A Short History Of The Guitar Fret

A Short History Of The Guitar Fret

So here’s A Short History Of The Guitar Fret. To find out more about guitar frets check out our article here.

To the beginner, there are many parts on a guitar that can cause quite a lot of confusion – including the humble fret. For a practiced guitar player however, the fret is a core part of guitar playing and a crucial piece of the sound they wish to achieve. It’s safe to say that without a fret you don’t have a guitar although some guitars have been made fretless in the past, these have not been that successful!

In ye olde days, many instruments didn’t have frets at all and history tells us that animal ligatures, usually from the gut of course, were used around the neck of the instrument and players would feel the ligatures at the back of the instrument to use as a type of finger board. Ones similar to the type used today were called ‘bar frets’ and were flat metal bars pressed firmly into the fret slots.


Today’s frets are attributed to a guy call Clinton Smith and were patented in the 1920’s. They are commonly referred to as the ‘T Fret’. The ‘T’ stands for ‘tang’ and is much thinner than the old bar fret and have a wider top part called the crown, having a flat surface and rounded upper part, making them much more comfortable than the old-style bar frets.

In essence and probably oversimplified, the fret divides the fretboard (you can see now why they have the name ‘frets’) into simple and easy to find semitone intervals. Those intervals help to tell the player where the notes are – that’s the same for many other instruments too, such as the violin or cello.

Yes but what is a fret on a guitar for?

Placing your finger over various frets up and down the guitar, or the fingerboard, plays particular notes and chords. Of course, the strings of the guitar are placed over the frets, vertically, so when you choose a fret to place your fingers on you are pushing the string down at the same time to achieve that note or chord you want.

Simple buying considerations for guitar frets.

This being said, not all T Frets are the same size and the crown section can vary in width or/and height. This is something you need to take into consideration when purchasing a guitar as a beginner of course as it can affect the way the guitar feels as well as the overall tone.

Another thing you need to aware of is the metal fret wires are made of – especially if you are allergic to certain metals such as nickel. Players often opt for stainless steel

Can frets wear down? Yes! Like any other material, guitar frets can wear down as the guitar is played although this would be determine by many other things too, such as the amount of time played and the quality of the guitar in the first place. The frets can be removed and replaced by a professional of course.

So frets make playing the guitar easy?

Not quite – you have to ‘master’ guitar playing first, that is you have to learn how guitar frets can be used to get the notes, chords and tunes you want the guitar to play. Like any other instrument, this can be frustrating at first but learning about frets is a core part of learning to play the guitar properly. The tools are only as good as their master so they say!


So a short history of the guitar fret is hopefully not as confusing as it may first seem we hope? We know that there is a lot more that could be added to this information but we wanted to answer the question in brief “what is a fret on a guitar” and in a way that was not going to frown you in information. Choosing a guitar can be difficult at first but when you at least have some information about the basic and core parts of this amazing instrument, then at least you are not going to be scared off by the terms used right from the beginning! Happy guitar hunting and playing!

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