Welcome To The Twelfth Fret

Destination Boutique

We’re known as “instrument builders who also sell guitars”. Over the years, we’ve done work for the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Elvis Costello, among countless other major artists, working sidemen, and session players.

The guitars we sell today will still be making music a century from now.  Our practise is to fit you up with an instrument that’s going to suit you. And when you’re hooked on guitar or banjo or ukulele, we’ll enjoy getting to know you for the years that follow.

45 Years Experience

For a stretch in the 1970s and ’80s, Toronto was one of North America’s industrial music hubs, supporting a bustling trade of musicians who cranked out film soundtracks and jingles heard in the TV commercials of the era. What it needed was a shop that knew how to service their instruments— so when 21-year-old Grant MacNeill opened The Twelfth Fret in 1977, he was swamped with repair work overnight. 

This year, The Twelfth Fret will turn 40. For the big anniversary, the Fret is offering a limited edition Alhambra Guitar – the Model 11P Exótico

World's Best Repair Shop

Six luthiers make up The Twelfth Fret repair team, totalling over 100 years of combined building and repair experience. The luthiers are well-equipped to handle any job from simple set-ups, to complex restoration work on valuable vintage instruments. Our complete repair facility, including a woodworking shop, means we have all the tools at hand for any size project with all work done right here,  in-house.

Expert All-Musician Team

When you need assistance, our Twelfth Fret team of musicians are at your disposal; devoted to making sure you will be thrilled with your purchase.

We don’t just sell you stuff. We want you to play, perform, and have fun in the experience of making music.  We’ve accumulated years of combined first hand expertise – playing, performing, creating, fixing, and studying everything to do with fretted instruments / gear. We consider it a privilege to offer any advice and guidance we can to support your musical goals.

We Are A Full-Service Guitarists' Pro Shop!

We are here to support your experience every step of the way.

Things have changed since the opening of The Twelfth Fret in 1977.
Though we are larger now, we strive to maintain the small-shop friendly feel that we had in the – “good ole’ days”.
Personalized service remains part of each and every sale. New customers learn quickly that we will “move heaven and earth” to make them happy and take care of any service or warranty issues.


The Twelfth Fret Store Front 1977

1977 The Beginning

Grant MacNeill and Dan Charman opened The Twelfth Fret in June of 1977 at 920 Kingston Road in Toronto Ontario’s Beach area. The building had been a mandolin and guitar workshop since the 1950’s and was an ideal setting for the new shop. To start, the emphasis was entirely on repairs, restoration and custom guitar building. Retail sales of guitars and amplifiers was strictly a sideline. Dan and Grant met at Fender, working together in 1975 in the Fender warranty workshop. Dan left The Fret in 1982 when he moved to the Gulf Islands of British Columbia where he operates an organic farm and still plays his ’57 Martin D-18 guitar.

The workshop coalesced around a nucleus of dedicated guitar makers, many of whom are still in the workshop today. There are 6 full-time Luthiers on staff with vast experience and skills. Virtually all kinds of repairs and restoration work of fretted instruments are done in the workshop; anything from minor setups and repairs to extensive restorations of rare historic instruments. The workshop became the authorized factory repair center for Fender and Gibson and eventually for most brands of guitars sold in Canada.

The Twelfth Fret History 80s
History the Twelfth Fret - David Wren Guitars

Fender And The 80s

The late 1970’s and 80’s were interesting times for musicians in Toronto. Toronto was an industrial music production center for the film and jingle industry. Dozens of recording studios supported a large population of session players; The Twelfth Fret workshop catered specifically to these busy pro players. Many of the early clients continue to have busy recording and performance careers.

In the 1980’s, The Fret expanded into retail sales. Sales of vintage guitars came naturally due to such extensive repair and restoration experience. Because of Grant’s Fender connection, The Twelfth Fret became an official Fender dealership in 1979, something not normally offered to a young and struggling music store. Fortunately, they took a chance on The Fret.  The first generation of Fender Vintage Reissues were hugely successful for The Twelfth Fret; long before they were popular elsewhere. Soon, the shop became Gibson dealers which dovetailed with the status of being the Gibson warranty repair center.

Then in the early 80’s came dealerships for Martin Guitars, Taylor, Gretsch, Larrivee and Dobro. The Fret then introduced their own line of handmade electric guitars.

In 1979, The Twelfth Fret was the first foreign dealer for Dean Markley Strings, and similarly for Dimarzio pickups. The first generation of handmade BC Rich guitars played a big part in the shop too. They were purchased directly from Bernie Rico himself. They were brand new concepts at the time; first examples of new innovations in pickups and strings which are quite common now but at the time, new start-ups that were independent of Fender or Gibson were a very big deal indeed!

In 1979 the shop began to support private Luthiers: David Wren, William ‘Grit’ Laskin, Marc Beneteau and Oscar Graf were the first Luthier-built guitars.

The Fret was very much in awe of Dave Wren and his incredible guitar making abilities. David was John Larrivee’s first apprentice and built thousands of guitars with him in the 1970’s. In 1985 he joined The Twelfth Fret as a part time restoration expert while continuing to build Wren Guitars. David became a full partner in 1990 and is now retired from the Twelfth Fret and returned to his first love; guitar making.

The Twelfth Fret Store Front 2000

The 90s

Together, from 1990 to 2009, David and Grant took the Twelfth Fret to an entirely new level and grew the business to what it is today. Their partnership was successful.

Over the 1990’s, horizons expanded. The Twelfth Fret became boutique guitar dealers: handmade, limited production guitars by Bourgeois, Collings, Santa Cruz, R Taylor, Martin Custom Shop, National Resophonic, GW Barry, Harrison Guitars, Ramirez and Alhambra guitars. Inventory slowly grew to be one of the largest and most varied collections of acoustic and electric guitars in the world.

The Fret outgrew their second location quickly. In 1999 after buying and renovating a new building, The Twelfth Fret moved in to their new digs in 2000. The larger building allowed separation from the workshop and finishing facility from the busy retail shop. Ideal for dust control and the Luthiers were thrilled to be further from the busy retail side of the business.

“Our background in guitar making influences what we choose to carry. We will be servicing these instruments for decades to come so we want to be certain our guitars will hold their value. Our guitar makers approach to the choice of guitars we carry has been fundamental to our retail success.”

All this ensures that The Twelfth Fret offers an eclectic selection of fretted stringed instruments in a world of cookie-cutter music stores.

With a customer base of +26,000 clients, The Twelfth Fret staff are all talented musicians with a broad variety of musical backgrounds thus being able to provide for customers of various musical needs.

“Online shopping has changed the nature of guitar sales dramatically. We ship guitars, banjos and mandolins daily to the farthest corners of the world.  Matching an instrument to a customer who you have never met, is a skill that entails lots of email communication, a caring attitude and a passion for guitars.  Our satisfaction comes when a customer in New Zealand, Japan or Russia, etc. –  reports back that they love their new instrument and the setup is perfect.” 

Tour The Twelfth Fret!