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Zero Fret Basses?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Herrlster, May 14, 2006.

  1. Herrlster


    Oct 27, 2004
    Ontario, Canada
    What is the use/purpose of a zero fret? Like the Fender Zero Fret bass or whatever, whats the use of it?
  2. Darth Tater

    Darth Tater

    May 20, 2005
    It helps the open notes sound just like the fretted notes.
  3. it give you the sound kind of like if you tune down a half step and play on the first fret, ive heard theyre really good for slide guitar, but i cant see a real viable excuse for one on a bass, unless it comes as a standard feature
  4. ibz


    Apr 14, 2005
    Columbus, OH
    Are you thinking of a detuner at the bridge, or something?

    A zero fret is an "extra" fret behind the nut that is used to make the open strings play as if you were fretting at the fifth fret and make the string level even and clean.

    In theory if you have a very well cut nut it shoud act as a zero fret and you wouldn't need one. But this rarely the case and a zero fret would elimate a lot of problems. I think as simple as a concept to have zero frets should be placed on all basses/guitars.

    For example's of a zero fret implemented in boutique bass design, MTD's.

    Notice the metal fret directly after the nut and in before the "1st" fret you normally see on basses.

    I really don't see why these aren't implemented as common practice.
  5. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    +1. The open notes on my Steinberger XL-2 (which has a zero fret) sound identical to the fretted ones. This is not the case with any of my other basses.

    I'm not sure why more luthiers don't use zero frets. :meh:
  6. eots


    Dec 18, 2004
    Morris, IL.
    I would think the zero fret would wear prematurely due to it constantly being vibrated on vs the other frets that only get wore when you use that fret.
  7. the open note sounding like a fretted one is correct, but also I believe the zero fret is part of the "Buzz Feiten tuning system" which is employed on the MTDs now.
    I wonder if its snake oil, or if it really fixes intonation, I hate playing those high frets and being off key!
  8. so what about a wooden zero fret for us fretless children? Does that make any sense at all?
  9. acexxxoasis


    Apr 12, 2005
    the reason more luthiers dont use them is it seems like shoddy manufacturing move that they cannot put the nut in the right spot and is in use on many cheap guitars
  10. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    Columbia, Md
    I had a Steiney that I played for 15 years. There was some wear on the zero fret, but not much. The wear comes from the back and forth motion of the string on the fret and you don't have much of that since the fret is so close to the nut.
  11. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    A nut made of anything other than brass will wear out much quicker, and a zero fret can be easily replaced if need be.

    A wooden nut made of the same material as the fingerboard would serve that purpose- Rob Elrick puts zero frets on all of his fretted basses, and his fretlesses all have wooden nuts that match the fingerboard.
  12. I actually had an ebony endgut (is that the right word) that I picked up online for my cruddy palatino. It had a zero fret on teh bridge side. I didnt know it was weird until another bassist asked me about it. It didnt help the dismal sound of the bass much.
  13. fenderx55


    Jan 15, 2005
    I don't really understand how this works... the string is resting on the fret?
  14. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    Columbia, Md
    The exactly correct. So the open string note sounds like the other fretted notes.

  15. Jack Read, while he was making basses had zero frets as a standard. Anyone know what Jack's doing now? Whatthe word on his preamps?
  16. ibz


    Apr 14, 2005
    Columbus, OH
    All I know is Jack is no longer in the bass/ instrument buisiness.

    Actually the last activity I've heard from him was when he sold a gorgeous morado 5 string on ebay a few months ago.

    So except for picking up a preamp used they're kaput as far as production.
  17. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    Columbia, Md
    That sucks. I was considering the preamp, but held off since the website said there was a waiting list. Maybe I'm glad I held off depending on how "quickly" he quit the bass biz.
  18. steveb98

    steveb98 [acct disabled - multiple aliases]

    Mar 15, 2006
    Venice, CA
    I have a zero fret on my MTD Saratoga and have had guitars in the past with zero fret. I would say it helps the sound as mentioned before being metal and embedded in the fretboard like all the other frets. Also makes playing with different strings easier since the nut is less critical and mainly to stop side to side movement.

    I would say mass produced guitar don't use zero frets much since it raises the price of manufacturing. When a big company making thousands a instruments a few cents more is a big deal. With a zero fret the fretboard is a tiny bit longer, and a large fret has to be installed and dressed differently than rest. Sounds like no big deal but to companies that know cost down to the tenth of cent it more cost.

    And to the person asking about the Buzz Feiten System (BFS) it does work it improve tuning all over the neck and not as radical as fanned frets. The only thing is how you tune is different after getting the BFS. You either have to use a tuner that supports the BFS or you tune to an E on each string. For example to tune the A string you strike the 7th fret E and to that to E on a tuner. As you might guessed by now the BFS is based on standard tuning so if you do drop tunings and such the BFS isn't good to have.
  19. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    No, the zero fret has nothing to do with the Buzz Feiten system. MTD used a zero fret before incorporating the BFTS, and several other builders use one.

  20. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Lineā„¢ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    a zero fret (ZF) is exactly that - a fret at the zero position. it has no bearing on allowing you to de-tune a string on your instrument.

    I utilize ZF's as an option on some basses I build. I like the ZF for several reasons:

    * consistent tonality from fret to fret. yes, there is a small difference between an open note at the zero fret and the same note fretted a string up - but the difference is small compared to an open string with a nut.

    * fret leveling is more consistent, as I can level the frets and ZF all in the same step. this provides a player with a more consistent feel the entire length of the fretboard

    * nut material becomes fairly insignificant since the string is resting on the ZF ... the nut is more of a spacing guide

    * action is more consistent across the entire neck, and there is significantly less wear on a hardened fret than on something like bone or brass nut

    the only drawback I see is that some people prefer not to have them, and some of these people incorrectly equate them with cheapness. for me, there is actually more work involved )not less) to include a ZF, so I find the cheapness theory quite puzzling.

    all the best,


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