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Fret problems

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Hi everyone

I've just finished a telecaster project and I'm pretty happy with the body finish. However, I've run into a problem I haven't run into before. I set the intonation so the 12th fret is pretty bang on in tune, but the first fourfrets or so, particularly fret 1 and 2, are far too sharp. It affects all strings, and the first fret is really sharp, and it gets slightly better until it is pretty much in tune again further down the neck. It means I can paly a bar chord of an A or any bar chord beyond that, and it will sound in tune, but playing a standard shape chords, particularly D, sounds out of tune.

The neck was cheap, between £20-30 from ebay, so my guess is that the first few frets were fretted wrongly? Maybe just a couple mms out or something.

Is there anything that can be done about this?

Lucky the problem is with the neck, so it is cheap and easy to replace if needed.



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Norris has it right for what would be the most simple fix, but prior to that you should actually measure your fret spacing to see what all is off. It could be the nut slot is off or even the nut could be too high. If it turns out to be the fret spacing themselves the entire fretboard could be replaced if need be.


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For such a cheap neck, unless you were actually curious about learning how to refret/re-slot a fretboard, I'd be inclined to just buy a new one rather than repair it.  The cost of the tools and materials would far outstrip the value of another 30 quid neck.

Not trying to tell you how to suck eggs, but it's also worth confirming that your method of verifying intonation is correct - compare the open string tuning with the corresponding tuning of that same string when fretted at the 12th fret.  Both should be the same pitch with an octave difference.  The other alternative is to compare 12th fret harmonic with note when fretted at 12th fret.  Some people prefer this as the note should be the same pitch and octave, and it is quicker to hear subtle differences in tuning than when comparing open string to 12th fret.

Other things to consider:

  • high action in first few frets due to weird neck warp (unlikely)
  • jumbo frets and heavy fretting hand
  • nut positioned too far away from first fret (may also be indicated by notes gradually getting flatter as you go past the 12th fret)
  • wrong scale length neck for the given bridge positioning (easiest indication may be that the 12th fret harmonic isn't actually located directly above the 12th fret)
  • re-intonate and tune the guitar with capo at 2nd fret and compare against 14th fret (or 3rd/15th, 4th/16th).  If the guitar plays OK with the capo on it's unlikely that the frets are off.
Edited by curtisa
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