Building a fretless; help a fellow bassist out.

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Wiljo, May 19, 2005.

  1. Wiljo


    May 19, 2004
    Hello all. I've been a longtime lurker (probably from around late '99 IIRC) and I finally decided that it is time for me to lose my Talkbass-virginity ;) . My dad has started building a fretless fiver for me a couple of months ago and things are shaping up pretty nicely. Specs are:

    5 string fretless
    5 piece maple & mahogany neck, thru-body
    mahogany body wings
    ebony fboard
    34,5 inch scale
    18mm string spacing
    Hipsot bridge, Gotoh tuners, all black

    The problem is that I'm having a hard time deciding on what pickups to put in this bass. This will be my first fretless and I have a somewhat limited experience with them. The bass will be passive and therefore I'm lookin for pretty hot pup's. I am going to possibly use an outboard pre with this bass. I know that I definately want two pickups but after that things start to get complicated. Due to the fact that I'm located pretty much in the middle of nowhere, I have a pretty limited choice on what to buy. I'm interested in DiMarzios and Duncans and if anyone has some info about the "smaller" European manufacturers such as Delano, Bassculture etc, please share your opinions.

    I'm after a pretty agressive, growly, punchy and mid-heavy sound and I'm planning on using roundwounds (I'm going to get an upright for that classic "thud", some day :bawl: ). What kind of pup's would best complement the wood choices etc.? Do you guys think that a fretless benefits much from a series/parallel switch?

    There are some pics online at Be gentle though, this is the first instrument my father is building :) . Sorry about the long post guys, it's just that I need your opinions on what to do :confused: . Thanks for the help!

  2. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    I've got no help with the pickups, (I'm soon to be in the same boat myself so I'm watching this thread :D ), but I did just want to say that there's really no need to be gentel... That's a GREAT looking bass!!

  3. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    I've been thinking about the same thing lately, since I'm going to rebuild a fretless 5 that I made (new body, same Moses graphite neck). On that bass I ended up with a single humbucking J pickup (a carvin) but positioned more where the rear coil of a musicMan style humbucker would be rather than the usual jazz bass position.

    It sounds fantastic, but I'm thinking of going with a wider aperture humbucker with a coil switch, so that I could still get this sound off the rear coil, or turn on the forward coil for a bigger sound.

    I don't really think "neck" pickups sound good on fretless basses. My favorite fretless is the Zon Legacy Elite Special, so I'm also considering springing for two pickups and putting them in those locations:
  4. I guess a MM pup could do the trick you're looking for.
  5. Pete skjold

    Pete skjold

    May 29, 2004
    Warsaw Ohio
    Hey there ,

    I would look into Delanos for where you are . They sound great and are priced affordably. For a punchy mid range on a fretless I would suggest a MM style pickup. Put it in the sweet spot and you will have a well balanced sound that favors the mids. I am using a similar setup on my personal bass. Your bass should sound good passive as well as active so that can be added later.

    Good luck with your project ;)

  6. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    I'd go either J bass or PJ. You have more tonal options for J's alone than all other pup dimensions combined. The pup shape is exactly that - practically anything can be in the housing. I've had roughly 75 different sets of pups and about 30 sets of J's - believe me, you pretty much get any tone you want with a J. With a PJ, you merely extend that range.

    You can't go wrong with Dimarzio Model J's or Model J Model P (for a PJ) for starters - not only in tone but value. Both are 4 lead humcanceling so you can get quiet series/parallel with each pup. The model J bridge by itself will go from jug bass to slap and has ample output. It's the standout of any sinlge pup I've had to date.
  7. Cerb


    Sep 27, 2004
    I can't really give you any pup advice, but that bass looks quite nice. The only thing I worry about is that fingerboard. You must have Sasquatch sized hands if you are able to play that thick thing ;).
  8. Bartolini MME triple coil.

    Nice mids, humbucking and noiseless single coil mode. Wonderful pickup if you like the tone of Barts.
  9. Vorago

    Vorago (((o)))

    Jul 17, 2003
    Antwerp, Belgium
    Nice bass :) Too bad my Finnish is rather sloppy ( ;) ) but it looks very good for a first bass. Is your father a carpenter ?
  10. Saint


    Mar 2, 2000
    DC - USA
    I used Bartolini W4J's (with a carvin pre-amp) in mine (quadcoil jbass pickups): they sound fantastic --very french horn like-- but are very hard to find.

    A very different, but equally great fretless sound can be had with EMG-J pickups --probably with an EMG BTC preamp for added flexibility. Although active, they are very easy to install.
  11. Wiljo


    May 19, 2004
    Hello all and thanks for all the suggestions! I really appriciate it. To Vorago: no, my father is not a carpenter. He's only done some minor woodworking a long time ago. He doesn't play the bass but he is a drummer, go figure :) .

    It seems that many of you have suggested a MM pup. By sweetspot-postion, do you refer to eg a MTD Kingston and it's pickup placement? I have a Kingston fiver and although it definately is punchy in the midrange I think it lacks some lows. I have to rely too much on my EQ to get enough bottom end. I was thinking that maybe the mahogany body and a neck pup would help with the lows. My other basses do not seem to pose the same problem (although this does depend on a lot of things).

    Do you guys think that a soapbar w/ a coil switch in the bridge postion and a jazz pup in the neck position would be a good idea? I'm guessing that this combination would give me a fairly wide tonal range for a passive bass.

    BTW, there are a couple of "newer" pics at my fathers webpage at the bottom which show the mahogany body after a treatment of "osmocolor". I think that the body is turning out to look quite nice. The bass is also missing (in addition to the pups obviously :) ) a ramp that will go between the pup/pup's and the output jack.

    If you guys have any more comments or opinions, please share them. The help is greatly appriciated.

    Thanks, Wiljo
  12. Wiljo


    May 19, 2004
    Hello again! I wanted to bump this thread because I once again need your opinions. We, me and my father, decided on Kent Armstrong soapbars since we got a helluva deal on them :) . Right now I'm a bit puzzled about how to wire this beast up. Since the bass is going to be passive, this is what I had in mind: 3 pots (vol/blen/tone), the tone pot would have a "pull-switch" for series/parallel. Also two coil-tap mini switches for each soapbar. I think this would be a pretty straightforward setup but I am, as always, seeking for other ideas & opinions from fellow bass players. Do you guys think that some kind of groovy "selector-knob/switch" eg.Skjold or Brubaker would be a better idea? Thanks again for the help. With any luck, the bass should be finished in a couple of weeks. I'll be sure to post a lot of pics and possibly even sound clips. I can tell you already that this thing has an unbelievably loud and resonant acoustic sound.. I am pretty stoked! :D

  13. Since you already know which pickups you are using you could go ahead and try them out in a variety of ways by wiring directly to an output jack. That way you would yet not be committing to any specific knob/switch layout and you will find which ways sound the best and which are most usable. Some folks like lots and lots of knobs/options on their basses and others like as few as possible. Sometimes simplicity is a good thing, especially if you have a really nice amp/pre-amp.