5

I know all about the fact that the unwound strings on my acoustic guitars are steel and the frets are nickel. And I understand that fret wear - especially under the plain steel un-coated strings is inevitable.

But I seem to wear out my frets faster than anyone I know. They can only be re-dressed a certain number of times before they must be replaced and fret work is not cheap.

Next full re-fret on any of my guitars, I will pay extra for case hardened steel frets. And I rotate practice guitars so as not to wear any one particular set of frets out before the others. And only play stage guitars while performing live.

But in the meantime, what can I do to reduce the fret wear? Is my technique too heavy handed? In other words am I pressing too hard on the strings?

If that is a potential culprit, what can I do to develop a lighter touch? Are there any tricks or exercises I can try that could help me?

7

Things that will fret wear fast:

  • Lots of pitch bends / vibrato - these scrape the fret really quickly. I've almost lost the whole 9th fret on one of mine
  • Pressing really hard - as you develop you'll be able to reduce the pressure needed.

Once you improve your technique, you can ideally lower the action which helps you lower the pressure needed.

In fact you don't need to touch the string to the fretboard - in fact some really good guitarists don't even need a fretboard (see Blackmore or Malmsteen and their use of scalloped fretboards or Gittler's guitar without any fretboard at all)

Scalloped neck from http://www.dccustomguitars.com/ enter image description here

Gittler's neckless guitar enter image description here

4

For years, I too wore frets out quite quickly. I learned how to refret my guitars because I couldn't afford to have it done every 6 months.

( I switched to using .008s for a while, while doing the below, because it required much less pressure. I also lowered the action on my guitar, to relieve the amount of pressure needed to clearly ring the note out. When lowering the action, strum some chords rather vigorously, to make sure that you haven't lowered the action too far causing the strings to "buzz" on other frets. Don't try to "kill" the strings when doing this because if you strum TOO HARD, the strings will always buzz out.)

I solved the problem by doing pretty much as listed above, playing without fretting totally, then applying more pressure until the notes were clear, but not trying to strangle the neck into sawdust. I played simple scale runs with a metronome, with just enough pressure to ring the note out clearly. As time and my ability advanced, I sped the metronome up, and improved my speed. I was playing with a lighter touch, and more accurately at the same time. I spent 2 - 4 hours per night, at least 5 nights a week doing this, and I had the guitar in my hands for at least 2 hours per night, 7 nights a week. I did not focus on the metronome, and touch pressure every night, I tested myself without thinking about it a couple of nights per week. I also recorded and played back to listen for bad picking, bad fretting and bad timing at least once per night, every night.

Within about 3 months, I had completely transformed my style - picking, timing, and fretting, all at the same time. It does take a lot of commitment at first, but the payoff is well worth it!

Remember : The key to fast, well defined playing is to play totally relaxed. If your fighting with pressure, you cannot relax. Smoothness is the key issue here.

2

To complement @Dr Mayhem's perfectly good answer:

Notes about the pressure you apply to the strings:

  • Style makes a difference. You can get a better tone by pressing down harder and striking the string harder and using heaver strings. Bluegrass players notoriously like that heavy tone for example. You can achieve faster speeds with a lighter touch and lighter strings.

  • Lighter strings. It is possible that lighter strings may decrease your fret wear as compared to heavier strings.

Strategies to reduce the pressure you apply to your frets:

  • Test. Experience and determine how little you need to get an effective sound: Choose a note to play on a fret. Begin by merely touching the string where you should be pressing down. Continually play the note (getting a dull thud or false harmonic sound) until you achieve the sound of the note proper (* Take your time in pressing down. Slowly Slowly Slowly *). Notice how little you press down.
  • Use Your Bicep. Many guitar players squeeze the strings down to the fret for a focused intense pressure on the strings. Try to reduce this pressure by using your bicep and arm to pull the strings down. To do this you will also need to support the guitar a little with your right arm (Convert left and right if your left handed of course).
  • Practice a Light Touch. Spend a large part of your practice, not pressing the strings into the frets. This will result in you sounding like s--t (Oops, I mean that you will be getting a getting a dull thud or false harmonic sound.) if you do it correctly. This will help train your fingers to loosen up and press down less. A side benefit effect is that you will become faster.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.