An Unfretted Story


We have tried to find the origins of the fretless guitar, to little avail. But one night, we did hear this story....

Parciel was a small French boy with few friends and little confidence. To that end he did have a lot of time on his hands and one day went to a local concert. Parciel was so impressed with the music at the concert he decided he would learn to play an instrument. He thought that if he could play an instrument that would make him poplular.

So he bought a guitar and looked for a teacher. Sadly there was no one willing to teach Parciel. Eventually he heard of a retired teacher, a recluse, living in a cave near the Swiss border. So Parciel packed the few things he owned, including his guitar and headed for the Village.

It took four days to find the old man, who listened patiently and told young Parciel to come back when he had tuned the guitar.

For Parciel this was a big setback. He trekked down to the town and found a music shop that sold him a guitar tuner. They even showed him how the strings could be tuned and how it would sound even better if he purchased some new strings. So he went back up the mountain to the old teacher and brimming with pride presented the restrung, tuned guitar for approval.

Why this is a fine instument declared the grey haired teacher, and so in tune, and with fresh strings. It is a pity you do not have a strap to hang this around your neck. So Parciel went down the mountain and selected the finest guitar strap in the shop. Then he headed back up the mountain. Feeling that the strap would not be the end of the old man's dallying he confronted him straight. "Is this it or do I have more tasks to become a worthy pupil?" Allright, allright said the old man, I suppose I could have sent you for an amplifier and a jack lead and a voice box and an illuminating cod-piece like the last pupil but I think we should start tomorrow. "Tomorrow!" replied Parciel, "Why not now?".

OK we start now, said the old man, play me somethimg. Parciel replied he had come to learn to play, therefore could not play anything until the master had tought him something. The old man thought about this for a long time, then he went over to an old dust covered chest. When he flung the lid open it was as if a dozen bats had flown out of it. Inside were old manuscripts and as he rummaged through the contents the smell of must and old saxophones hung in the air. Eventually he found the document he was looking for and held it up triumphantly. Wiping dust and mold from the cover Parciel could just make out the title Bert Weedens "Play in a Day"

Parciel said "This book is in English, and I only speak French." Ah my boy, said the teacher, you must learn English and master the book and then I can teach you. But Bert Weeden? retorted Parciel, Bert who the f*** is he anyway, Weeden. You are just taking the p***. The old man paused and then replied, Bert Weeden was good enough for Eric Clapton, Brian May, Mike Oldfield, John Miles, John Lennon. "But he's not French" retorted Parciel. Ah, said the teacher, and neither were the guitarists I just mentioned.

We will do it the French way, said the master, good said the boy. We will begin by removing the frets, said the master. What! said Parciel, Are you mad? Do you still want to learn? Not without frets.