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Zero fret height

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Bassic83, Dec 1, 2005.


  1. Bassic83

    Bassic83

    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    Quick questions- I like the idea of a zero fret to help the open notes sound similar to fretted notes, but I have a question or two about doing this. Question 1- Does the zero fret have the same fret height as the rest of the frets, or is it slightly higher? Question 2- Is there a preferred distance between the nut and the zero fret? I've seen some basses where the zero fret is 1/8" from the nut, and one where it was more than a quarter, and yet another one where the nut was almost touching the back of the zero fret.

    Thanks for your consideration.

    Eric
     
  2. 1. The zero fret height should be the same as the rest of the frets.

    2. It shouldn't make any difference where the nut is relative to the zero fret. Since it wouldn't be of any benefit to make it far from the zero fret, keeping it close saves wood, weight and cost.
     
  3. not sure, but it seems to reason that having the nut close would also give you a better break angle over the first fret...and also less side-to-side "slop"
     
  4. It might give a better break angle, but that depends on the headstock, nut and zero fret orientation. I don't think that having the nut closer necessarily makes a better break angle... it would depend on the height of the bottom of the nut relative to the zero fret and how far away the nut is. If the nut is on the fretboard plane then I would agree... but I've been considering doing a nut that was back on the angled headstock.

    Having it too far back might give some side-to-side movement of the lower strings.
     
  5. for some reason, I didn't consider an angled headstock...but, of course, with an angled headstock the break angle would be fairly consistant regardless of distance, and obviously depth of nut slot would be the ultimate determining factor in this whole equation.
     
  6. You could always extend your fretboard past the zero fret per usual, but leave the end a tad more square, and notch in string slots...no nut required at all. you could have the notch terminate right up to the zero fret, so the break angle is directly off the zero fret.. The string is aligned, one less thing hampering the string on its way to the tuner / string retainer, ending up with potentially purer notes.
     
  7. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    I use zero frets on my basses. I also have angled headstocks. I put the nut anywhere between a 3/16" to 1/8" from the zero fret. I cut the nut as you would normally, but make the slots deeper than the fret. Since the nut is controlling side to side movement, there is no slop at the zero fret... if the string slides on the fret, during bends for instance, it's a very small movement.

    I level the zero fret along with the rest of the frets.
     
  8. Dave, I REALLY like that Tokia-talbo looking 8 string bass on your website. That's a cool looker.
     
  9. I also use a zero fret on my fretted basses. I use the same distance David uses, from 3/16 to 1/8". But I cut the slots quite deep. About half the height of the fret. I do this to give a slight down angle similar to what happens when you fret a note. I believe you'll also get less buzzing probability this way. I also level the zero fret along with all other frets. I can get incredibly low action with no neck relief and no buzz at all anywhere on the neck.

    I don't agree that you don't need a nut when using a zero fret. If no nut is present the break angle at the zero fret would be too big (IMHO). This might lead to problems with excessive fret wear on the zero fret.
     
  10. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    Thanks! That bass has a long and varied history. It was built in the early 80's, and used to be kind of a hot pink color. It had a different neck then. I remember seeing a Tokia in the video for Pretty in Pink by Psychedelic Furs, and thinking, "Hey, that looks like my bass!"

    That bass actually started its life as a '72 Fender P-bass... A local guitar maker back in the 70's had moved the pickup to the bridge position, and added a home made humbucker. I got it from someone else, removed the humbucker and added a second P pickup in the original location. I giged with that bass for a few years back in the 70's.

    In the early 80's I grafted a new headstock on the maple neck and made it into an 8-string. Then I cut the body into the shape it is now. The neck was crap though, and the bass sat and languished... so years later I made a new neck for it. That was my first neck from scratch. It made a huge improvement to the sound... with the original neck it had a weak low end and harsh mids.

    I obviously refinished it black and made a new pickguard at that time. It has hand wound low impedance pickups and a custom preamp.

    Here it is back in '96, shortly after being finished (and if you look very carefully you can see the zero fret on the two 5-strings...) :

    [​IMG]
     
  11. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    You could always do it like LeFay:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  12. I may be wrong, but wouldn't making the zero fret the same height as other frets make your action extremely low. Imagine if your nut was the same height as your frets. AFAIK this would make your action so low it would be buzzing on your frets. I could be wrong though, because if you think about it, when you fret any note, it doesn't buzz, and that fret is the same height as the other frets (hopefully :) ) so basically, I don't know :D
     
  13. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    Your nut is supposed to be the same hight... otherwise you have stiff feeling action at the first fret.

    If your frets are level you wont get any buzzing with a perfectly straight neck and very low action... unless you pound on the strings. The only way your open notes would buzz is if the zero fret was lower than the first fret, etc.

    That's how I have my basses set up.

    Incidentally, many brand new factory made basses have poorly leveled frets.
     
  14. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    I wouldn't. Even though I have a straight line from the tuners, if you bent a string enough you could pull the string off the edge of the fretboard.
     
  15. Bassic83

    Bassic83

    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    The LeFay is an interesting approach, and I've actually thought about doing that. I played one not too long ago, and if I were made of money like the rest of you, I would have grabbed it! There are grroves to hold the strings in place, and since there isn't much in the way of side-pull from the strings, it works quite well. I might go that route...
     
  16. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    It's a nice looking bass. Hey, I'm not made of money, that's why I built my own bass!


    So it's a low nut... that wouldn't work for me, I bend the strings down there.. would pull them right out of the slot! Lots of side pull! I actually unglued my nut by bending strings not too long ago...

    Hey in your avatar... are those Q Tuner pickups? I've been dying to try them out...
     
  17. Bassic83

    Bassic83

    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    They are indeed! I haven't finished my bass yet, but that's what I planned on using from the start...I have a thread here showing my project, which is moving ahead with blindingly glacial speed... ;)
     
  18. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    Hey, nice looking bass! The neck lams remind me of my basses. :)

    I can't wait to see the finished product. Do post some audio samples!
     
  19. Bassic83

    Bassic83

    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    I sure will! Going with a 2-band EQ on the piezos, and a 3-band on the Q's. If I end up hating the sound of the Q's through a pre, I will most likely run them to a buffer with the piezo blend, then straight out. We'll see...