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View Full Version : Taller frets -- is there a downside?



gokidd
01-18-2012, 07:58 AM
Learned gentlefolk:
I'm contemplating a custom tenor and wondering if I might benefit from taller frets than I've experienced on my Kala and Islander instruments.
Is there any negative to using a slightly larger fretwire?
Secondarily, I'm also wondering if a narrower neck is my preference.
I'm seeking easier playability higher up the neck.
My current instruments are very nicely setup, so that's not the question.
Many thanks in advance,
Bob

thistle3585
01-18-2012, 08:13 AM
I prefer taller frets but that is a function of my finger tip anatomy. I've often struggled with fretting cleanly with short frets because my finger tips would make contact with the fretboard before the string was firmly fretted which resulted in buzzing. The only way to over come it was by more pressure which caused wrist cramps. I also couldn't "unfret"' without buzzing. I felt like I needed to strangle the instruments neck. I think this is less a problem with people that have heavy callouses on their fingertips. Its a real problem for me on mandolin which is higher tension with a steel string but I have also noticed it on nylon strings too. The taller frets let me fret the string with minimal contact on the fret board itself. Hope that make sense.

Allen
01-18-2012, 09:02 AM
A taller fret tends to give a little more sustain (at least on my instruments). On a tenor I can't think of any negatives to using them. On smaller instruments with tighter fret spacing I'd be going for the lower style.

As for a narrower neck, that's a tough one. There are lots of factors that will make a neck easier, or not to play. While a couple of millimetres in width can make a big difference, so does the depth and profile.

Part of my questions from a new client on their build is if they have a instrument that they particularly like the feel of and ask them for a few key measurements. I'd suggest you try some other ukes out that are sized and shaped different than your current ones to see if there is any improvement.

stevepetergal
01-18-2012, 09:41 AM
Talk to your luthier. My guess is he/she will tell you tall frets will give you intonation difficulties. The further you push the string down, remember, the more you're tightening the string. Push all the way to the fretboard, and you've tightened the string more than the scale design intended and the tone will be sharp.

gokidd
01-18-2012, 09:47 AM
YES! You fellows are hitting right on the issue(s) for me!
Andrew -- I, too, feel like I'm "strangling the neck" on some barre chords up the neck to make them clean -- despite being extra careful of finger position (rolling the edge of my index finger up against the fret).
Allen -- on the width of the necks, I feel like the narrower neck (1 and 3/8 compared to 1 and 1/2 inches) is easier for me to fret because the creases on my index finger tend to land right on the strings on the wider neck. But it might not be as pronounced with taller frets ...
Are there any brands of widely marketed ukes that use taller frets? I'd like to try one.
Thank you.

gokidd
01-18-2012, 09:49 AM
Push all the way to the fretboard, and you've tightened the string more than the scale design intended and the tone will be sharp.

Understood, Steve, and thank you. Good point. Don't want to go TOO tall on the frets given the short scale and soft strings of the instrument.

Sven
01-18-2012, 10:03 AM
I've had quite tall frets on a uke with home made bar frets. I tend to fret rather softly, and I never had a problem with intonation (not one I could hear at least). I guess half of the time the strings weren't pushed down to the fretboard but it worked. I worked very much better than it would seem when you read this, I hate it when posts go bad on me... Can't you lot learn Swedish so I can stop pretending?

gokidd
01-18-2012, 10:10 AM
I've had quite tall frets on a uke with home made bar frets. I tend to fret rather softly, and I never had a problem with intonation (not one I could hear at least). I guess half of the time the strings weren't pushed down to the fretboard but it worked. I worked very much better than it would seem when you read this, I hate it when posts go bad on me... Can't you lot learn Swedish so I can stop pretending?

Stort Tack!
Your pretending is GOOD and you are kind to respond.

thistle3585
01-18-2012, 10:11 AM
I think the taller frets allow me a lighter touch and I don't push them down hard enough to make them go sharp. You don't have to grind them in to the fretboard. Less fatigue on my hands which is what I am beginning to see as being very important as I get older.

In regards to neck width, I play mandolin much more than uke and prefer what most consider a wider board on the mandolin. I've been using a 1.25" on tenor guitar and think I will go with that on my next tenor uke along with a thicker neck profile.

hmgberg
01-18-2012, 10:32 AM
YES! You fellows are hitting right on the issue(s) for me!
Andrew -- I, too, feel like I'm "strangling the neck" on some barre chords up the neck to make them clean -- despite being extra careful of finger position (rolling the edge of my index finger up against the fret).
Allen -- on the width of the necks, I feel like the narrower neck (1 and 3/8 compared to 1 and 1/2 inches) is easier for me to fret because the creases on my index finger tend to land right on the strings on the wider neck. But it might not be as pronounced with taller frets ...
Are there any brands of widely marketed ukes that use taller frets? I'd like to try one.
Thank you.

The frets on all the Koaloha ukuleles I've played have been noticeably taller than the frets on Kamakas. If you can get you "hands on" a Koaloha, you may be able to determine if taller frets are to your liking.

stevepetergal
01-18-2012, 10:50 AM
I've heard that Martin's cheapie ukulele (is it the SO model?) has guitar frets. I have played one and consider it almost unusable.

gokidd
01-18-2012, 11:01 AM
The frets on all the Koaloha ukuleles I've played have been noticeably taller than the frets on Kamakas. If you can get you "hands on" a Koaloha, you may be able to determine if taller frets are to your liking.

Many thanks, hmgberg!

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
01-18-2012, 01:04 PM
Taller frets can also mean wider frets in many cases. A wide fret can also cause intonation problems especially higher up on the fret board where the fret's width can be as much as 20% or so the distance between two frets. For the sake of this conversation it would be helpful to know the height in inches that we're talking about.

Allen
01-18-2012, 08:02 PM
When on ukuleles I'm talking about the two offerings from Stew Mac on this page (http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Fretting_supplies/Stewart-MacDonald_Fretwire/Narrow_Fretwire.html).

I still mostly use the low wire, but occasionally get asked for the medium on tenors for the height. I don't particularly like that it's as wide as it is, and do not ever recommend using it on something smaller than a tenor.

BlackBearUkes
01-18-2012, 08:25 PM
Different strokes for different folks. I use the #047 Stew Mac fret wire for all my concerts and bigger. The width works fine for me, even with 18 frets on the neck. The difference between the low and medium fret wire height is .037 to .040, or .003. That's nothing, especially after the frets are leveled, crowned and polished.

Teek
01-18-2012, 10:01 PM
I can't offer much except that I love Kala's fatter round frets, love the round fat frets on my Yasuma Martin copy, and the ones on my Tacoma guitar. Much easier for me to fret cleanly with stiff sore hands. Hate old brass bar frets. Just FWIW.

Timbuck
01-18-2012, 10:25 PM
If you want em taller you can always "Scallop" the fretboard:D
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/scallops.jpg

gokidd
01-19-2012, 05:48 AM
Thanks, all, for the input.
Best I could measure showed the crown on the installed/dressed frets to be 1/32 of an inch -- under 1 mm.
Your various suggestions give me some perspective when I speak to my luthier, so THANKS!