What is a Dead Fret for an Acoustic Guitar: All Possible Causes and Solutions to the Problem

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Dead frets are a result of the fretboard being out of alignment or too old to work properly. If you experience Muted frets, buzzing sounds coming from the guitar, and your string action becomes really high, then you may want to take your guitar for repairs.

There are many possible causes of a “dead fret” on your guitar, including hardware (pickup system, string lock system), resonance oscillation, or some common reasons such as intonation and action.

Hey, here’s an article covering each of the reasons that a guitar may have dead frets. Let’s get started!

What are Dead Frets

Anything that alters the resonance of a single fret is considered dead. Dead frets refer to single positions on the fretboard where they do not resonate correctly. A dead fret is a problem that affects all frets of a string. The solution will be different.

You need to know that dead frets can be fixed by adjusting the frets. If you don’t hear the tone or buzzing, that means the problem is at the next fret! If you play a note on 12th fret, it is the 13th fret that you need to correct.

What Causes Dead Frets

Dead spots on guitar necks typically occur when there is some interference in the tension & imbalance or due to a problem with the vibration of the string.

There are several things that can cause this problem:

  • Loose Frets – You’re fretting too much and it’s affecting the sound of your instrument. You should try to relax.
  • Uneven Fretboard – This is when there is a “hump” on the fretboard.
  • Old Guitar Strings – Dead frets can happen when you play guitar with old, crumbled guitar strings.
  • Neck Angle – If the neck is bowed too much, strings can catch on lower frets.
  • Warped Neck – When your neck almost twist.

Here are some ways to identify and fix dead frets. Some of these options are easy to fix, while others might not be so easy – but you can do it!

Uneven or Loose Frets

A fret that is uneven or loose refers to a fret that has become displaced from its slot or worn down over time.

A fret that is not properly seated during use can often be higher than the frets next to it. This means that frets may not be pressed in the socket or loosen from their slots.


The guitar player can fix an uneven or loose fret by simply removing the strings and rearranging the fret.

This is done by placing a towel on top of the fretboard and using a brass or plastic hammer to do it.

It will sometimes come back in good shape, but it can also become loose again. To ensure that it stays put, glue it.

To make sure that it is level against your neighbors, you can use a ruler!

Players can replace frets on guitars that have become worn or too old by looking into replacing them with new ones.

Uneven Fretboard

A fretboard that is uneven is a group of frets that is not level or higher than the surrounding frets.

This could be due to the guitar’s manufacturing or because the low frets can become worn out from playing a lot.

If the environmental changes make it more apparent, this issue could become more severe.


The most common approach is to? The usual approach is to simply level the high frets in a way that matches the surrounding frets.

To measure the fretboard’s evenness, you can use a ruler with a straight edge or a card. Once you have identified the irregular frets, you can remove them. The file is slightly down to ensure that the frets are placed back lower to avoid interfering with the vibrations.

Fretboard leveling is not something everyone can do at home. It is also very expensive. If you are serious about your guitar and don’t want to damage it, then you should take it to a technician.

Old guitar strings

Your left-hand presses the string when you pick a note. The fret vibrates and creates sound by the string acting on it. These vibrations are frequency-dependent and determine the pitch of the note being played.

Old guitar strings can cause problems as they don’t have the proper tension.

This is very common, and simply changing the strings and allowing them to settle can remove any dead fret.

Neck Angle

Another common reason why the fret is dead can be down to the neck bowing too much. This creates a massive impact, causing the entire group of frets to be dead.


This is how you can check if your rod has straightened:

  • Press 14 on the fretboard or the last fret of the electric guitar by using the capo.
  • Place a business card, or other straight-edge material between the 7th fret & the thickest string of your fretboard.
  • If the card does not touch the strings but still leaves a gap or it is difficult to get in, your neck may be off-center (or at a relief you are happy with).
  • Adjust the truss rod located inside the neck to adjust it.

Extreme cases will result in no gap (they’re touching) between Fret 2 and the guitar string. The guitar cannot produce the note, or even fret 2, because there’s no way to tell the difference!

Wraped Neck

If the neck curves sideways, it is called a warped guitar neck. If the neck curves sideways, it is called a warped neck.

If you look down at a damaged neck, the frets will look like a staircase.

Problems with dead frets can be caused by a warped neck, which will affect the fret height and tension.


