A lined fretless idea

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Bocete, Jul 10, 2008.

  1. Bocete

    Bocete My E string is 36 1/4" long

    Sep 30, 2006
    Alright, I'm no luthier so this might be a bad idea :)

    From what I've read, roundwound strings will do short work on a fretless fretboard. Jaco never practiced on his fretless because of that. And his fretless was lined, sort of..

    Why not, instead of wooden markers, use metal ones? Think of them as sub-frets. They shouldn't affect the sound or the feel, but will definitely greatly enhance fretboard durability.
    Of course, this is only possible with a lined fretless.

    I wouldn't be surprised if this was commonly done already.
    Anyway, what do you guys think?

  2. Stealth


    Feb 5, 2008
    Zagreb, Croatia
    Hmmmm. Very interesting idea. Shame that an experiment of this type would be too expensive to just give it a shot.
  3. You might get some opposition to the old 'rounds eat fingerboards' chant, but irregardless of that, I think metal fretlines would wear at a slower rate than the surrounding wood(there's still going to be string contact outside of perfectly on the fretline), causing uneveness & bad playability.
  4. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Inactive

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    For years some people when defretting a fretted bass have simply filed down the metal frets. While the metal certainly would wear slower than the wood, since the string would only contact the metal when you fingered the note there, I don't see it appreciably diminishing wear overall.

    OTOH I'm one of those people who only uses roundwounds on fretless and still don't experience much if any wear. How you play has a bigger affect on board wear vs. what you use. IMO IME. Parallel to the board vibrato is one of the keys.
  5. Jarno


    Jan 27, 2005
    I think there was a manufacturer who did this, maybe in the weird and wonderful 70's and earlier.

    I also think that you get strange changes in sound when playing slides, or sliding upto a note. I disagree on the cost of trying this though, it's just a lot of effort. $40,- of maple, $20,- for a set of machineheads of the special "eBay" variety and away you go.
    Trimming the steel after you glue it in the fretslots is not going to be easy, think Dremel overtime. And you will need stainless steel, or the lines will tarnish (although on a maple board this wouldn't be very problematic, you would end up with reddish brown lines when using shim steel, blackish lines with brass strip).

    Interesting experiment! (too bad I'm finishing my Rickenbacker/Ashbory first have an eight string neck and 6 fretless neckthrough already in the works, and that's just the instrument related projects).

    If fretboard wear is bothering you, you could also use a metal (I think aluminium) fretboard like the Vigier Delta metal series did. But I don't think fretboard wear is really a problem, a worn board is easily refinished and especially ebony doesn't wear THAT easily.
    But a metal fretboard is interesting soundwise, I think, major treble!

    Best regards,

  6. I saw something like that on Ebay i think. The seller called it a "frettedless". I've also seen basses with frets only on one side of the 12th fret and fretless on the other side.
  7. Jarno


    Jan 27, 2005
    And I have seen a bass a couple of years back by a company called Vester, which had fretted E and A strings and fretless D and G (or the other way around).

    Best regards,

  8. Yvarg

    Yvarg Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    Lake Forest, CA
    I did that to a bass I had around a few weeks ago. It's really easy to do, just carefully pull out the frets, cut them in half with heavy duty scissors, file the cut edge, hammer them back in, and fill the half slots with something. Looks pretty cool.
  9. Bocete

    Bocete My E string is 36 1/4" long

    Sep 30, 2006
    I've never thought about vibrato as the neck eater, even though my frets have always had big-time string marks.

    Are there other ways, besides horizontal vibrato, to lessen the fret(board) wear?
  10. No, horizontal vibrato is the biggest killer of fretless necks, it seems odd to me that some people still do this when the whole point of a fretless is that you can apply vibrato simply by rolling your finger in the same way as a cellist, or even get more radical vibrato by sliding.

    BTW, I was one of those people who made themselves a fretless around 30 years ago by simply filling the frets of a cheap Japanese jazz copy (Antoria - I think) until just the fret tang remained in the board. It was a serious amount of filing and made my hands stiff for a week.

    It worked though and there were no real downsides or odd effects from the remaining metalwork. The bass didn't sound fantastic as a fretless, but then again it didn't sound any good as a fretted either - which is why I did it
  11. ogrossman


    May 20, 2006
    Minneapolis, MN
    Hmmmm, now I'm confused. On a cello I'd call that vertical but on a bass that technique would be in the horizontal direction.:meh:
  12. jweiss


    Jul 5, 2007
    Park City, Utah
    Roscoe uses aluminum for their fret lines on lined fretless basses. It is the standard material for their fretless basses.
  13. jweiss


    Jul 5, 2007
    Park City, Utah
  14. Maybe I should have said ensuring your vibrato is played by subtly (or not so subtly) varying the speaking length of the string by rolling your finger or sliding it alternately backwards and forwards, first towards the bridge and then towards the nut (or vice versa if you prefer). Take care to keep your movements along the length of the string rather than alternately pushing and pulling the string in a perpendicular direction to it's axis thus creating vibrato by varying it's tension.

    But I thought that would be a bit of a mouthful ;)
  15. I've played cello for 2 1/2 years now before starting bass and now I always end up doing my vibrato by rolling my finger over the string, and I know this wouldn't seem to do anything 'cuz the fret is what blocks off the string, I still get a nice vibrato sound out of it...go figure.
  16. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Inactive

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    I always refer to it as using a vibrato motion that's parallel with the neck vs. pushing the string across or bending.

    Lower action minimizes wear. So does a lighter touch. Just turn your amp up to compensate. Combine all of these and you'll likely experience neglible wear at the worst.
  17. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Inactive

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    It's the perpendicular motion that causes the windings of a roundwound to score the fingerboard IME.
  18. Arx


    Jan 22, 2008
    Are you sure it's vibrato that chews it up, not abrasion of the strings vibrating on the the "Mwah Zone"?
  19. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    I'm fairly certain that it is the perpendicular motion causing the fractional string wear I see on the bloodwood fingerboards I've sent out in the past. The worn spots are always wider than the string, and right at the position markers, which indicates perpendicular motion, to me.
  20. Thunderthumbs73


    May 5, 2008
    Roundwounds do not in all cases do "short work" on fretboard. I have a standard MIJ Fretless Jazz Bass. It's my first bass. It came with roundwounds. It has had roundwounds for all of it's 14 years, but for one. I have played this bass on countless gigs and countless hours of practice. It has what I consider to be very minor string markings on it's Rosewood surface and does not need a neck job or fretboard replacement. Not even close. I've even done some slapping and popping with this bass. All things considered, I'm amazed it has held up the way that it has, but I offer the experience as a differing opinion on that particular part of your post.

    Good luck with it!

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