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6 String Fretless players, SPEAK UP!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Selta, Sep 1, 2005.

  1. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    Sooooooo here I am, thinkin' I'm going to be buying a Laklan 55-94 fretless. All was well in Rayland. Then suddenly! (crowd gasps), I find out about a local builder who'll build me a 6 string fretless. I was kinda curious, so we agreed to meet today, and talk some things over, and I could play on a fiver that he's currently building. So, I drive out and play it. Damn, it is a serious nice bass! The body shape is pretty traditional, but he'll do anything I want. The neck was FAST (and it wasn't even finished he said!) and very, very comfortable. Unplugged this thing sounded so beautiful...
    Anyhoo, why am I posting you may be asking. Well, I'm pretty certain I want this guy to build my 6 string fretless, and I need your input! Lemme go into a bit of detail...
    This is going to be my first, and quite possibly only fretless. Therefore, I want it to be as absolutly versatile as possible. So, I need input as to what woods and electornics you think I should use. Also, what tuners, bridge and strings do you all use on your basses? Please, if you can, go into as much detail as possible as to the reasons you use what you use. This thread is mostly geared I guess for guys who have custom 6ers that they chose the electornics, but it also works for guys who have 6er fretlesses and can give me good options/opinions.
    Just to give you an idea, this is mostly going to be for jazz/fusion stuff, but also, if I can stuff it in a rock band, I'd love to do that.
    Here's what I had in mind this far, for woods (I don't know hardware or electornics really that well).

    It'll consist of a sandwich. Bubinga/Mahogany/Lacewood. Possibly an exotic top, but lacewood's pretty cool looking IMO as is.
    5 piece. I was thinking Maple/Purpleheart/Maple/Purpleheart/Maple. Dunno why really, just was (based on expirence - all my current basses are maple necks).
    Ebony most likely. Just seems like that's what it should be.

    Sooo feel free to tell me otherwise. Just, don't give me "Oh Bubinga sucks". The more detailed you guys are, the more helpful it'd be for me. I have a few weeks before this would even begin, so it's no mad rush or anything. Lemme outline kinda what I'm looking for:
    - Tight, strong lows.
    - Mids that are subtle, but can be pronounced well when/if needbe.
    - Highs that are crystal clear, yet not harsh.
    - Punchyness. Like, as if someone is pounding on you with a sledge. (I know, this can be amp as much as the bass...if not more so)
    - Ability to go from tone to tone easily. Knob tweaking is OK really!
    - String spacing in the 17/18mm range (what bridges? Why?)
    - Good harmonics, and piano like clarity and evenness.

    Anyone have any sound (hehe, pun intended) input? :p Thanks for reading!


    P.S. don't mention builders or whatnot for suggestions, I already have my guy, I just need to tell him what to do now :p.
  2. Well, I've played a lot of fretless basses, and my most favorite was one with a chambered body, piezo electronics, and passive volume/tone. If you want a full, rich sounding fretless, piezos is a must, IMO.

    The bass had a single JB-pickup in the bridge position. Punchy enough to blow a hole in the wall. Heck, I even played Kiss-covers with it. The bridge was a mix between an acoustic and an electric bridge. Wooden base with piezo transducers. It also had a mix control to blend the magnetic/piezopickup. That variety was enough for me, but I guess a preamp wouldn't hurt either. The piezos _do_ help with the highs, though. As for the pickup/s I would suggest two pickups, single coil, quite close together, closer to the bridge than the neck.

    That's all I can think of right now.
  3. pointbass

    pointbass Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    As a primarily jazz/fusion player (with a decent amount of funk tossed in) I've found my fretless 6 (FBB) to be my main, go-to player. It's a honduras mahogany body with curly maple top, 5 piece maple/bloodwood/mahogany neck-through, ebony board (lined). Bartolini pups, NTBT pre, active/passive push pull, ABM bridge and Gotoh tuners.

    Deep, kickin' bottom, one of the greatest low ends I've ever played. Really sweet melodic tones when needed, great classic mwahh .....

