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Experiences converting fretless to fretted?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by tenebrae, May 4, 2001.

  1. tenebrae

    tenebrae nothing to see here move along please thank you

    May 4, 2001
    a major fault line
    I have a 7-string fretless Curbow XT-33 and the following problem:

    I NEVER play above the 24th fret on this 33-fret instrument because good intonation is impossible (for me, anyway) in that register. So one of the main features of the bass is going to waste. It is difficult to play while seated because of the cutaway and I'm not even playing up there!

    I am considering a conversion to fretted to enable use of the upper registers, but 1) I am unsure of whether or not rockwood is difficult to work with, and 2) This is a GREAT sounding fretless. I can't get a response from Greg Curbow. BTW, there doesn't seem to BE a fretboard (rockwood is very hard). Yes, you play directly on the neck.

    I live near Seattle and hear the renowned Mike Lull can do ANYTHING with an instrument.

    Any thoughts/experiences with conversions/Curbow/Mike Lull?
  2. tenebrae

    tenebrae nothing to see here move along please thank you

    May 4, 2001
    a major fault line
    A closer shot of the body:
  3. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    Well, Welcome to TalkBass.
    I can't answer your question, because I'ven ever even heard of someone wanting to turn a fretless into a fretted... But I'm sure someone will know.
  4. Here's my take on this:

    Two years ago I had a fretless MIA Precision fretted. This has become my main gigging bass.

    The reason I had it fretted was that I wanted a fretted P bass and at that time there wasn't one for sale here in Ankara (Turkey). The only P bass on sale in the whole city was a 1996 fretless P. It was cheap because no one wants fretless Ps here (fretless players are after a very different tone). So I bought it and fretted it.

    The advantage of fretting a fretless is that the first fretting of a bass is always the most smooth. If you get it done by a pro, he will easily do an excellent job.

    The disadvantage is that you no longer have a fretless. But since I didn't want a fretless P, that didn't matter. I bought that bass with the intention of fretting it.

    I think it is not a good idea to fret a bass just because you have problems with its fretless form. The only reason for fretting a bass is that you want a fretted bass. The bass will change its character entirely if fretted. You may not like it. If you think its fretless tone is excellent (which you do) you WILL regret fretting it.

    I would strongly suggest that you either keep your bass fretless or sell it and buy a fretted bass you really want.

  5. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska

    I have no particular experience converting a fretless to fretted, but I do have experience with Curbows. There is, in fact, a separate Rockwood fretboard, but it's usually the same color as the neck, and so the seam is almost impossible to detect.

    First, though it's possible to convert a fretless to a fretted, you're probably going to have a hard time finding someone with experience working with composites like Rockwood. (I understand it carves like regular wood, but it still may require some special approach to fret.) Even more than that, you're going to have a hard time finding someone willing to tackle a fretting a 33-fret (er fretless) 7-string from scratch--most places won't have the fret-slotting equipment for necks that wide or fretboards that long. It's possible that a fretting specialist like Lull will, but there's certainly no guarantee.

    Second, it sounds like you have more reservations about the instrument than the fact that it's fretless--the difficulty of playing it while sitting, for instance. I agree with Andy--you need to assess whether this bass is really for you. Fretting the bass is not going to make it any easier to play while sitting (for instance), but if you like it for the fretless tone, you'll blow that by having it fretted. No point in getting rid of the feature you like best about the bass on the basis of some notion that you have to use every inch of the fretboard that's available. And even fretted, those upper ranges will be fairly hard to use, I suspect, given how close together the frets will be.

  6. Ok, here is a nutty idea, what if you only fretted the upper register of the neck and leave the lower as is??? That would make for an interesting sound i am sure.
  7. tenebrae

    tenebrae nothing to see here move along please thank you

    May 4, 2001
    a major fault line
    Thanks for all the input, everyone!

    I didn't mean to give the impression that I was unhappy with any aspect of the Curbow; I would love it equally - fretted or fretless. I only play fretless occasionally and would probably use it more if fretted. Also I don't have a fretted 7-string and though I am looking for one, I also don't have $5K to have Mr. Curbow build me another like it.

    I'll probably keep bugging Mr. Curbow for info about the properties of Rockwood and give Mike Lull some numbers to find out if it's even possible. I am guessing, though, that given the wood, the neck width and the number of frets that it is likely going to set me back $500 - $750. There are other details like raising the inset bridge that may send costs spiraling out of feasible range. Oh well, it won't hurt to ask.

    I could never sell this bass to buy another fretted 7. Why? Well, it likes to whisper to me when my mind is vulnerable....mostly at night....it tells me to do things......crazy things....*undistinguishable mumbling*........it said if I ever sold it, it would hunt me down and....*mmmmmph*.....and gut me with its razor-like headstock........*whimper*.......

    Anywho, to basseddie: That would be a fantastic plan if only it didn't defy the laws of physics :)

    Thanks again to all, and perhaps this thread may help someone in the future...
  8. Well, I liked basseddies idea the best but there is another middle-of-the-road solution. The idea comes from our own John Turner and his fretless 7's and 8's.

    Why not have the upper registers lined instead of fretted? Johns have a very nice dark contrasting lined across the fingerboard that is barely noticeable from just a few feet away. That way you could retain the full fretless look, feel and sound and get those upper notes intoned.

    By the way, keep at Greg for an answer. When you own your own shop, there are many things that can get in the way of getting a response. Just keep trying. I know him second-hand but all of his friends speak very highly of both his work and personality. I am sure he will be able to do the work for you.
  9. tenebrae

    tenebrae nothing to see here move along please thank you

    May 4, 2001
    a major fault line
    That is an excellent idea! Thanks!
  10. A cool effect to linning the upper register, would be to have them fade out and dissapear as they approch the headstock, that way there will not be a definate place were the lines end. Just a thought.
  11. tenebrae

    tenebrae nothing to see here move along please thank you

    May 4, 2001
    a major fault line
    I don't know how that could be done other than many, many shades of many, many different kinds of wood.
    But that would look freakin' amazing!:D
    You rock, basseddie!

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