why use a zero fret ?

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


  1. cnltb

    cnltb

    May 28, 2005
    That's a fun question to look into, thanks!:thumbsup:

    I'd put it back to you in the form of yet one more question; Well ok...two questions; What does (or, to be fair: 'might')the frequent use of zero frets say about the builder that does it( let's say, as a default) and do I want a bass made by this builder? ;)
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2020
  2. MovinTarget

    MovinTarget Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2018
    Maryland, USA
    I would say that if the builder can provide a reasonable, logical explanation for using a zero fret, it should be moot if it's "easier".

    As to if you want it, that is subjective. If the buyer has already decided that zero frets are a default hallmark of shoddy construction, no amount of logic will likely dissuade him/her of this.

    If the buyer plays it and likes it in spite of the inclusion of a zero fret, its up to him/her to reassess preconceptions. After all there are a lot of mid-level to expensive brands that put out zero-fretted basses where their fit and finish are respected, right? so why would they skimp on one little thing? would it really save them that much on construction costs?
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2020
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  3. cnltb

    cnltb

    May 28, 2005
    +1 on all of this.
    I did not mean to infer shoddy construction but was thinking of potential corner cutting and the mindset and attitude of someone that often( or by default) tends to do it, neither did I mean to say that those that often do use zero frets are generally trying to cut corners either.
    A very important word in my post was the 'might'.

    I have seen fantastic basses that have zero frets and know of fantastic builders that use them
    For me it's mostly a feel thing and since I like relatively high action at the first position, the question for a zero fret is one i don't really ask.

    I don't know how much time is realistically saved when using a zero fret as opposed to cutting the nut properly( not to imply these are mutually exclusive).

    What I am sure of is, that I do sometimes like to just throw these questions out there and see if and how people respond to them. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2020
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  4. MovinTarget

    MovinTarget Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2018
    Maryland, USA
    I hope I didn't come off snarky, I was trying to be as neutral as I could. It really is a matter of personal preference.

    If I'm not mistaken, the zero fret may have actually started off as a shortcut a few decades ago for some manufacturers where precision was lacking and this provided them with the ability to cut the fb without have to get the nut position exactly right at the cutting/shaping stage. It was just another fret slot added later. I think this is what gave rise to early derision as it implied lack of precision/care in manufacturing.

    However, as so often happens, I think some luthiers came to recognize that there were some good advantages to using a ZF even when they were working with precise measurements from the get-go. So while it may have been born out of sloppiness, it came into its own utility

    If I got the history wrong (too tired to go digging right now), feel free to correct me guys!
     
    cnltb likes this.
  5. cnltb

    cnltb

    May 28, 2005
    Not to me, you didn't.:thumbsup:
    another '+1' .
     
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  6. MovinTarget

    MovinTarget Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2018
    Maryland, USA
    Okay thanks, I really try not to come off as an insufferable know-it-all, mostly because there is so much I don't know! :D
     
  7. ga_edwards

    ga_edwards

    Sep 8, 2000
    UK, Essex
    As others have stated, I believe it's for consistency in tone.

    Using this logic, someone should invent a synthetic flesh material to use as a zero fret on fretless basses.
     
    MovinTarget likes this.
  8. equill

    equill

    Nov 25, 2010
    Madrid
    Or a retrovirus that gives us bonelike (or better yet, steel) callous on the fingertips!
    See, it's a matter of framing the problem right...
     
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  9. MovinTarget

    MovinTarget Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2018
    Maryland, USA

    Why stop at synthetic? o_O
     
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  10. equill

    equill

    Nov 25, 2010
    Madrid
    "Help me re-string this bass? I just need you to put your finger here for a second."
     
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  11. MovinTarget

    MovinTarget Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2018
    Maryland, USA
    :roflmao:

    This method would be extremely popular with the death metal bands...
     
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  12. BarfanyShart

    BarfanyShart

    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    My question is: What is the difference between lightweight swamp ash, extra lightweight swamp ash, super lightweight swamp ash, premium lightweight swamp ash, and ultra lightweight swamp ash? And why do they all end up weighing about 8 pounds?
     
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  13. MovinTarget

    MovinTarget Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2018
    Maryland, USA
    Marketing
     
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  14. deff

    deff Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2018
    Gloucester, MA
    Uhm, I don't think so. Cheap Asian guitars from the 70's used them probably as a way to get around the issue of mass producing nuts with no variance in nut slot height. Nowadays I pretty much only see zero frets on high end guitars and basses. Sandberg uses zero frets on all of their basses. Also, if anything the production cost is higher to include a zero fret.
     
  15. MovinTarget

    MovinTarget Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2018
    Maryland, USA
    It all comes down to material costs + Labor costs
     
  16. deff

    deff Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2018
    Gloucester, MA
    Correct, so adding an extra fret and the time to cut that slot adds to the cost. With current mass manufacturing techniques, there is no way adding a zero fret is more economical.
     
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  17. MovinTarget

    MovinTarget Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2018
    Maryland, USA
    Not sure, but you might be right... In the old days where you couldn't easily order a bazillion plastic nuts cut to spec, I would say it is closer to a toss up with the edge given to the zero fret because apart from initial planning, it would take less time to add a fret than manually get the nut grooves right...

    Nowadays, the difference between get a bazillion nuts precision cut or "roughly" cut is probably negligible... More negligible than having machines cut one more slot and press one more fret.
     
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  18. deff

    deff Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2018
    Gloucester, MA
    I would argue that 90% of commercial nuts are mold injected plastic parts on inexpensive guitars. Having a zero fret on a guitar in today's day and age is not a cost effective measure. It is a design choice. But honestly like others have said here. I see little advantage to either technique. I certainly wouldn't throw away that masterbuilt Sandberg because the thing has a stupid zero fret on it.
     
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  19. MovinTarget

    MovinTarget Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2018
    Maryland, USA
    Yeah I would love to be able to afford boutique basses if only so I could reward luthiers and not mass producers that have figured out how to make better instruments solely through machine programming... but I don't have that scratch...
     
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  20. deff

    deff Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2018
    Gloucester, MA
    I hear ya. I have two basses, one is a $200 Peavey Patriot. I need two being in bands with different tunings. I'm in the process of attempting to build my own body right now. I'm sure I will mess it up, but yeah I would love to be able to dump some cash on one of the luthiers here to build something for me.
     
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  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

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