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8 String Fretless Jazz

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by MPica, Apr 24, 2010.

  1. MPica


    Feb 13, 2010
    Well this is just an idea I've been toying around with, but I hope to start working on it once summer rolls around the corner and I'm finished with school. I am in no shape or form a builder of any sort, but I love modding basses, and I think this would be a pretty cool (and difficult!) mod to do.

    The basic idea is to take a cheapo fretless jazz, either a squier VM or an SX, load it up with some nice pickups and hardware, and modify the headstock to hold 8 tuning pegs to make it an 8 string, double octave coursed bass.

    I'll put much more detail into all the exact specs later, but the first thing that I want TB's input on is if this is even possible. My idea was to fill up all the original holes, and then drill 8 new ones (4 big, 4 small). To make room for that I figured it would be 6(3 big, 3 small) tuners on the side that the holes originally were one and 2 tuners(1 big, 1 small) on the other side. Is there enough space on a Jazz headstock to accommodate that?
    if not, I'm perfectly fine with ordering an 8 string neck from Warmoth and putting it on an SX or Squier body. In fact, that might be an even better option since I could get a nice ebony fingerboard, but my plan was to keep it as "original jazz" as possible, and that included the jazz bass headstock.

    So, any ideas or suggestions?
    I appreciate it, Thanks!
  2. TheRatt


    Apr 24, 2010
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I doubt you'll be able to comfortably fit all 8 strings on a jazz neck and headstock. Just go with the Warmoth neck, and happy modding.
  3. IDK- the 6+2 thing miiight work, but I'd suggest trying to draw it out full-size before committing money or cutting anything. I'd also be surprised if you could get 8 strings to work on a typical Jazz width nut (1.5" is pretty tight). Interesting concept- Mark Egan did/does some fretless 8/10 string stuff w/a custom doubleneck Pedulla, IIRC. Maybe Michael Manring, too...
  4. SamanthaCay

    SamanthaCay Like bass guitar OMG!

    Nov 16, 2008
    Denver, CO.
    You know, I have actually put some thought into this as well. if you want to go with all the tuners on the headstock you will need some smaller tuners. This is going to mean plugging the old ones and re drilling. It would be a lot of work. or you could put some banjo tuners back behind the bridge and anchor the ball ends to the headstock which seems like it might be a little less work. Also I’m afraid you might run into some issues with the jazz necks you mentioned. A: it’s to narrow and B: cheap necks usually won’t hold straight at higher tension levels.
  5. MPica


    Feb 13, 2010
    I was wondering about the neck width being too small actually, so it's a good thing you brought that up. I wasn't aware of any problems from the neck not being able to deal with the added tension however, so thank you for that info. Looks like I'll be going for a warmoth neck.
    Now with that, it only gives me one peg hole option and that's going to be the size for all 8 holes. That seems like it would be problematic, wouldn't it?
  6. MooseLumps

    MooseLumps Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2007
    The Ursa headstock will have PLENTY of room. get a p style for the extra wide nut and go hog wild
  7. Yeah, the Warmoth 8's headstock requires using all full-sized bass keys, which looks just wrong to me, as well as adding unneccesary weight to the whole deal. I saw a 8-string conversion bridge on a 70s P at BassNW awhile back, but I think the bridge was also pretty old & no longer in production.
  8. MPica


    Feb 13, 2010
    Yeah I wouldn't like the looks of that either. And I despise neck dive, sooo...
    MooseLumps, you really think the Ursa headstock would be good? I'd really prefer a jazz instead of a precision(for this, I mean. I do love my P basses:D) but IIRC, I think all of Rondo's basses have the same nut width, regardless of whether it's a P or a J.
    Worth looking into...

    Edit: Nope, they differ. Hmm, I suppose I could go with a precision if I had too, or maybe even a P/J.
  9. MooseLumps

    MooseLumps Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2007
    It's a tiny difference, but it will help. Also, if you use Ultralight bass tuners and tiny guitar machines, they ought to fit. there's a lot more room on the new headstock because of the lack of a cutaway
  10. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    With all due respect you guys, this thread is filled with misinformation.

    1. yes the jazz neck can accommodate double course stringing. The nut width is tight, but I've actually done it so I know for a fact that its possible - its tight, but playable.

    2. simply go with lighter gauge fundamental and octave strings. The truss rod can accommodate this on a squier.

    3. you will need to cut an entirely new nut, not just add slots to the old one.

    4. you'll want to plug the existing holes and drill new ones. This is not a difficult task at all.

    5. you won't get spectacular neck dive, it will be hardly noticeable. Especially if you use a high mass double course bridge. In my case, the guy didn't care at all, and I also found it to be pretty well balanced - its not going to turn your jazz into t-bird.

    6. yes, the 3/mini 3 + 1/mini 1 will work and all the tuners will fit just fine. Use a smaller diameter shaft tuner choice for maximum space savings.

    7. the pickups will have no problem capturing the full sound.

    8. if you scrap this advice and go with warmoth, (unnecessary IMHO) just get them to ship it undrilled and drill your own holes.

    9. post up your work into this thread so you can get advice and support along the way.

    happy modding...
  11. MPica


    Feb 13, 2010
    I really appreciate all that information Beej, thanks! I knew about plugging the holes and drilling new ones, and about cutting a new nut too. I didn't mention it because I figured everyone would have known that :D

    Good to know that you've actually made it work with jazz spacing. I was thinking about getting a 5 string and using that to accommodate the 4 double courses, but it looks like that won't be necessary.

    Next thing to think about is what my victim will be. Leaning more towards a Squier, but the amount of money I would save by doing it on an SX is very appealing :confused:
  12. Darkstrike

    Darkstrike Return Of The King!

    Sep 14, 2007
    There's no fact there, just personal taste, I know a 1.5 nut wit double courses would be completly unplayable *for me*. That depends on the player completely, just like all nut width prefrences.
  13. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    The fact is that it is possible to string it up with double courses. The impossibility of it was implied in the first two responses to this thread. It may not be comfortable initially, but just like going from bass to mandolin, eventually the player will get used to it. The fact that it is doable was the fact to which I referred. My apologies if I came off strongly, its just that many aspects of luthiery are simple construction techniques that will or will not be possible. In my view, posting up speculative stuff that is akin to wondering aloud is the same as a person posting up in the general instruction forum their "opinions" regarding music theory. As John Turner posts in the stickies in that forum regarding music theory:
    In my view, this is something that should be considered in this forum as well...
  14. Darkstrike

    Darkstrike Return Of The King!

    Sep 14, 2007
    Well, yes, indeed you are correct, its definatly mechanically possible, as it were, but for some it would IMHO(been playing 8's for years, fwiw), make the instrument unplayable, which was all I was pointing out, but, as you say, this is a simple construction issue, that is possible.
  15. MPica


    Feb 13, 2010
    Well on the subject of the nut width, is there a general consensus on what is a good width for an 8 string? I've never played an 8 string before, but I do prefer 1.5mm.
    For me, when it comes to 4 bangers, I can make do with a P bass neck but prefer a J. I imagine this would be a comparable situation.
  16. Aligator944


    Apr 20, 2010
    Kirkland, WA
  17. MPica


    Feb 13, 2010

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