1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Can someone explain the reason for a zero fret

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by ForestThump, Apr 22, 2009.

  1. ForestThump


    Jun 15, 2005
    I've only ever seen them on lower cost instruments such as an 80's Carvin.
    Why did these basses have a zero fret and why has that stopped?
    Just wanted to know...
  2. neptoon

    neptoon Supporting Member

    Jul 25, 2000
    Melbourne, FL
    used on lots of custom boutique basses, as well, such as lefay and bee...i've owned both...the thinking is that an open note will have the same tone as a fretted note - as the string is actually on a fret vice being strung through a nut...
  3. Virgil

    Virgil She's My Inspiration Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2005
    Dresher, Pa.
    Neptoon is corect. I have a zero fret on my MTD USA and on my Skjold.
  4. stflbn


    May 10, 2007
    According to an interview I saw with Michael Tobias, originally the Zero Fret was used by cheap asian manufacturers because it was easier to do than cutting a well crafted nut. So early on it was assumed to be cheap and lesser way of doing it.

    Now however the tide seems to be turning and builders are going to zero fret while most mass manufactured basses still use the slotted nut approach. Zero fret basses still have a "nut" of sorts to hold the string in place, but it's merely slotted appropriately and doesn't need to deal with accurate depth.

    Interesting how the approach to the technology has changed.

  5. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Lineā„¢ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    as one who utilizes a zero-fret on about 95% of my builds, I might just have a little to say on this topic. I've been utilizing a zero-fret since I started building, and having played basses with/without one I find I definitely prefer it over just a nut. YMMV of course

    a zero-fret gives you two things IMO/IME:

    1 - sonic consistency between fretted and open-string notes. there is still a very subtle difference that you can hear if you really listen, but nothing as significant as the difference between a nut (of any material) and fretwire like you would hear on a non-zero-fret bass

    2 - a more uniform consistency in feel in every position

    as previously noted, the strings rest on the zero-fret and the nut merely serves as a string spacer.

    Here's what a nicely done zero-fret can look like


    nothing cheap about that neck :cool:

    all the best,

  6. PBass101


    Jul 3, 2008
    I believe most, if not all, Status Graphite basses have zero frets. ...And they ain't cheap.
  7. Yep - zero frets are alive and well.
  8. b_carville


    Jun 26, 2008
    I thought a lot of Gretsch instruments had them.

    I think my old Gretsch hollow body bass had one.
  9. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    I've always used zero frets.

  10. but arent you limited in adjustment to what that zero fret is from the factory?? Having an adjustable nut is no longer an option
  11. PBass101


    Jul 3, 2008
    If you needed a certain string height at the zero fret/nut I'm sure any boutique bass company will be more than happy to help you out when they build one for you.
  12. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    You don't need to adjust the zero fret anymore than you need to adjust the second fret. The zero fret is leveled with the rest of the frets, so as long as the frets are level, open strings play just like fretted notes. because the string is the perfect height over the first fret, the intonation is also right on.

    Nuts only have to be "adjusted" if they are cut too high.
  13. thats not the point.

    what happens when someone wants to raise the string height at the nut??
  14. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    There's no reason to do that, and doing so will make the first couple of frets sound sharp.

    But if you really need your open strings higher, just install a higher fret.
  15. MNAirHead

    MNAirHead Supporting Member

    My Framus had one .. it was 20x the bass any of my fenders were
  16. CptanPanic


    Dec 31, 2008
    Is the zero fret the same fretwire as the rest of the frets?
  17. etoncrow

    etoncrow (aka Greg Harman, the curmudgeon with a conundrum)

    Birdsong uses the zero fret except on the fretless basses; reasoning being obvious after reading the previous responses.
  18. mvw356


    Mar 2, 2006
    what about the old warwicks that had a brass nut like the frets, would you consider them to be 'zero fret' as the fret and nut use the same material? is there a sound difference between the differnt nuts?
  19. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    The frets were a bronze alloy. Brass is too soft for frets. Most frets are nickel silver, which is also a white brass alloy.

    No, a brass nut is not a zero fret, though Warwick does have the adjustable nut (as does Alembic, who had it first) so you can get the same action benefit as with a zero fret.
  20. Oric


    Feb 19, 2008
    Georgetown, Kentucky
    how hard is it to get a zero fret installed on a bass which originally did not have one?

Share This Page