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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-20-2002, 09:09 AM Thread Starter
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How does the size of the fretwire affect the playability of a guitar?

Jumbo = ?
Medium = ?
Small(?) = ?
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-20-2002, 09:46 AM
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Re: Fretwire

Jumbo = Tall frets that make the neck easier to play. Less pressure required to fret the notes. More vibrato variations.

Medium = Usualy a tick taller than small and wider. Used for that "vintage Used" look on new guitars. Good playability with less vibrato variations.

Small= Think DBK on this one. If you like your action nose-hair low, these are for you. They wear out in about a week with heavy playing. Prepare youself for a refret at least once in your ownership life.

Editors Note: We are talking about Kirk here and though the small frets wear more quikly, Kirk will never have the guitar long enough to notice. :P
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-20-2002, 10:07 AM
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First of all, fret height and action are independent of one another. Where fret size does play into the "action" of a guitar is by having an effect on how much your fingers will come in contact with the fretboard wood as you play and bend strings. This can be a major playability factor for a lot of players.

Jumbo frets give you that almost "scalloped" feel to the fretboard... even with lots of pressure, your fingers or the strings will rarely touch the fretboard, unless you're really digging in and playing hard. Makes for easy bending and vibrato with a lighter touch. The main drawback of jumbo frets is that they're more difficult to crown accurately, and as they wear, the breaking point of the string over the fret can get thrown off because the worn crown will be wider and flatter. Accurate intonation can be harder to achieve and maintain with jumbo frets.

Medium frets are just that... medium. They're narrower and not quite as tall as a "jumbo" fret, but still give you a decent amount of material to keep the strings above the fretboard and to have decent longevity over the life of the instrument. You can get "medium-tall" frets that are almost as tall as a jumbo, but still not as wide, so you get the long wear and minimal fretboard drag of a jumbo fret, but they're a little easier to get a good crown on, and the intonation will remain truer, longer.

Small frets are either the itty-bitty mandolin- or banjo-style frets that can give you a super-slick feeling (think 1970s Gibson Les Paul Custom 'fretless wonder'). Lots of cheaper vintage guitars have very small frets... you feel a lot of wood when you play these guitars... some people like them, others don't. I find bending with low frets takes a lot of effort, because all of the bend has to happen in the lateral direction... there's no room to push down to make the string go sharp. They're also a pain to set up, because they'll be very sensitive to string buzz, and they wear out extremely quickly.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-20-2002, 02:44 PM
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I should also add darren that the fret size directly effects intonation. The larger the fret the more off or out tune individual fretted notes are going to sound. THe smaller the better for intonation. Of course I still use big frets I bend too much.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-20-2002, 02:59 PM
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Hypothetically, fret size doesn't HAVE to affect intonation. If a jumbo has a nice round bead (accurately centered) and the player has a light touch, it needn't affect intonation at all.

Of course, in reality it often DOES, but that's another matter.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-20-2002, 03:10 PM
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there are 6 variations

3 in height: low, med, high
3 in width: narrow, med, wide

which are often intermixed in the conversations like above I can't comment on all of them right now, but i tend to dislike high narrow frets... glen
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-20-2002, 07:16 PM
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That much is true Jester at least hypothetically. Does anyone have a preference in fret shape? Ive always kind of dug gibson frets. Everytime I picked one up the guitars seemed to play themselves, I just never dug the tone of the guitars. Some prefer a flat radius on the neck as it allows you to get the action lower since you can bend notes without them fretting out as much. Of course with a floating floyd equipped guitar this wont matter as the action is going to be higher than normal anyways. Hell right now my 520 has action so low its just ridiculous I just have enough room to pull all the way up on the bar
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-21-2002, 12:13 AM
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I agree with those who said that bigger frets generally play better, but closely tied to playability is fretboard radius (and I seem to see bigger frets on flatter boards). I've always thought the smaller frets on vintage (style) strats make them harder to play (along with the small radius). I suppose part of "playability" is preference. I've come to prefer wider frets that are not super tall.
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-22-2002, 02:58 AM
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If you want to go way off on a tangent, in theory the larger frets also add more weight to the neck thus changing the tone..............I doubt they add enough to hear the difference with the naked ear, but like I said it is theory.....
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equipped guitar , fret size , fretboard radius , fretboard wood , gibson les paul , gibson les paul custom , jumbo frets , les paul , les paul custom , medium frets

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