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Oct 28, 2020 - 2:47:16 PM
405 posts since 6/12/2017

What do they say new players wear out the frets?

I've noticed quite a bit of fret wear on my banjo, and it's not that old. When is it time to get the frets replaced? Is it expensive? Can I take it to any luthier, or only a banjo luthier? Can the luthier pull the frets out without damaging the finger board?

Edited by - 6stringedRamble on 10/28/2020 14:50:46

Oct 28, 2020 - 2:57:18 PM

3536 posts since 3/28/2008

New players usually press harder than they really need to--sometimes a lot harder. They may be trying to press the strings down to the fingerboard, even though it's really only necessary to press them to a point just infinitesimally below the crown of the fret.

Oct 28, 2020 - 2:59:38 PM

518 posts since 6/2/2011

Often new players are tense and apply too muc pressure downward on the frets. We will hold the note longer, as we get more playing time, develope a quicker -cleaner note and use more of the fretboard the pressure on the frets is decreased.
I have found I have a better touch and feel with both hands.

Oct 28, 2020 - 3:09:01 PM



13095 posts since 8/30/2006

Probably pressing too hard
Human hands pollen grit

Take a look a Stewmac’s tutorial

I bought tools and tubes of wire thru them
Life ain’t easy but it sure is good
Means I learned, you could, too.

One should be able dress the frets First by looking at a straight edge on the fingerboard

Individual frets can be replaced and dressed

Did you ever see NASCAR pit crew trim the excess rubber off new tires?

Same thing for new frets

Some guitar people don’t like banjos
Frets are frets and just part of the adjustments to get good playing

Any strings buzzing now?
Good ownership.
Wipe the instrument down before casing and the human “exhaust” won’t harm anything. We have ammonia in our sweat

Oct 28, 2020 - 3:47:42 PM
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2468 posts since 3/30/2008

Many players, not just beginners , are ham-fisted & press too tight. I've noticed over the years that many players fret too hard & hit the strings too hard. (I'm reminded of a quote from a S S Stewart journal interview w/ a top tier player to strike the strings as if by a feather).

Oct 28, 2020 - 4:27:35 PM



21943 posts since 7/6/2005

My late friend who played mandolin in my band would wear out his frets yearly. I don't know why, because I never noticed he was especially heavy-fingered. But, i would replace them every year for free.

I built my Granada neck in 1974. I have replaced the frets once in 46 years. I never wear out frets.

I'm wondering if these "new players" are mostly playing inexpensive instruments with inferior-quality frets? Then again, I have never heard this particular claim before.

Oct 28, 2020 - 4:36:24 PM
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1151 posts since 5/19/2018

I’m not sure on this one.

Been playing 45+ years, and I still own one of my first banjos which was 40 some what years old when I got it. Has the same frets on it that it left the factory with and I have played the heck out of it over the decades.

Wearing frets out probably has more to do with the quality of the instrument than how hard you press on the strings.

Oct 28, 2020 - 5:03:07 PM

277 posts since 4/14/2017

In recent years, tougher fret material is available, tougher than standard nickel/silver, which also may vary a little in durability depending on the maker. I have heard good things about Stew Macs nickel/silver durability, although that particular discussion was about guitar fret wire. The toughest stuff is stainless steel, although a luthier could be expected to charge more because of the wear and tear on tools. EVO is not as hard, but still harder than the standard nickel/silver. As such, it's a good choice if you don't mind the gold color. Helix makes a good point about wear. Frets may get dents a long time before the strings start buzzing. If they buzz, it's time.

Oct 28, 2020 - 7:01:21 PM
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1301 posts since 2/9/2007

Having taught a lot of beginners (and still having some foggy memories of when I was one myself), I say just about everybody starts out using way too much force, and most will needlessly push and/or pull the strings sideways across the frets. If they don't break those habits in the first few months, you can bet they're going to cause some serious fret wear-- and also wonder why playing is still such a struggle in spite of all their diligent practice and study.

Edited by - Dan Gellert on 10/28/2020 19:02:53

Oct 28, 2020 - 9:33:46 PM
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3406 posts since 5/29/2011

A couple of months ago there was another post about fret wear and I answered with the same general comment that most have shared here about using too much force when noting. Mike Halloran had a very interesting rebuttal to my comment which voiced quite the opposite view. I would post a link to that topic if I knew how. It was called Fret Wear.
Mike's point of view gives the reader something to think about.

Oct 28, 2020 - 10:19:45 PM
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3120 posts since 2/1/2012

Originally posted by Culloden

A couple of months ago there was another post about fret wear and I answered with the same general comment that most have shared here about using too much force when noting. Mike Halloran had a very interesting rebuttal to my comment which voiced quite the opposite view. I would post a link to that topic if I knew how. It was called Fret Wear.
Mike's point of view gives the reader something to think about.

