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View Full Version : Zero Fret: Pros and Cons?



iDavid
07-19-2014, 03:03 PM
What do you all think about a fret on a uke?

I heard it makes it easier to fret at the first position.

CeeJay
07-19-2014, 03:09 PM
What do you all think about a fret on a uke?

I heard it makes it easier to fret at the first position.

Hmm..I don't understand the question ...do you mean a fret directly under the nut ...is that a zero fret ? I have two mandolins built like that ..(Sorry that's just to get a reference picture in my head....one is bloody awful at first fret ...one is sweet ...both Ozarks) ...but is that what we are talking about ? A wire fret under the nut ?

Jim Hanks
07-19-2014, 04:00 PM
Here's a good picture of a zero fret:
http://iriguchiukuleles.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/P1040945.jpg

It helps get a lower, more consistent action low on the neck. The con is that it can make buzzes more prevalent in that area.

Icelander53
07-19-2014, 04:38 PM
What is the advantage?

Andy Chen
07-19-2014, 04:47 PM
The zero fret on my Fluke tenor indeed has no con: I have possibly flawless intonation up and down the fretboard and great low-action playability.

uke4ia
07-19-2014, 04:49 PM
I'm with Andy. The zero fret on the Flukes works great, on both of the ones I have.

Doc_J
07-19-2014, 05:00 PM
I have a zero fret on a couple of well-crafted customs. It allows me to change string makers and sizes without changing my nut slots.
These use a slightly larger fret at the zero fret. Not sure that they need to do that.

BlackBearUkes
07-19-2014, 05:03 PM
I don't build with a zero fret, the main reason is that all the strings are the same height above the first fret. I like to get the smaller strings closer to the first fret and the larger diameter strings just a bit higher. It also depends on the brand of strings used, diameters vary depending on the brand and it is much easier to set the action using a nut. I also don't like the look of a zero fret, just a personal preference.

Dan Uke
07-19-2014, 05:07 PM
I have a zero fret on a couple of well-crafted customs. It allows me to change string makers and sizes without changing my nut slots.
These use a slightly larger fret at the zero fret. Not sure that they need to do that.

agree but intonation and the amount strings oscillate could be different so it makes it more difficult for an average person to fix it. With a nut, it's cheap and easy to do. I have lowered the action on my zero fret with a crowning file but don't have the skills to replace it if I go to low. Secondly, in theory the zero fret shouldn't be higher than any other fret but some luthiers make it higher so that there is no buzz. I think mine was higher cuz when I played the 2nd fret, there was less tension.

iDavid
07-19-2014, 06:09 PM
Can you add a zero fret to an existing uke?

Doc_J
07-19-2014, 06:59 PM
Can you add a zero fret to an existing uke?

No. A 0-fret fretboard is longer than one without a zero fret. In cases where a 0-fret is used the 0-fret is where the nut would be on regular fret board, plus you still have a nut to guide the strings.

Here's a picture.
69156

iDavid
07-19-2014, 08:11 PM
That is what a figured, but wanted to make sure...

thanks Doc

wldpilot
07-19-2014, 09:57 PM
I am under the impression a zero fret allows an open note to sound more like a fretted one. There is a tonal difference to me.

davidrboy
07-20-2014, 03:40 AM
I'll add as a pro that my stubby fingers have a little more room where they're not scraping against the nut when playing first position chords. I'm a big fan functionally, medium fan aesthetically.

katysax
07-20-2014, 06:29 AM
I have a couple of customs with a zero fret, but I'm not a big fan of them. I think that when I play I glance down without really looking just to orient my fingers, it's quite automatic. The zero fret has a tendency to throw me off. My mind registers it as the first fret and I mis-position my fingers.

UncleMoon
07-20-2014, 06:41 AM
I am under the impression a zero fret allows an open note to sound more like a fretted one. There is a tonal difference to me.

An open note is an open note. It doesn't make any difference whether it's resting on the nut or the zero fret.

stevepetergal
07-20-2014, 08:58 AM
I hear all the time that the zero fret helps with intonation. I have trouble believing it. Why? I've played and owned ukuleles with excellent intonation with a conventional nut.

stevepetergal
07-20-2014, 09:09 AM
An open note is an open note. It doesn't make any difference whether it's resting on the nut or the zero fret.

