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Tech: Guitar Fret Wear: What's Normal?

Rob Naylor 03 Apr 10 - 03:17 PM
Richard Bridge 03 Apr 10 - 03:25 PM
Nick 03 Apr 10 - 05:18 PM
The Fooles Troupe 03 Apr 10 - 09:58 PM
olddude 03 Apr 10 - 11:43 PM
Rob Naylor 04 Apr 10 - 04:45 AM
MikeL2 04 Apr 10 - 05:16 AM
Rob Naylor 04 Apr 10 - 06:20 AM
The Fooles Troupe 04 Apr 10 - 08:17 AM
Marc Bernier 04 Apr 10 - 08:46 AM
MikeL2 04 Apr 10 - 09:22 AM
Rob Naylor 01 Jul 10 - 02:15 PM
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Subject: Tech: Guitar Fret Wear: What's Normal?
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 03:17 PM

As a teenager, I had a cheap guitar and bashed out a bunch of 3 chord tunes for a while. I then didn't look at a guitar for 35 years, until about 18 months ago when I acquired an electric and started to learn to play "properly".

After a while I also acquired an acoustic, which I've now had for 8 months. It's a "cheap" (ha ha!) Martin DCX1. I've recently noticed that the frets are wearing quite significantly. I do play it now more than my electric (an Epiphone Les Paul) but the Epi has had 18 months use, the first 10 as my only guitar, and shows no sign at all of fret wear.

So how much wear is "normal" on an acoustic? I'm using Martin "extra light" (0.10) strings and am on my 4th set since purchase. I'm seeing very significant flat spots on the top 2 strings ( B & E) up to the 7th fret and another set of flat spots at the 10th to 12th. They vary in width, but are typically 2-3 mm wide and the ones on the first 3 frets have noticeable "dints" directly under the strings, while the remainder are just "flattened off" in a very shallow curve. There's slight wear on the first 3 frets under the wirewound strings, but not significant. The wear on the top strings is probably about 15-20% of the overall fret depth.

I probably bend my strings a bit more than most would on an acoustic. I probably on average play the guitar for an hour a day. Certainly no more, averaged over a week.

Would this level of wear be considered normal on a new acoustic used as I've described above? And will it ease off as the frets flatten? If it carries on at this rate I'll be looking at re-fretting about 2 years after purchase!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Guitar Fret Wear: What's Normal?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 03:25 PM

Play until either bending is inhibited by the string running in slots and so being hard to bend, or by "choking", or, on the other hand, the guitar starts to be more than usually out of tune going up the neck or when using a capo (if you use the capo properly - the "Fielding" method described elsewhere on here).

Then fret dressing should solve the problem until next time.

Refret when the frets are so low that getting a clean note is a problem.

IMHO frets are getting softer these days. My late wife's Hagstrom J-45 did not need fret dressing for 30 years - but it came with tombstone frets not round-tops.

It would be normal to get a couple of years to a fret dress, and three fret dresses before a refret.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Guitar Fret Wear: What's Normal?
From: Nick
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 05:18 PM

I have two guitars that I play often - a 38 year old Yamaha FG180 and a 5 year old Tanglewood - and I am competely unaware of any fret wear. Perhaps I should start worrying.

The Yamaha I play with either 12s or 13s and have done through it's life. I bend quite a few notes from a 1/4 tone to a tone to a tone and a half with no noticeable problems.

The Tanglewood is strung similarly and played similarly.

Do you play a lot of blues in E? How come all the wear at frets 10 to 12?

Having typed that I went and looked under a bright light and both have little indents especially on the B and E string and E and A but practically no wear on the D and G strings. Most of it is concentrated on the first 5 frets and the third fret under the top string the most.

None of it makes any difference to sound or playability though.

I looked at my son's Ibanez JEM7WH (which is hugely more expensive than my guitars) which he plays several hours a day which he has had for a little over 3 years. It has similar little indents especially under the top two strings but again with no negative effect on playing. He plays with 10's or occasionally 9's and you can bend them from here to Christmas with no problem

I presume when they get too worn the notes start to buzz or catch other frets or the bends catch?

