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Author Topic: Zero Fret Guitars  (Read 4294 times)
freestate101
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« on: December 30, 2009, 08:46:10 PM »

Ok folks, I am new to the guitar and it's history and have the following questions concerning zero frets:
1) When were they introduced?
2) What purpose do they serve?
3) Why are they no longer in fashion?

In my previous post (Luthier Question), I was advised that some custom builders still offered zero fret models (Langejans website offers one but gives no details) and now my curiosity is aroused.

I hope I do not start a war over this, and want to thank everyone in advance for their information and opinions.

Jim
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The Hickman
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« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2009, 09:36:51 PM »

Thanks for the new thread, I have never even heard of them until today! I am s curious too.
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« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2009, 10:21:22 PM »

Zero Fret

and more

Zero Fret - search results
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cc407
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« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2009, 12:07:03 PM »

I somewhat agree with this:

It is claimed that, with a zero fret, the sound of an open string more closely approximates the sound of a fretted string as compared to the open string sound on a guitar with no zero fret.

but the biggest thing I've noticed on zero-fret instruments is the ease of fingering in first position. It's kind of like
how easy your guitar will play when capo'd.

The wkiipedia entry sort of puts the practice down, as it is true that zero fretters were associated with some really cheap crappy guitars back in the 50's and 60's, but if done right they can be very nice players.
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ncognito
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« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2009, 02:04:07 PM »

I would love, when my ship comes in, to buy a Veillette Gryphon which is a high tuned (like dropping down to DGCFAD and capoing on the tenth fret), short scale 12 string.  It has a zero fret.  I had the opportunity recently to play one, and meet the builder, Joe Veillette, at the Woodstock Invitational Luthiers Showcase.  It was unbelievably easy to play; fingerpicking was just shy of effortless.
Joe attributes this to the zero fret which, so he says, very much compensates for the high degree of tension the strings create in this formula.  By the way, the sound is ethereal, sublime, intoxicating.  

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« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2009, 05:51:17 PM »

ok, you awoke my curiosity -
found this example of a Veillette Gryphon

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwekDzSeak8

I'm impressed  bigrin
...would love to hear some Christmas music on this thing--
We Three Kings, What Child is This, Mary Did you Know...

also I think these songs would sound special on it

- Beatles - Norwegian Wood, Here Comes the Sun,
- Stones - Lady Jane, Paint it Black
- Simon & G. - Scarborough Fair

- Larry


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« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2009, 07:14:15 PM »

the Martin Carthy siggy Martin 000-18 has a zero fret, the orignal 000-18 Martin has been playing for 40 odd years has a zero fret for all that time

Here he is with his old 000-18, teaching us a free lesson;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2i1Djvgvqs8&feature=related

and bit more polished preformance with his daughter on violin;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmtEy_2rv3Y&feature=related

and one more, with the new 000-18 (still with a zero fret);
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzFIW_omASk&feature=channel

great tunes, great player....

d.
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The Hickman
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« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2009, 08:26:55 PM »

the Martin Carthy siggy Martin 000-18 has a zero fret, the orignal 000-18 Martin has been playing for 40 odd years has a zero fret for all that time

Here he is with his old 000-18, teaching us a free lesson;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2i1Djvgvqs8&feature=related

and bit more polished preformance with his daughter on violin;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmtEy_2rv3Y&feature=related

and one more, with the new 000-18 (still with a zero fret);
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzFIW_omASk&feature=channel

great tunes, great player....

d.


Great songs! Although, on the last link he is playing capoed so it's not a very good example of the zero fret sound. Nevertheless, great songs. the first two lings however were a good example of what kind of tone the "zero fret" guitar will produce. My question is, is this "zero fret" typically found in the folk and celtic styles? some one else gave a link to a AMAZING sounding 12 string performance......but still has that folk/celtic sound to it. I like those styles immensely, so please don't take this as negativity towards those genres.
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     You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
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« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2009, 08:39:35 PM »

Fylde guitars for one use zero frets, and claim it's the best solution. What I have heard is that a zero fret is harder to put into factory production (and make it sound right) because you need to hand-adjust the angle of the string etc. It is also true that cheap guitars used to have them because it makes it possible to adjust intonation in the factory without having to cute the fingerboard super accurate... (or something like that) so these two truths would seem to cancel each other out... 

