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Thread: Frets and Acoustics

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2006

    Default Frets and Acoustics

    Do new frets sometimes change tone? My mandolin has very small frets which makes it a little challenging to finger sometimes so I am planing on a fret job and having .080 frets installed. So what might I expect, if anything, with the new, larger frets? At least I would expect easier playability, but what else could result as far as its acoustics? I'm wondering if a new nut also may have to be made to work with the new frets.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Frets and Acoustics

    Frets do come into play in regards to tone. A portion of that will be how well they are seated. Some will be the crown.

    Higher frets allow you to focus more downward force on the strings since your fingers are not contacting the fingerboard. This can be good or bad depending on how low the original frets were and your playing style. With high frets, there is more potential to bend the strings out of tune.

    As you get fret wear, wider frets may not fret as cleanly as narrow frets. You have more potential for buzz and intonation issues. If they are crowned well, this is not an issue.

    If your new frets are higher, the nut will have to be shimed or replaced.
    Robert Fear

    "Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don't.
    " - Pete Seeger

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Frets and Acoustics

    I have refretted several mandolins from 50x31 (and 50x37) to 80x50 (widthxheight, height is the one you will feel).

    - to me, frets below about 45 in height get progressively more difficult to play. 31s are torture, 37's are better but not all the way to good.
    - not all players care about fret height, some don't notice it or care, but it makes a big difference to me.
    - new nut is either required, or the old one shimmed and refiled, I've done both. Same result.
    - some instruments benefit more from taller frets, I haven't found any that suffered. I had one (MD605 f-hole) that sounded dramatically better, more sustain, better tone, especially on the G string, like it opened up x 10. Another (MD604 oval-hole) got a smidge better, more open less tubby, but nothing as huge as the MD605. For the MD605 the fret job would have been worth it for the tone alone.
    - taller frets are the same acoustically as higher action, some guitar players will up their action to get better sound, IMHO put on some taller frets too so you gain playability as well.
    - I hear wider frets will last longer if you do a lot of bending, but haven't tested this myself. I prefer tall narrow frets, 80x50's are my goto's, that is the tallest fret that isn't a jumbo, meaning over 100 in width.
    - the only downside to taller frets is if you press real hard near the nut it is easier to bend the string sharp, this will be more pronounced with lighter strings. But mandolin frets are so close together it doesn't matter much, on an electric guitar this effect is much more noticable.
    Last edited by kurth83; Feb-09-2019 at 11:19pm.
    Red Valley AM Mahogany (custom pancake) on order...
    Trinity College TM325 Octave Mandolin.
    Eastman MD-605SB, MD-604SB, MD-305, all with Grover 309 tuners.
    Fender Mando-Strat, Godin A8. Tin Guitar travel mandolin.
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