why use a zero fret ?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Blues Daddy, Sep 2, 2020.

  1. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Cool. My mandolin has a zero fret too. It's really old. None of my basses do but that's just coincidence. In my experience I think it's a good idea, it does make the open string sound more like a fretted note. But it's never been a deal breaker. Seems like it would be more popular.
  2. Valvehead


    Jun 21, 2020
    While the idea of a zero fret is nice, I think it adds too little of an advantage for it to ever be a 'must have'.
    Kinda like two way action truss rods, height adjustable nuts, 3D adjustable bridges etcetera.

    If the neck of an instrument is built right and sturdy and the fretwork is good, you won't need any of those things I mentioned.

    Early P basses with their standard nut and flimsy little bridges still sound awesome.
    jnewmark, bassdude51 and mikewalker like this.
  3. rudy4444


    Mar 13, 2012
    Central Illinois
    I use zero frets on some instruments and a conventional nut on others. It depends on what your needs are. As an example, I use zero frets on banjos because I build so they can be used with either steel or synthetic strings without any need to worry about nut slot width.

    They sound the same as a conventional nut. Anyone who says they can hear a difference has drank too much of the Kool Aid IMO.

    The main reason to NOT use one is strictly aesthetic, the zero fret and separate string guide looks clunky to many, and I agree with that. It doesn't make any difference if it's two spaced sections or a "unified" design like GoldTone is marketing. It still looks clunky.

    As a side note, Bob Taylor recently said he very well may have built with a zero fret but acoustic guitar players are as a general rule very conservative and that would have affected his marketing of instruments.

    Zero frets have traditionally been much more widely accepted on electric instruments, particularly of European manufacture.
  4. wmhill

    wmhill Inactive Suspended

    Aug 20, 2012
    upstate NY
    MTD basses endorsed artist Bartolini pickups emerging artist TECAMP bass players gear endorsed
    I have always liked the zero fret idea. All my MTDs have them and I sure can't argue with the sound or playability.
    I have liked the tone of a brass nut as opposed to bone (or whatever synthetic is used these days). I think that the
    zero fret adds that while eliminating the hassle of filing a nut precisely. I do have to say I don't think it's as dramatic
    (tone-wise) as some folks would have you believe.

    zerofret 20170720_211414 (2).jpg
    bassdude51 and Stringly like this.
  5. LoTone

    LoTone Clean as an Entwistle... Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2010
    Quebec, Canada
    Many years ago, I remember that when Mike Tobias Design (MTD) introduced their Kingston "Made in Asia" line, Mike Tobias explained the zero fret design feature by answering a question from Steve Cook at Premier Guitar. I think they were at NAMM.

    Here is Mike's take on it. Steve asks the question at around 2:20 in the video:
    TerribleTim68, JIO, rwkeating and 2 others like this.
  6. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I'd go so far as to say there's zero difference in tone.

    Dang...twice with the same gag in the same thread! Look at me go!
    RudyTardy, mikecd1, dune and 5 others like this.
  7. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    Quite a few.
    Loring likes this.
  8. PennyroyalWe


    Sep 2, 2018
    I like them. Wish more makers did it. I think they look cool, and a metal fret will wear down much slower than a plastic nut. It also lets the “string guide” (as the nut would now be called) have wider slots to accommodate more varied string gauges, if the builder so chooses, since all they’re doing is maintaining the string spacing.
    maxschrek and fishdreams like this.
  9. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    Yep, and I LOVE the idea, I may have to throw one on a build so I can try it out.. it honestly seems easier than doing a good job on a nut anyway lol..

    I can’t help but wonder if I might miss that certain pop of difference in sound from open strings... but I’m willing to bet that I’d be too busy being enamored with the evenness of tone.
    two fingers likes this.
  10. If you’re concerned about a difference in tone with open strings you can always do this.
    You can make the nut really thick and substantial as long as are adding on the headstock side. This nut will also never break like a piece of bone could in an accident.
    MovinTarget likes this.
  11. You’re getting nutty!
    JimmyM and MovinTarget like this.
  12. FugaziBomb


    Jun 5, 2017
    Zero frets given
  13. fishdreams

    fishdreams Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2010
    Brooklyn, NY
    Endorsing: Arkham Vacuum Tube Amplification and and Martin Keith Guitars
    I've got one on my new Martin Keith fretted bass. In comparison to my Fender and Fender types 1) the open notes sound more even with the fretted notes 2) the intonation up high the neck is noticeably better, which certainly comes in handy on a 25 fret bass such as the Martin Keith and maybe less of an issue on a 20 fret Fender that doesnt allow for super low action in the 1st place.

    Depends on your musical needs if it matters to you or not. But there is a difference
    MovinTarget likes this.
  14. DrThumpenstein

    DrThumpenstein Living for the groove Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2015
    St Louis, MO
    Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't.
  15. Stringly


    May 27, 2019
    They also use the buzz fieten (spelling?) tuning system with the zero fret, slightly angled or something, supposed to help intonation.

    I can hear a small difference from open notes from my MTD kingston and my Ibby that ends in a nut, but the more I A/B them the harder it is the hear that difference.

    Two different ways to do the same thing. Both work.
    wmhill and MovinTarget like this.
  16. Thank you. There is so much being said here that would screw up intonation and action in first couple frets that it scares me.

    Heights set so string cores are even?? Why should it feel different at the first fret than at higher frets? Why should you kill the g string further to play first fret than the e string, making g# sharp, and even A will be sharp.

    Im happy you posted some logic backed by physics here.
    maxschrek and MovinTarget like this.
  17. My 1960s teisco del Rey 335 short scale full hollow guitar has a zero fret and the truss is adjusted on guitar body with an always accessible wheel. Not sure if it's cheaper to make or better engineered... teisco was a weird company. I doubt it was expensive though.

    But it plays great.... stupid low action.
    MovinTarget and PennyroyalWe like this.
  18. PennyroyalWe


    Sep 2, 2018
    Funny. After just reading this thread, I went to a jam and there was a bass with a zero fret in the studio. A mana basso, neat bass but not my style. What I really liked, though, was how rather than having a nut at all it had an extended fingerboard and the string slots were cut into the extra wood. It looked really classy, IMO.
    MovinTarget likes this.
  19. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    why use a zero fret ?
    I hear they make it easier on the builder and personally do not like them on my basses.
  20. MovinTarget

    MovinTarget Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2018
    Maryland, USA
    But the question is, Do you not like them because they make it easier on the builder? :D
    equill likes this.
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