Guitar Is Fretting Out: What It Means and How To Fix

There is nothing worse than a guitar that doesn’t ring out, or perform properly when you bend strings. There are many conditions that can cause a guitar to play poorly when bending. But there is one that is quite common, which is an issue called fretting out.

Fretting out is a condition caused by an improper guitar string height. When the strings are too close to the fretboard, and a bend is performed, the note will choke out. This happens when a string bend is performed, and it then touches a higher fret than the one you are playing.

In this article, we are going to explore what causes the condition of fretting out, and how you can resolve it.

guitar fretting out

What Does It Mean When a Guitar is Fretting Out?

When a guitar is fretting out, it means that the string is touching a higher fret when bending it, and it dies out. This is a result of an improper string height and is quite common with guitars with a round radius on the fretboard.

Any guitar can suffer from this condition, but some are worse than others when they are not set up properly, or if frets are beginning to wear out. When a string touches a higher fret, it can cause the note to choke out.

Some vintage style Fender electric guitars with a 7.25″ radius suffered from this condition because the strings would eventually make contact with a fret when performing big bends. Gibson’s had a radius of 12″ and were considered better guitars to perform bends on as a result.

What Causes Fretting Out?

There are a few things that can cause guitar fret out. And because the guitar is an intricate instrument that isn’t perfect, it doesn’t take much to have this happen. This is one sound that will make any player cringe!

Bridge Is Out Of Adjustment

The bridge is the part of the guitar that the strings are attached to on the body. And if it isn’t set up right, it can cause all sorts of problems, including fretting out. This is more than likely the issue when the guitar is fretting out above the 12th fret.

The bridge needs to be in the correct position so that the strings have the right height, and depending on the design, the proper radius adjustment. Performing this adjustment is quite a bit different between the electric and acoustic guitar.

Action Is Not Set Right

The action of a guitar is how high the strings are from the fretboard. If the action is too low, the strings will be too close to the frets and cause them to touch when bending.

Truss Rod Adjusted Wrong

The truss rod is a piece of metal inside the guitar that helps support the neck. If it’s adjusted too tight, it can bow the neck and cause the strings to be too close to the fretboard. If It’s too loose, then the bow will be too great, which can also cause the choke out of the string.

This is also referred to as neck relief and needs to be set just right. You also need to hope that the neck is not warped.

Frets Are Worn Out

If the frets are worn out or not level, they can become lower than the surrounding area of the fingerboard. This can cause the strings to touch higher frets when bending and cause the note to choke out.

How to Fix a Guitar That is Fretting Out?

The first step to fixing this problem is to check the frets. Making sure that your frets are level and in good shape is important. If the frets are worn out, then they will need to be replaced. If they are not level, then a fret leveling job will need to be done to correct the issue.

When the frets are in good shape and level, then the choke out of your strings is the result of the guitar needing a set-up.

Adjust The Saddles

Guitar Saddle

The saddles are the small pieces of metal on the bridge where the strings sit in. They can be adjusted to change the string’s height. Some saddles can be adjusted independently of others, and some require the whole bridge to be moved.

If you have a saddle that can be adjusted on its own, then you can raise or lower a string to correct this issue. You will need a radius gauge for your guitar fingerboard and an Allen key. Then simply adjust the saddles until they fit the radius gauge.

If your guitar has a wrap-over bridge, then you will need to adjust the entire thing using the two bolts on either end. Then set the height accordingly until the fretting out condition goes away.

Adjust The Truss Rod

The truss rod can be used to adjust the relief of the neck. If your guitar has too much relief, then the strings will be too close to the fretboard when bending.

If your guitar has too little relief, then the bow in the neck will be too great and cause the string to choke out. The best way to adjust the truss rod is by using an Allen key and adjusting it a little bit at a time until the right setting has been obtained.

Adjust The Action

The action of a guitar can be adjusted by using the screws on the bridge. The goal is to have the strings as close to the fretboard as possible without causing them to touch when bending.

If you have a tremolo bridge, then you will also need to take this into account when adjusting the action. But if the saddles are set to the right height and the neck relief is good, then the bridge needs to be lifted as a whole.

Conclusion

Guitar fretting out is a common problem that can be caused by many different factors. The most important thing to do is to check the frets and make sure they are level and in good shape. If they are not, then they will need to be replaced or leveled.

If the frets are in good shape, then the issue is likely due to the guitar needing a set-up. This can be fixed by adjusting the saddles, truss rod, or action. Once the right setting has been found, then the strings fretting out should go away.

If you are having trouble finding the right setting, then it is best to take your guitar to a professional for a set-up. They will be able to properly adjust all of the different factors and get your guitar playing great again.

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Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear.I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!