Jazz Guitar
Learn how to play jazz guitar with our eBook bundle
+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 21 of 21
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Twin Cities
    Posts
    2,439

    Fret size and string size

    All of my guitars have something like medium jumbo frets and it seems like just about any gauge string works fine with them. I've never spent much time with guitars with the tiny "fretless wonder" type frets, such as many Gibsons came with. Is there a particular size of string that works better? I ask as my wife has a flattop acoustic that has bitty frets and needs new strings. Not sure what to put on it. I've got a couple sets of phosphor bronze strings around (10s, 11s and maybe a set of 12s or 13s somewhere). Lighter or heavier strings with teeny frets?
    Beauty is as close to terror as we can well endure. -Rainer Maria Rilke

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    Winnipeg Manitoba Canada
    Posts
    287
    I use 13-56 DR Rare roundwounds on my 51 Gibson Super 300 which has very fine low frets. I've never thought of a relationship between fret size and string gauge , I just tried various gauges until a set felt and sounded right. I have TI Swing 12-50 flatwounds on my MIK Dangelico EXL-1 which has frets close to twice the width and 1 1/2 taller than the Gibson

    Will

  3. #3
    My old Japanese dreadnought has small frets and I usually put something like 12-54 strings on it, so I don't think that would be an issue. Also, when the Les Paul fretless wonder appeared, I don't think light gauge strings were even available. The main consideration is the player's hands: 11s are pretty forgiving if that's required and are just about sufficient to drive the top, I would say.

  4. #4
    In all my years of playing and repair I never thought about size of fret in considering strings, but I sure don't know it all. Maybe others have so?
    specializing in repair and setup, does your guitar play like it should?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Woodshed, CA
    Posts
    7,255
    For me frets are more about playing feel. I recently got rid of a Strat with the tall-skinny frets traditional Fender player dig, I could never get used to them. I like wide frets would love to try an old fretless wonder.

    Strings I feel the guitar dictates, you play a guitar and it responds both in playing feel and sound to string size. I like high tension strings they feel good and guitar responds better to me solid body or hollow. I just got a Epiphone archie and it has my usual 12's and to light on this guitar. Took the guitar to a buddies to check out and first thing he said "needs heavier strings". Also guitars to me wake up and sing with the gauge strings they like. The only time I go against what the guitar wants is if I need to be bending strings.
    No, I'm not going to give you the answer to your question. I don't want to deny you the pleasure you'll receive when you figure it out yourself. -- Bill Evans talking to his brother.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Wisconsin
    Posts
    1,415
    Quote Originally Posted by Cunamara View Post
    All of my guitars have something like medium jumbo frets and it seems like just about any gauge string works fine with them. I've never spent much time with guitars with the tiny "fretless wonder" type frets, such as many Gibsons came with. Is there a particular size of string that works better? I ask as my wife has a flattop acoustic that has bitty frets and needs new strings. Not sure what to put on it. I've got a couple sets of phosphor bronze strings around (10s, 11s and maybe a set of 12s or 13s somewhere). Lighter or heavier strings with teeny frets?
    I just went through this, and here's what I found w/my 2 L-7's & 1 L-4:
    1. Scale length matters - - the Gibson short scale is more forgiving and will more easily accommodate both lighter or heavier strings.
    2. Then comes the next critical factor - - fret size. The short scale w/also more easily accommodate thin frets.
    3. But - -if you combine the long scale with skinny frets, then you'll need heavier strings.

    FWIW , this is just what I've learned.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    San Francisco
    Posts
    1,130
    I like thicker strings like 12s or 13s for the fullness in sound, but also tune down a full step.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by deacon Mark View Post
    In all my years of playing and repair I never thought about size of fret in considering strings, but I sure don't know it all. Maybe others have so?
    Well one thing is for sure, if you have high jumbo frets and very light strings, the slightest downward pressure will push notes sharp.
    -- Isn't it ironic that "archtop" is a spelling error on this forum?

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound View Post
    Well one thing is for sure, if you have high jumbo frets and very light strings, the slightest downward pressure will push notes sharp.
    So I'm guessing that heavy distorsion players such as Yngwie Malmsteen (sp?) are hardly even touching the fretboard. In some cases, I believe they even have scalloped boards. No personal experience.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Milano, Italy
    Posts
    709
    There's no factual correlation between fret size and string gauge.

    I wonder where one could entertain such an improbable idea... ?
    Pepe aka Lt. Kojak
    Milano, Italy
    https://soundcloud.com/theodore-koja...hy-bro-project
    Hy-Bro Test Sound Files

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    432
    The flat top guitar is often designed for lighter gauge strings. A med set is the largest set Martin tests for on their steel string guitars. You can try a high tension set but be sure to watch for any resulting rise from too much tension. I think the fret size may be less noticeable with a lighter set of strings.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Wisconsin
    Posts
    1,415
    Quote Originally Posted by LtKojak View Post
    There's no factual correlation between fret size and string gauge.

    I wonder where one could entertain such an improbable idea... ?

    There may or may not be a factual correlation between fret size and string gauge when examined by themselves. But when scale length is added to the equation, and headstock angle, I found things change.

    All we changed was string gauge -- from Chrome 12's to Chrome 13's. Playability went from unacceptable to decent. The luthier set-up was the same, and all harmonics etc were accurate. Playability may not be scientifically quantifiable, or factual, but it does help to describe how the guitar performs.

    I find it pretty hard to make any other conclusions.

    Anyway as I said this was just my experience. If it helps someone else great !