Ah but it does make a difference. It's very slight, but it is there, even on the very best instruments. I'm always skeptical, but I do hear the difference between the open and fretted notes on a conventional nut ukulele, when I'm playing. Not so with the zero fret.
That being said, does that tiny distinction matter? Probably almost never, and only for the most particular listener.

BlackBearUkes
07-20-2014, 09:21 AM
Ah but it does make a difference. It's very slight, but it is there, even on the very best instruments. I'm always skeptical, but I do hear the difference between the open and fretted notes on a conventional nut ukulele, when I'm playing. Not so with the zero fret.
That being said, does that tiny distinction matter? Probably almost never, and only for the most particular listener.

That is the problem with one's perception, it can't be proven. We can believe anything we want to believe, fact or fiction. In a double blind listening test, I doubt one could pick out a zero fret sound from a nut setup sound. As for better intonation with a zero fret, not possible.

stevepetergal
07-20-2014, 09:23 AM
Can you add a zero fret to an existing uke?

Yes you can. Here are a couple of photos of custom conversions. There's also at least one company making conversion kits.
Looking at these photos, seems like a converted instrument would be much harder (impossible?) to level the frets as precisely as you can with an instrument that came with the zero fret, where you can remove the nut to do it. Isn't this one of the things you're looking for with the zero fret?

6918169182

BlackBearUkes
07-20-2014, 09:39 AM
Yes you can. Here are a couple of photos of custom conversions. There's also at least one company making conversion kits.
Looking at these photos, seems like a converted instrument would be much harder (impossible?) to level the frets as precisely as you can with an instrument that came with the zero fret, where you can remove the nut to do it. Isn't this one of the things you're looking for with the zero fret?

6918169182

I hate to be a bother, but a steel string guitar is not set up the same aa s nylon string uke. Nylon or flurocarbon strings are not under the same stress as steel strings and the distance between the string and the first fret is not equal on all strings of a uke. The bigger diameter strings require a bit more room to vibrate without buzzing than the smaller treble strings on a uke. A zero fret does not compensate for that difference. I suppose that is why some zero frets are bigger than the first fret on some ukes, kind of a one size fits all approach. I don't buy that kind of setup, but if some folks are happy with that, OK then.

UncleMoon
07-20-2014, 11:05 AM
That is the problem with one's perception, it can't be proven. We can believe anything we want to believe, fact or fiction. In a double blind listening test, I doubt one could pick out a zero fret sound from a nut setup sound. As for better intonation with a zero fret, not possible.

I agree - it's not an actual difference, but a perceived difference.

stevepetergal
07-20-2014, 11:23 AM
I hate to be a bother, but a steel string guitar is not set up the same aa s nylon string uke. Nylon or flurocarbon strings are not under the same stress as steel strings and the distance between the string and the first fret is not equal on all strings of a uke. The bigger diameter strings require a bit more room to vibrate without buzzing than the smaller treble strings on a uke. A zero fret does not compensate for that difference. I suppose that is why some zero frets are bigger than the first fret on some ukes, kind of a one size fits all approach. I don't buy that kind of setup, but if some folks are happy with that, OK then.

Don't know what you're getting at. Do you mean lower string tension and larger diameter strings make it impossible to make a zero fret ukulele (or classical guitar) without buzzing, unless you make the zero fret bigger?
I've seen dozens of them. (Nylon string guitars and ukuleles.) I currently own one and used to own another. Maccaferri builds them. I remember Chuck Moore talking about at least one that he built. He doesn't make the zero fret bigger. Lots of guitar makers offer them.
I agree that the benefits of zero frets are slight at best for the ukulele, but I've never seen the problems you describe.

Rick Turner
07-21-2014, 07:20 AM
The ZeroGlide system works great. It's the integrated nut/zero fret, and it can be used as a conversion. Check their website. It's from the Gold Tone folks.

Wicked
08-11-2014, 04:47 PM
The ZeroGlide system works great. It's the integrated nut/zero fret, and it can be used as a conversion. Check their website. It's from the Gold Tone folks.

Rick, didn't your original Model 1's have a zero fret?