Why must the nut be too high?

Sterner TM


If you take for granted that the string height at the nut is zero, you are wrong. A nut is always too high! Instrument builders and technicians usually recommend that if you fret the second fret, a piece of paper or a business card could be slipped between the string and the first fret.

But zero frets then, aren't they the same as the rest of the frets? Actually not. Luthier Michael Sandén, who zero frets his guitars, told me that he levels the other frets before the installment of the zero fret. The zero fret is somewhat higher than the rest of the frets. Other luthiers use a higher fret wire for the zero fret. There are several reasons for this:

  • When a string is fretted, the string behind the finger may cause severe noise vibrating against the frets.
  • You can lower the string height at the bridge to get lower action up the neck.
  • You dare not file the string grooves deep enough at the nut. One cut too much with the file and you have to make a new nut.

Obviously there are advantages making nuts and zero frets too high. The first point is probably the most important reason. Such noise sounds like the instrument is about to burst. We'll have to live with too high nuts and zero frets.

From this point of view the instruments are incorrectly built. If the nut must be too high, it should be placed where it intonates right! This must be done individually for each string, because the depth of the string groove and the thickness of the string determine the placement of the nut.

Copyright © Anders Sterner