I'll see how the Yamaha goes over the next 20 or 30 years and let you know


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Subject: RE: Tech: Guitar Fret Wear: What's Normal?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 09:58 PM

You really can wear anything when playing the guitar, even nothing when you want.

I wouldn't fret about it though...


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Subject: RE: Tech: Guitar Fret Wear: What's Normal?
From: olddude
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 11:43 PM

i always wear under the B and E strings, i will actually get grooves in them. it is how i play i think


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Subject: RE: Tech: Guitar Fret Wear: What's Normal?
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 04:45 AM

Thanks for the input, everyone.

Richard: My Epi has tombstone-type frets while those on the Martin are indeed quite rounded. I'll keep my eye on it and have the frets dressed when I thnk they need it.

Nick: I wouldn't say that I play a *lot* of blues in E, though I do do that a fair bit. I do *some* finger-picking but mainly play with a pick. I guess the wear does reflect where I fret the most: I have a (nasty?) habit of putting in octave runs when I'm playing melodies, so will often find myself playing on the 10th fret and upwards.

Olddude: Sounds as if style of playing may have something to do with it...my daughter's acoustic hardly has any wear and she's had it 3 years.

Foulestroupe: If you saw me wearing nothing while playing, I reckon *you'd* fret about it......


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Subject: RE: Tech: Guitar Fret Wear: What's Normal?
From: MikeL2
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 05:16 AM

Subject: RE: Tech: Guitar Fret Wear: What's Normal?
From: Richard Bridge - PM
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 03:25 PM

Hi Richard

What's fret dressing ??   

I have had several guitars over the years and never had any such fret problems.

Nowadays I have a an old Hofner President which I don't use.

I have an accoustic Yamaha FG-360 and have had it for many years. I played it regularly for about fours years and due to illness I didn't play it at all until two years ago. Since then I play it most days for at least an hour.

There are no indentations or marks on the frets at all.

However there are sligh indentations in the wood on the fingerboard where I play most. They do not affect my playing or the tuning.

cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Tech: Guitar Fret Wear: What's Normal?
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 06:20 AM

Mike:

http://www.guitarsetup.co.uk/fret+dress.php

Or there's a YouTube video of a guy in California demo-ing the process.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Guitar Fret Wear: What's Normal?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 08:17 AM

MikeL2

I imagine Fret Dressing to be a mild mustard flavour.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Guitar Fret Wear: What's Normal?
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 08:46 AM

I play an Epiphione Texan, which requires fret attention evey year and a half to 2 years. Mostly in the "comfort zone", 1rst 5 frets. Evidently I apply more pressure useing open chords, or maybe I just play morte open chords. I'v had it refretted 3 or 4 times in the last 20 years, and had the frets dressed maybe a dozen times.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Guitar Fret Wear: What's Normal?
From: MikeL2
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 09:22 AM

hi rob

Many thanks for the link - certainly isn't something I would try myself !!

Good job that my Yamaha FG-360 doesn't feel as though it needs any treatment yet.

Thanks and Cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Tech: Guitar Fret Wear: What's Normal?
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 01 Jul 10 - 02:15 PM

Update on this:

I showed my guitar to Mudcatter Will Fly at the High Brooms Session last week, by which time I was having problems getting a clean note on the top E string 3rd fret.

Will agreed that the wear looked as if it needed attention and put me in touch with Ian Chisholm, the guy who made his "No 18" guitar.

I went down there today on my way back from moving my daughter into her new student accommodation. When Ian heard that I'm going into hospital tomorrow and won't be able to drive for several weeks he immediately offered to do the fret dressing while I waited, which is something I hadn't dreamed of (I'd been working out ways to suggest to my wife that a drive down to Ditchling to see some of the sights in that part of the world would be a good idea :-) )

An hour or so later, a cup of tea, a short walk, a chat and a look around his workshop and the fret dressing was done. And at a very reasonable price. Ian agreed that the fret material on this guitar seemed particularly soft...he'd initially been surprised by the amount of wear for a 1 year old guitar, but once he got the dressing implements onto the metal, it came away faster than expected.

So I guess that'll be a re-fret in another year or so...hopefully with some of Ian's much tougher fret wire!

Great job, nice bloke, superb service!


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