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Fret size effect on sound

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by SonnyBassPlayer, Dec 1, 2013.

  1. SonnyBassPlayer


    Nov 29, 2013
    So, in my many hours passed reading I heard many people talking about which frets were "better", and more comfortable.
    I won't ask which is better of course because that is one of those things that really depend on the people, but I wanted to ask, is there really any sound different between modern frets (like Fender's Medium Jumbo) and the vintage style thinner frets?
    If I take a P bass with Medium Jumbo frets and put vintage ones, would anything change?
    I'm also asking this because my own P bass' frets have been so ruined by the noob me, and now they are pretty worn out. Since I will also have to go to the luthier to remake the electrical wiring, I wanted to see if it was also time to put new frets on, and in that case, see what to put on.
    Of course I will try to go test a P bass with those frets in a shop, but I'm not sure when I will manage to do that.

    Thank you!
  2. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    You might have used those many hours trying instruments with different frets on them instead and you'd possibly have found the answer to this by now.;)
  3. SonnyBassPlayer


    Nov 29, 2013
    I may have tried instruments for other reasons and came to think about this very thing only lately? Also, you can read in the evening, but not go to shops, at least where I live. So that time couldn't really go used in a much more pofitable way.
  4. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    Stainless steel frets might sound different from German silver, but IMHO, fret size is all about comfort and feel.

    I could be wrong.

    But I don't think I am.
  5. I don't think this will be a definitive answer to your question but i'm gonna kick in my 2 cents worth anyway. For my non-definitive answer , no , I don't think going to thinner frets will do much to changing the sound of your instrument. And now for my irrelevent rambling on frets. I have 3 basses. A fender P Bass , an Ibanez GSR200 and an old Cort built in Indonesia sometime back in the late 80's. The Fender has the thickest frets on it while the other two are thinner and seem to be about the same. I find the thinner frets to be a bit easier to play. I can get the action just a bit lower on the latter 2 basses but I also have to use a bit lighter touch. I am told that the thicker frets tend to last longer (more meat on them so more to wear out) but longer lasting frets can also be due in part to how hard the metal used to make the frets is. I have 2 Ibanez guitars , both well over 20 years old that have never needed a fret replacement and both have what seem to me to be very thin frets on them so I am guessing they are a pretty hard alloy. Please keep in mind , there is nothing scientific in my observations here , just the ramblings of an old fart thats been playing for a while. Sheeeesh.... did I say 2 cents worth? Heck , that was 12 dollars. Who do I see to get paid?:bag:
  6. If the size of the fret effects the sound at all it is slight and mostly noticed when slapping.
    That being said number of frets would have more effect that the size.
  7. bassdude51

    bassdude51 Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    I'd say there is no difference in sound, sustain is the same and all that but thinner frets have better intonation. Especially compared to jumbo frets that have been dressed several times and the tops of the frets start getting pretty wide.

    I like vintage frets best because they sit lower than jumbos and my fingers are supported by the fretboard. On jumbos that sit up pretty high, the meat of my fingers hardly touches the fretboard. Instead, my fingers are resting on string and air.

  8. SonnyBassPlayer


    Nov 29, 2013
    Thank you very much for your replies! I will give a shot to some vintage style P at the shop near me (one should have a Road Worn 50s) and see how comfy it is, but I never felt uncomfortable with my own P, and being a hard hitter I may just ask my luthier to get me some slightly harder material frets.

  9. uOpt


    Jul 21, 2008
    Boston, MA, USA
    In the guitar world, certainly. Quite obviously the taller frets have significantly increased lever forces on what they do to the fretboard, in fact more than 2x. Plus of course the taller frets make it much more likely that different pressure on part of the player causes the note to be sharp.

    Whether you can hear that with bass? More questionable.
  10. bcamp


    Jul 9, 2013
    I agree w/bassdude51 in that intonation, especially in the higher registers, is the bigger issue. I've been re-fretting my own basses for 40 years with all types and sizes of fret wire. If you go to wider, higher frets make sure they are crowned perfectly for good intonation. If they feel too high for you after the re-fret, it's OK to take the leveler and dress them down a little lower and re-crown. Also, IME, a harder alloy fret wire will usually yield a very slightly brighter tone. And don't forget to adjust your saddles after a re-fret. Good luck!
  11. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005
    If they're properly crowned, that shouldn't be an issue...

    - georgestrings
  12. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    IME it's personal preference - no difference in sound.

    I couldn't tell you what frets are on any of my dozen basses, or any bass I have ever owned. It doesn't matter to me.
  13. grendle


    Mar 4, 2011
    Central FL
    Ok I'll be the odd ball. I do hear a difference in sound in metal types. Warwick alloy, stainless steel, and std alloys. Wicks and SS being similar, they both have a zing type quality to them, mostly heard when ever your sliding a note and also on the upper strings in the upper register. Best heard with SS strings, not so much with nickels but its still there in the attack. The wick frets being the more pronounced of the 2. Part of the "Warwick tone".

    The difference in size of similar materials is very minimal if any though I think. Lakeland uses banjo frets along with dingwall, Spector a low med fret which I find the most comfortable to play, let's ya grab a little more of the fretboard.
    I don't like the feel of jumbo's though as you can bend the note out of tune with some of those. Great for light and quick shredding though or tapping with dead low action.
  14. Epitaph04

    Epitaph04 Always puts some stank on it Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2010
    Warwicks do tend to have a more unique fret clank/buzz sound.
  15. grendle


    Mar 4, 2011
    Central FL
    Hence the reason I don't play one and still want one. Lol. Theres a ping on the higher strings that sounds cool but gets lost on the lower strings, that zing type of sound is in there too. You get some funky harmonic over tones with it as well. Learning how to use those sounds musically has a learning curve IMO. Ryan from mudvayne has that bass and its quirks down to a science. One of the best Warwick players out there and an awesome bassist IMO.