Dead Fret

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by jonro, Nov 3, 2017.

  1. jonro


    Jun 26, 2011
    I have a twenty year old Fender Jazz bass with a dead third fret on the E string. I had read about this type of thing, but had not experienced it before until now. I never noticed it until yesterday. I had left the bass in a gig bag for a few months and decided to take it out to play. What causes this? Is there anything I can do about it? Could it possibly be string-related? This is very disappointing because I really like the neck on that bass, but I'm not sure I would (or could) play it like this.
  2. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    Have you tried changing strings on it yet?
    Can you post a photo of what the tuning machine's capstan looks like, and maybe with a little bit of the area where the string crosses the nut?
  3. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Dead meaning less sustain on the low G or dead meaning no sound at all?
  4. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Bring Back Edit/Delete

    Nov 30, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    If you tune down half a step does the deadness move down one fret?
  5. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru..........

    Apr 11, 2006
    Out there!
    Give it a decent burial.
  6. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    I too would first look at the string. A dead spot in that particular location is highly unusual.
  7. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    As the others have said, the most likely cause is a worn spot on the string. But, if it isn't that, it could indeed be a dead fret.

    A dead fret isn't the same thing as a Dead Spot. A "dead" fret isn't really dead, it's just worn down to a tiny bit lower than the next fret up. When you press down at that fret, the string mutes out on the next fret up. The dead fret is just low enough that the note dies out, but not so low that it rings out at the next fret, a half step up. When they happen, dead frets will usually be on a very frequently played note. You know, like the the 3rd fret on the E. Probably the most used note on a sweet old Fender.

    The solution is a quick level and dress of the frets. The offending fret isn't low by much, so it doesn't need replacement or major work. Just a touch up.
    Gilmourisgod likes this.
  8. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    One other cause of a "dead fret" is that the fret has come unseated. If it is slightly sprung it can cause any notes using that fret to sound dead.
  9. jonro


    Jun 26, 2011
    I tried it again this morning, and to my surprise, the third fret is back to normal again. Tuning down and up a half step didn't produce dead spots on any other frets, either. I'm going to change the strings anyway. I have Fender Pure Nickel bass strings on it now and they sound duller than I'd like. I appreciate the advice; I'm going to play it some more over the weekend and see what happens. I suspect the problem is the string, as I don't think a problem with the neck would just disappear.

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