Let's Play Barrios?

Un sueño en la Floresta is one truly beautiful song by Barrios Mangore. Although it is all about tremolo, addition of fast verse and various other techniques involving pizzicato make the song technically hard to play. But that is not the sole reason to why most people hesitate to play this song; it is the fact that the song requires one additional fret to higher E string - 21th on 1st string side. Usually, a classical guitar is equipped only with 20th frets with exception of few extended range guitars, which have upto 21th or even 22th fret. My guitar is standard 20th fret guitar but I dared to start practicing this song anyway mainly due to the irresistable magical melody that Barrios has spelled on the song. As soon as I got stuck with the unreachable high C, I didn't despair, instead I came up with a simple solution to literally "add" one more fret to my cheap, thus experimental, guitar. Those who are eager to learn the Barrios's magical tremolo, but only have 20th-fret-guitar shall not despair and are encouraged to try this method. This is so simple that you don't even have to unwind the strings to do the works.


1.Glue Gun with Glue Stricks
2.320 Grid Sanding Paper (or higher grid)
3. Two Pieces of Wood Bigger than 2mm x 10mm x 15mm (the harder, the better)
4.Paper Knife
5.Paper Clips
6.Low Viscosity Instant Adhesive (higher shear strength is prefered, the adhesive I used is not shown in the above picture, but will appear in due course)
7.A Guitar (preferably the one you can do some experiments on)

i. First observe the curve at the end of fretboard. My cheap guitar Yamaha CG-111C has some serious inclined curve at the end, so I had to fill this void by some wood before putting an additional fret. Closely observe the curve as I later cut the wood in a shape of this.

ii. Prepare a block of wood about a size that can fill the void of the fretboard (just eye-balling here).

iii. Now that I have the block about the size, but not quite fit to the end-shape of the board, I will sand it off in a way to match the shape. This whole process is all about eye-balling instead of tedious measuring and marking. This will take some time, but don't try to speed the process up because "unmatched shape" will result in wobbly-fit or some air-filled void between the board and the piece. This will make the sound unstable, so keep this in mind, take every time you need. The only part that you cannot eyeball is the length of the wood (the length along the direction of the string in the picture). The location of the 21st fret should be precise for the precise pitch. First mark the location of the high C on the string. If you do that, then the end of the block should extend right before the marking, say 1mm before the marking on the string (remember this number for later). This is important.

iv. Note how I make the angle on the block by sanding off. Match the resultant block to the board frequently for best shape.

v. This is the finished final block. The most important thing at this point is that the sides that are in contact WITH the board should precisely match with the sides of fingerboard and the length of the block, of course.

vi. A side view of the resultant block.

vii. Now, use a glue stick on the block. Use only a smallest amount you can squeeze. The purpose of using glue stick is not to "tightly attach" the block, but to simply "let" the block loosely attached so that later instant adhesive can better be applied. As soon as the block is well positioned and well attached with glue, now let little drops of instant adhesives flow into the gap between the piece and the board from all direction. Little residues on the fingerboard are okay as I will sand them off later. And wait for at least ten minutes, preferably twenty minutes. Please notice in the picture that my wood is not perfectly aligned with the curvature of the guitar yet.

viii. Meanwhile, prepare another wood. It is important that you use "hard" wood. This piece will become the actual 21st fret later. Sand it off down to a perfect cylinder shape. The thickness should be twice the length of margin that you left for the step iii. Mine was 1mm so it should be 2mm. The width (vertical measure in the picture) should be similar to the length between the top of a fret to the surface of guitar, not from fretboard). The height (horizontal measure in the picture) should be enough that the wood piece can stretch from the side of sound hole. If you are not sure, have a peak on the final picture by scrolling off!

ix. Cut a small "gorge" along the stretch of the wood like in the picture.

x. Cut a paper clip to a length of the wood with a margin of 2mm and glue the wood and the clip together. The clip will act as a "fret wire." Note in the picture the additional protrusions of paper clip on each side of the block. Sand the protrusions and any sharp parts of the metal so that it won't hurt nylon string (Use finest grid sand paper you have). Make sure you leave no residue in the top of the clip, that is the fret wire. By the way, the glue in the picture is the one I'm using for low viscosity instant adhesive (pretty lovely name). It has a shear strength rating of 2700psi tested on Aluminium.

xi. This is the finished 21st fret.

xii. Like I did in the previous step, first use glue to position the fret to the just-extended fretboard. Then flow little drops of low viscosity through the gap between the pieces. If you are done, wait for thirty minutes. The downside of using instant adhesives is that it leaves white marks as it dries. This is due to the reaction of the chemical with the water vapor in the air. My advice here is, observe the guitar as it dries and if you see some whitening, scratch them off with your nail. After thirty minutes, carefully sand off any surface residues. Change sand paper grid as needed (from low to high). But don't use grid smaller than 320. Make sure you don't sand off already finished surface in the vicinity.

The picture above shows many dirty residues on the fret. If you have a precision rotating sanding gear, use it to smooth out or you can rough sand the surface and color it. Many possibilities here. In my case, I just decided to sand them off clean. The final picture is in the below.

xiii. This is the final shape. I've been practicing the song for roughly about a month and this does its job. The whole process took me about two hours. Easy, but effective way. But don't do this on a serious guitar, as it can potentially ruin it.

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