    I have yet to be disappointed in this bass ........ :cool:

  4. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    When was yours made? I'm building a bass right now and the ABM bridge I'll be using for it has a quick-release tailpiece.
    It's one heavy bridge! High-mass solid machined brass... very nice. Can be ordered in 17, 18 or 19 mm base width, plus a few mms +/- adjustability with the rollers.
    They can also be ordered with piezos.
    Bubinga is beautiful, too ;)
    How's about a bit of swamp ash in the body? Punchy, and has lower weight
  5. pointbass

    pointbass Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    Mine was built in 2000, 18mm .... solid as a rock :D
  6. MODNY

    MODNY Guest

    Nov 9, 2004
    i got a 6 string fretless f bass, i'm never getting rid of it, its the boobies!
  7. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    Thanks for the link. I think I just found my bridge now.
    But yeah, I need criticism on what woods to use. Would you say to use Swamp Ash instead of Lacewood? Here was my logic behind those wood choices:
    Bubinga for the sweet sweet lows and the pronunciation of the highs.
    Mahogany was for evenness.
    Lacewood was for the mid emphasis and highs.
    Weight isn't much issue. I can hold an 11 pound bass for hours on end.

    Anyone else have any input, at all?

  8. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    Who sells ABM bridges?

  9. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    nope, carry on good sir :p

    I love ash/maple & fretless... but as you know I'm playing with a single humbucker in the P spot.

    The one in progress is mostly bubinga, wenge and butternut and will have the same pickup.... so I'm anticipating a more mid heavy tone. It will be my Roundwound fretless and some flats will be put back on the ash/maple one.

    I suggest telling the builder what *you* want out of the bass and let him tell you how he can get you there.
  10. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    I tried that... he told me he's not that good with woods and what tones will come of it. He usually only uses cerain woods I guess? Dunno. He's sorta new at it (total build is 32 done right now, IIRC?), so I can see how that is. He suggested Bart pickups/NTBT pre. I was thinking Birdseye maple (wonder where I got THAT idea from), but I dunno how that'd sound.

  11. Here's mine:



    African walnut (dibetou) body, amboyna burl top, 7-piece maple-wenge neck, lined ebony FB.

    To me your wood choices sound fine, though I haven't been crazy about the few mahogany basses I've tried (but I'd love to check out that Pedulla above!).

    I'm going to go a little against the grain here and suggest that wood choices, aside from really extreme differences (like maybe ebony and basswood), perhaps don't need to be obsessed over as much as we sometimes do (and I'm as guilty as the next person). I submit that smallish differences in tone often aren't noticeable in a playing situation or can be compensated for to an acceptable degree with EQ. Going from an iAmp to an Ampeg probably affects your tone more than going from mahogany to koa.

    My own preference for a core body wood (i.e., the bulk of the body, not just a thin top) would probably be something like koa, if available, or some kind of walnut (black, claro, butternut, or the African walnut I have, which isn't a true walnut). I'm not convinced that thin tops make a whole lot of difference in the tonal recipe. You might as well go with looks in that department.
  12. gyancey


    Mar 25, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Why your local music store slightly up north in Ormond Beach - Yancey Music Center. They can order it for you. Who's building this?
  13. Bassosaurus


    Aug 27, 2005
    I recommend lots and lots of research. Do you have some favorite sounding basses? Some that always sound bad? What are they made from? Go play as many basses as you can. Take note of the materials and see if you can note similarities in those made from the same woods. Play the basses acousitcally to get a better idea how the wood is contributing to the sound (without the sound the pups are imposing).

    what the poster said about balancing woods is true. Do you want graphite reinforment in the neck? I would - but you may need some darker sounding wood in there to balance it out.

    Then you can start thinking about pups.

    Do some reading about woods too. Here's a great start:


    Think about ergonomic factors too; weight, balance, do you need to access that 24th 'fret'?

    Have the guy do a styrafoam mock up of your body style to see how it fits your body and how you hold the instrument. He should be able to sculpt it to feel reeeeaaaal nice :cool:

    I had a 6-string (fretted) made for me and I'd say it sounded pretty much just how I imagined. Wenge/koa neck through (graphite reinforced) w/ Swamp Ash /koa body. Big fan of the Swamp Ash. Most all basses that use it seem to have a character I like and it's light!

