Scalloping frets?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by severinsteel, Dec 23, 2009.

  1. severinsteel

    severinsteel Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2009
    Nashville, TN
    So I am having a tough time getting a clear tone out of the 21-24th fret when tapping on my old School Ibanez RG 550. I do some arpeggios where you end with tapping the 24th fret and it is tough to get it to really ring out well. It can be done, but I think it would be easier to take the Vai approach and scallop them. I would prefer not to spend the money on getting it done for me if it is something I could do myself. I assume it can't be too hard to scallop the last 4 frets. Anyone done this themselves?


  2. earthtonesaudio

    earthtonesaudio Member

    May 16, 2008
    You should do a quick check to determine whether it's your technique or the instrument that needs work. While carefully and accurately fretting those frets/notes that give you trouble, look really close and try to see if the string is striking some higher fret while it's vibrating. If it is, you may be in need of some adjustments in the setup or perhaps a tiny bit of fretwork.

    If you play like most people, the lower frets get more use, and therefore worn down sooner than the higher frets, causing the higher frets to sometimes get in the way.

    If this is the cause of the problem, scalloping will certainly NOT help, but getting the frets leveled will.

    On the other hand, if the trouble is with your fingers (i.e. your fingertips are bottoming out on the fingerboard before the string is fully pressed against the fret), then scalloping might be the cure.

    For what it's worth, I did a partial scallop (treble side only) on the upper frets of a cheap/junk guitar, and because the higher frets are so close together I found the scalloped part wasn't that different at all from the normal part, either in feel or tone.
  3. Bill Brasky

    Bill Brasky Senior Member

    Jun 23, 2007
    Michigan, USA
    I've seen some older Yamaha RGX or RGZ model that had just the top 4 frets scalloped, half-way across the fretboard. Kinda like the Billy Sheehan sig bass.
  4. GtrDr

    GtrDr Member

    Apr 25, 2008
    Central Florida
    Earthtone's right. It sounds like a fret dress may be in order.
  5. GM Reszel

    GM Reszel Member

    Jun 11, 2009
    NE IN
    Scalloping isn't that tough but you have to have a steady hand the way I do it. I take a dremel with the little drum sanders and remove the wood to desired depth. The drums are pretty coarse so I bring to smooth by taking the appropriate dowel, metal rod, etc with different grits of sandpaper adhered with carpet tape and attach to my dril. The dremel drums are too large for your top frets but Fordham makes some really small ones,,,I think about 5/16" in diameter and that's what I use at the top.

    I say have a steady hand because one wrong move and you dremel the frets. That has happened to me numerous times although I've never skimmed across a fret surface - only nicked the sides where a recrown fixed it (I protect each fret with several layers of tape so I hear that getting nicked first, but sometimes a drum gets through). Aside from the I've been doing it this way for years and they turn out great.
  6. stratbred

    stratbred Member

    Oct 13, 2008
    In my experience, if you can get a tech to look at it first, I'd recommend that. A quick fret leveling is much easier, faster, and cheaper and may solve your problem.
  7. Zero

    Zero Member

    Dec 18, 2002
    United States
    It's not a big deal. I've done it to three of my RG550's. I bought a round file at the hardware store and went to work. Not diffcult by any stretch.
  8. dosmun

    dosmun Member

    Mar 17, 2005
    Midland, MI
    It doesn't sound like scalloping is the cure to your problem. Scalloping is done more for bending so you can get under the string a little better with low action.

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