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    New York, NY, USA
    Posts
    997
    Quote Originally Posted by Cunamara View Post
    All of my guitars have something like medium jumbo frets and it seems like just about any gauge string works fine with them. I've never spent much time with guitars with the tiny "fretless wonder" type frets, such as many Gibsons came with. Is there a particular size of string that works better? I ask as my wife has a flattop acoustic that has bitty frets and needs new strings. Not sure what to put on it. I've got a couple sets of phosphor bronze strings around (10s, 11s and maybe a set of 12s or 13s somewhere). Lighter or heavier strings with teeny frets?
    FWIW, I have a 60s Gibson flattop with small frets (really small after having had a few grind-and-polishes). I usually use 12-56 bronze-phospher strings. I don't think frets dictate string gauge (at least not for the way I play). I'd recommend the heaviest gauge that is practical/comfortable for the player, irrespective of frets.

    John

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Peter C View Post
    So I'm guessing that heavy distorsion players such as Yngwie Malmsteen (sp?) are hardly even touching the fretboard. In some cases, I believe they even have scalloped boards. No personal experience.
    Well the heavier the gauge, the less the problem. I wonder what gauge he uses? McLaughlin used a scalloped board for a while, and I remember in an interview he talked about how you need a very light touch. Like dancing on the strings.
    -- Isn't it ironic that "archtop" is a spelling error on this forum?

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Milano, Italy
    Posts
    709
    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis D View Post
    There may or may not be a factual correlation between fret size and string gauge when examined by themselves. But when scale length is added to the equation, and headstock angle, I found things change.

    All we changed was string gauge -- from Chrome 12's to Chrome 13's. Playability went from unacceptable to decent. The luthier set-up was the same, and all harmonics etc were accurate. Playability may not be scientifically quantifiable, or factual, but it does help to describe how the guitar performs.

    I find it pretty hard to make any other conclusions.
    You changed strings and you liked the added tension. I too like harder-than-average tension in my guitars, specially the nylon-stringed one.

    All of this is fine and dandy, but, tell me, where the fret size has a role in this anecdote? I don't get it.
    Pepe aka Lt. Kojak
    Milano, Italy
    https://soundcloud.com/theodore-koja...hy-bro-project
    Hy-Bro Test Sound Files

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Milano, Italy
    Posts
    709
    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound View Post
    McLaughlin used a scalloped board for a while, and I remember in an interview he talked about how you need a very light touch. Like dancing on the strings.
    Well, the meaning of the scalloped fretboard was for him to press the strings to get microtonal effects, like you get when you play the sitar. Not for anything the band was the Mahavishnu Orchestra!

    Also, he was using .008-038 strings. Just to play in tune must've been quite a tall order to fulfill!
    Pepe aka Lt. Kojak
    Milano, Italy
    https://soundcloud.com/theodore-koja...hy-bro-project
    Hy-Bro Test Sound Files

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Wisconsin
    Posts
    1,415
    Quote Originally Posted by LtKojak View Post
    You changed strings and you liked the added tension. I too like harder-than-average tension in my guitars, specially the nylon-stringed one.

    All of this is fine and dandy, but, tell me, where the fret size has a role in this anecdote? I don't get it.
    I don't know how else to say it - the fret size was the only component that was different.

    Or maybe put another way, skinny frets and a long scale dictated my having to go to heavier gauge strings. My other guitars - an L-7, L-5 & an L-4 all allow for achieving similar tension with 12's, but the skinny frets did not.

    And again, this was just my experience. And since buying this guitar, I've heard other stories of guys just changing out these '50's frets.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Twin Cities
    Posts
    2,439
    Quote Originally Posted by LtKojak View Post
    There's no factual correlation between fret size and string gauge.

    I wonder where one could entertain such an improbable idea... ?

    Not looking for a formula but impressions of feel. For example, classical guitars have thick strings and often have small frets; the thickness of the string "bridges" the frets easily. With tiny frets, to me it feels like my fingertip runs into the fingerboard prematurely and it's hard to fret the note cleanly without really pressing down. Since it's my wife's guitar and she doesn't have the hand strength I do, I don't want to set her up with something hard to play. Granted, I can restring easily enough if she doesn't like it...
    Beauty is as close to terror as we can well endure. -Rainer Maria Rilke

  19. #19
    Frets, the bigger the better.

    i can't stand little frets. They absolutely slow you down. Especially those wide flat things on old Gibsons.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Milano, Italy
    Posts
    709
    I think we're talking about different things here, so let's try to agree on what exactly one mean with "skinny".



    Please, choose the one you consider "skinny", please.



    This is the fretwire normally used in classcical guitars: how would you classify it? Small? Skinny? Normal?
    Last edited by LtKojak; 09-15-2017 at 09:39 AM.
    Pepe aka Lt. Kojak
    Milano, Italy
    https://soundcloud.com/theodore-koja...hy-bro-project
    Hy-Bro Test Sound Files

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Milano, Italy
    Posts
    709
    Quote Originally Posted by vintagelove View Post
    i can't stand little frets. They absolutely slow you down
    I'm curious to hear HOW little frets "slow you down", as I just can't imagine something similar happening...

    Care to explain?
    Pepe aka Lt. Kojak
    Milano, Italy
    https://soundcloud.com/theodore-koja...hy-bro-project
    Hy-Bro Test Sound Files

Join our Facebook Page

Get in Touch


Jazz Guitar eBooks
How To Get a Jazz Guitar Tone?
Privacy Policy

 

 

Follow us on:

Jazz Guitar Online on FacebookJazz Guitar Online on TwitterJazz Guitar Online on YoutubeJazz Guitar Online RSS Feed