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Zero Fret: What is it's purpose?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by frankieC, Jan 19, 2014.

  1. frankieC

    frankieC A swell guy from Warren Harding High

    Jul 21, 2012
    What is the purpose of a Zero Fret?
    Some of my basses have one, some don't. I'm curious, what is it's function?

    Thanks, in advance, for the help and info.
  2. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    You don't have to have a precisely cut nut (only spacing is important, not depth) so it is arguably cheaper and/or easier to set up the neck and strings, and some claim the sound of the open string is closer to the sound of a fretted note.
  3. Great answer. And while once found almost exclusively on cheap instruments - today it is also on some high end stuff.
  4. bswag

    bswag Guest

    Dec 21, 2013
    Yes. But didn't some pretty high-end Hofners and such also use the zero fret? My impression has always been that European makers used it more often.
  5. pfox14


    Dec 22, 2013
    Definitely a Euro thing. Personally, I don't like a zero fret. Mutes the sound of an open strings and harder to get the action right.
  6. ffutterman

    ffutterman Talentless Bass Enthusiast

    May 7, 2010
    This. Personally, I'm not a fan because I like being able to choose between hitting an open string versus playing the 5th fret on the string below.
  7. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    I never found that to be a problem with my Hofner?
  8. frankieC

    frankieC A swell guy from Warren Harding High

    Jul 21, 2012
    Thanks, fellas.
    Yes. My 68 German Hofner has a zero fret.
  9. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    They definitely have their advantages. Ultra low action at the nut end and open notes sound exactly like fretted notes. Setup has to be pretty spot on though, higher action at the nut can compensate for an improperly adjusted truss rod, or slightly uneven frets. With a zero fret the fretwork and setup has to be right, which is a good thing in my opinion.
  10. JTE


    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    The zero-fret as a hallmark of low end stuff was an American assumption. Gibson, Martin, Epiphone, D'Angelico, Stromberg, and Fender didn't use zero-frets (though Gretsch DID). Most of the cheap imports did use them, as did a good number of higher-end European instruments that just weren't as popular in the US. So the only place most Americans saw a zero-fret was cheapo instruments and the primary "good" instrument didn't.

    It allows the nut's sole function to be string spacing, and puts a more durable material into the role of setting the initial level of the strings.

  11. Lou Bottini

    Lou Bottini Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2004
    All the MTD basses I have owned have the zero fret set up.
  12. Makes sense it 's a Euro thing because I've heard British players say they were taught not to use open strings .
  13. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    Truth be told, Hofner was not a high end instrument when it was designed with the zero fret. It cost about a third of what Fender and Gibson cost at the time Sir Paul started using one.
  14. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK

    When I was starting and advised not to use open strings, it was for tonal consistency, i.e. play all notes fretted. Having a zero fret would actually mean playing open strings would give a more consistent sound.

    The only bass I've had with a zero fret was Chinese-made, US-designed (MTD Kingston).
  15. Klonk


    Apr 28, 2011
    Sandberg have them as standard on their basses, which are mostly mid-ranged or lower high-end. Great basses in my experience. www.sandberg-guitars.de if you are curious (page is in English).
  16. The original Kramer aluminum necked basses had them,I'd put the quality of my 650B against any Fender or Gibson
  17. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Hmmm...my Schack 5 and MIK MTD Saratoga both have zero frets. The pseudo-nut / string guide must, in some regards, be treated like a conventional nut to minimize drag or grab while tuning. Here's a neat zero fret...and I swiped the pic from Brad Johnson so a hearty thank you!


  18. GrumpiusMaximus

    GrumpiusMaximus I've Seen Things You People Wouldn't Believe

    Mar 11, 2013
    Kent, United Kingdom
    That's exactly the advice I was given when I started learning the violin. With the bass, the same is true. You also don't get the opportunity to add vibrato, etc.

    If I had the opportunity to create a custom instrument, it would certainly have a zero fret.
  19. xabicho

    xabicho Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2009
    Long Beach, California
    Roger Guitars
  20. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    nuts are good because they can be carved out for certain string heights. a zero fret will lay on one level on all strings.

    but, tonal consistency.