Miscellaneous Rumbles

Why do you like the height/shape of some frets and not others?

1

There's frequent chatter around about someone's mention of fret height and/or shape but never a thread about why you prefer what you use for your playing style and why you don't like others.

I myself have to have very low and wide frets. Low, because playing fingerstyle, I'm always playing open strings in combination with fretted strings and fretted notes get pulled sharp if the string has to descend the distance to the fretboard that occurs with jumbo or tall frets. This creates dissonance between the fretted and open strings. And I don't want the frets to have edges/sides to them that my fingertips bump into moving about. The frets need to be wide so their profile is completely rounded. You may suggest using heavier gauge strings than the 10-46's I use to lesson the amount of depression, but I don't like the added tension and I want the strings to contact the fretboard, not hover above it as heavier strings and tall frets create. By the stings touching the fretboard, the low frets allow minimal depression so the dissonance is almost eliminated..

So I'd like to hear from folks who like the jumbo's that manufacturers are putting on new guitars - electrics and acoustics, and from time to time we hear here, mention of as a preference.

2

i didn’t even know there was a choice until the first time I saw and played a white James Burton Telecaster with the little skinny vintage frets.

That felt perfect, it seemed to make the neck feel bigger. And the guitar must have been setup really low, because that's the way I like them. You never see that in a shop anymore.

But I've never owned a guitar with those frets.

I just want a fret that lasts, so I order stainless when I can.

The few times I've played jumbo or tall frets it has felt like a cheese grater. Jumbo frets seem to be all fret, no board.

3

This is interesting. I have a mix of frets on different guitars. I have a Strat that needed a neck refinish and refret about two years ago. I had it done. He used Jumbos at my request and it has never ever played better. Additionally, he put hemispherical ends on the frets, they are rounded and smooth and there is absolutely no feel to them on the sides, you just glide on that guitar.

It was an odd deal. I didn't want to experiment with my guitar, but he said if I didn't like them, the fret job would be free.. It wasn't, I liked them so much.

4

I had a 1999 Brian Setzer 6120. My first Gretsch. I was a lucky kid being a senior in high school with such a nice guitar. I heard Setzer used big frets so I had my local shop refret it with the # Setzer reported in a Guitar Player Magazine. It ruined the guitar for me. I consider myself a string bender but I learned I like small frets and low action for that.

5

Interesting comments. Windsordave referred to strings bending sharp with the distance from fret to board. Thing is, all you need is solid contact with the fret -- no need to push the string all the way to the board. Players who use scalloped fretboards know this, as do players of some other stringed instruments. On a sitar, for example, the frets are arched way up above the neck, which is concave with a channel for the sympathetic strings underneath, so your fingers never touch the neck at all --- only the frets. Like this here:

Most of my guitars seem to have "medium jumbo" frets (is that an oxymoron?), so I'm used to them. One of my guitars --- a Ventura Barney Kessel copy --- has much smaller frets, which I notice whenever I first pick it up, but my fingers seem to adjust within a few minutes.

6

I do all my own fret jobs, used medium frets for the most part. Never stainless, I've invested enough in my brass tool kit as it is. Would like to have it done on one though. However, as my hands deteriorate (reactive arthritis ) I'm using more .10's and .11's , and playing with lowered action from what I did before. I've altered my playing in that I've learned to play with a lighter touch. I may give a try on one with that 50's narrow stuff. Might work, be interesting in that I haven't played one like that in decades. I'd imagine it would be great for fingerpicking or jazz players doing really fast lines, but not much bending. And with bigger gauge strings .

7

I changed around 15 years ago. Used to be tiny frets didn't bother me but they sure do now. So I am happy w/ these huge honkin' 53x110 . about the biggest Stu Mac has.

Just short scale, wide neck and big frets made me much happier than full scale, narrow neck and small frets (the Fender scene)

8

Interesting comments so far folks, thanks. I'll address Parabar's suggestion of the need to only have the string touch the fret rather than pushing it behind the fret and all the way down to the fretboard. In theory, that's the concept and it's a true observation however......there are those of us who fret with our thumb while the other left hand fingers are busy fretting the appropriate strings for chords. It is physically impossible to do this using a light touch. Some chords require almost a death grip to accomplish this. Even when I barre chords, I use a good strong pressure. The reason for the pressure being required is that the left hand fingers aren't simply forming a chord as they would in non-fingerstyle and/or strumming style but some are moving about for the melody and harmony notes. My personal style requires a strong grip so a light touch won't work for me.

