In this article, we will be discussing almost everything you need to know about fret wear. We will explain what fret wear is, what causes it, ways to prevent it, and a bunch of other things regarding fret wear.
In short, fret wear is caused by playing. That simple. Now, there are ways to prevent this from happening which we will get to later in the article.
I have been through this struggle before and I hated it! So this is article is a compilation of my rough experiences and some research. I really hope this article helps you so you won’t struggle as much as I did with fret wear.
If you are a beginner or someone that recently purchased a brand-new guitar, it’s a great idea to identify this issue and prevent it before it’s too late. Once it’s too late it’s a pain to fix.
Keep reading to see how you can prevent this horrible tragedy.
What is fret wear?
Before we can talk about what causes fret wear and how to prevent it, we gotta make sure we are on the same page. What is fret wear? How does it look?
This is what fret wear is. If you take a look at the picture above you’ll notice little dips in the metal of the fret.
What causes fret wear
Fret wear is caused simply by playing the guitar. Pressing the strings against the frets causes dips in the fret. If you aren’t doing anything else abnormally to the guitar, playing should be the only thing affecting the frets.
It’s simple wear and tear, it happens. The only thing you can really do is prevent that wear and tear from coming quicker. That, we will talk about next.
Ways to prevent fret wear
We just mentioned how simply playing the guitar causes fret wear. This issue is almost unavoidable unless you decide to not play with your guitar anymore. But there are ways to adjust your playing style in a way that prevents fret wear as much as possible.
1. Play lightly
By pressing hard on the frets, you are basically asking the frets to wear out faster. From experience, I know beginners tend to press hard on the strings to try to get the right, “unbuzzed” sound.
When I was a beginner I remember getting so frustrated at the buzzy sound I was getting, all I did was press harder on the string thinking it was gonna be different. (it wasn’t by the way). What helped me was moving my finger closer to the fret. This allowed me to play loose and it got rid of that buzzing.
Forget about fret wear for a second, in general, a guitar player shouldn’t play so tense.
2. Use a thinner string gauge
String gauge is basically the thickness of a string. Some sets of strings are thicker than others. For example: bass strings are thicker than guitar strings. Check out our bass vs guitar page for more. Even within guitar strings there are different thicknesses. If you have thicker strings, they can put more pressure on the fret compared to thinner gauge strings. For more info on strings gauges, check out our page best acoustic guitar strings buyer guide.
3. Limit capo use
By now you should be getting the idea. Basically, anything that puts pressure on the fret is probably an issue in regard to fret wear. Capos fall into that category.
If you are unfamiliar with what capos are it’s basically something that holds down all of the strings and a certain fret so you can play on higher pitches. This puts pressure on the frets.
Now, I’m not saying to totally ditch capos, they’re so helpful! I’m just saying to be more careful when they’re on and try to minimize their use.
How to fix fret wear
There are 3 options to consider when your frets are worn out. Here they are:
1. Frets dressing leveling and recrowning
This is where you take your existing frets and level them and shape them into an even and rounded shape.
2. Partial re-fret
Partial re-fretting is where you take out the first couple of frets that your fingers mostly touch and put in new ones.
3. Full re-fret
Full re-fretting is the same as partial re-fretting but instead of only taking out the first couple of frets, you take out all the repairs.
How much would fret repair cost?
Leveling, dressing, and crowning: $100-150
Partial Re-fretting: $200-$300
Fully Re-fretting: $200-$400
Is fret wear that bad?
I’m being completely honest with you when I say fret wear stinks! Once you’ve been cursed with worn-out frets you would need to fix it somehow (like mentioned above) which will cost you. If you are not willing to pay then you’re gonna have to swallow the following:
- Flat tone
Yes, I know it’s a nightmare, either you need to pay a lot to get it fixed or suffer the terrible consequences. If you’re a beginner and you are still reading I suggest you take another look at the “ways to prevent” section in this article so you wouldn’t have to deal with this.
When is it time to re-fret?
So, the time to re-fret usually is when you start to see dips/divots and that there isn’t enough metal to do fret dressing. But that’s only because dips in the frets usually result in bad sound. But if the dips aren’t terribly bad where it still gives you the sound you want, then you can do some fret dressing and stick it out for some time.
That’s why you shouldn’t automatically go into panic mode once you start seeing dips in the frets. It could still have the ability to play to your liking. Once you don’t like the sound that’s when it’s time to re-fret.
Which are the strongest frets?
There are two main types of frets: Nickel Silver frets and Stainless steel frets.
Stainless Steel Frets
- Smooth (makes sliding and bending easier)
- Less maintenance
- More expensive to buy and repair
- Difficult to work on
- Some may not like its smooth feel
Nickel Silver Frets
- More resistance
- Cheaper to buy and repair
- Wear out quicker
- Some don’t like its resistant feel
So, at the end of the day, stainless steel frets are stronger than nickel-silver frets. So if you struggle with fret wear a lot consider stainless steel frets. However, refer to the other pros and cons before you make your decision.
Click here for more info on this.
There you have it! Here is almost everything you need to know about guitar frets. After reading this you should know how to identify the cause and eliminate it before the frets wear out. Once they do you should also know the call to action. Weather to re-fret or repair.
You can refer back to this article whenever you’re dealing with fret issues (I don’t wish it though).