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On my acoustic guitar even despite it being tuned, my high E string sounds really weird, when pressing on the first fret, it sounds as if it's being played open when pressing on the second fret, it sounds how the first fret should sound and so on.

This is becoming a nuisance when playing chords and not to mention fingerstyle.

If anyone could suggest how to fix this it would be appreciated.

(also sorry if this doesn't make sense, it seems my almost 3 years of guitar playing hasn't taught me nothing theory-wise lmao)

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Dom Sep 22 '19 at 22:47
  • When you say that the second fret sounds how the first fret should sound, and the first fret sound like open, what does that mean? Are you referring to pitch or timbre? Does your tuned open E play E, and does the first fret play F, and the second fret F#? – Kaz Sep 23 '19 at 19:08
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That sounds like your E string already touches the first fret without you doing anything so there is no difference in pitch between playing it "open" and fretting the first fret. It may be that it slipped out of the nut or that the groove in the nut is cut in too deep (a steel E string may cut itself deeper into the nut when tuning) or that the nut has cracked and the string slipped into the crack. Or the nut is displaced and the string action too low in consequence. You say "acoustic guitar" but don't state whether you use steel or nylon strings: most of the problems are more likely with steel strings since then the string is so much thinner.

  • sorry, my bad! i am using steel strings, and i think you may be right, i'll have a look :) – Gigi Sep 23 '19 at 18:29
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It's hard to make sense out of this question. But suppose that the action at the nut is too low (the nut is slotted too deeply for that string or whatever). Suppose it is so low that the string basically "self frets" at the first fret. That explains how there is no difference when fretting at the first fret versus not fretting: the same pitch is produced.

In that case, if we tune the string to E, we are actually tuning what should be the F note to E; the string itself is actually half a step down. Then if we try to play the second fret that should be F#, we get F. That explains that the second fret produces the note that the first fret should produce.

If the nut action is too low on an acoustic guitar, there are various solutions. If the original nut is re-used, it has to be shimmed to make it higher. This means removing the nut, and inserting a shim (such as a strip of wood veneer) between it and the neck. Then if the other string actions become too high, their corresponding nuts in the slot have to be filed to make them a little bit deeper.

As a quick and dirty temporary hack just to get playing, you could stick something between the nut and the string to prop the string up a little higher, such as a small piece of pop-can aluminum bent into a tiny half-pipe shape.

It's possible that your guitar was designed for low action near the nut, and someone has over-tightened the truss rod, creating a backbow. Before doing anything with the nut, I would check how straight is the neck. If there is a backbow due to the truss rod being tight, it should correct itself by loosening the truss rod. (If there is a backbow in spite of the truss rod being loose, that is bad news: the neck is actually warped.)

Lastly, perhaps that first fret itself is not inserted properly into its slot. We say that the "fret is out", in guitar jargon. Even if frets are seated into a neck properly, they still have to be leveled (basically sanded to the same height) and crowned and dressed (reshaped and polished). This is not always done in the factory for mass produced, inexpensive guitars. They just stick the frets in and ship it.

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Err... is it possible your guitar has a zero fret?

From what I can tell, a "zero fret" is a fret which sounds the open string's note when played, and a small number of guitars do indeed have them. If so, that would explain the issue you seem to be having.

Zero Fret

Zero Fret 2

  • Just to avoid confusion: could you please edit the pictures and mark the zero fret? – Arsak Sep 23 '19 at 6:32
  • @user45266 yeah, can't say i do have a zero fret lol – Gigi Sep 23 '19 at 18:34

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