In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive deep into the world of fret sizes, focusing on three popular types: Jumbo, Medium Jumbo, and Narrow Tall.
As an experienced guitar player, I’ve had my fair share of experiences with different fret sizes, and I’m here to share those insights, helping you make a wise decision about what’s right for you.
Let’s start with some key takeaways!
Fret Sizes – Key Takeaways
These are the giants in the fret world. Known for their large size, Jumbo frets are often favored by players who love to bend strings and play with a light touch.
They offer a smooth, almost buttery feel, making legato playing a breeze.
However, they might not be the best choice for those seeking precise note control, especially during complex chord shapes, as their size can lead to unintentional note bending.
Medium Jumbo Frets
Striking a balance between size and control, Medium Jumbo frets are the go-to choice for many versatile guitarists.
They provide enough height for comfortable string bending and vibrato, while still allowing for accurate fretting. This makes them suitable for a wide range of playing styles, from rhythm to lead.
The downside? They might not cater as well to extreme playing styles – not chunky enough for the light-touch lead players, yet possibly too bulky for those who prefer intricate chord work.
Narrow Tall Frets
The precision players’ haven. These frets are tall, allowing for clear note articulation and minimal finger pressure, which is ideal for fast playing and complex, fast-moving chord changes.
Their narrow width means less contact with the string, which can enhance tone clarity.
However, they can be a bit unforgiving for players not used to such precision – a slight misplacement of the finger can lead to buzzing or muted notes.
About Jumbo Frets
Jumbo frets stand out in the guitar world for their significant size, primarily favored by players who engage in a lot of lead guitar work.
The large dimensions of these frets allow for easier string bending and vibrato, making them a popular choice for styles that require expressive and fluid lead playing.
They’re particularly advantageous for those employing a lighter touch, as the height of the frets requires less pressure to sound a note, thus reducing finger fatigue and facilitating faster play.
Out of my guitar collection, I can definitely recommend the Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster – this guitar has Jumbo frets which make playing soooo easy.
- Ease of Play: The large size makes string bending and vibrato smoother, ideal for lead guitarists.
- Reduced Finger Fatigue: Less pressure is needed to fret notes, beneficial for playing fast passages.
- Fluid Legato: Their height aids in achieving a smooth legato sound, a staple in soloing techniques.
- Intonation Challenges: The height can cause unintentional bending of notes, leading to intonation issues, especially in chord work.
- Not Suitable for All Hand Sizes: Players with smaller hands might find them uncomfortable.
- Adaptation Required: Guitarists with a heavier touch might struggle to maintain precise control over the pitch.
Jumbo frets offer a distinct advantage in terms of playability and expressiveness for certain styles but require a nuanced touch to manage their size-induced challenges.
About Medium Jumbo Frets
Medium Jumbo frets are often considered the versatile middle ground in the fret size spectrum. They strike a balance between the ease of play offered by Jumbo frets and the precision of narrower frets.
This size is particularly well-suited for guitarists who switch between rhythm and lead playing, offering enough height for comfortable string bending and vibrato, while still maintaining good control for accurate chord work.
- Versatility: Ideal for guitarists who play a mix of lead and rhythm, accommodating a wide range of styles.
- Balanced Playability: They offer a comfortable middle ground between easy bending and precise fretting, making them suitable for various techniques.
- Good Control: The size allows for more precise control over notes than Jumbo frets, reducing the risk of intonation issues.
- Jack of All Trades, Master of None: While they are versatile, they may not fully cater to the specific needs of players who prefer either extreme of fret sizes.
- Adjustment Period: Some players might need time to adapt to their size, especially if transitioning from much smaller or larger frets.
Medium Jumbo frets are an excellent choice for players seeking a fret size that offers both comfort in playability and precision, making them a popular choice among a wide range of guitarists.
About Narrow Tall Frets
Narrow Tall frets are the go-to choice for players prioritizing precision and clarity in their playing. These frets are characterized by their taller height and narrower width, which allows for minimal finger pressure to sound a note.
This feature is especially beneficial for fast playing styles and intricate chord changes, as it helps in maintaining clarity and reducing hand fatigue.
