic guitar because I want to play very high pitches at points in the solo.

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