Zero Fret? Thoughts Pros and Cons Please

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by C Squared, Jul 25, 2009.

  1. C Squared

    C Squared Senior Member

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    Having only ever played a guitar with a zero fret once, not sure if its truly the way I want to go, but I am thinking of experimenting with one. I know you tend to lose some of the highs or bite from the open strings no longer being played just on the nut, but instead offers a more uniform tone throughout as every note is now being played on a fret. I also know remember that the guitar I played had very slick action on it, and the the zero fret itself seemed to be just a tad higher then the rest.

    If anyone with more experience with a zero fret can offer up some real pros and cons, it would be most appreciated.

    Thanks

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  2. slash78

    slash78 Senior Member

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    The Brian May's Red Special have a zero fret...
     
  3. Kammo1

    Kammo1 Senior Member

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    Yep so do all the John Birch Guitars :thumb:
     
  4. John Catto

    John Catto V.I.P. Member V.I.P. Member

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    They work great, give you the very best possible action and intonation, separate the business of string spacing and height, give an even tonality between fretted and unfretted notes and are easy to maintain. But ... they've developed a funny reputation based on their common use on cheap 60's Japanese guitars and 60's Gretschs (seldom the best setup guitars unless someone worked on them). Add to that the fact that Gibson and Fender never used them so it couldn't possibly work could it? :naughty:

    The fact is it's probably the best system out there, but also a well kept "secret".

    Rick Turner used zero frets on all of the original Model 1 guitars. He has said that he only stopped using them on the version he makes today, not because it didn't work (it was better all round) but rather because he got sick and tired of explaining endlessly why he used it to guitarists.

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  5. VastHorizon

    VastHorizon Senior Member

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    Cool! Thanks for the info, Mr. Catto!
     
  6. StrangerNY

    StrangerNY Senior Member

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    My Ibanez Artist has a zero fret, and the guitar is one of the most totally consistent guitars I've ever played.

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    Now that I think about it, I haven't done an intonation on that guitar in years. It's rock-solid, no fretting out anywhere on the neck, and string height is consistent from one end of the neck to the other.

    - D
     
  7. Jason

    Jason Senior Member

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    Good topic! I'd only seen the zero fret on cheapo guitars too... but now that it's been brought up, it has ALWAYS bothered me how different the tone is between fretted and open strings. Hot damn... I want me some zero frets. :thumb:
     
  8. billyk

    billyk Senior Member

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    so the only thing the nut is for is spacing? do you just level all the frets and do a setup?
     
  9. Ole'Lefty

    Ole'Lefty Premium Member

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    I did a zero fret on the second complete acoustic I did alone-maybe 25-30 years ago.I hand shaped it from a fairly hard alloy(I think I went through 4 little needle style files and finished it out with a precious carbide burr and a whole bunch of wet/dry) of stainless and it was set in like a nut, then a conventional looking nut behind it. Yes, the nut is for spacing. There is still energy transfer to the whole headstock but it is more modulated. My first electric, a newly introduced Gretsch "Red Rocker",(a thinline bright red hollowbody with those filtertron style pups) circa 1967, with Bigsby had a zero fret. The zero fret is ideal for tremmed guitars.

    Someday, I'll build a "replica" with my idea for a hidden first fret(pat.pending).:hmm::DOle'Lefty
     
  10. C Squared

    C Squared Senior Member

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    Thanks for that info. It is most appreciated. I grabbed a neck from Guitar Fetish that was never routed for locking nut, it just has a fret slot cut and room from the lock nut route. I was going to route it for a standard nut and thought about adding a zero fret and then adding a bone nut.
     
  11. Greg's Guitars

    Greg's Guitars Senior Member

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    The most "in tune" guitar up and down the neck that I ever played had a zero fret, it was a cheap Japanese guitar that I setup (action.relief,intonation,string height,new nut)I find it hard to believe ,other than cost and retooling for the extra slot in the fret board (just a guess) that the major American guitar makers are not doing them,they are Grrrrreat....
     
  12. Greg's Guitars

    Greg's Guitars Senior Member

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    sorry ,only pic I can load from my laptop.....[​IMG]
     
  13. billyk

    billyk Senior Member

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    built into the nut maybe??? sure sounds like this is a good idea for my next build...do they sound much different?
     
  14. Rhubarb Red

    Rhubarb Red Senior Member

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    Zero frets look weird on Gibsons and Fenders but much of what John Catto & Ol' Lefty Mike says about their efficacy in intonation and action/set-up is true.

    Brian May's original Red Special has a zero fret and I read an interview in a guitar magazine many years ago where Brian explained the reasoning why he and his dad went with a zero fret (they based the Special's design on a Strat) and it involved some high-level physics about mass and vibration and stuff. Brian was just about to go to Imperial College (the UK's MIT) to study physics and so he applied what he was learning at school to his guitar build (that included the tremolo - a unique design that I'm always mystified that other guitar makers haven't adopted).

    A year or so ago I was lucky to get 15 minutes with one of Andrew Guyton's Red Special Replicas, the only ones made for sale to the general public that have been copied from the original with Brian's permission and co-operation, including getting the original guitar X-rayed to reproduce the hollow chambers in the guitar's bouts.

    The guitar was one of the most perfectly intonated I've ever played (it helped that Guyton's fretting was absolutely flawless!), easily as good as guitars I've played with the Buzz Feiten system installed. And the only thing I could attribute the superior feel (for want of a better phrase) of the Red Special to was the zero fret. And after a few minutes playing, I forgot about the zero fret and just enjoyed playing the guitar.

    Check it out - Guitar Builder (Luthier) in East Anglia, UK - High Quality Hand Made Custom Electric Guitars by Andrew Guyton

    So if you're doing an original design, I'd go for the zero fret. And if you're of an independent mind and looking to do a LP, then include the zero fret.
     
  15. billyk

    billyk Senior Member

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    is the zero fret leveled to all the other frets
     
  16. SG Lou

    SG Lou Senior Member

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    No.


    I built an SG with a Zero Fret and I have to concour with the rest. It dose inntonate very well and I noticed the strings have a certain clear ring to them.

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  17. billyk

    billyk Senior Member

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    so do you treat the o fret like when you set up with out one? just clearing the first fret when you hold down the third position?
     
  18. billyk

    billyk Senior Member

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    sorry...and does that mean use just use a taller fret for 0
     
  19. SG Lou

    SG Lou Senior Member

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    Yes
     
  20. billyk

    billyk Senior Member

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    thanx!
     

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