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Fanned fretless ... who and what ...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Tony, Jan 10, 2005.


  1. Tony

    Tony

    Feb 16, 2004
    Southern California
    So it's pouring down rain in beautiful, sunny, Southern California, so I thought I'd see about getting some other perspectives and ideas on my next bass. It's going to be (obviously) a Novax'd fretless, used almost exclusively in a band playing music that is heavy, aggressive, trippy, melodic, and huge. Guitarist #1 plays through a 5150 into a Bogner 4x12 and a Rectifyer into a Recto 4x12. Guitarist #2 uses 2 Bogner Uberschall heads into Bogner 4x12 cabs. While we are not particularily loud, the sound is Massive! I use the B string a great deal, and play some reasonably fast, intricate lines on the low strings, so it's of primary importance that the B string be extremely articulate. My rig is an Ashdown EVO-RPMII Entwistle pre, Crown Xs900 amp bridged mono driving an Eden 410xst and an Avatar 410pro. Soon to add another amp driving an 18. Here's the stuff that's in stone:

    Unlined fretless board fanned 35" - 38"+

    Okay, other than that, I'm open to suggestions on woods, pups, builder, body style, etc... however, please base any suggestions on the goal of achieving the deepest, most solid, articulate, clear, gut-drilling B string possible and please tell me why you'd make the choices you'd make ...

    Thanks much,
    Tony
     
  2. Jean Baudin

    Jean Baudin

    Aug 27, 2003
    redwood city, ca
    Endorsing Artist: See Profile
    dingwall would probably be a good idea if you are talking 5 or 6 strings. more strings - I'd suggest Conklin or Bee, but I'm not sure if they'll do fans longer than 36".

    I have a fanned fretless in the works - should be interesting. :eyebrow:
     
  3. mark beem

    mark beem Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    New Hope, Alabama
    Hey Jean, any more sightings of the Hideous Claw??
     
  4. Jean Baudin

    Jean Baudin

    Aug 27, 2003
    redwood city, ca
    Endorsing Artist: See Profile
    the claw has been in a dark sleep since early december... I think it's hibernating. :mad:
     
  5. Tony

    Tony

    Feb 16, 2004
    Southern California
    As I've just traded my Benavente fretless for a fretted Dingwall Prima, and of course, because Sheldon is probably the most familiar with building fanned basses, I was definitely thinking of them. Thanks for the suggestion. Is your fretless currently being built, or is it still in the design stages? I'd be interested in keeping appraised of your project ...

    Thanks,
    Tony
     
  6. Jean Baudin

    Jean Baudin

    Aug 27, 2003
    redwood city, ca
    Endorsing Artist: See Profile
    Designed/paid for - should start soon. Details as it develops.
     
  7. Tony-
    I have a Dingwall Fanned fretless. Is fanned still the appropiate way of describing this since it has no frets? Anyway its a multiscale fretless.
    It sounds and plays just like a Dingwall w/ the added benefit of Mwah.
    I play it as my primary bass, and I'm very comfortable w/ it, it only catches me off guard if I'm playing really fast passages as the neighboring not is always a little higher/lower than the current note your playing, but otherwise it plays like a fretless.

    if you do have Sheldon build it for you (or you buy the one that available at basscentral) ensure you get the epoxy-coated fingerboard, its magic.
    frank
     
  8. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    I don't know how many strings you're looking at using, but keep in mind that you can only have so much scale increase from string to string before the angle of the frets or bridge will make the instrument difficult to use. For example, a five string Dingwall is 34-37", with four string intervals, which makes 3/4" of increase for each string jump. Any mor than this might be too much, particularly if you added in a tighter string-to-string spaceing than Dingwall uses.
     
  9. Tony

    Tony

    Feb 16, 2004
    Southern California
    Jean - thanks, I'm looking forward to it, if only to ease (or perhaps excaberate) my GAS.

    Frank (FCM3) - yep, I remembered that you were one of the holy trinity :D ... and I'm not sure exactly how a Novax fretless should be referred to ... fanned fretless is kinda catchy though, dontcha think? If it has a beat, I'll give it a 79 :hyper: When you say epoxy-coated, is that the same as the impregnated fingerboards?

