Are small frets a bad thing?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Mantis Tobaggan, Nov 19, 2015.

  1. Mantis Tobaggan

    Mantis Tobaggan Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2015
    Tampa, FL
    Yesterday someone posted a video in a thread about Rickenbackers that was slamming them and one of the arguments against them was that the frets are smaller than the frets on a Precision Bass. I was thinking about this and I have to say, one of my favorite things about the Rick is its neck. I feel like there is a nice sweet spot behind each fret where I can hit a good note pretty easily. Even people who say they don't like Ricks usually will say they like the neck so I am curious, TB, do you think small frets are inherently bad? I am thinking it may be a preference thing, but I think I like smaller frets. I feel like it is easier to move around the neck and I am getting a great tone and having no trouble hitting clean notes. Thanks.
    superheavydeathmetal likes this.
  2. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    Not necessarily. My Dingwall (and most of them) come with banjo fret wire, although if that's too big for you, he'll do mando wire for even more precision.
    Jipley0, Mantis Tobaggan and rmars like this.
  3. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    Fret shape and height is one of those "personal preference" things. If properly positioned, installed, leveled, crowned and polished - they're all equally good - and will get the job done.

    If you like what you've got, don't worry about someone else's opinion of it. Because that's all it is. An opinion. :thumbsup:
    Teacher, wmmj, bassbooty and 14 others like this.
  4. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    If you're a person who doesn't like small frets, then small frets are a bad thing.
  5. ahc


    Jul 31, 2009
    No. Virginia
    Fret sizes vary. Fenders come (or came) with different sizes. "Vintage" frets are usually smaller and most "modern" basses come with medium jumbo size frets. It doesn't matter. Play what feels good to you.
    Mantis Tobaggan likes this.
  6. Chef

    Chef In Memoriam

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    Early Precisions came with small wire. I'm not sure when they changed, but my '72's have fatter wire.
    I like the skinnier vintage frets, myself.
  7. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    I play both large and small frets and I really don't notice any difference especially when playing music as opposed to when I'm focused on whether I like the size of the frets or not.
  8. Mantis Tobaggan

    Mantis Tobaggan Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2015
    Tampa, FL
    I really didn't notice the difference until I saw the video and it made me curious as to what others thought. Thanks for the awesome response. I like the part where you imply I don't play music.
    gebass6 likes this.
  9. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    No, that's not what I meant at all. Merely stating that when I'm playing in a band I hardly even notice which bass I'm playing other than if it's a 4 or 5 string.
  10. Mantis Tobaggan

    Mantis Tobaggan Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2015
    Tampa, FL
    Oh okay, I read wrong. Sounded snarky. My bad.
  11. Baird6869

    Baird6869 RIP Gord Downey. A True Canadian Icon.

    I have 2 Foderas and one has jumbo and the other has very thin fret wire. I don't really notice a difference unless I think about it.
    bassballs27 likes this.
  12. Some players like Lee Sklar use very small mandolin frets for more precise intonation and woodier tone.

    Mandolin frets on a bass ??
    Mantis Tobaggan likes this.
  13. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Don't suffer from fret height envy! Demand tall jumbo frets on all of your basses!

    Seriously, I think small low frets wear out faster. That doesn't amount to dealing with fretwear more, in the long run. Tall frets don't wear out as often, but they also don't wear out evenly, and that creates a different class of maintenance headache that little frets don't really have. YMMV. I've also read arguments that low frets means more board wear between frets. I don't know about that...
    wmmj, wmhill and Mantis Tobaggan like this.
  14. Mantis Tobaggan

    Mantis Tobaggan Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2015
    Tampa, FL
    I use super slinkys but I have never had to get any kind of fret work done at all. I have been playing my Ernie Ball since 1994 with no problem. Is it common to get fret work or new frets in general?
  15. At Sea

    At Sea ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ Supporting Member

    Oct 8, 2013
    My Lakland has less-than-jumbo frets but like the Ric player previously said it makes the neck much smoother.
    Mantis Tobaggan likes this.
  16. A lot depends on the string type. Stainless steel round wounds like Rotosounds are hard on frets, while nickel round wounds and flats cause much less wear. My 63 P Bass has had flats on it all its life, and the original frets are perfect despite fifty years of hard playing.
    Mantis Tobaggan likes this.
  17. noahw1


    Jul 22, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    I prefer smaller fret wire.
    gsquare and Mantis Tobaggan like this.
  18. One of the problems with getting your frets re-crowned is the flattening of the frets causes the string to have more contact with the fret which can be bad for sustain. I would imagine its the same for the big frets vs skinny vintage frets.
    Mantis Tobaggan likes this.
  19. My first bass had jumbo frets. Then I got my 62RI Jazz, with vintage style fret wire. This was one of several reasons I quickly developed a preference for my Jazz, and then my Rick that followed. Eventually, the bass w/ jumbos got sold. I much prefer smaller fret wire.
    Mantis Tobaggan likes this.
  20. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I don't know if they still use the same fret material, but the frets on my 79' 4001 were all but worn out when I sold it after 4 years steady but not abusive playing. I used roundwounds, like everybody else I knew with a Ric, and it just chewed the frets up bad. Re-fretting a Ric is a fair amount of work because the fingerboard is heavily laquered, so removing the frets often requires refinishing the FB. The neck binding has "nibs" of plastic that cover the ends of the frets which often get filed off during refret unless done by an expert, or the neck is re-bound. I think Gibson is one of the few makers that also does this. Its a subtle, lovely little detail, but a PITA for refret. I haven't heard too many complaints about current 4003 frets, so maybe they changed to a harder alloy. If you want a lifetime fret, jumbo stainless is the way to go. They just don't seem to wear out in anything approaching normal use.
    Mantis Tobaggan and Okstatefan like this.

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