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"Zero position" Frets

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by mjw, Oct 5, 2002.


  1. mjw

    mjw

    Jun 12, 2001
    Spring, TX USA
    Can anyone here describe the merits and/or drawbacks of "Zero position" frets, or why you would want or need them, or for that matter, what they're supposed to do? I recently noticed an MTD American that had a fret in the zero position just below the nut, which I've never noticed on other basses. I'm guessing that sliding up from 0 might be quiter, but other than that, I'm not so sure. Anyone care to comment? Thanks!
     
  2. Brendan

    Brendan

    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    It's there to even out the tones. Imagine, if you will, that every time you hit an open string, you're playing a fretless bass. Then everytime you play a fret, you switch to fretted. Sound kinda funky? Because it is. Zero frets even out that tonal difference, so that even the open strings are "fretted" and thus, an "all fretted" sound across the entire bass.
     
  3. Brian Barrett

    Brian Barrett

    Nov 25, 2001
    Murfreesboro, TN (Nashville)
    Dealer LowEndBassShop.com, Builder LowEndBasses.com
    It’s kind of a preference thing. Some people feel an open string is louder with a nut. Some have different opinions on bone or brass nuts. Some people feel the Zeros fret is a better way to go because the open string is fretted like ever-other note. It’s a matter of your opinion and what you like. MTD uses a zero fret, fodera uses a brass nut.......... who's to say who is doing it the right way???

    I personally like brass nuts!
     
  4. nah.. that's bull-:eek: !! they're there just for decoration :p
     
  5. mjw

    mjw

    Jun 12, 2001
    Spring, TX USA
    Ok, that's beginning to make sense, but leads to a few other questions. If you wanted to play the fretted equivalent of an open string, would you then fret the zero fret of that string? The reason I'm curious is because it looked like there's only about 1/4" betwen the zero fret and the nut, and I'd think you find yourself "fretting the nut" on occasion, if you know what I mean.

    The zero-fret isn't higher than the others and actually touching all the strings, is it? I can't see how that would work, but I thought I'd ask. Thanks again.
     
  6. Aaron

    Aaron

    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    People use open strings? :confused:
     
  7. odie

    odie Supporting Member

    The zero fret is touching the strings.

    No you dont have to fret the open string.
     
  8. the zero fret should be touching the strings and because it is the same height as the other frets this (partially) removes the problem of the first five frets being slightly sharp whilst the bass is intonated correctly at the 12. fret , in other words it improves intonation.

    EDIT: And the Nut is lower than the zero fret (or all frets for that matter)
     
  9. Brian Barrett

    Brian Barrett

    Nov 25, 2001
    Murfreesboro, TN (Nashville)
    Dealer LowEndBassShop.com, Builder LowEndBasses.com
    I believe what your getting confused is the nut prior to the zero frett. Its not actually a nut, but a string guide. The string is not resting on the string guide but its there to keep the string straight over the zero frett which is basically acting as a nut.

    Reason the the question being asked. Is a nut or zero frett better?!?!?!
     
  10. Brendan

    Brendan

    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Spot on Brian. I think it's a preference thing too. I can understand the theory behind zero frets, but I personally can't tell the difference between a zero fret and brass nut. It's purely a preference thing, IME.
     
  11. mjw

    mjw

    Jun 12, 2001
    Spring, TX USA
    Yep, now we're zeroing in on the confusion, but let me ask this......

    If it's not really a nut, but actually a string guide, then why would the height of the zero-fret be the same as the other frets? (unless you had a boat-load of forward bow) I'm sure I'm missing something here, but I haven't yet discovered just what.... :) Thanks for your patience.
     
  12. Brendan

    Brendan

    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    If you look at the nut on a bass, you'll see that the strings aren't that far from the fretboard. A zero fret holds the strings up to about that height as well.
     
  13. dirk

    dirk

    Apr 6, 2000
    Memphis, TN
    I do, they're there for a reason.:D
     
  14. Brian Barrett

    Brian Barrett

    Nov 25, 2001
    Murfreesboro, TN (Nashville)
    Dealer LowEndBassShop.com, Builder LowEndBasses.com


    Its really no different then fretting the 1 st fret verse the zero fret which is fretted my the down-ward pull of the headstock angle.
     
  15. gfab333

    gfab333

    Mar 22, 2000
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    Just trying to help answer some questions here. Some of these items below are factual while others, I'll admit, are solely my humble opinion. Here's a pic of the zero fret on my MTD535.

    As you can see in the pic, the zero fret is higher than the first fret and other frets. As an FYI, I keep the relief on my neck nearly straight. String height at the 12th fret is just a hair over 3/32 for the B, and generally about 2/32 for the other strings.

    The plastic string guide seems to act only as a string guide.

    In order to play an open string, you play the bass like any other. Just play the string without fretting it.

    I can't remember for sure, but I think that the zero fret is part of the Buzz Fieten tuning System.

    and now my opinions...

    The zero fret makes the open string sound like all the other notes which are fretted (as far as tone and timbre). Thus, there's a more uniform tone between the open string notes and the fretted notes. Granted, we are talking about a very fine nuance which many people can't hear.

    I actually have a preference with regard to this issue depending on the song. For example, let's use the open E on the E string (hereafter referred to as the "open E"), and the fretted E at the 5th fret on the B string (hereafter referred to as the "fretted E"). If I playing a funky slap groove I would most likely use the "open E". If I'm playing an intricate Rocco-style 16th pattern, I would probably center myself around the "fretted E" on the B string. These are truly personal preferences that are driven by playing style and other factors that are inherent to the individual player.

    My F Bass and 1982 Fender Jazz does not have a zero fret, while the MTD does. Although there is a slight difference in tone, I wouldn't say that one is better than the other. They're just different.

    There is one comment that I can make, just to illustrate how small the sonic difference is (zero fret vs conventional nut)... Most of you can easily discern the tonal difference between the sound of open string on a bass with a brass nut, as compared to the open strings played on a bass with a conventional bone/plastic nut, right?

    Well, the difference that we're talking about (zero fret vs conventional fret) is a much finer nuance, it's only a slight difference sonically speaking. I speculate that some people wouldn't be able to tell the difference in a blindfold A/B test, although they could easily hear the difference when comparing brass vs conventional nut basses.

    I hope this helps answer some of the questions.
     
  16. mjw

    mjw

    Jun 12, 2001
    Spring, TX USA
    Thanks gfab333! Your comments have been very helpful, since it was an MTD535 that I saw the zero-fret on in the first place. I think I finally understand now. Thanks again to all who commented on this thread. :)
     
  17. nanook

    nanook

    Feb 9, 2000
    Alaska
    One drawback is that the zero fret cannot easily be adjusted but a nut can.

    Given a choice, on a quality instrument, I would take a zero fret every time as it is a better witness point than nut, which is usually a piece of plastic that wraps 1/2 way around the string.