Repairing a guitar neck that is bent can be costly depending on the issue.

It is possible to spend hours trying to fix it, but this will only make matters worse. Most cases are irreparable and require a complete-neck replacement.

Resonant Dead Frets

Sympathetic Resonance

Sympathetic resonance is when an object vibrates while another vibrates due to its’sympathetic frequency’. This means that the second object vibrates at the same frequency as the first object, and responds to it.

For example, if you have two tuning forks, and strike one of them (being sympathetic to the frequency), the other will vibrate.

Sympathetic resonance is a powerful tool that can even be used to design buildings.

A dead fret is caused by sympathetic resonance. This happens when you play a note on your guitar and another part vibrates at the same frequency. The energy from the note is depleted and the guitar begins to decay quickly.

This can be done in the opposite direction, as wolf notes. A wolf note can be almost exactly the opposite of a dead fret. It expands the overtone frequencies and makes the note more loud.

It is easy to determine if sympathetic resonance is causing a dead fret or wolf note by simply tuning the string that you are hearing the issue on, and then checking the position of the dead fret.

You can rule out an issue like uneven frets if the dead fret’s location changes in relation to the tension on the string.

Fixing Sympathetic Harmonance

You can sometimes fix a dead fret due to sympathetic resonance by changing its weight at the headstock. You can fix this by simply adding a clip-on tuner or changing the tuning pegs.

Fender has a particular product called the Fender Fatfinger. This is a weighted clamp that increases sustain and decreases the number of dead frets.

Guitarists also accept that guitars made of wood are organic. This means that we have to be able to work around some unique characteristics, such as the fact that they can’t be used in certain situations. improving your ability to mute/dampen. It all depends on the severity of the problem.

Fret Dressing

Badly worn frets are another cause of dead frets. This is more common on older guitars that have been used a lot.

One fret, which is usually located in the most frequent position on the neck, will wear down over time. It is better to replace the fret than to level the rest of the frets to the exact same height.

Swapping out one fret is much cheaper than a complete refret.

Other cases involve the crown, aka the bead, becoming worn on the fret. This increases the fret wire’s surface area and creates a greater point of contact for the string. This allows the string vibrate against the fret wires which absorbs most of the energy from the note.

Although it won’t create a ‘deadnote’, it can cause fret buzz and poor intonation. It can also lead to faster passages of the strings.

Your frets should be crowned to minimize the contact area at their top. If you don’t know what you’re doing and have the right tools (notched straight edge and fret file and/or leveling beam or crowning file or 3 corner file), you might be better off taking your guitar to a professional or practicing fret dressing on an older guitar.

Fret dressing can be a difficult job that requires patience. If you’ve never done it before, fret dressing is not something you should do with a guitar that you value.

A repairer or luthier can inspect the guitar and tell you if it would benefit from a complete fret dressing, e.g. All frets should be leveled, as well as crowning and polishing. This allows the string to glide over the fret wires while bending notes. It makes a guitar feel new again.

Uneven Frets

A dead fret is usually caused by an issue with the fretboard of the guitar. This can lead to one fret being higher than the rest.

Insufficient neck relief can cause this. You will need to inspect the straightness and adjust your Truss rod accordingly. You can also have loose frets, which we will address below, and uneven frets that are caused by the frets wearing at different speeds.

Checking and Repairing Loose Frets

To check for fretboard movement, simply take a small piece of wood and press it against the ends of your fret wires. You will know if there is a loose fret if you feel any movement.

These can sometimes be pressed or tapped with a fret-hammer (or small mallet) to get them back in place. In other cases, superglue may be required.

Thin super glue will be more effective for penetration. Apply directly to fret slot (the channel where the tang of fret wire is seated) with a toothpick, or another small tool. You can mask the fretboard first to avoid glue getting on it.

High Frets

After you have eliminated sympathetic resonance and checked for loose frets, then your dead fret could be due to uneven fret wear.

This is the most common reason for dead frets. It is easy to spot, but it is not difficult to do. You will need either a fret rocker (or a straight edge rule) or a fret ruler. If you don’t have any other tools, you can use a credit card.

The fret rocker is a simple tool with three sides. They can be of various widths. The fret rocker covers three frets of the guitar’s neck. The middle fret is the higher fret than the two outer frets if the fret rocker can rock back and forth.

