What's a Fret Level and Why Do I Need One?
- The string (dashed line) should pass over the tops of all of the frets.
- A high fret (area in red), interrupts the vibration of the string when playing one or several frets before it, causing fret buzz, dead notes, and muted or "choked" bends.
- Conversely, low, flat, worn, and divoted frets can cause this issue as this lowers fret height, making the subsequent fret higher.
- To fix this, the fret needs to be levelled, crowned, dressed, and the guitar properly setup to optimize the new fret heights
- Levelling is the removal of this high area by using sandpaper, aluminum beams, files and sanding blocks. There are many different fret sizes and shapes, each requiring a unique approach.
- Crowning is the reshaping of the now flattened fret top, or "crown" with diamond coated files, so that it's round and gives the string a narrow point of contact or "nodal point". A very flat nodal point can actually cause intonation issues since the string is making inconsistent contact with the fret.
- Dressing is fine smoothening and polishing of the fret. I use fine grits around 1500-2000 for this, as opposed to rougher grits like 320 used for the levelling.
- The last step is the setup, which is detailed here, to ensure that everything else on the guitar is in harmony with now optimized fret plane.