The fretboard is one of the factors that greatly affect your playing. If you experience Muted frets or buzzing frets then you are experiencing dead frets!
How do you fix a dead guitar fret? Many causes of this problem, including hardware (pickup system, string lock system), resonance oscillation, or some common reasons such as intonation and action issues.
In this article, we will cover each possible cause of dead frets in great detail… So let’s get started!
1. What is Dead Frets?
I consider anything that affects your resonance on a single fret, as a dead fret.
Dead frets are single positions on the fretboard that do not resonate properly. If you can all the frets on a string being problematic then I would NOT describe this problem as a dead fret. As the solution will be different!
When going to fix dead frets you need to be aware that where you do not get the tone or there is buzzing, it means that the next fret higher is the one that is the problem!
For example, if you play a note on the 12th fret then it’s the 13th fret which you need to correct.
2. What Causes Dead Frets?
Dead frets usually happen because there is some interference in the tension and imbalance on the guitar necks or a problem with the vibration of the string.
Below we look at the types of things that can attribute to this problem:
- Loose Frets – A fret after the one your fretting is a touch high and is touching your string as it vibrates.
- Uneven Fretboard – This is when there is a hump on the fretboard
- Old Guitar Strings – Old guitar strings may alter the intonation causes dead frets
- Neck Angle – if the neck is bowed too much strings can catch on the lower frets
- Warped Neck – when your neck almost twist
Above are all the factors that can attribute to dead frets. Some of these options are easy to fix and others can be more technical. However, let’s look at how you can identify and fix each of the criteria!
3. Uneven or Loose Frets
An uneven or loose fret consists of A fret that has popped-up out of its slot or has worn down over time.
Usually, a fret may not be seated correctly during use, resulting in it being taller than the adjacent frets. In other words, the frets loosen out of their slots or aren’t pressed as deeply into the socket as it should be.
In this case, the guitar player can easily fix a loose or uneven fret themselves by removing the strings and then knocking it into the correct position.
You will do this by using a plastic or brass hammer and then place a towel over the fretboard where you will knock it gently.
Sometimes it will go back fine right away but other times it may come loose again and so for added certainty, you can glue it to keep it in place.
You can then use a ruler to make sure it is flat against its neighbors!
In cases where the guitar frets have been worn out because they are too old, players can also consider replacing the fret altogether with a new one!
4. Uneven Fretboard
An uneven fretboard is when a group of frets is not level and higher than the surrounding frets.
Some of the reasons for this may be in the guitar’s manufacture, or the low frets may become worn out after being played a lot.
This issue may get more prominent as time goes on if the action drifts slightly with environmental changes.
The usual approach is to simply level the high frets so it is consistent with the surrounding frets.
You can use a short straight edge ruler or even a card to measure the evenness of the fretboard. Having identified the uneven frets you will need to remove the current frets, the file is down the placement slightly to ensure when you place the frets back they are lower, to point that they do not interfere with the vibrations of the strings.
Fretboard re-leveling is not something that everyone can do at home and is also quite expensive. So if you value your guitar and do not want to risk destroying it then take yours to a technician or luthier.
5. Old guitar strings
When you pluck a note, your left-hand presses on the string. The string acts on the fret creating vibrations and produces sound. The frequency of these vibrations determines the pitch of the note being played.
If you have old guitar strings then the strings won’t tune properly as it doesn’t hold the tension as it should.
This is very common and just changing the strings and giving them time to settle may remove the dead fret that you are experiencing.
6. Neck Angle
Another common reason the fret is dead can be down to the neck bowing too much.
This creates a massive impact, causing the entire group of frets to be dead.
To check if your rod is straight, do as following:
- Use the capo to clamp the first fret and press 14 on the fretboard (or the last fret on the electric guitar)
- Insert a business card or similar straight-edge stuff into space between the 7th fret and the thickest string on your fretboard.
- If you find that the card comes in without touching the strings and still has a gap, or your card is difficult to come in without touching the strings, then your neck is not straight (or at a relief that you are comfortable with).
- You can now adjust it by adjusting the truss rod inside the neck.
In extreme cases, there will be no gap at all (they’re touching) between Fret #2 and the guitar string, and the result is a dead fret… the guitar can’t even produce the note!
7. Warped Neck
A guitar neck is warped when it curves sideways. A warped guitar neck is described when the neck is unbalanced and one side is lower than the other.
When looking down at a warped neck, you will notice that the frets look like a winding staircase.
A warped neck will cause problems with dead frets as it will alter the fret height and tension of the strings.
The cost of repairing a warped guitar neck can vary on the issue.
You can spend a lot of time trying to correct it only to make things worse. In most cases, the neck is irreparable thus warranting a full-neck replacement.