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Thread: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

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    Super Toneologist TMD's Avatar
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    Default Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    What’s it like playing a really old LP Custom or other guitar with tiny frets or ones that have been worn down? Are such frets prized by some players?

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    Sock Market Trader GuitarStv's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    They tend to sound bad, and are more difficult to play.

    The only reason I can think of that you might want small fret height is if you have poor fretting technique and press too hard - then big frets will make you sound out of tune all the time.
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    Mojo's Minions ItsaBass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    I love 'em. They are great to play, IME.

    Many, if not most, have been replaced by now, and almost never with the original size wire.

    They are not only very low and narrow, but they have practically no crown.

    It's a cool feel, but would probably be no fun if you were a frequent bender.

    They are from an era when heavy flatwound strings and not bending were the norm. And they work fine for that.
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    Default Re: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    The playing guitar experience is bad. Forget about bending strings.

    Remember that when Gibson did that people used heavier gauge strings, and often flat wounds.

    I’ve had a few instruments with tiny/low frets like my Rickenbacker basses and a Mosrite. I installed jumbo frets in my Rick.

    However, I have played basses with tiny banjo frets. But they weren’t filed down so low. And Jeff Berlin’s bass has wide frets filed almost fretless.

    It works better for bass than guitar IMO.


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    Mojo's Minions Lewguitar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    I hate 'em. Always have.

    When I go to bend strings my finger can't grip the strings and slides right over the top.

    I've owned a couple of 50's Les Paul Customs with those frets and a couple of SG Customs too.

    That was a long time ago of course. Those guitars are worth a fortune now.
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    A Ficus ehdwuld's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    I like them
    played one at Jerry's some years ago
    I'm mostly a jazzy rhythm type of guy anyways
    no bends just chords
    and with flat strings the guitar was effortless to play

    at the time my house guitars were acoustics and Ibanez RGs with their extra jumbo frets
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    Default Re: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    My 66 Strat has this. Someone filed them down in the 70’s. I find it very easy and comfortable to play; very fast. It’s does for me what scalloping does for others. I have a lighter touch and easier playing. Bends are not a problem for me on a low “fretless wonder”
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    Default Re: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    I had a '62 SG Special that had the frets filed down like that, too. It was the easiest-playing guitar I ever owned and I bend a lot and I've never even seen flat wound strings in person. When I sold it a friend bought it because she also loved the way the neck felt. I don't know why it worked, but it worked! Smooth and fast.

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    Super Toneologist TMD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    I’m trying to picture this working with bends. Wouldn’t the frictional forces from contact with the fretboard wood be significant?

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    Sock Market Trader GuitarStv's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    Quote Originally Posted by TMD View Post
    I’m trying to picture this working with bends. Wouldn’t the frictional forces from contact with the fretboard wood be significant?
    Not necessarily . . . and worst case scenarios you can always overcome that with a combo of hamfisted brute force and choosing very small gauge strings.

    The bigger concern is if you have a vintage radius Fender guitar . . . the geometry of doing deep bends on low fret wire make it physically impossible to avoid fretting out. It's a little less worse on a 12 inch or higher board like on most Gibsons.
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    Super Toneologist TMD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    How would a Fender at 9.5” do? Does higher action help?

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    Default Re: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    Quote Originally Posted by TMD View Post
    I’m trying to picture this working with bends. Wouldn’t the frictional forces from contact with the fretboard wood be significant?
    Don’t press so hard. Use a feather light touch and there’s no problem. Don’t press down, bend by only moving sideways along the fret.
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    Default Re: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    I wonder if you combined those small frets with a scalloped neck. It would solve the bending issue.
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    Mojo's Minions Lewguitar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    The problem with the fretless wonder guitars wasn't just that the frets were little. They were flat!

    Like Gibson had installed regular frets and then ground them flat.

    I'm talking 50's and 60's Gibsons.
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    Default Re: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    Quote Originally Posted by Lewguitar View Post
    The problem with the fretless wonder guitars wasn't just that the frets were little. They were flat!

    Like Gibson had installed regular frets and then ground them flat.

    I'm talking 50's and 60's Gibsons.
    My sensors are indicating relatively few vintage enthusiasts clamoring for faithful reproduction of that.

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    Mojo's Minions dystrust's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    Quote Originally Posted by TMD View Post
    My sensors are indicating relatively few vintage enthusiasts clamoring for faithful reproduction of that.
    I don't know if it's still true, but at one point mid/late '59 bursts were worth more than earlier examples because they had larger fret wire.
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    mild old man perv Aceman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    My frets are low/wides on my #1. I LOVE them.

    Action is stupid low. The thing plays itself.

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    Super Toneologist TMD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    Quote Originally Posted by Aceman View Post
    My frets are low/wides on my #1. I LOVE them.

    Action is stupid low. The thing plays itself.
    How's the bending?

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    A Ficus ehdwuld's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    I noticed I had to play closer to the frets than I did on my Ibanez guitars
    Almost right on top
    At that point
    Bending is just sliding up the fret
    Not much contact with the fretboard
    Really light touch
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    Ultimate Tone Slacker Dave Locher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fretless wonders and other low-fret options

    I dunno, I had no problem adapting to my SG and several other people played it. They all loved the way it felt and no one ever complained about the low frets. Three different people tried to buy it off me after playing it.
    It had a 10" radius and I bent continuously.

    (Yes, I know specs say 12" radius but a lot of early '60s Gibsons had 10" radius. I thought mine was some special order or something but Dan Erhwine says it was common.)

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