Here is that thread:

I believe that as a beginner you also tend to adjust your hands or fingers when forming chords a lot which would contribute as well.  My Goodtime frets wore a lot quicker than the frets on my Gold Tone as well.

Oct 29, 2020 - 2:14:04 AM



13095 posts since 8/30/2006

Ok , not pressing hard enough. Road warriors know stuff.

Oct 29, 2020 - 3:02:20 AM

527 posts since 2/15/2015

Originally posted by Dan Gellert

"Having taught a lot of beginners (and still having some foggy memories of when I was one myself)..."


There's a video out there where an instructor was conducting a seminar to a room full prospective electric bass instructors, he made a statement that most teachers  over time have forgotten how difficult it was when they first started playing.

So he had everybody in the room take their electric basses which were in their laps and flip them over to the opposite hand. And then he said start playing... 

I thought it was a wonderful example. And reintroduces the instructor (at el) to that perspective from the beginning students point of view. 

Oct 29, 2020 - 3:04:49 AM
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527 posts since 2/15/2015

Go to nylon/gut, fret wear solved. (Sort if kidding)

Over the long haul and at the very beginning, I learned and continued on classical nylon string guitar. I've had three of those guitars in my entire life I still have two of them, my first one was stolen in the great apartment robbery of 1975... But that's another story.

Anyway I still have (and play) two of the three nylon string classical guitars and there is no fret wear on either my older 1972 Aria TC- 15 or the Tama TC-8 (1979), that's just about 50 years. 

I have worn out tuning machine parts over the years and I buy used tuners and just kind of pull parts and rollers off of those to fix the ones that are originally on the instrument but that's the only thing I've ever really replaced.  The nuts are still good the saddles are still good there's negligible wear due to the nylon strings, even wrapped string haven't worn the frets.

Edited by - geoB on 10/29/2020 03:23:43

Oct 29, 2020 - 10:02:36 AM

2005 posts since 1/10/2004

Quick, light and clean is the key. Finesse the strings, don't mash 'em. Dance on the strings, don't stomp on them. I have decades old frets without substantial wear. I usually get a shallow divet in second fret under the 3rd string, and very light/faint wear elsewhere.

It just comes with time/practice. Beginners' fingers hurt or get tired, and counter-intuitively they may press harder through the pain and fatigue to get something like a clean note.

Oct 29, 2020 - 10:29:44 AM

4058 posts since 10/18/2007

I would guess its the horizontal rubbing, combined with too much downward pressure, that produces the wear. I must be kind of guilty because I have to get mine replaced every five or 6 years.

Oct 29, 2020 - 10:38:25 AM

21 posts since 10/12/2018

My first banjo has worn frets. Every lesson for the first year and about once a month for the second year, "stop choking it" Seems like any time I'm stressed or my hands/grip are fatigued I go back to it. What is really a position problem I tend to want to squeeze it out.

Oct 29, 2020 - 10:57:07 AM
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7877 posts since 8/28/2013

The idea that beginners wear out frets faster is, to me, a generaization, and like most generalizations, tends to be stereotypical and and not always true.

Some people just playwith a different touch or utilize more slides, pull-off, and hammer-ons. Some have more acidic or abrasive fingers. Some fret wire is softer than others. I doubt if any of those issues are confined to only one group of players.

Oct 31, 2020 - 11:33:09 AM
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10877 posts since 10/27/2006

Everything you just read about fret wear being caused by too much finger pressure is 100% wrong. If 1,000 experienced luthiers state that, then those 1,000 are wrong, too.

It is the side to side string motion acting like a file. This is why the wear is in divots. It's also why a light touch is harder on frets than a heavy one. It's also why the wear is worse under plain strings than wrapped.

The fret stops the note. It's the finger behind the fret that stops the string motion. Any slide player knows this.

Improper capo placement is also a major cause. Capo rubbers should be over the fret just behind the crown. Besides minimizing side to side motion, it also makes it impossible to pull strings sharp.

Some of my instruments have played thousands of shows. Is there wear? Yes but none to the point that they ever needed a fret replaced. Perhaps it's because I played bass in orchestras for so many years but I never developed a light touch. Whatever the detrimental effect it had on my technique, my frets didn't suffer.


EVO and stainless steel frets are resistant to friction. This is why they last longer. The player will hear ss as being slightly brighter — you're hearing the neck — but the audience will not hear any difference in tone. Most luthiers will do a partial refret if asked. EVO and SS aren't the same color as nickel silver frets.

