Modern Frets!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by SGT. Pepper, Nov 30, 2005.

  1. SGT. Pepper

    SGT. Pepper Banned

    Nov 20, 2005
    With roundwounds being the string of choice these days how many of you agree that fret material should change to a harder material like stainless steel for example?
    Lets face it roundwounds eat the nickel/silver frets, thats one of the reasons why I went back to flats. DR claims that their strings don't eat frets. Well I had DR's on my Washburn only for 2 months and guess what folks, the frets have slight gouges in them. They were from the Lo-Riders and not Hi-Beams.
    If frets were made out of stainless steel or even titanium, fret wear would be a thing of the past. What do you guys think? :meh: :bassist:
  2. Showdown

    Showdown Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2002
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    In 30 years of playing I've never had a problem with fret wear. I guess I have a light touch or something. My '76 Thunderbird, that I bought new and have played extensively for 29 years still has good frets. I've never used anything but roundwound strings on it.
  3. And to think Warwicks use bell brass. softer than nickel brass.

    I think that yes, they should be made of more durable materials. You CAN get them on Parker instruments, and iirc, on Warmoths.
  4. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    I've had no fret wear issues either.
  5. Ray-man

    Ray-man Guest

    Sep 10, 2005
    Isn't that one of the advantages of using nickel wound strings? I've always heard that if you match the hardness of the string to the hardness of the fret, it won't be a problem. On my 1980 MM SR4 I always used stainless wound strings and ended up with some fret wear. On my new SR4 I've used nothing but nickel wound and have noticed no fret wear at all. Of course, I've only had it less than a year.
  6. Matt Morgan

    Matt Morgan Fellow Conspirator Supporting Member

    Oct 21, 2001
    Plano, TX
    Three different types of stainless steel fret wire are available on Warmoth's web site (SS6105, SS6230, SS6115). I've thought about it for my next instruments for the very reasons discussed here. The only questions would be cost and any affect on tone.
    I use DR High Beams and haven't noticed any fret wear yet on my Roscoe but since SS frets are out there, I may give them a shot on my next fretted bass.
  7. My biggest bass related gripe EVER is the fact that most basses use nickel frets.

    I am severly allergic to nickel.

    Nickel frets suck.
  8. waxcomb


    Jun 29, 2003
    Martinez, CA
  9. I do. Dont have a choice! :)
  10. Although I've never had any problems with fretwear (even on nickel/silver mandolin frets :eek: ), I would be interested in trying an instrument with SS fretwire. I have heard that it is harder to work with though.
  11. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    Those slight scratches aren't anything to be concerned about. In 30 years of playing roundwounds, my basses have only needed two fret dressings... no refrets.

    Believe it or not, flatwounds cause fretwear too. They just do it more smoothly, so it's harder to notice.
  12. mantelclock


    Jul 19, 2005
    I recently switched to D'Addario Half-Rounds. I like the feel and the sound. Although I haven't had a problem with excessive wear, they might be a solution to your fret wear problems without having to go through a refret in stainless. They're not quite as rich in harmonics as round wounds, but close enough for me.

    I use GHS Brite flats on my hollow body guitars (similar to D'Addario halfrounds) and GHS makes Brite Flats for Bass as well.
  13. Luis Fabara

    Luis Fabara

    Aug 13, 2000
    Ecuador (South America)
    Audio Pro - Ecuador
    I believe so.

    My lakland frets have been chewed by stainless. I would just prefer larger frets so there is more material to level across time.

    But, changing to harder materials could led to other problems.
    Instead of your strings chewing up the frets, the frets could chew your strings, shortening their life.

    I have seen a sterling that had very solid frets with high crowns , were the strings dont last at all.
  14. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Boston, MA
    I personally like very low action which requires a very specific setup. I unfortunately wear frets very quickly. I'm very interested in stainless steel frets. They are out there but are fairly rare from my understanding. They are indeed more difficult to work with and they do affect the tone of the instrument. I would imagine that the harder material would translate into more top end. That's just a guess though. I have been told that it changes the tone but I've not heard specifics.
  15. +1
  16. The Parker Fly Basses are the only basses I'm aware of with Stainless Steel frets. Those basses have such a different sound to begin with that I couldn't isolate the impact of the hard fretwire on sound. Interesting on your fretwear issues. I too like a low setup, and my frets do get a little scuffed up, but it never impacts playability. I do get the frets dressed on my primary bass every few years, but more for aesthetics than anything else.
  17. Ray-man

    Ray-man Guest

    Sep 10, 2005
    No disrespect intended, I'm just having a hard time understanding this. Why would you have your frets dressed merely to make it look good? Each time you do this you bring them closer to the end of their life.

    Like I said, no disrespect intended. Maybe I'm missing something. Thanks.
  18. arbitrary

    arbitrary Supporting Member

    Oct 24, 2005
    Boston, MA
    My Carvin has Stainless Steel frets.
    I kinda don't like how they look so shiny, and they do have a somewhat unique (not overly noticeable) top end, which I do enjoy.
  19. SGT. Pepper

    SGT. Pepper Banned

    Nov 20, 2005
    Just for the record I have used both nickel and stainless rounds.

    Stainless being more harsh, when I was using nickels I didn't notice any wear but then again I don't do bends just occasional vibrato. As far as flats are concerned my buddy played with nothing but for 25 yrs on his 62 Jazz and still hasn't had a fret dress.
    Titanium frets would be interesting? :eyebrow:
  20. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Sorry that you have a nickel allergy. I understand that it can cause a lot of problems for people who have it. I've seen some nasty pictures.

    Here's a bit of metallurgy info that could be useful:

    Standard frets are "nickel silver," which is actually a white brass. It contains 12% nickel.

    Stainless steels can contain anywhere from 0% to 39% nickel, depending on which alloy is used. So, there is no guarantee that using SS frets - or strings - will help with a nickel allergy. I guess you'd have to get more metal info, or just try them out.

    Warmoth offers SS frets, and also at least one of the "TB local" luthiers has used them. They are more difficult to work with because they are stiffer and tougher. Warmoth applies a $20 upcharge, of which I would guess part is for material, and part for labor.

    Titanium frets might be very resistant to wear, but they would also very resistant to existing in the first place! That is to say, to begin with, titanium is very expensive material. Beyond that, is too tough to be extruded into a fret bar shape, so frets would have to be machined from bar stock. Even more expensive. And titanium is extremely hard to machine. More expensive still! Then, it would be very difficult for a luthier to radius frets, and to dress them, which might require special files and polishing.

    Keep in mind also that beyond your frets getting grooved by your strings, the strings also get grooved on the backside by the frets. These notches probably contribute to the deterioration of tone. Titanium frets would likely barely wear at all, putting all of the wear to the strings.