    It took the guy 3 years to make it and by then I had decided I was just not a 6 string kind of guy. Since he's a no-name builder I probably couldn't get much for it - certainly not what it's worth, but then again it only cost me $1400 so that was a pretty good deal at least. So think about that too!

    Have fun - that's an exciting project!
  14. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    All these things are true, and are things I've tried. I've been at bassing for ~8 years now :p. For fretted basses, I like bright and very midrangy (hence my obsession with Spectors). But this is just going to be for me, not really a band or anything, and I'm not looking for any real tone, just versatility. I want to be able to have the widest range of tones available to me. Whether that's from woods, hand placement or on board preamp, I don't care :p.
    I've been hitting the KS site a lot, but reading from one source can only tell you so much, so I was looking for further input.

    The person who's building it goes by the name of T.J. Clems. He's a great dude (met with him for about a half hour today, and played a fretted 5 he's working on) and his building seemed very solid and what not. Refer to my above post, or PM me and I'll be sure to talk your ear off about 'em.

    Any more input is greatly appreciated. Perhaps I'll look into different woods other than Mahogany now. Thanks everyone.

  15. justateenpoet

    justateenpoet Have you...killed the Venture brothers!?!?

    May 14, 2005
    Fretlines are always nice :p

    I've had a corvette 6 fretless for about a month or so, and I'm just getting to get consistent intonation.
  16. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    Ok, I want to bump this up... I'd just like a little bit more information. FWIW, I settled on body/neck woods finally, as well as pickups and preamp: (copy/paste from my e-mail to Tom)
    For woods, I would like to do a sandwich... bubinga/maple/ash with Buckeye or quilted maple cap. I'm pretty settled on Buckeye, though.

    I was thinking five piece, maple/purpleheart/walnut/purpleheart/maple.
    For a fretboard, I'd like ebony, 2 octave neck, with white lines.

    Pickups would be dual Bartolini, XXM56Cs from www.bestbassgear.com. They're quad coil humbuckers, in an EMG 45 shape.
    The preamp I'd like is the Bartolini NTMB, 3 band, 5.4 A/P (also from bestbassgear.com).

    ETS Bridge
    Whatever tuners and whatever nut - as long as it holds a tune well, I don't mind.


  17. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    You mean TB member tjclem ? :D

    Thin top/back sandwiches may be cool to look at, but IMO they don't have much effect besides aesthetics. That's why the bass I'm building now has a ~.625" figured bubinga top and a ~1" swamp ash back. Now, since it's not ready yet (hopefully it will be by the end of October), I can't say for sure that this works, but if you want the tone of more woods, this is the way to go IMO. 1/4" doesn't add much.

    Quad coils? If you really want P/reverse P switching, then go for it, but I'd rather just go for some dual coils if I were you. You can do series/parallel/sc switching with them for much less. Also, the Bart-Aguilar combination seems much more popular here than the Bart-Bart setup.

    Whatever nut? Haven't seen them, are they good? :smug:
    Kidding beside, I'm having a J-A-N I. (old W adjustable brass nut) put on my new bass. Even the graphite II. is practical, this should be even better.
  18. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    Hey awesome, I didn't know he posted to TB already!
    I do realize that thin slabs wont buy me a whole lot in the tone department, that's why I stuck with three core pieces and a cap.
    I'll keep what you said about the pickups and pre in mind. Which Aguilar preamp is a good match with the quad and dual coils? Thanks for the input!

  19. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    :D :p
    He posts mainly in Luthiers' Corner, at least that's where I remember seeing him the most.

    Most commonly I see the Barts + OBP-3 setup.
    Try to search for it in p-ups, IIRC the problem with the Bart pre is that it cuts off too much higs or something... It works on really bright basses (like Pedulla) but gets a bit dark on others
  20. Sounds good. I personally wouldn't put so many woods in the body sandwich. I'd just pick one core wood and use a different one as a cap for the front, and maybe for the back too. I'm not crazy about maple as a body wood from my experience, though I have to say I did have a Smith with a *soft* maple body that sounded good.

    Maple-purpleheart with ebony FB sounds good for the neck.