Guitar repair – Fretwire munch: whys & wherefores?

Those grooves/notches/divots/pits that you see in the fretwire of your guitar is a natural consequence of you playing it.

There are reasons why they may appear sooner on your guitar and not as soon on your friend’s guitar, and there are ways in which you can delay them forming.

The following post is an effort to explain what these indentations do, how they are caused and some remedies so that you are able to delay them forming.



#Type of fretwire used

The material of the fretwire, naturally, plays a huge role in determining how soon divots appear on them. Cupro-nickle, EVO Gold and stainless steel are the three most popular types of materials used. To understand them, Cupro-nickle is the cheapest and the softest and thus given to pitting quite easily. Stainless steel is the hardest,  lasts longest and is the most expensive for working with SS fretwire takes a huge toll on the tools you use to cut and shape them. EVO Gold falls somewhere in between the two – both in terms of hardness and pricing. It also lasts longer than Cupro-nickle but lesser than SS. However, look-wise, Cupro-nickle and SS fretwire is pretty similar.

#Using a capo

Besides normal playing, a capo is known to hasten the formation of these grooves on the fretwire of your guitar, if you regularly use a capo at a particular fret. When a capo clamps down on a fret, it makes the strings (particularly the plain, steel strings) dig into the nearest fretwire.

#Using a bottleneck

Slide players are also known to develop pits sooner on the fretwire of their guitar. The reason for it is that the bottleneck naturally increases the weight on the strings, and then as in the case of the capo, the pressure of the strings causes dents in the fretwire.

#String gauge

A larger gauge string will always cause pitting faster than a smaller gauge string

#Fretting technique

A stronger grip of the fretting hand also makes it much easier for the strings to dig into the fretwire, causing the formation of divots sooner. Also, bends are particularly abrasive in the context of fretwire.


If sweat is known to affect strings, why should it not affect fretwire. That is as much metal as the strings.



# String buzz

That is the first thing that you notice in a guitar with pitted fretwire. Imagine a fretwire with divots and the one adjacent to it clean. Fretting the pitted fretwire – which is lower because of the dent in it – will make it touch the next fretwire, which is of normal height, causing a string buzz. Depending upon the depth of the dent, the buzz may range from the negligible to the most irritating.


With divots on the fretwires of your guitar, it is very logical that you will experience intonation issues. Because of the dents, a string will contact different areas of fretwires – back, front, top – when what you actually want is that a string touch the very top of each fretwire.

#Bends are harder

With pitting, bends become nearly impossible for the string is very liable to catch on the edges of the pits, genuinely affecting how clean and effective your notes sound.



#Countering the capo

Use an adjustable capo. An adjustable capo is one in which you can adjust the tension being applied.

#The bottleneck slide issue

Again, no one is stopping you from using bottlenecks, but ensure that you are using the very best glass bottleneck available. Being of a good quality, they are that much smoother and kinder to the fretwires on your guitar.

#Change fretting technique

This is the toughest of all to do for it is like changing an old habit. Maybe, a visit to a good guitar tech will help. If a set-up is required, he will do that and that should help bring the action down. Consequently, you will not need to apply as much pressure as you used to.

#String size change

Though it is a well documented fact that you get a bigger bang for your buck with larger gauge strings, the damage they cause all round – fingers, guitar top, neck and joints – is also well known. However, that is not to say that if you use 13s, you drop down to 10s. But certainly, the climb-down from 13s to 12s will be beneficial for your fretwires, and all round.

#Change sweaty hands technique

Wish as hard as one might, one can never change one’s genetic make-up. Yes, what can be changed is how you deal with it. Experts always prescribe washing of hands before a guitar is picked up. Knowing that you have sweaty hands, it is all the more advisable that you follow that advice.


P.S.: If you have managed to create divots on your guitar and are in Lucknow, the Lucknow Guitar Garage welcomes you to visit it and get your problem solved.

Amit Newton

An experienced guitar tech with over 10 years of experience working on acoustic Gibsons and Martins in the Gulf region. There is nothing that cannot be repaired; the only consideration is the price at which it comes. And yet, if there is sentiment attached, no price is too high! WhatsApp/Call me: 7080475556 email me:

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