Hard-pressed frets

I’m sometimes amazed at my ability to go through life not understanding simple concepts.
Seven years after picking up a guitar, I realised that the string doesn’t (or rather shouldn’t) touch the fretboard when playing :exploding_head:
I understood you should not press too hard or it will go sharp but I presumed it was for the following reason:
pressing lightly to the fretboard

Pressing hard on the fretboard (longer distance = sharp)

The proper way

This takes away a lot of the importance of the choice of wood for the fretboard (apart from aesthetics of course)
I’m slightly comforted by the fact that I’m not alone- I mentioned it to a friend of mine yesterday (not Chris) whose been playing for decades and he thought the same as me… :thinking:


Ha ha,and now learn to press even closer to the frets (and there it is very easy to see and understand how it work because with the first 2 pictures it is not possible to touch the wood so close to the fret)… good that you put it, but that wood and its importance or not has already been discussed extensively


I knew that already, Rogier :grinning:
But intellectually understanding something doesn’t mean you incorporate it into your ‘reality’.
I still see the sun rising and setting, as opposed to the world spinning.
I still think of the materials that make up plants and trees as coming out of the ground rather than thin air :slight_smile:

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How many times do I have to say that you should be more involved with the garden/nature… you still have 40 years of gardening ahead of you and the world will reveal itself then :grin:

Of course, I understand that you have just figured out how it all works butI thought I would also give a tip on how people (or you) can easily see how easily you get a sound by pressing very gently close to the fret and seeing clearly what you indicate in the picture. :blush:

I need playing time :smiley:

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My wife does enough of that for both of us, and look where that gets you…
She was released on bail from police custody in London at one o’clock this morning :roll_eyes:

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This one is for her
And I’m sure she deserves this one too

Thanks :blush:


Trust your wife is OK, probably a story we should not get into detail on :rofl:

I confess you’ve lost me on your explanation. I’ll blame it on my reading being at the end of the day. I was thinking that pressing too hard is really about the consequences of unnecessary force being applied that makes it more tiring and difficult to play.

Also thought pitch is based on distance from the fret in front of the finger to the bridge. So the diagrams confuse me.


I didn’t realised pressing too hard was now a criminal offence but nothing surprises me any more. On a serious note hope she is ok !! :angry:

As to the diagrams, twas news to me and no doubt something I am doing wrong for sure.

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Ah, you know me too well, David-
I like to sail close to the wind, but am not an natural born rule-breaker :laughing:
I switched on telly at lunchtime and thought it was a RuPaul Drag Race special, before realising it was simply our Head of State reading out his government’s plans for the next year… I’ll steer clear of that one too :rofl:

Yes length is one factor, but the other is tension. Increasing the tension like twiddling the tuner or stretching on a ‘bend’ will increase the pitch too. Pressing hard on a string down to the fret is like a mini-bend

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Wait until someone mentions scalloped frets.
Then you’ll be in a new world of trouble!


Heeeey Brian,
And what do you think of scalloped frets ???

Good night :blush:


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Haha, I carefully skirted around but did peep into the Yngwie Malmsteen rabbit hole when I looked this up :rofl:
But on a more common theme, Jumbo frets are more popular and you never touch the fretboard with them from what I gather.
Interestingly, this effect is more obvious to me with the thicker strings :thinking:

Your diagram is not even close to where your frets and string should be set. The strings are way too high.

Must new guitars are not “set up” for easy play. The strings are set high on a new guitar so the store can custom fit the neck and strings to fit your body shape and arm/finger lengths. Everyone is different so the guitar is “set up” for you.

When you play the strings you normally touch the wood fretboard. You can’t “pull” a string nor bend the strings without touching the fretboard. You only need to.press down enough to make a clear tone when you pluck or pick the notes. Any harder is a waste of time and strength. Your fingers should be a close to the frets as possible. If your guitar is set up properly; and your fret board is the right width for the size of your hand and fingers, you should be able to comfortably press down your strings to a clear clean tone without much effort.

If you live near San Angelo, TX I will setup your guitar correctly. I do this for lots of players for free. I will teach you how you can do it if you get an other guitar. I can also teach you many little tiny things you can do to make different sounds with ease. Email me at Lee@FBA.CC

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Your finger is still pressing against the wood, your still moving your finger on the wood in bends etc so it certainly does affect the feel.

It shouldnt though be effecting the string itself.

Pressing just lightly enough is a skill you need to work on!


@brianlarsen great way to visualize.
I think it will instant AHA to many here!

let me build upon that insight


(excuse the crude MsPaint job :wink: )

I try to put my ginfer where the orange circle is, although that doesnt always work.
I learned to play on a Strat and I’m a notorious gripping string pusher.
I really had to learn to apply an efficient and soft touch


You have that wrong, you want your finger close to the bridge end of the fret

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Ah yes, my lefty brain was thinking of my lefty neck while wanting to draw a righty.
derp; I corrected it :smiley:


My problem is that the “nut” is usually sitting behind the guitar trying to press strings to the fretboard…


It’s a diagram not a scale model. I exaggerated the height of the frets to make it easier to see the distance from the string to the fretboard.

No matter how high the ‘set up’ the string still rests on the frets on either side of your finger when you play a note.
My point was not how to set up a guitar but how far your finger presses down when you do play a note/chord. My diagram 3 and Lieven’s show the string doesn’t touch the fretboard at all. If you have callouses on your fingers the fleshy bit won’t protrude past the string down to the board, so you won’t be feeling the wood of the fretboard unless you are pressing firmly (in which case it will be going out of tune) or if you are trying to increase the pitch, as in a bend. Even with people who bend a lot, most of the notes they play will want to be ‘in tune’ so no fingers on the board.

Yes, you can (I just checked)- and for pull-offs you should.

Thanks for the generous offer of a setup, but I live a long way from Texas :grinning:

Sharing personal details like your email on a public forum is discouraged; you might want to edit that out. (It’s fine to share via messaging if you wish).

@RobDickinson I mentioned in the OP that if you’re not supposed to normally be touching the fretboard, it simply

@Jamolay :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

Oh, and just for the record, I have lots of fretboard wear and tear on my beloved A min frets by the nut. I’m just trying to understand what I’m s’posed to be doing :laughing:


I’m re-reading this topic after reading Brian’s @brianlarsen Maple fretboards poll request.

I find my fingers don’t touch the fretboard on strings 6543 but do touch on the two light strings.
Most of the adverts for guitars talk about the ‘feel’ of the fretboard so the type of wood or wood substitute must be a factor.