Steve Vai also gets it

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by roller, Jan 17, 2020.

  1. roller

    roller Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2014
    Announced this week at NAMM, the Ibanez Pia is predecessor to Steve Vai's Jem. The Pia sports stainless frets.

    Eddie Van Halen's Wolfgang also sports stainless frets.

    Music Man is going stainless with many of their guitars and basses.

    The world's coming around and seeing the light. :smug:
  2. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    I'm not seeing light. SS frets are harder to work with, chew up strings faster and have few redeeming qualities IMO. I will work with them, but it's an upcharge in my shop.
    FRoss6788, GregC, ajkula66 and 2 others like this.
  3. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    yes but not too much, absolutely not, and totally disagree :)

    they are harder (in both senses) but all you really need are stronger end nippers and a different way to undercut tangs, everything else works the same way.

    i use mini bolt-cutters, they do the job without killing my hands and aren't even that expensive. these in particular work perfectly for end-nipping, i've used the same set for scores of stainless refrets by now.

    i'm convinced the "wears out strings faster" thing is an internet myth; my own electrics all have ss frets installed by me at least ten years ago, and i'm somebody who's blessed with hands that don't rust strings and technique that doesn't break them. i've thus been able to leave strings on my guitars for a very long time, and at no point has there ever been any noticeable difference in wear from regular vs ss frets. hell, if anything the ss frets are more frictionless, the strings might last longer.

    as for "redeeming qualities", the difference between frets that wear out and frets that don't? that's a huge one, especially for actual working players. frets that feel slippery and brand new forever? that's also big.

    the tone change thing is also mostly overblown, at least if they're leveled right. ss frets are less forgiving of leveling error and won't "wear in", but done right they sound the same as the soft stuff.

    i upcharge a little for ss, but these days it's rare that i ever do anything else. i genuinely think that charging almost the same money and doing almost as much work, all for soft frets that won't last is in fact a bad value for my customers.
    GregC and Robert B like this.
  4. Teacher


    May 3, 2012
    I don't care for SS frets and won't install them on my instruments. Of course, if I were making instruments for others, I'd offer them, but I too would upcharge for them. I've found stainless far harder to work with than nickel. I also don't care for the feel of stainless frets.
  5. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    Yes Walter, there are differences of opinion about SS frets. Several of my customers hate them, and have found that they do chew up their strings faster. Mind you, at least 2 of them use nickel strings which are softer than the frets. One claims there is a sonic difference that he doesn’t like, but I can’t hear it.

    For me there is no advantage to SS for frets. My 1964 Gibson has its original frets, and they are due for their second dressing since the guitar was new. I guess I’m just easier than most on frets.

    Each to his own.
  6. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    I like the brightness of SS strings, so it would be nice to have frets that don't get bashed in when using SS strings.
    Recently I tried a bass with SS frets, but it did NOT occur to me to try bending on it, which I've come to understand is a smoother feel with SS frets.

    BTW, the local luthier is not a fan of SS frets.
  7. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    i literally don't believe them, unless the fret job was done so badly that the frets are rough on top and actually sawing through strings! that would be extra-bad with ss because it would take a long time if ever to wear in smooth. properly polished ss frets have less friction, not more, than soft frets.

    (i believe you :) just not those anecdotes; that's up there with customers perceiving tonal differences from guitar tone cap construction, whole lotta confirmation bias going on out there)
    if you want ss frets then find the guy who is a fan; you'll likely get a better result, maybe even for a better price. like i myself am not a fan of adding locking trems to guitars that don't come with them, so i just pass on doing that work.
  8. ElectroVibe


    Mar 2, 2013
    Would the fact that Vai and VH changed strings more often have any factor?
    tpa likes this.
  9. 74hc


    Nov 19, 2015
    Sunny California
    There's a Warmoth video where they compared the same guitar with nickel and SS frets. I was amazed that I could hear a difference.
  10. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    Interdasting. I must check that out.
    I have one bass with stainless steep frets, and it's a Warmoth. I like the neck, though I can't swear anything I like about it has to do with the stainless steel frets. Too soon to tell whether it's chewing up strings faster than any other bass I own, only had it for a year. But if I ever order another Warmoth neck I'll probably get the stainless steel frets again, just 'cuz they seem nice.
    Da hell do I know?
  11. Clark Dark

    Clark Dark

    Mar 3, 2005
    There's an opinion that SS round wound strings beat up nickel frets but how would SS round strings fare against SS frets?
    wesonbass likes this.