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Does fret material affect the tone?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by WarriorJoe7, Mar 7, 2008.


  1. Yeah and it's noticeable... describe how in a post

    41.2%
  2. No it doesn't at all, or atleast not that most people could tell

    35.1%
  3. CARROTS, I SAY!

    23.7%
  1. WarriorJoe7

    WarriorJoe7 Banned

    Mar 12, 2004
    Syracuse, NY
    It's completely obvious that a lack of frets affects your tone but this is about fretted basses...

    Examples... Would warwick sound different if it didn't have brass frets, but used normal material. Would it be discernible?

    Another example... Would stainless steel frets sound different than the normal material. (I already know that the clack of the strings against the fret on stainless steel is more noticeable (from experience) but how about after the initial attack?
     
  2. I think anyone who votes yes should be subjected to a blindfold quiz.
     
  3. WarriorJoe7

    WarriorJoe7 Banned

    Mar 12, 2004
    Syracuse, NY
    LOL... I might be able to tell stainless steel from something if the guys fretting technique is sloppy or aggressive. More clack on the attack... I'd DEFINITELY be able to tell by feel if I was playing it which is why witht he blindfold someone else would have to play also.
     
  4. Dbassmon

    Dbassmon

    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    I put together a Warmoth Jazz bass with stainless steel frets.
    Great neck but if I had it to do over I would go with nickel steel.
    They are very clangy. I don't care for them. They are hard as can be, will wear forever, but they make a clangy sound when the string hits against them. I find it unpleasant. I have 10 other basses, that's the only one with stainless steel frets.
    The Stainless frets do not effect the tone of the bass however.
     
  5. WarriorJoe7

    WarriorJoe7 Banned

    Mar 12, 2004
    Syracuse, NY
    yeah mines a warmoth neck too. It looks like we both need a refret... or else I can pretend I am john entwistle (need a loud rok band and excessivley low action that rattles... hell I might just do this... it's a p bass and has a bright aggressive tone.)
     
  6. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    Haha.

    I would never claim to hear the difference in a blindfold test, but I'm sure that they affect the tone in some way. I would never pass on a bass because of the fret material, but consider all the little things that might not be noticable on their own--they could really change the tone when all added together.
     
  7. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Why? The frets come in direct contact with the strings, I can't imagine them NOT making a difference. And more of a difference than other things people talk about, such as fingerboard wood on a fretted bass, or 1/4" exotic tops.

    I have played basses with 'normal' frets, bell brass frets, stainless steel frets, delrin frets, and wood frets.

    They all sound different.

    Wooden frets have less attack than other materials. Imagine the difference in how slapping sounds on a fretless with a rosewood board and on a fretted.

    Delrin frets are brighter than wood, but not much.

    Nickel silver and bell brass sound the same to my ears, but a lot of people say they can tell the difference.

    Stainless steel sounds way different than nickel silver, it is a lot brighter and clackier. I personally love the sound, but it is very unforgiving of poor left hand technique.
     
  8. beggar98

    beggar98

    Jan 23, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    I think the biggest difference comes from how the fret material transfer vibration to the body. Everyone knows that different body woods affect tone based on how they vibrate. Well, those vibrations are transferred to the wood in two locations: bridge and fret. So while the characteristics might not be apparent or identifiable, the effect is certainly real.
     
  9. WarriorJoe7

    WarriorJoe7 Banned

    Mar 12, 2004
    Syracuse, NY
    hmmm but the sound is not picked up up from the wood directly (unless you have piezos, and then arguably.) I agree that the wood can shape the vibration of the strings, but in most cases (regular pickups) the string vibrates through a magnetic field and the pickups turn that vibration into sound. If the strings were made of string then the bass would make no electrically amplified sound. So the wood has an indirect effect at best.

    But otherwise your argumant that the string is anchored at the frets and the bridge still hold true, atleast in my opinion.

    actually this doesn't negate what you said... so nevermind (it adds to it though) I guess what I am saying is that how the string is anchored effects the striong more directly than how the anchor affects the wood which affects the string. See if you can even figure out waht I mean by that sentence. LOL
     
  10. sobie18

    sobie18

    May 5, 2002
    Shaw AFB, SC
    Personally, I don't believe it would make a difference. If you have to set up an oscillisccope along with other gadgets to prove any kind of point, then I think people are wasting bass playing time searching for some Holy Grail of how a bass should sound.

    Next thing ya know, folks will be starting Medium Jumbo Nickel Fret clubs and worrying about how much jumbo frets make their bass weigh, blah blah blah.

    Play the damn thing!
     
  11. motleystew

    motleystew

    Apr 29, 2006
    Lewisville, TX
    My bass has brass frets. (Warwick) They tout the fact that they are made out of bell-brass or whatever. When I play it unplugged, I get a tinny-twangy sound when I fret a note and a barely discernable sound -like a ringing sound-when I let off of the fret or apply pressure at the fret. I do not get this on any of my other basses or guitars with stainless steel frets. This can be really noticed when I do not pluck the string with my right hand but simply fret with my left. Just my two cent's worth.
     
