Filed Under Acoustics / Electrics / Rules of Tone

The first thing you notice when you pick up a guitar is how it feels in your hands. The guitar neck is paramount to that moment, and the feel and function of the frets plays a major role in this. If you boil it down, we’re basically talking about fret material and shape. If the material is too soft, metal flakes will fall off of the guitar as it’s played. If it’s too hard, the frets contour to the fretboard. We use the hardest, functional material we can to avoid unnecessary re-frets. We also superglue the frets in their slots to avoid fret movement and to avoid introducing water back into the neck. As far as shape goes, a fret needs to be level and perfectly radiused to maintain the integrity and comfort of the neck, prevent string buzz, and give the instrument the ability to have low action.

Frets also contribute to an instrument’s overall tone. Obviously, they create the scalable notes of the guitar, but it is also important to note that when a string is engaged against a fret, the fret is carrying the string’s vibration into the wood. So, they can either add to or take away from a guitar’s natural resonance and musicality. We use frets with a lot of nickel, which rings well. And between the fret radius, the superglue, and the tines of the fret, they fit so well in the fret slots that the sound transfer is unhindered.

In the end, the point is that every piece of the puzzle is important, including frets.

Comments (13)

Stan Huggard October 29, 2013 - 4:06pm
Would like to put in harder frets for long wear life, but I have an all solid wood acoustic with Cedar top, Mahogany back and sides. Very warm sound. I've listened to stainless frets. Would 100% nickel frets being hard product a much brighter sound with acoustic guitars? Stan
H.R. Dziurowitz February 19, 2013 - 8:52pm
I was never interested in PRS guitars until recently. I played a used soapbar SE 2 and was very impressed with the quality. I now own 4 SE's and just bought a CE-22. After over 40 years of playing I now enjoy playing instead of looking for the "perfect" guitar. The PRS's are close enough to perfect, the search is over.
Tim C Palmer August 01, 2012 - 2:58am
I just finished regluing 22 frets of 1970's Harmony Marquis. all except 2 were lifting on both ends of wire. I was fearing chipping the lacquered maple fret board during removal. but with the right approach all removed to easily and followed with a narrow hobby saw to clean all the filth and grime from slots. My point is in 40 years of playing and repairing guitars, never have I ran into so many fret wires lifting.the factory used too wide of slots and no super glue or defective to say the least. I re super glued and touched up the ends of fret wires. I charged $120.and not the fret will need dressing and recrown.this guy will be into it for the price of refret with new wires.. ..if you have ever played a great gibson les paul or a high end PRS, you will understand the sustain and feel pure clean tone of notes...quality can not be an illusion..Plus you may never experience frets lifting before a refret is requiring on a quality instrument.
Kadir June 18, 2012 - 12:33am
learning the pentatonic psotions would be a good start for getting into blues soloing, and you should just try and come up with your own licks and solo's out of that. Also if you learn solo's by particular artists, try and incorporate what you learn from them into your own playing and improvising. These are some good solo's to try,wind cries mary hendrixsunshine of your love cream/claptonlayla claptonhey joe hendrixcrossroads cream/claptonCrossroads has two solo's i think, and there is a ton of licks in there that you could use and learn from.
Naoki June 15, 2012 - 9:11pm
Would a f5 power chord played on difrefnt frets still be a f5 power chord and if I want to play a rock song with a f5 power chord will I play it on the same frets a guitar playes it on.. I just got a risa lp and I don't really get the how to play a guitar part of a song useing powerchords on the ukulele.
Karthik June 15, 2012 - 9:11pm
thats great for people that have two or three gautirs , that way they can tune one guitar to open G, one to drop D,OR DOUBLE DROP D, AND STANDARD, RIGHT NOW I HAVE ONE GUITAR AND TO LAZY TO DO ALL THAT TUNING , SO IF A SONG IS NOT IN STANDARD TUNING I FIND ONE THAT IS, BUT STILL LOVE THE LESSONS , BOGGIE DOWN AND ROCK ON.[]
Gary W June 05, 2012 - 8:12am
The best playing necks of any guitar. Period. A sidenote, Paul sounds EXACTLY like Kevin Costner!
Bob May 19, 2012 - 3:40pm
I'm wondering when you started using the hard frets. It must have been post your 20th anniversary models. I have a P.R.S.20th anniversary single cut s/n 6112164, not only do the frets show wear but the fret board shows fingernail cupping as well. I started using it for daily play but after a short time I stopped because of the noted wear. Because of it's era of manufacturing and the litagation that revolved around it, I stopped playing it,( I didn't want to wear the thing out!) So I went back to my previous everyday axe, which has more than 15 years of daily play, and it shows NOT much more wear than my cherished P.R.S. 20th anniversary single cut. Bob
Justin May 17, 2012 - 6:45pm
Nice video, but I was wondering what your opinion of stainless steel frets might be? Thanks Paul (& crew!)
Bill B. May 16, 2012 - 2:28am
The difference was immediate once i picked up a PRS and ran my licks all over the board. They are simply the best playing necks available. I love the consistency as well, no bad apples with PRS. All the ones i've tried play wonderfully. When i play my PRS's, I find myself fully engrossed in my music, almost as if the instrument is an extension of me. Many thanks!
Vic Dyer May 16, 2012 - 12:03am
Paul, if this is your philosophy on frets, it would be also nice if it applied to the SEs. My Bernie frets out.
James Reyman May 15, 2012 - 7:06pm
There's something else I like very much about the PRS frets; the height. I have a 20th anniversary custom 24 and a new SC 58 and both have perfect fret heights. To me that means my fingers don't hit much too much wood when I play. The fret height seems to add to the ease of playing, speed and sustain. Other guitars I own have lower frets and they might sound great but they are more difficult to play.
JD Bradshaw May 06, 2012 - 12:03pm
Theres another reason why I only play PRS Guitars!...Keep up the great work

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