Guitar repair – Zero fretwire: Pluses and minuses

I have written about this earlier too, but never actually dedicated a post to it. So, I decided to do so now and explain to my younger readers what all the brouhaha is all about.

So, the first frertwire on the neck of your acoustic guitar stays where it is, but right after the nut, another piece of fretwire is installed, over which the strings ride. And because this piece of fretwire comes before the first fretwire, it is called ‘zero fretwire’.

It does the job that the nut ordinarily does, for the strings ride over it, but it is not as if the nut is relegated to the dust bin. It stays very much where its spot is, only, the string slots in it are considerably deeper. This is to keep the strings in place without allowing them to slide off the fretboard. The slots in the nut are as deep as the height of the zero fretwire.

Contrary to popular belief, the zero fretwire is exactly the same height as the other fretwires and generally made of the same material.


So what does a zero fretwire do?

Think of the zero fretwire as a very low nut. As the strings ride over it, they are much lower than what their height would be, had they been riding a traditional nut. What this does is ensure that all strings are relatively low all along the fretboard. And if you take care of the height of your saddle, you have comfortably low action all along the fretboard.

How this particularly helps is that you can barre your ‘F’ chord with an ease hitherto unknown.    

Of course, rhythm players love it but lead players love the arrangement the most. 


Disadvantages of the zero fretwire

Like I said earlier, the strings ride on the zero fretwire and that the zero fretwire is generally made of the same material as the rest of the fretwires on the instrument. Now, the preferred material for fretwire is cupro nickle though stainless steel is also available. Given the ease with which cupro nickle can be worked with (as opposed to stainless steel), it is used on most instruments. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is also the undoing of the material. Because it is easily adaptable and tractable, the strings rubbing over it also damage it, demanding that it be replaced.


Why is the zero fretwire not used more often?

What I am about to say is entirely my observation of things. You are free to criticise it or agree with it. 

One: Guitar-building is comparatively a new art form, borrowing its learnings from violin makers and lute makers of Europe. Innovation does not play a part when it comes to changes in the basic structural format. Embellishments and minor deviations are followed at best.

Two: There seems to be an underlying fear that given the wear that the zero fretwire will face that it will have to be frequently replaced. To put things in perspective for you, how many times in your guitar’s life have you had to have its fretwires replaced? So, if it the same material used for the zero fretwire, how often would you have to replace it???   

Me? I have loved working on zero fretwire instruments and I have loved playing them equally!


P.S.: This post is a special post for the Lucknow Guitar Garage website had crashed and could be revived only after the intervention of the web-hosts. In the process, I lost the last post (of last Sunday) only.

Hopefully, now it will continue to run smoothly, without any hinderance. 

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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