To ensure that the fret height is correct, make sure you check every fret. Also, run the fret rocker along the frets to ensure that there aren’t any uneven spots.

As you progress up the neck, the three lengths can be used to span three frets. The longer side is generally used until the 11th or 12th fret. However, once you reach the 12th fret the frets get narrower, the shorter sides of your rocker will be required.

Fixing High Frets

After identifying the high fret, reduce the fret’s height to match the surrounding frets. This can be done with a fret file. If you are not experienced with guitars of lesser value, I recommend that you take your guitar to a professional luthier. Fretwork is a specialist job and goes beyond the scope of this article.

You run the risk that you will cause damage if this work is not done before.

If you do have the tools, but have a less expensive guitar, make sure to protect it by using fret guards or masking the fretboard. These are placed on top of the frets and protect the fretboard.

Next, file the fret to the same height. To reduce the surface area of the fret at the contact point for the strings, use a 3 corner or dedicated crowning tool.

After polishing, use 1200 grit Sandpaper to smoothen the frets. Next, apply super-fine steel wool.


I hope you find the above information helpful in identifying and repairing dead frets. Some guitarists are unable to fix dead frets due to sympathetic resonance.

A dead fret is usually caused by a high-fret, which can be easily identified with a fret rocker. You might also enjoy my articles about acoustic maintenance.

FAQ for What is a Dead Fret

How do find a dead fret?

Pull the note with your index finger on the smallest string, which is the first fret, and place your finger on the first string, which is the smallest string, at the first fret, and pluck the note. The next fret should be the dead fret, so ascend up the neck and play each note there until you find it.

What causes dead frets on an acoustic guitar?

There are times when the guitar neck tension and imbalance are interfering with the string’s vibration, or the tension on the neck is too tight. There are some factors that can cause dead frets on old guitar strings, such as the way they are intonationd. A bowed neck can catch strings on the lower frets if the neck is bowed too much.

What can do with a dead fret on an acoustic guitar?

A dead fret is a fret that does not produce the desired note when played. It can be caused by one of many things, including a guitar string being too high or too low on the fingerboard.

The first step is to identify the dead fret, which can be done by playing the guitar and listening for any notes that don’t sound right. Once you’ve identified it, you can take off the string and either move it up or down to find a more appropriate place for it to be. If none of these work, you’ll have to replace your strings with new ones.

What are the benefits of a dead fret on an acoustic guitar?

Dead fret is an extra fret put on an acoustic guitar to help the player produce higher notes.

The benefits of a dead fret on an acoustic guitar are:

1) The player can easily play higher notes.

2) The player can easily play chords in different positions.

3) The string tension is reduced.

4) It allows the player to easily reach high frets.

5) It reduces the need for string bending and finger stretching, which helps with speed and accuracy.

What are the drawbacks of installing a dead fret on an acoustic guitar?

A dead fret is a piece of material that is installed on an acoustic guitar to create a specific effect on the instrument. The drawbacks of installing a dead fret are that it can make the guitar sound dull. It also changes the way chords are played and makes it harder to play certain notes.

How does a dead fret on an acoustic guitar work?

A fret is a metal bar that is positioned on the fingerboard of an acoustic guitar. The strings are pressed down onto the fret, which changes the sound of the string.

A dead fret is a fret that has been used for so long that it can’t be played anymore.

How to fix a dead fret on an acoustic guitar?

What is the best way to fix dead guitar frets? Pull the note by plucking the index finger from the smallest string at the first fret. The block of wood should be placed on the next higher fret above the dead fret, just above the smallest string. At the dead fret, resolve the note.

Ways to remove deaf frets on an acoustic guitar?

If you are a guitar player, then you know the frustration of having to deal with dead frets. The solution is more than just replacing the strings that have gone dead. You have to remove the frets and then replace them with new ones.

There are a few techniques for removing frets, but they all require some patience and a steady hand. The first one is using sandpaper to file down the fretboard until it has been removed, but this can take hours because you need to be careful and not file too much at once. The second technique is using a metal scraper like an X-Acto knife or other metal blade that can be used to scrape away at the fretboard until it has been removed.

How much does it cost to fix a dead fret?

The material used to make steel frets is extremely hard, but it is considerably more expensive to replace. It is typical for a guitar refret to cost between $200 and $400. In most cases, fretdresses, which are typically between $50 and $100, can be used without a refret, and will solve most problems without the need for one.

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