Question about Fret heights

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments

Question about Fret heights

Post by RolandC01 » Wed Nov 19, 2008 10:01 am

What would be the advantage/disadvantage of using the medium/Highest frets (1.27mm hi). My current CG has the medium/high (1.14mm) frets (bought from stewmac). Would it make baring any easier having the highest frets? Anyone have any experiance usign different height frets and its effects?


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Doug Ingram
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Re: Question about Fret heights

Post by Doug Ingram » Wed Nov 19, 2008 3:48 pm

This is a question that I have been wondering about, too. The only real issue that I can see is the effect of stretching the strings as you press them, potentially causing intonation problems.

I have heard of some people preferring low frets. I don't know for me. I have problems with left hand strength and sometimes its a real effort to press the stings down hard enough for clean playing. Low frets would compound that. High frets would seem to offer an advantage as there is more room to work with.


Re: Question about Fret heights

Post by lam » Wed Nov 19, 2008 4:35 pm

Fret height is largely a personal preference but there a few things to might want to consider before changing. First, be aware that changing frets is very hard on a fingerboard and is best done only when the frets are worn out or lifting enough to interfere with your playing. Next, the higher the frets the more you fretting finger pressure will affect intonation. This will take some adjustments in you technique as will position shifts and portamentos. Personally, I don't believe higher frets necessarily make barring any easier or more difficult. I think that is more related to neck shape, setup and hand position. Before changing you might want to consider playing some instruments with different fret heights just to get a "feel" for some of the difficulties or changes you might encounter. I know they aren't that same as your instrument but, if you change frets, your instrument will also feel like a different instrument. If you are unhappy with your instrument as it is you might want to consider taking it to a good luthier, discuss with him/her what your issues are and maybe have the setup changed.

Best of luck,


Re: Question about Fret heights

Post by MarkJ » Thu Nov 20, 2008 2:52 pm

I have used both the med/high and med/highest from Stewmac. I don't think it makes much difference for barre, but it did seem to make a bit of difference that I had to adjust for on the saddle for intonation. The higher frets do give you a bit more metal to work with if buzzing is a potential issue, as you can level them a bit more and still retain full crown. Personally, I prefer the standard height fret wire when initially fretting a new guitar and have only used the higher wire once for a refret. I agree with Iam about only doing a refret if you really need to.


Re: Question about Fret heights

Post by cn90 » Thu Nov 20, 2008 4:11 pm

I am no luthier but have played roughly 20 different concert-grade guitars in my life. I don't know how to classify fret heights but let's say: Low, Medium, and High then IMHO go with Medium.

- Low Frets: it is difficult to achieve good vibrato (little room to press the strings down; unless you pull the strings sideway).
- High Frets: good vibrato but big problem with glissando (to be proper, it is portamento) because the LH fingers can get caught if the frets are too high.

So Medium Fret Height works well for me.


Re: Question about Fret heights

Post by MikFik » Thu Nov 20, 2008 6:56 pm

This is a very misunderstood subject and one of the reasons that most guitars are more difficult to play than nescessary. It takes VERY little downward presure to press a string against a fret, so why do we get so tired and sometimes even develop a cramp in the hand after doing it for a while? Answer: because when the brain is dealing with too much data at one time it just does the best it can and ends up sending full presure messages to the fretting fingers and we end up pressing the string down until we touch the fretboard instead of the specific amount needed, (especially with bar chords) in other words as the bandwidth narrows, data is dropped and tecnique suffers. This is why as we get more familiar playing a specific piece we get less tired doing it. When the brain is over taxed our playing suffers.
Tall frets ONLY makes sense on a classical guitar with a really messed up fretboard because they can be filed down further to correct a problem like a hump at the 12th fret, but then they aren't tall any more.
Gibson came up with jumbo frets many years ago and all the electric guitar slingers loved them. Many people wondered why they called them frettless wonders. The frets were huge in height AND width but after installation the tops were filled off and pollished which gave the guitarist a wide flat fret top so bending strings (some electric guitarists bend strings a lot) felt great and the strings sustain would be enhanced.
Again, the frets were very tall but most of the height got filed off.
The fretwire I use for classic guitars is a normal height (about .050 tall) but when levelling the frets I take about another .010 to .015 off so they end up about .035 tall. This is shorter than normal and you can feel the difference. If the guitar has a good neck and everything else is set up right there are NO issues with buzzing. The action can be lowered at both nut and saddle ends by about .010 to .020 which isn't very much but every little bit helps and it is just enough so I get less squeek when changing positions from a barred chord.


Re: Question about Fret heights

Post by RolandC01 » Fri Nov 21, 2008 7:07 am

Thank you for the replies. If it does not make any difference it may not the be the best thing to do. Back to the drawing board....

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