Narrow tall and medium jumbo are two of the most common fret sizes on Fender guitars, but what is the difference between them? In this article I’ll explain everything you need to know about these two fret sizes to figure out which is the most suitable for you.
In a rush? Here’s the quick answer.
Narrow tall frets are taller but thinner than medium jumbo frets. Narrow tall frets make hammer ons/ pulls offs/ bending easier, however they make it more likely to push notes out of tune. Medium jumbo frets make the fretboard feel smoother and are better for players with a heavier touch.
Comparing the Sizes
The fret size on a guitar (e.g. narrow tall or medium jumbo), refers to the width and height of the fret wire, not the space in between the frets as is sometimes confused. Both the width and height of the fret make a difference to the feel.
Narrow tall frets are 0.019″ taller (35%) than medium jumbo frets, however they are 0.016″ narrower (18%). Here are the dimensions for each fret size.
|Fret Size||Fret Wire Width||Fret Wire Height|
Impact of Fret Height
Narrow tall frets are taller than medium jumbo frets.
With taller frets you feel less of the fretboard wood, since the strings are further away from the fretboard. Note: this is not the same as the action which relates to the string height in relation to the fret height and not the fretboard itself. Conversely, with medium jumbo frets which are shorter, you will feel the fretboard wood more.
Taller frets feel better for:
- Hammer ons/ pull offs (because less pressure needs to be applied)
- Bending (because there is less friction between the fretboard and fingers)
However, shorter frets:
- Make it less likely to push notes out of tune
- Feel easier to slide up and down the fretboard
This is because there is a larger gap between the fretboard and strings with taller frets, so there is more risk of the notes being pushed out of tune if too much pressure is applied. Some players prefer to use thicker strings which are under more tension to compensate for this.
Medium jumbo frets feel easier to slide up and down the fretboard because they are shorter in height, so feel less obtrusive. Narrow tall frets on the other hand can almost feel a bit like speed bumps.
Impact of Fret Width
Medium jumbo frets are wider than narrow tall frets.
Many guitarists prefer the feeling of wider medium jumbo frets because they feel smoother. This is because the angle is not quite as steep between the crown and the fretboard so it’s easier to slide up and down. Combine this with the fact that medium jumbo frets are also shorter and it results in a much smoother feel.
However, a disadvantage of wider frets is that they can result in more intonation issues if the fret becomes worn. This is because the point of contact between the fret and the string is more likely to shift towards the tuners (away from the bridge) which pulls the note sharp.
Does Fret Size Affect Tone?
Fret size has a very minimal impact on the tone of acoustic and electric guitars. Frets with more mass have slightly more sustain but at the expense of some clarity and definition.
Since there are so many other variables that affect the tone of a guitar, especially if you have it plugged into an amp or are playing in a mix, you are extremely unlikely to be able to hear the difference between a guitar with medium jumbo and narrow tall frets.
Which Fret Size Should You Choose?
Choose narrow tall frets if:
- Prefer not to feel the fretboard wood as much
- Have a lighter touch
Choose medium jumbo frets if:
- You prefer the fretboard to have a smoother feel
- Have a heavier touch
I’d highly recommend that you try both options in your local guitar store. Many guitarists have no trouble playing with both fret sizes and switching between the two, whereas you’ll find others absolutely hate the feeling of a certain fret size.
What Fret Sizes do Fender Guitars Have?
Fender and Squier Guitars with Medium Jumbo Frets
- Fender American Ultra
- Fender American Ultra Luxe
- Fender Player Plus
- Fender Player
- Fender Vintera Modified
- Squier Bullet
- Squier Affinity
Fender and Squier Guitars with Narrow Tall Frets
- Fender American Professional II
- Squier Classic Vibe
- Squier Mini
- Squier Paranormal
- Squier Super Sonic