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Zero Fret: What’s the Point?

Q: What’s the point of a “zero fret”?

A: I haven’t noticed much of a difference having a zero fret vs. not having one. My Skjold basses all have zero frets in them, while my Zon’s do not.

However, I believe that that the zero fret serves two functions:

  1. It gives an open string the same tone as a fretted string
  2. It’s easier on the luthier, as the nut is more of a string spacing device and doesn’t have to be filed just right to facilitate string height.

Zero Fret closeupI’ve read that it zero frets can cause problems for guitarists who bend strings a lot, causing wear and tear and slight grooves in the fret.

I’ve never had this problem, but I have had a problem a zero fret would have likely prevented.

On my Zon 4 string (with a graphite nut and no zero fret), a drummer once knocked it over on stage. It landed fretboard down and the string got mashed into the graphite a little bit. This cuased the groove in the nut to get deeper. That of course caused my open string to buzz unless I wedge a little bit of paper under the string at the nut to raise the string a fraction of an inch. I have to do this every time I change strings now.

Even though I don’t really utilize them, I’ve never experienced any downside with a zero fret. The upside? It may have saved me a slight bit of hassle every time I change my strings with my banged up graphite nut.

Anyone else have any insight? Please share in the comments.

Have a question for Damian? Send it to askdamian@notreble.com. Check out Damian’s instructional books at the No Treble Shop.

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