Ralph Novak's fanned fret guitars are truly some of the most exciting and innovative instruments on the market today. They combine superb craftsmanship, imaginative design and cutting edge technology with the influence of the vintage gems that inspired them. The result is a guitar that not only looks, plays and sounds great, but also breaks new ground in tuning accuracy and physical comfort.
As the exclusive dealer of Novax guitars, McKenzie River Music is proud to stock a wide selection of these beautiful instruments. Please contact us for more information about our current inventory and custom ordering options. –Sassy Annie, Sweet Annie, Charlie Hunter CH8 and CH7 are all available for custom order, enabling you to chose your own finish, pickup configuration and wiring preferences.
Novax Guitars® was officially founded in 1989 when Ralph Novak was awarded U.S. Patent #4,852,450 for the “Multiple Scale Fretboard”. While the date is based on the issuance of the patent, the seeds for this disruptive technology and the Fanned-Fret® concept were sown many years earlier.
In the early 1970’s, Ralph Novak was repairing and customizing (they weren’t called “guitar techs” then…) guitars and basses, working through LoBue/Guitar Lab, We Buy Guitars, and Alex Music, all located in the W. 48th Street musical instrument nexus of downtown Manhattan.
New York City was a “hub” for the many professional artists who would pass through on tour - it was a period of “enlightenment” for Novak. Working with discerning and knowledgeable professional musicians made it clear to Novak that there were shortcomings to traditional guitar design. After a move to California in 1978, Novak worked through Subway Guitars in Berkeley for several years before opening his own shop in Emeryville, and later, San Leandro. It was here that the multiple-scale concept was conceived, developed, and patented.
The concept arose from the observation that although instruments with different body styles and pickups would display obvious differences in tone, there was a consistency in the string response of the various instruments.
Shorter-scale instruments (many Gibson solid body guitars and short-scale Fenders) had a “warm” tone with a “muddy” bass response. Longer-scale instruments (like many Fender guitars and the longer-scale Gibson arch tops) had a brighter tone and the basses were more “piano-like”. In addition, when compared to the older Kay guitars with an even longer 26.25" scale length, the difference in the tone of the strings resulting from the string length was striking.
Novak sought a way to combine the warm, sweet trebles of shorter-scale instruments with the rich, piano-like basses of the long-scale instruments. This was the genesis of Fanned-Frets.
One surprising effect of the Fanned-Fret concept was how “in-tune” the prototype instruments were. Further refinement and development over the next ten years, with a focus on accurate intonation and input from many players, led to the current embodiment that has made Novax Guitars popular worldwide. Artists with discriminating taste and demanding musical styles have naturally gravitated to the Fanned-Fret concept for the easy playability, accurate intonation, and expanded tuning range that Fanned-Frets offer.
With decades of experience in stringed-instrument repair and customization, and an Industrial Design Excellence Award, Novax Guitars has been at the forefront of guitar innovation and evolution.
Ralph Novak’s long-time collaboration with famed guitarist Charlie Hunter has lead to numerous groundbreaking instruments that enable guitarists to simultaneously play bass lines, guitar chords and melodies.
At the “designed-in level”, Novax instruments incorporate “invisible” features such as super-accurate intonation and easy playability along with more obvious design refinements like single-string bridges that minimize string-to-string crosstalk.
Custom-voiced pickups, unique and versatile circuits, and stunning woods are all combined to deliver a unique and inspiring playing experience.
Ralph Novak has recently retired from actively building custom instruments due to deteriorating eyesight. He is offering his design and consultation services to other companies interested in producing Fanned-Fret instruments.
Learn more at www.novaxguitars.com.