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Why a fret on zero?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by AudioDwebe, Dec 23, 2012.

  1. I just noticed that my Marco Custom has a fret right next to the nut. Can someone explain the reasoning for this?

    I've been adjusting all my basses and when it came time for the Marco, I noticed the action was quite a bit higher than what I have grown to like. By "higher" I mean the numbers only because by playing it, I would have never expected this. It's really nice and easy to play, which has me a bit stumped.

    It plays like the action is super low, but in reality, it's a bit high. Is this the result of this bass having a zero fret?


    Happy Holidays.
  2. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    Could be. Many basses (and guitars) that use only at nut at "zero" have nut slots
    that are a little too high. This makes the action a little higher than it needs to be,
    especially at the lower frets.

    A zero fret gives you an action height at the lowest frets that is inherently as low
    as possible. You can do this with a nut, but it requires very careful work.
  3. d180fuzz

    d180fuzz C21H30O2

    Jul 10, 2008
    West Los, CA
  4. Bert Slide

    Bert Slide

    May 16, 2012
    Louisville KY
    I have a Gretsch 6120 '59 reissue guitar with a zero fret. The story is Chet Atkins asked Gretch to put a zero fret on the '59 because he was impressed with the sound of Django Reinhardts gypsy jazz guitar. I have heard it described on guitar sites as making the strings just a tad more "wiggly" due to the slightly longer length to the nut making bends on the first fret easier. I think there is some truth to that. It also seems to make fretting notes on the first fret even without bending feel easier to me than other guitars I have with regular nuts and slightly lower action. This could be what you are are experiencing with your bass.
  5. PatQ


    May 11, 2011
    Siegburg, Germany
    Open strings normally sound different, just add a zero fret and that's gone. The nut should be filed deep enough of course.
  6. Ejectr


    Dec 22, 2012
    Brimfield, MA
    I believe it also adds sustain to the bass.
  7. It was something often seen on cheap older instruments, so it took a long time for many to accept them on high end instruments.

    In theory, it should be superior.
  8. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    Makes it easier on the guy who has to level the frets once you wear em down. He should not have to address the nut height.

    THORRR Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2010
    Parker, Colorado
    IMHO a Zero Fret produces the most even and lowest
    string height possible on a guitar or bass. It just doesn't
    get any better than that. Also the action feels "softer" at
    the first fret. The Mosrite guitars & basses had a zero fret
    and were a delight to play. Gretsch also embraced the Zero Fret.

    I, personally would LOVE to see todays builders embrace a
    Zero Fret option on their basses. It would quickly set their basses apart from all the lookalikes that are available.

    Imagine what would happen industry-wide if a major player introduced a Zero Fret Option.

  10. smperry

    smperry Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Martin Keith Guitars
    As another poster said, having a zero fret helps open notes sound more like fretted ones. Not that the A on the E string is going to sound the same as the open A necessarily, but the open A will sound more like the Bb right above it (in terms of sound, not pitch). I have zero frets on my high-end fretted intstruments, and think they're great.

    Edit: was typing while THORR wrote. Agreed with all that, although I've played plenty of basses without a zero fret that had low action too.
  11. Baird6869

    Baird6869 RIP Gord Downey. A True Canadian Icon. Supporting Member

    Not sure if I agree. I have owned a few basses with a zero fret (still own one and it is my main gigging bass) and never noticed any difference when playing open strings.

    YMMV, but I play a ton of open E and A notes and don't notice them sounding fretted.
  12. xander8280


    Dec 29, 2011
    Because it sounds great. Some day all my basses will have zero frets.
  13. You can tell the folks that didn't learn to play stand up bass, cello etc.

    if you watch an orchestra play you'll rarely see them use an open string, except for the lowest string, Be cause the tonal character changes.

    I haven't played cello in 20 plus years but one of the first things people notice about my playing is that I play in the middle of the neck and rarely use open strings. It's generally the classically trained players that pick up on this. Most players notice my tonal consistency. This is VERY handy in the studio.
  14. deeptubes


    Feb 21, 2011
    Question: Couldn't someone just tune flat and make the first fret a 0 fret?
  15. jbossolo

    jbossolo Supporting Member

    Sep 22, 2011
    "Imagine what would happen industry-wide if a major player introduced a Zero Fret Option"

    Birdsong does! I have them on mine, and they sound like angels!
  16. gary m

    gary m

    Jan 17, 2011
    Mid -Atlantic
    I believe Hofner does also...zero frets are standard.
  17. zortation


    Dec 26, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Only if you play with a capo...:oops:
  18. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    To me open strings on basses with zero frets don't sound similar more similar to fretted notes than basses with a nut.
    They allow the best possible action as said.
  19. Agreed. Love my zero frets. My open strings sound near identical to the 5th fret.
  20. deeptubes


    Feb 21, 2011
    If the note is fretted, what difference does it make whether it's your fingers or a capo fretting them? If you have a 0 fret, E needs to be fretted. I don't see the point. Isn't a nut essentially a 0 fret with a capo? Of course A sounds fuller when fretted on E. Same as E played on a B. It's a thicker string. I fail to see the point. It just seems like it's extra unnecessary fretting. But, I've never played a 0 fret. They may have nuances that go unappreciated until playing one myself.