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.

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Share your thoughts

  1. If you put a little drop or two of super glue in that nut slot of your Zon, it will build up the surface again and you won’t have to woory about using a piece of paer in there anymore. Or… you could probably just have one of the guys at Zon cut you a new one and be done with it.

  2. I have the same problem on my early 90’s jackson bass. The nut is worn down just enough on the E and A to where it buzzes unless I put a microscopic piece of paper in between the nut and string. Every bass should have a zero fret. It’s surprising how few companies actually include such an easy feature to install/an easy fix to a common problem that will happen to every bass eventually.

  3. It also helps with intonation. Most higher-end basses will have the nut at the correct height, but for us lowly mortal who can’t afford them, nut height can cause the first few frets to be slightly out of tune as well as affecting the action. If done right, the zero fret eliminates this. As far as I know anyway :)

  4. I think we’ve all missed the point here. The moral of the story is never let a drummer near your bass!

  5. If you ever use light or high tuning strings, a zero-fret bass would truly help!

    I have two good basses but both require(d) tape/paper/plastic when up-tuned.

  6. Also, zero-frets would have the same timbre as fingered notes.

    Note to below: one of my basses tuned higher is fretless. So a zero fret would defeat the purpose!

  7. I wish more basses had them. I can see how doing a lot of string bending might wear the zero fret if one used stainless Rotos or something, but that wouldn’t be an issue for a nickel flat guy like myself.

  8. Change the nut?

  9. I think we all need to stop being so ghetto and just replace the nut. :p

  10. can’t you just make the nut metal? Excuse me if I’m entirely off.

    • Damian Erskine well, I imagine if a metal nut worked better, more companies would use it. I’ve never seen a zero-fretted bass, I’ll have to see if i can’t track one down sometime. thanks.

    • That’s actually kinda cool. But, does it make a difference?

    • I had two basses by Status. One was a model from the 80’s that I bought in 2008, and the original ball-bearing nut was in perfect shape. It does have some advantages. Tone-wise it may help with sustain a bit I guess. I’d be willing to bet that it lasts far longer than a normal nut, and you don’t have to worry about filing the string slot wider if you go to a heavier gauge string.

  11. My Schack U6R has a zero-fret, and I am glad for the consistency of tone, tension, intonation, etc.. I am surprised that they are not a more common feature.

  12. I love the zero fret on the Pavel Hadera 6. It really does keep the tone consistent and you can tell in the studio. But I wonder if Warwick has a solution for some:

  13. why not get a new nut on the zon bass?

  14. A zero fret at the same height as all other frets will definitely make your bass play better in tune in the first positions. If you check with a GOOD tuner, you almost always end up sharp in the first three to five frets or so. A good zero fret will make Buzz Feiten tuning unnecessary. You can achieve the same effect as a zero fret by filing your nut down to “just above buzz level”, but that is really a pain in the *ss to get right.

    The only zero fret bass I have – or had, since my daughter abducted it – is a 60’s Eko violin bass. I had a fretless Steinberger once; it had no nut, just some 30 degrees angle on the end of the fingerboard where the strings lay flat on the surface/edge. Perfect!