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Tech: Zero Frets

redsnapper 30 Nov 07 - 05:48 AM
Les in Chorlton 30 Nov 07 - 03:35 AM
Richard Bridge 30 Nov 07 - 03:33 AM
Lanfranc 29 Nov 07 - 06:59 PM
Don Firth 29 Nov 07 - 02:18 PM
Richard Bridge 29 Nov 07 - 01:29 PM
Les in Chorlton 29 Nov 07 - 11:16 AM
Trevor Thomas 29 Nov 07 - 10:58 AM
GUEST,K 29 Nov 07 - 10:38 AM
Richard Bridge 29 Nov 07 - 10:36 AM
Les in Chorlton 29 Nov 07 - 09:37 AM
dick greenhaus 29 Nov 07 - 09:27 AM
Richard Bridge 29 Nov 07 - 02:10 AM
GUEST 28 Nov 07 - 10:55 PM
Uncle Phil 28 Nov 07 - 10:05 PM
GUEST,Obie 28 Nov 07 - 09:05 PM
JohnInKansas 28 Nov 07 - 05:52 PM
PoppaGator 28 Nov 07 - 04:20 PM
JohnInKansas 28 Nov 07 - 02:58 PM
GUEST,Jonny Sunshine 28 Nov 07 - 02:49 PM
Lanfranc 28 Nov 07 - 02:07 PM
Les in Chorlton 28 Nov 07 - 01:12 PM
GUEST,Obie 28 Nov 07 - 09:40 AM
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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: redsnapper
Date: 30 Nov 07 - 05:48 AM

I used to be sceptical about zero frets (and I have guitar repair training) but since playing a Fylde have changed my view a bit.

It is not "shedloads easier" to design using a zero fret... in fact the neck relief has to be set quite carefully to get the best out of a zero fret whereas a bone nut can be filed and adjusted in a matter of moments. The zero fret has the advantage that both fretted and open strings will be bearing against the same material with potential tonality improvements. Compensation at the saddle end may be much simplified using a zero fret and also, so-called "end effects" at the nut are reduced .

I think at the end it may boil down to aesthetics and personal preference but I no longer consider an instrument inferior just because it may have a zero fret.

RS


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 30 Nov 07 - 03:35 AM

Martin Carthy played that old Martin of his since at least the 60s, I believe he had it from Alexis Corner. It has a ZF and I once heard him say the ZF was one of the features that made sound so good. I think it was damaged sometime ago - looks like it had been on fire.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 30 Nov 07 - 03:33 AM

It is a trademark feature of Fyldes and many sound great. I think (not sure) that I have seen them on Kinkade and Armstrong.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: Lanfranc
Date: 29 Nov 07 - 06:59 PM

Oo-er, so Martin do use a zero fret!

Must research more, but it may only be on the Martin Carthy model, even the "Cowboy" and "Felix" models lack this feature. I wouldn't put it past MC to specify a zero fret out of sheer perversity.

However, very few rated makers or luthiers offer a zf, and there must be a reason for this. I await an explanation with bated breath!

Alan


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: Don Firth
Date: 29 Nov 07 - 02:18 PM

"(Casual observation is that flamenco guitars are somewhat more prone to use a first fret; but I've made no formal surveys of the usage.)"

Although there may be some, I've never seen a classic or flamenco guitar (and I've owned several classics and three flamencos) with a zero fret, although it seems to me that on both, a classic in particular, maintaining a consistent tone quality between open and fretted strings would be desirable. Flamenco guitarists almost always use a capo (çejilla) somewhere between the third and seventh frets, so they get the effect of a zero fret, even though thay do use what would otherwise be "open-string" chords a lot.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 29 Nov 07 - 01:29 PM

Most guitars don't have wooden nuts, but rather bone or imitation bone (tusq, micarta, or plastic - on electric guitars some other variations too such as graphite and graphtex). These things are likely harder than wood, but not, I imagine, harder than steel. Is fretwire steel? It seems to me that fretwires are softer these days than they used to be....


