PDF Download: How to Tie Fret Knots - a Traditional Way of Fretting

Fret Not: The Fret Knot is Back by Peter Hoover

"An idea centuries old has returned..."

PDF Scan from Mugwumps Magazine, Vol 3. No. 6, November 1974   

A note from Shane:  This tutorial comes from an old issue of Mugwumps magazine, a now-defunct publication that is getting harder and harder to find.  This lesson on fret knots should hopefully inspire many new DIY instrument ideas from you all.

I first learned about tied fretting techniques when I purchased a tourist-grade Turkish saz during a trip to Israel back in 1989.  The instrument is fretted up the neck with nylon filament frets, each one wrapped around four times.

You would think that the metal strings would cut into the frets, but it doesn't The saz plays just as good today as when I purchased it thirty years go!

I've scanned the original Mugwumps article and converted it into a PDF so you can download and print out for your own use.  

A CALL FOR IMPROVEMENTS:  If you have a better technique for traditional tied-and-knotted frets, please post them below!  If you try any of these ideas, make sure to also take photos and post a builder's diary, too.

PDF Download: How to Tie a Traditional Fret Knot

About these plans:  In researching various obscure musical instruments, I have discovered the treasure trove of information from Mugwumps, a now defunct magazine originally published by Michael Holmes of Silver Spring, MD.  The bi-monthly journal celebrated old time music, unusual folk instruments and served as a classifieds for the emerging bluegrass community of the 1970's.

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I’ve had some success with baling wire.

Same Hobby Lobby cord on a 3 string before gluing & trimming. Easy peasy, give it a go?

I didn't have to take the strings off to tie them on, definitely a plus?

Hi, in the opening notes Shane mentioned the Mugwamps magazine, I used to get that publication back in the day. They even had me listed as a guitar builder in some issues. I still have those Mugwamps mags as well as copies of a magazine called Frets. My only source of lutherie info other than the Guild of American Luthiers quarterly info sheets back then. 


Pardon me chuckling a bit, but you fretted an instrument, played some cool blues licks on it - but used a slide and not the newly tied on frets (unless I missed something) in the demo.

Really neat idea regardless. I bought some 20 gauge jewelry wire yesterday to try this with.

Sorry, I kinda jumped the gun & recorded the clip before I dropped the action? I’ll be sure to post one of the finger style vids I made. my intention was to show how simple it is to do, so that people could try it themselves? I actually did a few one string necks, instead of using traditional burned fret markers & the sound I got still sounded like it was fretless, pretty interesting, I’m sure it has something to do with the density of the fret material :)

Unrehearsed rambling...

Thanks so much for this. It does have that fretless banjo sound (like those minstrel banjos). I will definitely have to try it. Thanks for not taking my comment badly. I wasn't trying to bust your chops (no pun intended unless chuckled in the least bit). 



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