Do flatwounds ruin frets, or...

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MattBansheeMattBanshee Frets: 560
...are people just idiots?

I was in Andertons at the weekend and they had a second-hand 2010 MIM Jazz Bass on the wall, so I decided to give it a go. It felt a little strange off the bat, which I put down to a noticeably chunkier neck than mine, and a maple fretboard. Quickly realised though that it was strung with flatwounds, which I don't have a huge amount of experience with. It sounded quite thuddy and dull, which I assumed was a combination of the flats and being plugged into a shitty EBS practice amp.

As I played it more though, I started playing further up the neck and it sounded godawful, with notes choking out and zero sustain. I had a close look at the fretboard to find that the frets were either so badly worn they were almost completely flat on top, or otherwise they've been filed down. Either way, the thing is ruined and IMO shouldn't really be on sale at market value in that condition. The question is though; will flats really destroy frets that quickly, or has someone done this deliberately? Considering my own MIM Jazz is from 1994 and doesn't have anywhere close to that level of fretwear, I was surprised to see a bass that relatively new in such a poor condition.
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13660
    If anything, they will eat frets a lot less than roundwounds
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  • MattBansheeMattBanshee Frets: 560
    So, is it possible that someone was trying to get a pseudo-fretless sound by grinding the frets down? Just to prove I wasn't going mental I compared the frets to another brand new Fender bass on display and this one had definitely been damaged pretty badly.
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13660
    So, is it possible that someone was trying to get a pseudo-fretless sound by grinding the frets down? Just to prove I wasn't going mental I compared the frets to another brand new Fender bass on display and this one had definitely been damaged pretty badly.
    I've played old basses that have had flatwounds on all their life and there has been minimal wear, if any at all. Certainly less than old basses I've seen with rounds.

    It does depend on the flats, of course, but mostly it's safe to say that flats won't wear down frets anything like rounds
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  • StrangefanStrangefan Frets: 2635
    I think it may be to do with how stiff flats are compared to round, 
    www.deadhappyband.com
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13660
    I think it may be to do with how stiff flats are compared to round, 
    I've noticed a lot of variance in stiffness from one set of flats to another - and of course it depends on scale length etc.. 
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  • MayneheadMaynehead Frets: 1170
    Sounds like it's had a ski-ramp neck join in the past and someone's tried to (unsuccessfully) hack a fallaway into the upper frets?
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  • Phil_aka_PipPhil_aka_Pip Frets: 8618
    I've not noticed any appreciable fret wear with flatwounds, neither do I think that flatwounds give you a dull thud. Caveat I've played my bass a lot less than my guitar.
    "Working" software has only unobserved bugs. (Parroty Error: Pieces of Nine! Pieces of Nine!)
    Seriously: If you value it, take/fetch it yourself
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13660
    I've not noticed any appreciable fret wear with flatwounds, neither do I think that flatwounds give you a dull thud. Caveat I've played my bass a lot less than my guitar.
    I think scale length, pickup placement and type, and amp choice have just as much to do with dull thud tbh. 
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 31192
    If anything, they will eat frets a lot less than roundwounds
    Agreed.

    Maynehead said:
    Sounds like it's had a ski-ramp neck join in the past and someone's tried to (unsuccessfully) hack a fallaway into the upper frets?
    That's what it sounds like to me too...
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 2964
    So, is it possible that someone was trying to get a pseudo-fretless sound by grinding the frets down? 
    It is possible that someone tried that but it would never have succeeded.

    will flats really destroy frets that quickly, or has someone done this deliberately?
    No and yes, in that order.

    In my opinion, if the bass had always sported flatwound strings, there would have been very little wear - even from the most aggressive finger vibrato.

    You have said nothing about the neck relief and the action. If I had to guess, I would say that, at some time, the pre-owned bass had "enjoyed" the attentions of an amateur luthier. Rather than make the necessary adjustments to gain string clearance above the frets, somebody chose to remove fret metal below the strings. When this did not work, flatwounds were used in a crude attempt to minimise fret rattle.

    I was surprised to see a bass ... in such a poor condition.
    I agree. The retailer ought to have given the pre-owned instrument a thorough workshop inspection and rectified any problems before exposing it to the risk of purchase.
    I fear the Geeks, even when they bear GIFs.
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  • Phil_aka_PipPhil_aka_Pip Frets: 8618
    I've not noticed any appreciable fret wear with flatwounds, neither do I think that flatwounds give you a dull thud. Caveat I've played my bass a lot less than my guitar.
    I think scale length, pickup placement and type, and amp choice have just as much to do with dull thud tbh. 
    or even bass type. I've heard Rockenbackers give a dull thud such that you couldn't tell the difference between a B and a Bb and this has somewhat biased me against them. You're right about those other variables though :)
    "Working" software has only unobserved bugs. (Parroty Error: Pieces of Nine! Pieces of Nine!)
    Seriously: If you value it, take/fetch it yourself
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13660
    I've not noticed any appreciable fret wear with flatwounds, neither do I think that flatwounds give you a dull thud. Caveat I've played my bass a lot less than my guitar.
    I think scale length, pickup placement and type, and amp choice have just as much to do with dull thud tbh. 
    or even bass type. I've heard Rockenbackers give a dull thud such that you couldn't tell the difference between a B and a Bb and this has somewhat biased me against them. You're right about those other variables though :)
    Very true - hollowbodies have more dull thump, whether with flats or rounds - specially shorter scale like the Hofners. 
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