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I've seen some string instruments that, instead of having a nut, have what is called a "zero" fret. Which I'm assuming is just a regular fret used as a nut. My question is, do you need to use a LARGER fret for the zero fret and does it need notches cut into it like a regular nut does?

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It depends how you play it. If you play with fingers it can be just normal size fret. Well, then you can play with slide also, but if you play only with slide it might be better if the zero fret is larger.


I guess I'll throw in my 2 cents.

I've just finished a 3 string strum stick with a zero fret. It's much easier to install that a nut and I think it looks cleaner as well.

It doesn't "have" to be a larger fret as in wider but it should be taller than the rest of the frets to reduce the chance of  buzzing on the 1st fret if you are using a low bridge to achieve a light fret action.

Also, I lightly filed notches for the strings to keep them from sliding back and forth across the frets when bending or plucking aggressively.

I used some brass nails above the zero fret to keep the strings from pulling in when tightening. If this is done right the notches would be unnecessary but sometimes the center string will still move so I notched just to keep all the strings at the same height.

Hope that helps.


Zero frets work great, You can use the same size fret as the others you use down the neck with no problems.They work great for low action, same as using a capo. Your neck and frets down the neck have to be dead level for good playing. Nice and flat. Remember them fretting measurements are mathamajicly made for zero frets.

I've used jumbo pyramid fretwire for my zeros, and I file in a tiny slot to keep the strings in place.  Waaay easier that fussing with a nut, guarantees low action!

In the words of the wonderful Henry lowman.. 'the zero fret is the key to sonic nirvana'...

Zero frets intonate better. Period.
You can use exactly the same wire as the rest of the neck. And you can slide on it just fine, anyone who says otherwise just has poor technique and needs practice. I don't know why anyone builds without em..

If you want to file slots in em I suggest putting a -1 fret (just a little behind it) as well and slotting into that one so as not to create buzzes ;) otherwise a regular bone nut behind works great too..

Thanks guys! Great to know I wasn't far off in my info. May have to try the zero fret the next time I decide to fret a build. I noticed in the pics you posted, Phrygian Kid, that the tuners are recessed into the head. Causing them to pull the strings across the zero fret. Is that required or can you pull off a zero fret without recessing the tuners or angling the head?

Its a rule Arnold.  so yes.  you must slot your head ;)


you need to be pulling the strings down over the zero fret, just like you need to pull them down over the nut.  I just like slot heads, I think theyre really strong, and easy to make em look great, whether i carve like i did in one above or i dont like the other and let the wood speak for itself.

heres a scarf joined one

if you dont have an angle to the head theres always the string tree idea, see teds pics, he does plenty of this kinda thing (tho this ones mine)

Thanks! Can't wait to give it a try. :)

I've used a bass guitar fret for the zero fret, and regular frets for the rest. The difference in height automatically gave a nice clearance to the playing frets, with no buzzing. The nut is just there to position the strings at that point (and needs to be cut deep enough so that the strings rest primarily on the zero fret under tension). It might be considered a less elegant, 'cheap' alternative by some, but it really works well and saves a lot of time normally spent fiddling about cutting and filing the nut. And the tone imparted by having the strings pulled over the hard zero fret (versus typically softer nut material) is noticeably brighter. 

I actually just bought some "bass frets" as well as regular frets.  I'm just about ready to give it a try.  I'll post pics on the finished product. :)

Another reason to use a zero fret about as wide as the distance of the normal fret distance near the nut is that it makes the first playing fret feel like all the others. It's harder to bend at the first fret on a normal guitar as an example, and tapping also requires more energy because the nut has no play in it like other spots on the neck where there's flexible wiggle room on both sides of a fret.


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