Another "bass-shaped" Rickenbacker guitar has turned up on eBay, this time it's a Rickenbacker 481.
The differences between this and the Rickenbacker 480 we looked at the other day are subtle. The 481 does not have the contoured edges of the 480, instead it has a bound body. You'll also observe that it has different pickups (humbuckers) mounted on a larger pickguard.
The pickups, in fact, are set at an angle. Look closer and you'll see that the bridge, nut and the frets themselves are also angled, but not like on a modern "fanned fret" guitar (such as the Novax system); these frets are angled whilst remaining parallel with each other. (In other words, the scale-length is contant for each string, unlike on fanned-fret instruments).
I believe (at least I'm pretty sure I read somewhere) that this was an early attempt a left-hand ergonomics. In reality, it didn't play any better or worse than regular "straight" frets, and so the idea was abandoned. At least, that's how I remember the story. If you know differently, then - as ever - please let us know with a note in the comments below.
G L Wilson
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