Q: I have a six string acoustic that has developed
a "dead" note on the 12th fret of the first string (high
E). Everything else on the guitar is fine and I have adjusted the
truss rod to see if that may help, but to no avail. New strings
make no difference either.
I do not want to raise the action any higher, and all other notes
play nice and clean anyway.
When you hold this single note the string is obviously hitting one
of the frets higher up the neck (not sure which one), so the string
simply doesn't vibrate to any extent at all.
Are there any other obvious causes that I can attempt to remedy
A: The common source of a dead note on the twelfth
fret is as follows: the neck warps forward, making the strings farther
from the frets. The bridge saddle is lowered to compensate, because
if people know anything about actions it is that you can raise and
lower the saddle. This makes the guitar more playable at the first
few frets but as you go higher on the cupped fingerboard the frets
and the strings are closer and closer together until you have a
dead note. The solution to this problem is to straighten the neck
with the truss rod and then raise the saddle. The warped neck was
the problem all along, not the saddle height. It's probably wise,
at this juncture, to get your frets leveled and your nut adjusted
also, because your action is a function; if you change one variable
you have effected all the others. This is the normal diagnosis of
your problem, and it, or some slight variation of it, is usually
right. Beginning medical diagnosticians are told "If
you hear hooves, think horses, not Zebras".
But, let's go for a Zebra.
It is possible for a fret to come loose. When frets are installed
they are bent to the shape of the fingerboard and then tapped in
with many even hammer strikes. If the fret fits the fingerboard
perfectly, friction from the wood of the fret slot only has to hold
it in place. Metal memory will always outlast the ability of the
wood to hold the fret down. If an unsteady hammer blow has bent
the fret so that it no longer "wants" to stay in the slot,
the wood may hold it for years, but it will eventually rise. Also,
as the fret is driven in, it is sometimes obvious that it is in
wrong. It is then pulled, rebent and redriven. This is like pulling
a nail and redriving it into the same hole. It will be looser. In
a rare confluence of these two conditions it is possible to have
a fret that files perfectly in line but when you play on it,
it moves down, like a little spring board, becoming a low fret,
with the string stopping against the fret above it. Check for
the Zebra by pushing frets with your thumb nail to see if they move.
The cure for a spring board fret is to pull it out, bend it
to fit the fingerboard and then epoxy it back in. Wipe away all
excess epoxy, while it is still wet, with mineral spirits,
then let it dry over night. Finish the job by filing, rounding and
polishing all the frets.