How Frets Affect Your Tone- 500 Words with Adam P Hunt
500 Words How Frets Affect Your Tone
Travel back in time. The year is 1600 and you land in the Baroque study of Giovanni Paolo Foscarini. He’s a well-dressed man of the period and he’s scribbling down some notes for his latest composition.
On his workbench is stringed instrument that is slightly larger than a ukulele. After listening him compose you are able to convince him you’re not the Devil and you want to play his guitar.
After getting used to the guitar’s unusual tuning and neck markers that are made out of sinew wrapped around the fingerboard you break into “Street Fighting Man” by the Stones.
He explodes in anger, wrests the guitar from your hands and smashes it to bits and stops composing.
Francesco Corbetta never travels to the court of Queen Anne of Great Britain and the guitar never becomes popular in England. The entire British Invasion never happens and in America Lawrence Welk was considered a god.
Angelo Michele Bartolotti becomes a mathematician and we land on the Moon thirty years earlier due to his work with advanced calculus.
Fig Newtons would be named “Bartolottis” due to fondness of sweets.
According to Gibson USA’s website: “Frets are typically made of nickel-silver or nickel-steel alloys, or – less often – brass, copper alloy or stainless steel. The harder and more dense the material, with stainless at the top of the scale and soft nickel at the bottom, the brighter and more cutting the notes played on a guitar should sound. Most manufacturers use nickel alloys because the metal is soft and easy to work with”.
Eddie Van Halen has been a proponent of stainless steel frets for his latest signature model due to the tone and longer fret life.
Paul Reed Smith talked about using very hard nickel frets but also mentioned that frets must be molded to the radius of the fretboard and secured with Krazy Glue so they wouldn’t rattle out of the fretboard.
Michael DeTemple uses frets to help stabelize and temper the neck by creating “A special fret saw to facilitate cutting slightly narrower slots on the bass side of the fretboard than on the treble side; this allows for a compression fret installation.
By putting a slightly wider tang into the narrower fret slot, the neck wood is compressed back and more tension is exerted on the bass side of the neck. This will ensure a more consistent relief in the neck and prevent any dead spots in the frets”.
Is there truth to the legend that Stevie Ray Vaughn had bass frets put in his guitar to improve the sound or was it simply a happy coincidence?
It would be interesting too see if he did replaced the frets on all of guitars or if he did that only his famous battered sunburst Strat. Rene Martinez would know if any one.
Whatever your fret size preference may be it is important that they are good quality and well dressed.