Steve Gillette allegedly had a zero fret retrofitted into his guitar because he liked it better... so I guess go find a nice zero fret guitar and see if you like it. 
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madoclake
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« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2009, 09:25:42 PM »

My Yamaki Folk Deluxe has a zero fret. The guitar is extremely easy to play. So if the zero fret is the cause, well then I have to say it achieved its aim. Yamaki are early 1970's Japanese Martin knockoffs. I was amazed to learn they have quite a cult following. This is because they are remarkably LOUD and very durable. I know I've beat on mine pretty good and all without reducing its sound. A tried and true friend over the years of camping, wailing, bumping, scraping, winter outdoor concerts and general fun and abuse. The zero fret probably had zero to do with all that. If you want to get a Yamaki just keep looking on e-bay. They come up every month or so. Some are zero fret models; some aren't. The Folk Deluxe actually has a saddle adjuster that uses two screws that sit on the outside of the guitar for "on the go" adjustments. It actually works - which is bizarre.  They are solid tops too. They sell for about $350 USD. I've never seen one in Canada other than my own, but I underatnd there were more shipped here than the USA due to a law suit by Yamaha for brand name copyright infringement (not the Yamaha look or sound; just the name). Wow. I am a fountain of useless trivia information this New Years Eve! Anyone else out there have/had a Yamaki Folk Deluxe?
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« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2009, 10:03:03 PM »

I've got a mandolin with 0 fret and person who built it puts them on most instruments he builds. Here's my thoughts but I'm not sure if guitar tech would concur and although I know I ask him some about it a long time ago, I can't remember all he siad but... You know nuts are often higher than they need to be, Sometimes by pure not paying attention but to a lesser degree, a nut will wear down over time, so if it's on the hairy edge of lowness, you may want to have a little extra hieghth in it so it isn't buzzing after it wears a bit. A metal fret isn't going to wear as much, so you could set it lower and know it's not going to wear down anytime soon. I've looked at my 0 fret and some other instruments as well and even with long played ones there doesn't seem to be wear on 0 fret. Even if the 1st fret does have some. I think the vibration of string only, with out the pushing of the fingers or sweat off of fingers, cause very little wear. So you can set it up so the clearence of 1st fret is the same as clearence of other frets when fretting the fret below it. So it plays easier setting should last longer.
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Mr_LV19E
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« Reply #11 on: January 02, 2010, 12:43:30 AM »

I've got a mandolin with 0 fret and person who built it puts them on most instruments he builds. Here's my thoughts but I'm not sure if guitar tech would concur and although I know I ask him some about it a long time ago, I can't remember all he siad but... You know nuts are often higher than they need to be, Sometimes by pure not paying attention but to a lesser degree, a nut will wear down over time, so if it's on the hairy edge of lowness, you may want to have a little extra hieghth in it so it isn't buzzing after it wears a bit. A metal fret isn't going to wear as much, so you could set it lower and know it's not going to wear down anytime soon. I've looked at my 0 fret and some other instruments as well and even with long played ones there doesn't seem to be wear on 0 fret. Even if the 1st fret does have some. I think the vibration of string only, with out the pushing of the fingers or sweat off of fingers, cause very little wear. So you can set it up so the clearence of 1st fret is the same as clearence of other frets when fretting the fret below it. So it plays easier setting should last longer.

If it doesn't show wear maybe the zero fret is stainless.
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Roger


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« Reply #12 on: January 02, 2010, 01:03:02 AM »

It is on my mandolin, but still on others I've seen it doesn't seem to wear like the first fret where it gets finger pushing on it. I'm just GUESSING that it would wear slower that bone or plastic.
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« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2010, 04:25:55 PM »

It is on my mandolin, but still on others I've seen it doesn't seem to wear like the first fret where it gets finger pushing on it. I'm just GUESSING that it would wear slower that bone or plastic.

What you are saying makes sense to me, it's just that I've read more than once that using a capo causes fret wear. It seams like if just the vibration of the strings being held down with the capo causes wear, the same would hold true for a zero fret.  Maybe the capo story doesn't hold water then.
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« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2010, 08:43:38 PM »

The main advantage of a zero fret is that it allows the builder to set the intonation separately from the nut.  Since the zero fret sets the intonation the only thing the nut has to do is set the string spacing.  It also sets the action height at the headstock end fairly low, like playing with a capoed guitar.

I have seen both very high end custom guitars and very cheap guitars use a zero fret.

As for the way they sound, that's personal preference, they sound a lot like a capoed guitar in that the open strings don't ring the way they do on a normal instrument.  So, not the kind of thing you would play in an open tuning like Open-G or DADGAD because you don't get that huge open ringing sound you normally expect from those tunings.  Ont he other hand, if you are playing more classical style pieces the zero fret gives a nice uniformity between open and fretted strings.
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