Zero fret

aigen1

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Can anyone suggest a decent ukulele brand whose factory routinely incorporates the zero fret? I’ve never had the opportunity to play one with it, so I kapo’d 1st fret to simulate the idea, and found that holding Bb chord @ 2nd fret was surprisingly effortless.
 

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John Colter

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"I kapo’d 1st fret to simulate the idea, and found that holding Bb chord @ 2nd fret was surprisingly effortless"

That suggests that your ukulele is not set up properly.
 

Graham Greenbag

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Can anyone suggest a decent ukulele brand whose factory routinely incorporates the zero fret? I’ve never had the opportunity to play one with it, so I kapo’d 1st fret to simulate the idea, and found that holding Bb chord @ 2nd fret was surprisingly effortless.

I would echo what John says above about Uke set-up. There are plenty of threads here on UU about that topic.

Ukes that have a plastic fretboard often have a zero fret, the brand that comes to mind is Magic Fluke (https://www.magicfluke.com/), some good players here love the Fleas and Flukes. Harmony used to make Ukes with plastic fretboards (now second hand only and old) and and I think that some Flight Ukes have them ... IMHO neither are high end brands but they still might do what you want and give you a lot of fun playing them.
 

Uncleleo

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Zero fret is a bad thing for several reasons:
  1. Only proffessional luthiers knows the right height of it. Because of that super height zero frets all cheap ukuleles (and guitars too) have overbended strings as you take chords on zero to third frets. Its sounds bad and out of tune.
  2. Its bad thing for steel strings because they digging into frets damaging them and you have deep pits in your zero fret someday which sounds out tune as i mentioned in 1 or do fret buzzling.
And here is my Flight Pathfinder after 3 months of playing:
_DSA6234.JPG
 
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John Colter

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I have built several ukuleles with a zero fret. The zero fret was exactly the same height as all the others, and - being ukuleles - they did not use steel strings. No problems.
 

Uncleleo

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I have built several ukuleles with a zero fret. The zero fret was exactly the same height as all the others, and - being ukuleles - they did not use steel strings. No problems.
And how do you evade fret buzz with this scheme? Making ultra hight bridge saddle? That is very uncomfortable to play.
20140908_095544_annotated1.jpg
 
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John Colter

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I don't understand why you think there is a problem, Uncleleo. A uke with a zero fret is the same as one with a well fitted nut.
 

Uncleleo

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I don't understand why you think there is a problem, Uncleleo. A uke with a zero fret is the same as one with a well fitted nut.
--,_____________________string \___I___________I_____neck zero first fret fret

First variant - string buzz on zero fret (if nut not fitted to string diameter, for example you change to low G string, or your neck starting to bend from time or dry climate). Or string buzz on the first fret (if neck is strictly parallel to the string or again your neck starting to bend and be parallel)

~~~~~~~_________string /I___________i_____neck / zero first fret fret shorter

Second variant - string overbend, tone problem that forces you making minimal pressure on string to not overbend it.


So why the hell do any chordophone player ever need that problems?! To feed luthiers or what?
 

Uncleleo

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Just listen tone problems with string overbending here! This 'light pressure' Barry Maz talking about because of only one thing... overbending of string over zero fret when you playing on first and second frets

 
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ProfChris

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I like zero frets. I've made around 50 ukes, all with zero frets. Phil Doleman has one, so does Ian Emmerson, no complaints.

Jake Shimabukuro tried a tenor guitar I made and said it played nicely (though he's very polite). Zero fret again.

If a zero fret wears, you replace it. Nuts wear too. My oldest tenor guitar has a few hundred hours of playing and the zero fret is still fine. In time I'll have to replace it, but that will only take me 15 minutes or so. Making a nut takes longer.

It's perfectly ok not to like zero frets, but it's untrue that they don't work as well as a nut if they are properly done. One of Unclleo's pics shows a HUGE zero fret compared to the other frets, so of course that intonates badly. Just as bad as a poorly adjusted nut does, and I've seen many of those.
 

chris667

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@Uncleleo that is unfortunate damage to your instrument and I can see why you are annoyed. It seems to be a poor choice of materials for an instrument with steel strings.

Here's a zero fret on my 1950s Kay. No appreciable wear on the fret, and mine is about 60 years older!
 

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Uncleleo

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@Uncleleo that is unfortunate damage to your instrument and I can see why you are annoyed. It seems to be a poor choice of materials for an instrument with steel strings.

Here's a zero fret on my 1950s Kay. No appreciable wear on the fret, and mine is about 60 years older!
Seems that you are not using zero fret chords. Compared to the other frets your zero fret looks new. It is because there is not space for string to move?
 

chris667

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Seems that you are not using zero fret chords. Compared to the other frets your zero fret looks new.
I can assure you that I am no stranger to zero fret chords. This instrument has been played a lot.
 

Graham Greenbag

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@Uncleleo that is unfortunate damage to your instrument and I can see why you are annoyed. It seems to be a poor choice of materials for an instrument with steel strings.

Here's a zero fret on my 1950s Kay. No appreciable wear on the fret, and mine is about 60 years older!
^^ I think that this above is the core of the OP’s problems. Wear isn’t an issue when the correct combination of materials is used.

The zero fret design works but like all designs it has limitations that must be respected or else it will fail.

Chris, thank you for the illustration. I’d always wondered how durable those old Bakelite boards were and the answer is very (when correctly strung).
 

John Colter

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"Seems that you are not using zero fret chords. Compared to the other frets your zero fret looks new. It is because there is not space for string to move?"

Uncleleo, could you please explain this comment. How are zero fret chords different from those used with a traditional nut? Why does there have to be space for the string to move at the zero fret?

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It is quite simple. A traditional nut determines the spacing of the strings and their height above the fret board when the open string is played. A zero fret takes care of the string height and then the nut (if used) becomes simply a spacer. With a zero fret in place, it is possible to dispense with the nut altogether, if some other method is used to fix the string spacing.
 
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Timbuck

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And how do you evade fret buzz with this scheme? Making ultra hight bridge saddle? That is very uncomfortable to play.
View attachment 136394
If the frets are level, and the uke is set up right with about 3mm action at the 12th fret and a zero fret tuned to C you don't get fret buzz.
 

ProfChris

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Steel strings will eventually wear notches in zero frets. Mind you, they also wear grooves in nuts.

Looking at the picture of that Flight instrument I suspect two causes, working together.

1. Poor quality metal for the zero fret.

2. A design which allows too much movement between string spacer and zero fret. If the zero fret had been closer to the nut spacer, and the spacer had deeper slots (it appears to capture the strings only at the back) the fret would have worn less.