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 29 Nov 07 - 11:16 AM

When I put a capo on my mandola it sounds brighter. I think this is because the strings have passed over a steel fret, less sound is absorbed than would be by the wooden nut.

This is why I suspect a ZF guitar might be brighter.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: Trevor Thomas
Date: 29 Nov 07 - 10:58 AM

Martin Carthy's signature model (made by Martin) does indeed have a zero fret. Mr Carthy believes it makes the guitar more playable, more responsive, and if anyone should know, he should.

I only ever used to see zero frets on 12 string guitars - I think it probably helps the intonation, especially on the open chords.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: GUEST,K
Date: 29 Nov 07 - 10:38 AM

The point about a zf is that the string is always the same height above the fingerboard at every fret, so an open c-chord should feel the same as a c-shape 'd' with a capo on the 2nd fret(save for the inevitable extra pressure due to the slightly higher string angle).A full-bar F shape should also feel the same as further up.

I've encountered 'nutted'telecasters etc. where the action is harder at the 1st fret than further up,possibly giving a slight pitch problem as a result of greater downward bending(the string,not me).

'Cop-out'?.Possibly,but the builder still has to cut a nut because the 0 fret will only give an up and down string break-not side-to-side.
Cheaper instruments? Didn't the old Gretches use a zf?


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 29 Nov 07 - 10:36 AM

I see no real reason for a zero fret to sound any different to a nut.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 29 Nov 07 - 09:37 AM

Does a ZF give a brighter tone?


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 29 Nov 07 - 09:27 AM

A real advantage of a zero fret is the ability to try strings of different diameters without having to rework the nut or have intonation suffer. The Apollonio parlor guitar that I bought a few years back has a zero fret, and works (and sounds) fine. As I recall, Martins "Martin Carthy" model did, too.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 29 Nov 07 - 02:10 AM

Funny, I remember when this thread started posting that I agreed with Obie.

John's first premise, that a string open at the nut will sound stronger than the same string open to a zero fret is surely suspect.

As for Phil's comment, no,it's shedloads easier to get a nice low evenly tapered action from a zero fret than from a nut - unless you overdo it in which case it's easier to cut and re-fill a nut than to fit a new fret - but you do have a bit more fun getting the strings out of the way to file across the zero fret, and you do have to re-crown it after filing across.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Nov 07 - 10:55 PM

A great advantage of the zero fret is that it makes the intonation much less sensitive to the angle and width of the notch at the nut; I've never encountered any real objection (unless some folks don't like the esthetics)


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: Uncle Phil
Date: 28 Nov 07 - 10:05 PM

One other difference is that you can't adjust the string height at the nut when setting up a guitar with a zero fret.

It does seem like I've seen zero frets more often on less expensive guitars, but I have played old Gibson Classicals with zero frets, too. Thinking about it for a second, I can't see any reason that a zero would make a guitar cheaper to build.
- Phil


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: GUEST,Obie
Date: 28 Nov 07 - 09:05 PM

Thanks to all for your input! My capo of choice is a shubb. It's one drawback is that it will not clip on the peghead like a spring loaded one
so above the zero fret may be a good parking spot when not needed. In any case everything is a trade-off I suppose.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 28 Nov 07 - 05:52 PM

The mention by Johnnie Sunshine a couple of posts above, of the guitar with the zero fret far enough from the nut to allow a capo on the zero fret, is perhaps an innovation on the "tone-evening" concept.

Carefully applied, a capo could possibly simulate the finger on another fret more closely than the bare zero fret, and would allow you to adjust the capo to get open strings as close to fretted ones as your ear, fingers, and the instrument can be made. It sounds as if it would be a pretty sensitive adjustment, but with the right capo - using a spare finger salvaged from somewhere for the capo pad, perhaps - the effect might "be there" waiting to be tuned in and turned on.

