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Author Topic: Fret wire question  (Read 3000 times)


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Fret wire question
« on: October 10, 2020, 07:34:28 AM »
Is there any reason why a person can't refret a guitar with jumbo frets but use medium jumbo fret wire for the first two or three frets to keep notes from going sharp when playing open chords? Seems to me like it would be a great strategy but I've never seen anyone mention it.
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Re: Fret wire question
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2020, 04:04:01 PM »
While I am not a luthier I don't see a particular reason why not, provided that the frets have the same height - otherwise you would get notes fretting out (i.e. not sounding right). Even with wide frets you should not have intonation problems unless the frets are not crowned correctly. If the fret surface is flat, that may throw the intonation out - that is the reason why they should be recrowned after levelling.

Using different fret wire sizes is not new - there are people using wider frets for 1 - 12 and narrower frets from 13 up. I never tried this but it sound like a good idea as you will have more space as you would have with wide frets.


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Re: Fret wire question
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2020, 11:12:01 PM »
you could do it but it might feel a bit strange.
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Re: Fret wire question
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2020, 10:03:08 AM »
I don't think it would solve the issue - like darkbluemurder says: the frets would have to be the same height.

This would mean the following:
  • The distance that the strings need pushing down for these frets will be identical regardless of fret-type.
  • If part of the problem is how hard you press (I tend to press harder than some) then the distance from the top of the fret to the fretboard - the amount you can bend the string when pressing it to the fret - will also be the same.
If you change to jumbo frets, you need to adjust to how much to press to fret a note (if you notice it going out of tune). And by the way - this applies further up the neck just as much too, just seems less noticeable.

As to what causes "notes going sharp" on the first few frets:
  • As mentioned above, pressing harder than is needed will do it.
  • As darkbluemurder says, badly crowned frets can cause the problem.
  • The nut slots might not be cut low enough, so you have to move the string too far to get it to the fret - more noticable on the first few frets.
  • Same as we have staggered bridge saddles for consistent tuning on a fretted string instrument, physics suggests that we ought to have staggered nut slots at the other end. The issues caused by a straight nut show up most on the first few frets.

For the 4th one, you can get staggered nut slots - check out Earvana nuts. But it's a matter of taste whether you like what an Earvana nut does for you. I've tried one, and yes, chords fretted on the first few strings sound consistently sweeter. The initial vibe is really good. But I found I felt generally very uncomfortable with the how the guitar was behaving with regard to tuning. I had a spare straight nut, so on a whim I swapped it - suddenly I loved the guitar.

I reached the conclusion that, if you've been playing for years and years, and have grown very used to, and comfortable with, having to adjust your playing for the vagaries of the physics of a fretted instrument... then an Earvana nut suddenly fixing some of those vagaries will severely mess with your head!!

If you haven't been playing so long and you're facing that "why won't the bluddy thing stay in tune?!?!?!" horror we all go through early on, then an Earvana is probably a potential life-saver/game-changer.

However, note that pressing too hard, frets not crowned, or the nut too high will all still cause the problem even with an Earvana nut installed.

ALSO just remembered - pushing the string slighlty sideways when you're fretting will do it (that's actually part of the instinctively learnt technique to deal with tuning up and down the neck). So watch for that. I recently switched back to 10s on Fender scale length guitars for various reasons... and I caught myself being a bit sloppy on the open chords with the lighter strings. A bit of practice, just a few hours, got it under control. Then I switched back to a guitar with 11s for a while and came back and practiced again. I'm trying to get my fingers trained to automatically "press as much as is required" based on the instrument in my hands - I think that's possible, feels like it. I'd got a bit lazy not worrying about fretting, and I naturally tend to grind into the thing when I get lazy. I think this is because I originally learnt on guitars with high actions and stiff strings back in the 70s - if your guitar was not quite as well set up as we now know it could be (internets etc didn't exist, so you just didn't know), the way to stop buzzing on chords was "press harder"! :grin:

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