Edited by - mikehalloran on 10/31/2020 11:36:52

Oct 31, 2020 - 2:57:18 PM



36257 posts since 7/28/2005

Thanks Mike! I was waiting for you to chime in. I came form electric guitar, with a very light touch, and destroyed my banjo frets in no time. I went to SS frets, and never worried about it again.

Oct 31, 2020 - 6:13:11 PM

7877 posts since 8/28/2013

I, too, agree with Mike that it's the side to side motion that wears the frets.

I can well imagine that a beginner may be a bit tentative in his finger placement, causing more side-to-side movement than a more experienced player, or some of them may not come straight down on the string due to poor hand positioning, pushing the string sideways,

I'd also guess that those who like to "bend" strings will also have more issues with fret wear. A poorly executed "pull-off" could also contribute, if the string is dragged across the fret.

Oct 31, 2020 - 6:52:25 PM



237 posts since 6/25/2012

Originally posted by 6stringedRamble

Can I take it to any luthier, or only a banjo luthier? Can the luthier pull the frets out without damaging the finger board?

I'd expect most luthiers can refret a banjo.  There are a lot of fretted instruments, and the task isn't really specific to banjos, so a luthier that has experience on any fretted instrument should be capable.  It's like choosing a daycare, who do you trust with your baby?.  I recently had my best banjo refretted with stainless steel frets,  The luthier who did it said he heats up the frets before pulling them to  help prevent finger board damage.   I can't say if it does or not, but he did a complete refret on mine with no board damage.

I know I fret heavy.  I also don't change strings as often as I probably should.  Do strings increase fret wear as they age?

Nov 3, 2020 - 12:38:20 PM

3922 posts since 5/12/2010

It is not just "new players" that wear out frets, and I agree it is the side to side movement of strings which causes the most wear. I do think that just like using a file, a heavier hand in combination with the side to side movement would add to that wear, but it is still the side to side movement causing the wear and not simply fretting too hard or too lightly.

This opinion is from looking at an old banjo I have which was played for many years by a professional player. He definitely has a light touch, but he also uses a lot of left hand embellishments especially a lot of pull offs. Any form of string bending is side to side movement of the strings.

That old banjo has the worst fret wear I have ever seen particularly on the 1st and 2nd strings at frets 7, 5, 3, and 2, where the wear is worse to the side of the string path than directly under, so I know it is from pulling the strings sideways. Same wear pattern just a little less so on the 4, 3, 2 frets for the 3rd string.

This man who taught me to play, so I play many of the same tunes he plays, so I know exactly what was going on with the embellishments used in those tunes.

I build four to six banjos each year, and usually keep one of those to play for a while but it always gets sold before I have time to wear out the frets, but I would bet I would start seeing such wear after a longer period due to all of the pull offs I use.

Edited by - OldPappy on 11/03/2020 12:39:11

Nov 4, 2020 - 1:27:38 AM

10877 posts since 10/27/2006

This all started for me when I was at the repair counter at Gryphon Strings for some reason. I overheard someone remarking to Frank Ford that capo placement had nothing to do with fret wear. Frank's response was "Like hell it doesn't." It was a long time ago and I may not have quoted accurately but it was something like that.

I did not enter into that discussion but when I got home, it was easy to figure out that a) Frank was right and b) I knew exactly why he was right. The closer to the crown, the less sideways motion because of the proximity of the capo rubber. I had long known that equidistant between two frets was the best way to pull strings sharp so my capos had been over the fret behind the crown for decades. It hadn't occurred to me that this was easier on the frets, too.

From there, it was easy to figure out that a light touch can stop the note without completely stopping the string—and in that case, allow even more side to side motion that accelerates fret wear — by a lot as it turns out. A couple days later I was over talking to Rick Turner. We discussed it and he said that high speed photography could prove this easily. I don't know if he ever wrote the article — I know I didn't.

I like low frets — my fingertips like to hit the board. In fact, the only fret work I've ever had done is to lower them on new instruments so that my fingertips wouldn't get sore while trying to find the board.

I was active as a player for around 43 years (1966–2009) and a few of my instruments go back that far. Thousands of shows in some cases, original frets on everything. A few of my instruments had only a few hundred shows when I sold them and those frets still looked new.

I have two electric guitars with stainless steel frets but those guitars have never been played. My stroke in 2009 crippled my left arm and I no longer play.

Edited by - mikehalloran on 11/04/2020 01:30:03

Nov 4, 2020 - 5:51:05 AM
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354 posts since 2/28/2006

I think this is interesting and maybe I missed this above - wouldn’t the distance a player placed their fingertip from the fret be more important for this type of fret wear than the amount of finger pressure?

All the best
Brian Saulsman

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