Anybody wanna give Johnnie thea finger to try it out?

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: PoppaGator
Date: 28 Nov 07 - 04:20 PM

Thanks for the explanation, JohnInKansas ~ makes a lot of sense.

My own opinion has always been based upon the observation, perhaps less-than-valid, that zero frets are generally featured on cheaper instruments and that therefore they must be in some way inferior to the usual arrangement. But after reading the above, I can understand why and how the zero-fret style could serve to give a more "even" tone, with less contrast between the sounds of fretted and open strings.

I'm kinda partial to the open-string "ringing" sound, myself ~ and not only because that gives me an excuse to stick with those "easier" first-position chords as much as possible...


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 28 Nov 07 - 02:58 PM

As with almost everything about guitar making, the zero fret is a "compromise" that partially achieves "something" but gives up "something else."

When a string is fretted, there is significant "mushiness" in the longitudinal restraint of the string on the other side of the fret, because guitarists have "flabby fingers" (compared to a nice solid block of wood). This gives a fretted note a slightly different "tonality" than an open string on a typical instrument.

Most people are aware of the slightly "richer(?)" tone of the "open notes" and especially those players of the "chord-whanger" persuasion seek to play "mostly open" chords - using as many unfretted strings as possible - for the "fuller sound." For those people, the zero fret spoils the enjoyment, especially of their favorite "power chords."

The zero fret is - at least for some makers - an attempt to make the open string have (as nearly as possible) the same "tonality" as a fretted one, so that open notes mixed in with fretted ones don't have so much "difference."

Any guitar can have a zero fret by using a capo and renumbering the frets from zero at the capo. (Those who especially like the "open chord" sound are frequently the ones who object most to using a capo(?) although they often cite different imaginary(?) reasons.)

If one is building for the "power hungry" - as does Martin et. al. - the first fret would of course lose part of the "charm of the instrument" at least to some small degree.

If one is building for players of "melodic music" and/or "complex" chords, the first fret may at least partly improve the tonality - the evenness of tone - of the instrument - if implemented effectively so that it works. (Casual observation is that flamenco guitars are somewhat more prone to use a first fret; but I've made no formal surveys of the usage.)

Both these idealized extremes are of course somewhat compromised by builders who do things "because the saw it once and it looked good" or for other reasons - real and imagined - known only to the individual luthier(s). Sometimes an instrument sounds good even if all the good features were used for all the wrong reasons. Sometimes an instrument with "unusual features" sounds good because the imaginary theory was so far off that the feature didn't work, so the instrument "just happens" to be okay. Sometimes a skillful luthier turns out a good one on purpose too.

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: GUEST,Jonny Sunshine
Date: 28 Nov 07 - 02:49 PM

My electric guitar (a Shergld Modulator) has the unusual and very handy feature of a zero fret that is quite far remved from the nut, just far enough to put a shubb capo on the zero. I've never seen this on any instrument, but would love to have this arrangement on an acoustic.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: Lanfranc
Date: 28 Nov 07 - 02:07 PM

Like many of the more respected makes of guitar, Martin and Lowden don't have a zero fret, Fyldes do.

I prefer Martins and Lowdens, but I have friends who swear by their Fyldes.

I've always regarded the zero fret as being a bit of a cop-out on the part of the luthier or manufacturer, it must make it easier to fit the frets on a jig.

See Wikipedia on the subject

A properly made nut with accurately-cut grooves made of bone or ivory is far better, IMHO

Alan


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Subject: RE: Tech: Zero Frets
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 28 Nov 07 - 01:12 PM

Is a "Zero fret" that one right at the start by the nut?


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Subject: Tech: Zero Frets
From: GUEST,Obie
Date: 28 Nov 07 - 09:40 AM

I have four guitars, two of which (an EKO and a Framus) have zero frets.
This seems to me to be a better system for both action and tuning than having the string suspended from the nut. I wonder why it isn't used more often? Any opinions out there?


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