I recently acquired an acoustic guitar made in 1979. I love everything about it, except for the frets. They are the shallowest I can recall seeing, and I've had guitars 40+ years old before. If I fret a single string carefully, it can be played cleanly with no buzz or anything. However, it's very hard for me to do any bar chord cleanly on all strings. Well, it takes a lot more effort than I have to put in on acoustic guitars with higher frets.

This has me pondering questions about fret size and wear.

First, I wonder if the frets originally came this low or if they were worn out over time. I thought fret-wear from usage would cause indents in particular places in the fret (e.g., beneath the strings), but these frets are uniformly low. So maybe they were made low to start with?

This leads me to wonder if the frets were made this low to start with, maybe the guitar is perfectly playable as is, and I just have been using higher frets to mask sloppy technique? Maybe sticking with this guitar and learning to play it clean will teach me better technique?

Basically, I'm deciding whether to (1) give up on this guitar, (2) stick with it as is, (3) keep it and re-fret it. The guitar was under $500, and I've read that a re-fret would be around $300, so a re-fret does not seem economically prudent. I like to learn how to do my own work on guitars, but the little I've read makes me think that a re-fret is too big a task to take on myself.

Bernie Sanders for President!
The frets have probly been levelled sometime fairly recently if they haven't got grooves, so you can't say much about their original height.

What make of guitar is it? Is the action height good? Is their still some saddle left showing above the bridge. Do do like the sound? The answers to these would influence my decisions about any repair work.
Some guitars did have pretty small frets to begin with. If it's worn from playing it will have small grooves under the strings. I'm starting to develop fret grooves on a couple of my guitars, but not bad enough to make me file them again.

What Tony asked are good questions. A good setup may be a very good idea. I've never had much trouble with small frets, as long as I do a food setup on the guitar. Get the string height where I like it, good neck relief, nut slot depth right, it should play well. Intonation usually isn't adjustable on acoustics...

You might also consider a lighter string gauge. I've gone back to .012 gauge on my Takamine, I've played everything from .010 to .013 though. And some custom light top heavy bottom sets as well, that was usually the .010 sets. If you're currently playing .012, try a .011 set and see if it makes a difference.

Also, barre chords on acoustic take some practice and time to build up muscle strength.
Hmmm...I wonder what this button does...
if it doesn't play right, i wouldn't suggest keeping it.

btw, my husband is n the middle of a refret on an '80s charvel. i used to wonder why refrets cost so much, but no longer. he's doing an awesome job, but it's very time-consuming to do it carefully so you make sure the frets are well shaped, even in height and all the rest.
Quote by Skeet UK
I just looked in my Oxford English Dictionary and under "Acoustic Guitar", there was your Avatar and an email address!
Usually, you can just get away with replacing the first 7 frets, and be done with it.

There's even a slang term for it, "cowboy fret job", or something silly like that.

But yeah, if the frets have been leveled a couple of times, it does get harder to fret the guitar.

This assumes you're used to the tension of an acoustic, and the guitar is setup properly.

When they get that old, sometimes they're ready for a neck reset. If that happens to be the case, and you're not ready to sink some serious money into the guitar, it would be a good time to get out from under it.

Which precipitates the obvious question, "it's a 1979 what"?

Everybody writes about, "have the guitar setup". Guys, this thing is pushing 40, only God knows what the neck angle is, or how distorted is the soundboard.
Last edited by Captaincranky at May 21, 2015,