Temporary Guitar Frets

A question every microtonal guitarist has to face is “which tuning do I want, who is going to do the re-fret, how many guitars can I find room for, how much is that re-fret going to cost me and how long will I wait for it to be done? Most microtonal guitarists end up with a bunch of guitars in different tunings. The alternative, guitar synthesizers, are great but they still do not have the same playability as a real guitar even if they can be re-tuned to other tuning systems with relative ease.

What I’ve done here is taken a Fender Squier strat that I had made fretless about a year ago and put on 8″ cable ties. Since where I filled in the 12 equal frets are still visible and everyone knows what 12 equal sounds like I placed the cable ties in 12 equal positioning.

The action had to be raised – but I had the action ridiculously low as a fretless guitar so that is not surprising. While there is some buzzing especially on the high E and B strings the guitar is playable as I demonstrate and is in pretty much in tune without much fuss. If you want to change tuning and the ties can’t be moved to your new position all you have to do is use wire cutters to remove the old ties and install new ties. I purchased a package of 100 ties for less than $4.

Tomorrow I plan to buy 6″ ties from Frys Electronics since those have even less height. When I had the idea at Frys I wasn’t sure how much length was needed for the neck circumference and decided to grab 8″ over the smaller 6” ties.

9 Responses to “Temporary Guitar Frets”

  1. Rob Scott says:

    This is very clever.

  2. admin says:

    Thanks for the listen and comment!

  3. […] in packs of 20 they are very narrow and thin and quite an improvement from my previous attempt at Temporary Guitar Frets. And yes, you can make some adjustments to the exact fret board placement and no they don’t […]

  4. Bill says:

    I’ve found your site doing a search via Google for “refretting” do’s & dont’s.
    Looking at your video – and especially your statement: “Most microtonal guitarists end up with a bunch of guitars in different tunings” – I’m surprised (well, TBH not have checked if I’m right) that the Line5 Variax Guitar seems not to be of interest as it allows to “create” whatever tuning you like at/using the “workbench” (that’s the Line6 Variax software which allows to adjust the tuning/pickups etc pp).

    Google: variax workbench

    Might be less interesting for fundamentlist guitareros but definitely worth a look.

    Sorry for my bad English. I’m from Germany.

    Greetz :o)

  5. admin says:

    Hello Bill. From what I can see what Variax means by alternate tunings are variations of 12 equal. That is not what would be considered microtonal from a western world perspective. Right now I have a 17 note per octave, 19 note per octave, an 18 note per octave, and an adjustable fret guitar presently in 14 note per octave. This is very different from drop D or open G tuning. Thanks for your comment and link though. It looks like interesting software. My comparable solution is a Roland GR-20 guitar synthesizer which I can play in any tuning, microtonal or not, I desire. Please see my entry http://chrisvaisvil.com/?p=139 for details.

    Have a great day,


  6. Ray says:


  7. […] of temporary frets. Image by Mo Kaiwen 莫楷文 Thanks to Chris Vaisvil for the […]

  8. admin says:

    Mo refined the cable tie idea even further.


    To get the zip ties to sit flat, I used needle-nose pliers to pinch the part on the right edge of the neck to create a sharper angle; then I braced the locking edge and pulled the end tight with the needle-nose pliers.

    After further experimentation, I decided to alter the zip ties to make the part that sits on the neck thinner — that way there was much less “fret” buzz. I simply took a solid pair of scissors and trimmed up the middle of the ties before tying them.

    (I kept the outer end as wide as I could, so the locking mechanism would still work, then cut much narrower when I reached the part that sits over the neck.)”

    He has some music with his cable ties available here: http://www.staplethistoyourforehead.com/search/label/Bohlen-Pierce

    His main article:

    Trackback URL http://www.isaw.co.uk/close-up-of-temporary-frets.html/trackback

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