Fret Size: Help Me Understand Differences

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by townsend, Jan 29, 2008.


  1. townsend

    townsend Member

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    My questions concern fret size (and not fret materials, such as stainless steel vs. nickel, etc.)

    I've read previous threads on fret size and I am still confused. I often don't understand why one size is preferred to another. This topic is complicated by the fact that frets vary in two dimensions: crown height and fret width.

    Some have argued that taller frets are easier to bend, because one can get "under" the string better. This makes sense to me. Is that the primary benefit of taller frets? Any other benefits?

    But why do some prefer wider frets? What is the benefit from a wider fret?

    I'm avoiding the term "bigger" fret because it fails to specify in what respects (crown height or width, or both) a fret is "bigger."

    I'm providing a table from USA Custom guitars that summarizes common fret sizes.

    6230
    .080" x .043"​
    small wire for a more vintage feel​
    6230SS
    .080" x .043"​
    6230 available in Stainless Steel​
    6130
    .106" x .036"​
    low and wide fret for lots of fingerboard feel​
    6105
    .090" x .055"​
    tall and narrow - a great all-purpose fret​
    6105SS
    .090" x .055"​
    6105 available in Stainless Steel​
    6125
    .095" x .047"​
    a new size for the player that wants something in between 6105 & 6150​
    6150
    .104" x .047"​
    true jumbo fret for rock and bass players​
    6150SS
    .104" x .047"​
    6150 available in Stainless Steel​
    6100
    .110" x .057"​
    huge fret wire for those who want a scalloped feel​
    6100SS
    .110" x .057"​
    6100 available in Stainless Steel​
    6000
    .118" x .058"​
    railroad ties - the largest size fret available​
     
  2. jamison162

    jamison162 Member

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    It's all personal preference; I could have cared less about fret size..up until a couple of years ago. And when you're investing in high end guitars, you have options and you'de better know what you like. Get out more and play some stuff and figure it out for yourself.

    I personally do like taller frets, they just feel better, less fretboard to get in the way. I use 6105's on my light guitars and bigger 6100's or 6150's for LP types.
     
  3. Bob V

    Bob V Member

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    With jumbo frets it is really easy to bend strings since your finger gets down next to the string and pushes it rather than trying to get ahold of it from on top and drag it. However that's not enough to get me to like tall frets. The first problem is the perception that the strings are so far off the fretboard - they are, it's just that they're not too far from the fret tops. The real issue is that my finger doesn't get any fretboard drag when doing a finger vibrato; instead of staying in one place my fingertip will just slide up and down the string between the frets like a tightrope act. My Highway One came with frets that measured .058" and I took them down to a more reasonable .041" I'm much more concerned with height than width, but you do expect to see narrow frets on an acoustic - not sure why.

    Has anyone noticed a practical difference in playability for a wide fret instead of narrow, given the same height? Is it that a wide fret would wear more slowly? When they're worn down (and we're too lazy or cheap to have them recrowned), doesn't a wide fret take your intonation farther away from the center point than a narrow fret would have?
     
  4. jamison162

    jamison162 Member

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    The reason Bob doesn't like tall frets is exactly the reason I like them. :crazy
     
  5. Dana Olsen

    Dana Olsen Gold Supporting Member

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    Wide frets feel less 'bumpy' going up and down the fretboard. Some Medium width frets (like 6105's) are also tall, but look closer to stock 50's and 60's fretwire, so folks often refret with them to maintain a vintage look but gain the playability advantage of taller frets. Benefits of taller frets are easier bending as has been stated.

    Narrow and Medium frets that are also tall can feel kind of speed bumpy, and for that reason some mill the 6105's a little lower. Some folks notice a difference in tone between narrow frets (like on orig 50's Fenders) and wider ones - I actually notice that - but it's VERY SUBTLE and cork sniffy, and doesn't make a huge difference. Some say that narrow frets are part of what makes old Strats and Teles 'ping' a little, or sound 'woodier'. If you have a guitar that does not sound that woody, however, simply installing narrow frets won't make it so.

    Jumbo or wide frets feel smoother up and down the neck, and if you're not concerned with a vintage look, many if not most folks find them easier to play on. This is pretty easy to visualize - imaging a narrow, tall speed bump v a wide tall speed bump - a wider fret crown means a more gradual transition from the fretboard to fret crown, so it feels smoother, just like it's smoother to drive your car over a wide speed bump.

    Intonation: Once any sized fret is crowned, the string only touches the fret at one point on it's radius, so the width of the fret does not affect intonation provided the frets are crowned right, just the feel.

    Hope this helps, Dana O.
     
  6. diego

    diego Member

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    Slurring with the right hand (think Allan Holdsworth) is easier with the bigger frets. The bigger frets also keep your fingers from touching the fingerboard, which I think tends to drag on the fingers and slow them down a bit.
     

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