To illustrate, try this C7 chord with your left hand and see if you can produce the chord ensuring the high E string rings and is not touched & muted by the index finger. When I use this chord form [and other similar ones], I'm using my pinky for melody notes while holding this chord. Also bear in mind several of my guitars are 1.8" at the nut or zero fret and two at 1.875" It's enough to grab that chord let alone doing it with a light touch!

6th string - thumb on 3rd fret

5th string - not played

4th string - middle finger on 2nd fret

3rd string - ring finger on 3nd fret

2nd string - index on 1st fret

1st string - open

Edit: correction on typo for 3rd & 4th strings...duh!

9

I think I have just about every size and shape. Hard to say which I like...

I'm not much of a string bender these days, ... more hammers, pulls, and slides.

4 guitars currently use 10's, 3 with 11's, 3 with 12's, 2 with 13's, 1 with 14's set up like a Resonator....

10

Please check my edit for proper finger placement!

11

I've got all sorts of different sized frets on my guitars - the narrow stuff you find on "vintagey" models from Gretsch up to the big stuff Gibson uses on Les Pauls. They all work fine for me. Not sure what the fuss is really all about.

The only frets I don't like are ones that aren't well crowned, or the stuff they use/d on American Series Strats - super tall and wide. They felt like railroad ties with that C shaped neck.

If I had to refret something, I'd probably go with whatever I thought would last the longest. Probably stainless. I'll probably need to do that with my main acoustic in a couple years.

12

One of the main reasons I traded my 96 Gibson Chet was because of the frets, they were super, duper, gigantic! OK, that may be an exaggeration. I prefer small ones like the originals on my 58 and my newer white Penguin. I don't have a lot of strength in my left hand so my preference is Super Slinky 9s. Once I leave the nut most of my chords are barred and it seems easier to slide up the neck with finer frets. Never learned to use the thumb much except for the run in Piano Man.

13

-I mostly like jumbo frets. Wide and high. I do my own (and other people’s) fretwork so I can make them exactly the way I like them.
-I like high frets because I can’t stand having to fight the fretboard, specially when bending. I play more freely when the frets are high and I feel there is a nicer ring to them than when you are pushing against the fretboard with your fingers or the frets are so tiny that there isn’t enough metal to let them ring nicely.
-And i like wider frets because of the way it feels, less of a bump. But I also like that they sound a bit fuller and fatter.
-And I like the tops round because it gives a very nice clear ring. I used to like them a bit flat on top because I felt it made them sound warmer. But I like the clarity more now.
-And I make the ends fairly straight so that there is no chance that the strings slip over the edge.

-But that said: My most played guitar (71 Tele) had medium jumbos that are worn pretty low but I love that guitar so much that I don’t want to change anything….

14

6100’s rock, they’re not speed bumps but more like a smooth transition up and down the fretboard like an ellipse.

15

6100’s rock, they’re not speed bumps but more like a smooth transition up and down the fretboard like an ellipse.

– Curt Wilson

I always used the Dunlop 6100 and the 6105, the 6100 being my personal favorite as well. But I discovered Jescar wire and I really like it. It seems a bit harder and higher quality. Have you ever tried it?

16

Cool thread! I'm ready to choose frets for a tele project I'm doing at this moment and I'm trying to figure out which frets I like. I don't like very tall frets. I like to just feel the fretboard a bit with my fingers when I fret, so I won't press them too much out of tune. I don't have a light touch, I'm a hack... I guess I like medium frets when they had their first fret dressing, that's the sweet spot for me I think.

17

One of the main reasons I traded my 96 Gibson Chet was because of the frets, they were super, duper, gigantic! OK, that may be an exaggeration. I prefer small ones like the originals on my 58 and my newer white Penguin. I don't have a lot of strength in my left hand so my preference is Super Slinky 9s. Once I leave the nut most of my chords are barred and it seems easier to slide up the neck with finer frets. Never learned to use the thumb much except for the run in Piano Man.

