Question about fret height

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by living room rocker, May 20, 2021.

  1. living room rocker

    living room rocker Active Member

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    What effect does fret crown height have on the ease of playing a guitar? Seems as though a lot of attention is given to string action (the distance from the fret crown to the string) but does the actual height of the fret itself from it's base to crown factor into this too? In other words, does a low fret crown height make for an easier playing guitar?
     
  2. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    Low frets are good for players with a death grip, because they won't drive a note out of tune if you press too hard, but they are hard to make decent bends, because your finger tends to slip over the string rather than getting behind it. Tall frets give you good purchase for bends, but you do need to develop a "soft hands" playing technique - which you should do anyway.
     
  3. Bob Womack

    Bob Womack Well-Known Member

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    The lower the fret, the greater fretting pressure needed. The higher the fret the greater sense of security in a bend.
    No. Some say it makes sliding easier, I don't find that to be true. I find that jumbo frets are the easiest ti fret because they REQUIRE lower fretting pressure. If you fret too hard on jumbos you'll pull the string sharp, so it requires a lighter touch. Lots of people come up with tendonitis issue and the first thing I recommend is a refret with jumbo frets because of the lower pressure.

    Bob
     
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  4. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    Why is that ?
     
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  5. living room rocker

    living room rocker Active Member

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    I've noticed this slipping at times after making truss rod or bridge adjustments until I get used to the required pressure to prevent it. I probably need to better develop those softer hands you mentioned but I don't seem to fret strings so hard they mar up the fretboard.
     
  6. living room rocker

    living room rocker Active Member

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    I would imagine jumbo frets also contain more material for future leveling and dressings before a refret is needed.
     
  7. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    The guitarists with the best soft hands technique I know of are in Canadian metal band Unleash the Archers. The genre might not suit you, but hang around for the technique.

     
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  8. Bob Womack

    Bob Womack Well-Known Member

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    Because there isn't a lot of break angle over the frets on low frets. It is shown in comparison to the higher frets, though, which are high enough to allow you to bend sharp with pressure.

    Bob
     
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  9. Bob Womack

    Bob Womack Well-Known Member

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    I love to see the old Traynor in the background.

    Bob
     
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  10. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    Touch is the key to nuanced and harmonic guitar playing. I have a Les Paul with the frets almost worn down to the wood. I have a Classic SG with some tall boys. My touch on each is the same. The Les Paul requires a bit more attention on bends to avoid "grounding out" but it is doable. My own preference is smaller low profile frets, but you gotta fly the plane you're in.
     
  11. living room rocker

    living room rocker Active Member

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    I have a Snark head stock tuner that's reasonably accurate, in fact I even use it for intonation. It's quite easy to see how adding fretting pressure pulls the pitch sharp. My only guitar is an Epi G400 that's had frets leveled and dressed professionally once since purchase. Not sure if the stock frets are considered jumbo or not.....bought new in '16.
     
  12. living room rocker

    living room rocker Active Member

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    Wow, they have a soft touch for sure. I guess what piqued my curiosity about frets was swapping guitars with a buddy one night last year, he playing my Epi G400 and I playing his Squire Tele. I'd just had my Epi's frets professionally leveled/dressed and the action set very low with no buzz. His Squire still seemed easier to play, especially in the open position. I suppose other factors could be involved, i.e string gauge, nut slot height, etc?
     
  13. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    Nut slot height is a major one. Guitars will come from the factory with a high nut - every time. Part of the setup should be to to take that down to the same height as the frets, although most luthiers will stop slightly short of that.
     
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  14. Go Nigel Go

    Go Nigel Go Well-Known Member

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    Low frets vs high frets is a contentious issue on the internet with firm adherents on both sides. Having owned and played both, my personal preference is towards lower frets. One can make an objective case either way, but only if one presumes their playing methods are the only way to do it. The truth is, if you have high frets or low frets, your playing techniques will have to take the strengths and weaknesses of both setups into account, and which is "better" comes down to how you feel most comfortable playing and what set of techniques is most useful in the style of music you are playing.

    Some things I have found are that playing pressure is more dependent on string height above the fret than fret height. Pressure needed to achieve the fretted note once fret contact is made is the same. Friction on bends between the finger and the fret board can be a little more difficult to overcome using low frets until you learn to modulate pressure over a shorter distance. Tall frets can feel a bit like "speed bumps" when sliding bar chords and other movable shapes. I can also see how that could be overcome by adjusting one's playing style, but I just prefer to solve it by using low strings over low frets. It's all about what you like. Neither set up is a "cheat" or compromise with ultimate playability.

    What exact dimensions you prefer for your frets is not important to the world, but getting it right for you is one of the more vital (and difficult) aspects of a player's set up when you select and adjust a new instrument. Anybody can adjust intonation and pickup height, but getting string and fret geometry "just right" for "perfect feel" is far more difficult and subjective. It is perhaps the most important thing in the long run to get right from the start if you really want to fall in love with your guitar.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2021
  15. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    I still don't get why more pressure is needed on low frets. Like Go Nigel Go wrote, pressure needed to achieve the fretted note once fret contact is made is the same.
     
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  16. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    Your fingertips are soft so they tend to wrap around the string if the fret is low your fingertips will hit the fretboard early and apply the pressure there rather than on the string. So to get the same pressure on the string as you get with high frets you do need to press a bit harder.
     
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  17. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    Good splaination, thanks :)
     
  18. Norton

    Norton Well-Known Member

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    I've played plenty of "fretless wonder" low fret guitars....

    I own a mosrite bass with stupid low frets and just did a level and crown on a matsumoku casino style guitar with impossibly low frets.

    It sure doesn't seem like more pressure is needed on any of those guitars. In fact it seems like you don't need any finger pressure with those low frets.

    Bending strings is a different deal.

    My personal preference is for Tall and Wide frets. But I can't say that I've found any correlation to low frets requiring more finger pressure.
     
  19. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    It's not a lot more. And of course if you use the same pressure on a tall fret it will still feel the same so you probably wouldn't notice. Guitarists like Yngwie go even further than tall frets and scallop the wood away between them. I have a guitar from the late 1700s that uses scallops, but the frets themselves are just straight brass with no widened head.

    lauten.jpg
     
  20. alex1fly

    alex1fly Member

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    Fret height is an interesting topic. When I set out to add a couple of guitars to my "One Strat For Life" arsenal, my sights were set on tall frets. But my #1 guitar which I picked up in March 2020 has low frets, and it's the most comfortable guitar I've ever played. My touch is light, my bends are smooth and easy, and I fly around the fretboard like never before. In fact I don't even notice the frets.

    In contrast is my Gibson SG with tall frets, which also requires a light touch but for different reasons.
     

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