  12. WarriorJoe7

    WarriorJoe7 Banned

    Mar 12, 2004
    Syracuse, NY
    actually some of the people here are not interested in building. I am going to roughly quote Ken Smith (so Ken if you are reading this then correct me if need.) he said something along the lines of being a hell of a lot better builder than he could ever be a player. I would guess that I am probably closer to him than say Victor Wooten or Justin Chancellor (not saying as good as and definitely not as experienced as, but probably closer to him then the pro players.)

    On the other hand this is the bass part of the bass forum and the question is appropriate... If you want to "just play the damn thing" then you ought to be in a different section of the forum... recordings, technique, or bassists, or else you ought to not be logged in, but rather just off "playing the damn thing." Not trying to be an asshat but I make a valid point.

     
  13. the fret material would make a difference imo. i dont really feel that things like timber and such are indirect, as a vibrating string would not vibrate if there was nothing keeping the string in tension. obviously that is quite a tonal difference. how well it resonates at the frequency of the note. the attack of a note decays as the string gets the timber to vibrate with it. different timbers and shapes will determine how easily the neck will vibrate at certain frequencies. the hardness (and possibly other properties) of the material used for the frets will change the transfer qualities of the fret to the timber. its the same as a bridge. a softer metal/material will dampen the higher frequencies. imagine the difference between a sponge and a bit of metal for the job. obviously the sponge wont pass as much of the high frequencies. all of the materials act like the sponge, but to varying degrees. the brass/nickel silver will be softer than the stainless steel. nearly everything changes the sound of the instrument, but some differences are not going to make a noticeable difference on their own.

    the reason brass sounds very similar to nickel silver (which is whats commonly used for frets) is nickel silver is essentially brass, with a bit of nickel in there. the silver in the name is because it looks like silver, not because there is silver there.

    id like to make a bass with stainless frets, as i like the idea of the brighter sound, but im not sure if my fretting hand is up for it.
     
  14. momo

    momo

    Oct 22, 2005
    Huntington Beach, CA
    I think that the "fret sound" is different, but it would be hard to hear a difference in the fundamental. Quite a bit of my rock sound comes from having my bass set for fret buzz to get a good grind.

    I still contend that, in a mix, part of the Warwick "growl" is the sound of the strange overtones in the fret buzz mixed with the tight midrange of the dense woods.

    I would say that a player like Flea/Chancelor (plays with low action and lots of buzz) would notice it, but not a Jamerson (high action, thick fundamental) kind of player.
     
  15. fullrangebass

    fullrangebass

    May 7, 2005
    Europe
    Most people would not be able to tell the difference IMHO. If I were the player and I could tell the difference, I highly doubt that anybody but us (the very analytic and discerning TBers) would notice, let alone care

    PS I am not saying there is no difference, but technique, pickups, strings and electronics would vastly interfere with the effect of the fret material alone
     
  16. grace & groove

    grace & groove

    Nov 30, 2005
    philly
    Self-Appointed Ambassador to the Dragonfly
    It just stops the string from vibrating there. If anything the only thing it affects about the sound is the pitch.
     
  17. lowbass68

    lowbass68

    Feb 3, 2008
    Tried two identical Warmoths side by side. Both were maple neck/maple fretboard, Alder body, Gotoh bridge, Bart P/J pup setup. The only difference were the frets: traditional fret wire vs stainless. PLayablility was the same. The difference in tone was noticable. The stainless had better harmonics, especially when when using distortion. The overall sound of the stainless was a little brighter. Low end tone was about the same. If that were the only difference, I would prefer stainless because the way they resist wear. But the thing that drove me nuts was the increase in the clacking sound of the strings hitting the frets. After that, I probably would never go stainless. At best stainless wears at half the rate of traditional wire. But most luthiers charge more for installing and charge more for refretting. So I don't see the benefit unless clacking is your thing. Maybe increasing string height would cut down or elliminate this, but I like low action. Just my opinion from personal experience.
     
  18. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin'

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    To set up a scientific evaluation, I looked at my basses to find two as different as possible in fret material, but as similar as possible otherwise.

    Accordingly, I compared my fretted Precision, fretted with nickel-silver small frets, with another Precision. Again, to maximize contrast, I chose my fretless.

    They sound different.

    Case closed.
     
  19. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    Interesting...I have always been intrigued by the idea of wooden frets. What bass had these? Anybody make basses/necks with wooden frets?
     
  20. EddieG

    EddieG

    Jan 19, 2005
    Scotland
    I think it does. I have stainless frets on my Warmoth, which I took a chance on having never tried them before, and its definitely more growly and metallic sounding to me. However, that makes it sound a little Entwistle-esque, so I'm happy!:D
     

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