why use a zero fret ?

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


  1. Zero frets were common on guitars and basses made in Europe from the 1950's and beyond. Many of the European makers such as Hopf, Arnold Hoyer and Olympia Musima, used them, often on quite expensive jazz style arch tops and of course Hofner also used zero frets. In the USA, Gretch and Rickenbacker also used zero frets. So even before Japanese mass production in the 60's and 70's zero frets were in common use.

    The first instruments I saw with zero frets were back in the early 70's, they were on a mandolin and a arch top guitar, both European made, from the 40's or 50's.
     
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  2. ixlramp

    ixlramp

    Jan 25, 2005
    UK
    The funny thing about people defending supportng an open note on plastic is this:
    If someone suggested one fret was replaced by a plastic fret, no-one would accept it, but somehow it is acceptable for the open note.

    People only accept plastic nuts because that is how it has usually been done. It is not good design and is only done to slightly cut costs in a factory. Then others consider it 'the way it is done' without thinking and copy it even when they do not have to.
    If you approach this from first principles and with a fresh mind empty of tradition and convention, supporting the open note on metal is the only thing that makes sense, whether that is a metal nut or a zero fret.
     
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  3. I built a bass with zero frets.




    It's called a fretless. :roflmao:

    Seriously though, I like zero frets. I install them last after all my other fret work and only polish them. :thumbsup:
     
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  4. JIO

    JIO Connery... Sean Connery Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    The Mission SF/CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    There is a lot of conjecture/debate around brass nuts - but based on my own experience using them on a number of basses, I believe (based on my ears) it does have an effect. That effect can be positive or negative, or in your case neutral. But because of this I would not say it has no effect in every possible situation. Only once did adding one result in a less than positive effect - whereas I removed it for a standard nut. In this respect it aligns with a 'zero-fret' as the contact point at the nut is metal and results primarily in a good effect. YOMV
     
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  5. rudy4444

    rudy4444

    Mar 13, 2012
    Central Illinois
    I don't know anyone who has a serious instrument with a "plastic" nut. The last plastic nut I remember seeing was on a toy guitar from the local five and dime store.
     
  6. deff

    deff Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2018
    Gloucester, MA
    So we are clear, you are not talking about polyamides. Fairly certain that the majority of nuts are either polyamides or some variation on that theme.
     
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  7. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Here's the important thing about the arguments over whether a brass/metal nut makes any difference to the sound:

    There are four points where the string makes mechanical contact with the frame of the bass:
    The tuner post, the nut (and zero fret), the bridge saddle, and the tailpiece anchor. When you fret a note, there is also contact between the string and the fret, but there's very little force in the contact.

    If you want to increase the high end clarity of the notes, all of those points have to be solidly mounted. Good tight contact between the metal and the wood. If any one of them isn't mounted solidly, you lose the high end clarity. One point of squishyness makes the sound squishy, even if the other points are solid.

    If your bass has a bridge that's poorly mounted to the body, then adding a brass nut isn't going to have much effect. But if the bridge, tailpiece and tuners are all solid, then changing from a soft nut to a metal nut can make a big difference. When all the points are made solid, you can hear it.

    That's why some folks report that a metal nut makes no difference, and others think they are amazing. It depends on the details of the rest of the bass.
     
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  8. rudy4444

    rudy4444

    Mar 13, 2012
    Central Illinois
    I am not.

    The polyamide class of plastics is generally reserved for nylon and similar materials.

    When I said I had not seen a "plastic" nut on anything since the five and dime guitar I was referring to guitars of quality construction featuring real bone material or at least synthetics such as TUSQ and NuBone which are materials formed of high carbon content under heat and pressure. These materials would not generally be referred to as "plastics" and do not have the limitations of physically interacting with string vibrational energy the way a softer material would.

    The important thing when lumping all materials other than a metal zero fret together is to not disparage any other possibility by grouping all of them into the general classification of "plastics".
     
  9. JIO

    JIO Connery... Sean Connery Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    The Mission SF/CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    word Bruce
     
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  10. deff

    deff Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2018
    Gloucester, MA
    I just wanted to clarify. Plastics used to basically mean most common polymers. People trying to be specific know that it is a catch all phrase covering a wide range of materials with some common elements. Also if we're going to be technical here even structural composite or high carbon filled polyamides have a generally lower shore hardness but higher compressive strength. I suspect they are mostly used because their long chain offers reasonable chemical resistance and excellent abrasion resistance.
     
  11. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
    Jul 25, 2021

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