– RCgold

I agree and you aren't exaggerating one bit!!. I bought my [used] '98 Gibson Gent and immediately took it to my luthier who dressed them down a lot. I lived with this for awhile. 3 weeks after finding the Gent I found the SC I had been after for quite awhile. It needed fret work and mods so when I took it to Nicole she showed me the nice low, wide, like an elipse as Curt mentioned wire she could order for it. I had her do the Gent while she was at it as they still had a vertical edge to them. Only so much she could do with them so just replace them. I have 3 guitars with that style frets.

Did you consider changing out the frets on your Gent rather than solve the problem by just selling it?

18

I agree and you aren't exaggerating one bit!!. I bought my [used] '98 Gibson Gent and immediately took it to my luthier who dressed them down a lot. I lived with this for awhile. 3 weeks after finding the Gent I found the SC I had been after for quite awhile. It needed fret work and mods so when I took it to Nicole she showed me the nice low, wide, like an elipse as Curt mentioned wire she could order for it. I had her do the Gent while she was at it as they still had a vertical edge to them. Only so much she could do with them so just replace them. I have 3 guitars with that style frets.

Did you consider changing out the frets on your Gent rather than solve the problem by just selling it?

– Windsordave

No I didn't Dave, I have no one near enough to do the work that I trust. That is why it was traded. Sure wished I had a tech close enough, the 6120 needs some work and the Syncro needs binding!

19

You're very close to Vancouver and there's some great techs here! The added bonus would be paying in US funds and taking advantage of the exchange rate. I'm sure you could make arrangements with a luthier here to do the work when you bring it in so there's no return visit required. Just tell them at the border you're going to jam with a friend so there's no duty on the work done.

20

Since being knocked down by a car and breaking my left wrist three years ago I find it almost impossible to play barre chords, at least standing up -- my wrist joint just doesn't want to bend that much, so these days I'm more or less permanently a 'thumb over' guy. Add to this a tendency to press strings hard down to the board (sorry, can't change now at 73!) so high frets are not for me.

I have two Hamers -- both nice guitars but with frets that are taller than I can deal with (at least in public!) so I don't gig with them. I don't really want to part with them so I'm thinking of asking our local luthier (who happens to live right across the street) to take them down a bit.

21

I always used the Dunlop 6100 and the 6105, the 6100 being my personal favorite as well. But I discovered Jescar wire and I really like it. It seems a bit harder and higher quality. Have you ever tried it?

– Danman

I’ve been using their stainless steel wire because Dunlop doesn’t make it. I’ll have to try their nickel one of these days.

22

Wide and low, definitely.

I like 6130's best, that's what I have any guitars re-fretted with that need it and is closest to the old Gibson "Fretless Wonder" frets.

As for why, I find the feel of tall frets really uncomfortable both at the ends and on the fretboard. I'm too ham-fisted to have a light touch on the fret board so tall frets also mean out of tune notes.

I like feeling the fretboard under my fingers rather than air. Having them wide and nicely crowned means they're easy to feel in spite of the lowness.

23

You're very close to Vancouver and there's some great techs here! The added bonus would be paying in US funds and taking advantage of the exchange rate. I'm sure you could make arrangements with a luthier here to do the work when you bring it in so there's no return visit required. Just tell them at the border you're going to jam with a friend so there's no duty on the work done.

– Windsordave

Thanks Dave, I don't mind going into Canada, the border people are pretty darn nice! It's getting back into the US that CAN be fun sometimes when you have items with you. I used to go up there and pan gold and also carried a metal detector or two with me, Ya didn't want to get the wrong border people coming back south! AND, better be able to document ownership.

24

I have a Les Paul that I haven't played in a few years, it has Jumbo frets and I had played it heavily over the past 36 years. During the time that I haven't played it, I've mostly been playing guitars with thinner frets. I've grown to like the thin Stratocaster type frets, and the thinner frets on my Gretsch guitar. I had my Les Paul out a few days ago, and the frets felt absolutely huge, even though it was my go to guitar for so many years. I'm not sure why, but I've come to really like thinner frets. I'm a very aggressive string bender, with a fairly light touch. But my light touch is a behavior modification, as I used to clutch the very tightly with my left hand.

25

I’ve been using their stainless steel wire because Dunlop doesn’t make it. I’ll have to try their nickel one of these days.

– Curt Wilson

I would like to know what you think about it. To me it seems higher quality.
I never have gotten the request to use stainless yet. I should try. What do you think about the sound?


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