- Precision Playing: Ideal for complex, fast-moving chord changes and lead work requiring meticulous finger placement.
- Minimal Effort: The height allows for easy note articulation with minimal finger pressure, reducing hand fatigue during extended playing sessions.
- Enhanced Tone Clarity: The narrow width means less finger contact with the fret, potentially resulting in clearer tone.
- Unforgiving to Inaccuracies: They can be less forgiving for players not accustomed to such precision, where slight misplacements can lead to buzzing or muted notes.
- Not Ideal for String Bending: Players who frequently use string bending might find the narrow width less comfortable.
- Adjustment Time: It may take time for guitarists to adapt to their unique dimensions, especially if they are used to playing on wider frets.
Narrow Tall frets cater to a specific group of guitarists who value precision and clarity in their playing, making them an excellent choice for intricate styles but potentially challenging for others.
All Fret Types Compared
To make it all easy to understand, I created a table for you with all the most imporant features of these frets. Hopefully that helps 🙂
|Medium Jumbo Frets
|Narrow Tall Frets
|Tall and Narrow
|Ideal for string bending and vibrato
|Balanced for rhythm and lead
|Precision playing and clarity
|Lighter touch needed
|Precise and minimal touch
|Can be challenging
|Requires control to avoid tuning issues
|Versatile for most chord styles
|Precise finger placement needed
|Less fatigue in long sessions
|Reduced due to minimal pressure
|Lead players, soloists
|Fast, intricate play styles
As a guitarist with years of playing experience across various styles, I’ve had the opportunity to experiment with different fret sizes on a range of guitars. However, my personal favorite has been the Narrow Tall frets on my Squier Classic Vibe Jaguar.
There’s something about the precise and articulate nature of these frets that resonates with my playing style, especially when I’m navigating intricate passages or fast lead sections.
But don’t get me wrong – there is no right or wrong. Everyone has their own preference, so I’m sure that some of you will like Jumbo frets more.
I hope that you enjoyed this little guide on the fret sizes! You can also read more about it on the official site of Fender.
What’s your favorite size and why? Feel free to leave a comment down below and let me know what you think.
Are Jumbo Frets Easier for Beginners?
Jumbo frets are generally not recommended for beginners. While they make bending strings easier, they can pose challenges for precise chord playing. Their large size might lead to unintentional muting of adjacent strings when forming chords, which can frustrate new players.
Can Narrow Tall Frets Improve Playing Speed?
Absolutely! Narrow Tall frets are like the sports cars of the fret world. Their slim and tall design allows for faster and more precise fretting, which can enhance your playing speed. If you’re into shredding or intricate solos, these frets can be a game-changer.
Do Medium Jumbo Frets Offer a Balanced Experience?
Yes, Medium Jumbo frets strike a balance between ease of bending and chord precision. They are a versatile choice, suitable for players who switch between rhythm and lead. They provide a comfortable compromise for various playing styles.
Does Fret Size Affect Guitar Tone?
Yes, fret size can influence your guitar’s tone. Larger frets like Jumbo frets can add warmth and sustain to your sound. Conversely, Narrow Tall frets may contribute to a brighter and more articulate tone. However, it’s not the sole factor; the type of wood, pickups, and playing technique also play significant roles.
Is Refretting with a Different Size Expensive?
Refretting a guitar with a different fret size can be moderately expensive, as it involves skilled labor. Costs depend on factors like the type of frets, the guitar’s condition, and the expertise of the luthier. It’s advisable to consult with a professional before making this decision.
Can I Change Fret Sizes on My Existing Guitar?
Yes, you can change fret sizes on your existing guitar, but it’s a task best handled by a skilled luthier. It involves removing the old frets, reshaping the fretboard if necessary, and installing the new frets. It’s a significant modification that can impact playability and tone, so careful consideration is essential.
Which Fret Size Is Best for Blues Playing?
For blues playing, Medium Jumbo frets are often recommended. They provide a comfortable balance between bending strings for expressive phrasing and maintaining precise intonation for chord work. Many blues guitarists find this fret size suits their style perfectly.