Guitar Tech Talk

Fret Dressing (Do not try this at home)

As I mentioned before, just like cars need tune-ups and tender loving care so does your guitar. Although there are many things you can do yourself as far as your car goes, there are many more things you need a trained professional to fix on your guitar. One of those many things is a fret dress.

An uneven fret or frets, can affect the way you play whether it’s an acoustic or electric guitar. All frets have to be even, to where they follow the contour of the fret board, so as you move down the neck you don’t get buzzing from the string or strings. In order to remedy fret buzz, Frets all have to be planed evenly. This makes the journey up the fret board sound better without encountering that annoying dead note. The process in which I do this is referred to as planing the Frets. The purpose? It allows you to achieve a lower playing action, meaning its more comfortable to play the guitar and eliminates dead notes and buzzing strings. So, having the Frets dressed, can dramatically change the way a guitar plays, for the better. In order to perform a Fret Dress, I will take a tool that’s designed for this particular purpose and file the frets uniformly to take down any high frets to the same level. But it’s not just willy-nilly filing. We have to do what’s called fall off. This means filing the 14th and beyond frets at a very slight angle towards the body of the guitar. You get a “falling off” look at the tongue of the fret board.

First and foremost, I protect the guitar by putting a protective cover over the body and then tape up the fret board exposing only the frets. I then begin to mark each fret with a sharpie for a reference point while sanding. I need to know when enough sanding has been done. There is a lot to it, and covering it in this article would take up 3 full pages. My goal is to inform people that there are ways to make a guitar play better. Sometimes a basic setup will do the trick. Other times, it will not. Feel free to stop by the shop for more info, or to just say hello. Fret Dressing is one of many things, as a Luthier, that I can perform. Your guitar is as unique as you are, and it should be cared for in the same manner as you would like for someone to care for you. If properly maintained, your Grandchildren’s, grandchildren will get to enjoy your instrument. So, until next time, play well, play hard, and Play often!!!!!