    Pilotjones - this is going to be a 5-string instrument, and I was/am aware of the scale lengths Dingwall uses currently. However, having played a 36" Schack, and hearing the raves about the 39" Knuckle, my thoughts are that a bass fanned from 35" - 38" should still be playable, especially as I have reasonably large hands, and it would be maintaining that same 3/4" increase in string lengths that Dingwall uses. I'm also more inherently comfortable with wider rather than narrower spacing between strings, so that shouldn't be too much of an issue.

    Thanks for everyone's input so far, it's greatly appreciated ...

    Take care,
    Tony
     
  10. Tony-
    when i mention epoxy-coated I mean like what Jaco had, Sheldon uses some type of epoxy coating over the fingerboard to give it protection, but it also added major zing.I've had the fanned fretless for around 2yrs and I've not seen a hint of wear on the fingerboard even thou i play Dingwall roundwounds (and it gets alot of use)
    You can talk to sheldon about his thoughts on impregnanted woods
     
  11. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    If you do get it built, good luck with your intonation. It's hard enough developing muscle memory on an unlined fretless, but when you have different scale lengths for each string, you'll basically have to have your muscle memory trying to learn five completely different patterns with no guide. It'll be like playing five differently-scaled unlined basses on the same bass :D
     
  12. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    Consider this excercise on an "air bass": hold your left arm (assuming you're a righty) out in a position to play a bass neck at the 7th fret or so. Extend your middle finger as if you're reaching over the fretboard to reach the lowest bass string. Now, without moving your elbow, or changing the angle of your wrist with respect to your forearm, pivot your whole forearm, wrist and hand as a unit out to reach the nut area, and inwards the body join area. You'll find that your index finger traces out the frets (or fretlines) of a fanned fretboard or fingerboard.

    This is why people find the feel of these necks to be natural. In order to use ordinary parallel frets, the wrist has to re-bend, an additional joint motion that is largely not necessary with the fanned system, and requires additional muscle memory .

    In fact, this is the claim made in the 1904 fanned fretboard patent that precedes the Novax patent-- ease of playing.

    To put it another way, your eyes are more confortable with parallel frets, but your arm should be more comfortable with them partially converging to a point near your elbow.
     
  13. Juneau

    Juneau

    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    My next bass will be a Dingwall ABO fretless 5 or maybe a 6. Ive already talked to Sheldon a little bit about it, and once my taxes are payed and stuff, I might even have enough to get started on it!

    Anyhow, let us know what you decide to go with :)
     
  14. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    It may be more comfortable to play with your wrist moving at a natural angle, but that doesn't change the fact that with different scale lengths at every string, you will have to put your muscle memory into overdrive. It may not be as comfortable for the wrist to play the standard fret setup, but when you move your wrist down to play the next string, your fingers still only have to remember one pattern of distances. On a fanned fretless, it may be easier to play barred-type fingerings, but when you get to playing a single string at a time (which most bass players tend to do), you have five different patterns your muscle memory has to grasp. And since fretless allows so little room for error in order to play a note in tune, an unlined would make this incredibly tough, as you'd be relying on your muscle memory almost exclusively.

    Do you disagree?
     
  15. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    Yes, I disagree. The difference in concept is that your muscles/nervous system do not memorize points in space-- they memorize individual join positions.

    You see, (and admittedly, this is an idealized oversimplification of the case), for a 24 fret neck, with parallel frets, there are 24 shoulder joint positions memorized, 24 elbow joint positions memorized, and 24 wrist joint positions memorized. With 24 fanned frets there would be 1 shoulder joint position memorized, 24 elbow joint positions memorized, and 1 wrist joint position memorized.

    Index finger stretches would be 24 different positions in both cases, since even with parallel frets, there is a taper to the fretboard (except with classical guitar, or Chapman Stick).
     
  16. Juneau

    Juneau

    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    I say you can get used to anything :) Your muscle memory works just as well on multi-scaled instruments as it does on parallel fret instruments. If your used to playing on parallel frets, and try to go to an unlined multi-scale fretless, of course your going to have problems. But if you have been playing a multi-scale with the same scale lengths as the fretless you get, then your muscle memory will still be just as good as it is for people who go from parallel frets to single scale fretless. That make sense?

    BTW Frank, I agree, we should just call em multi-scaled fretless, it seems a more accurate description :D
     
  17. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    This is an interesting topic! Now I think I see where you're coming from, but it doesn't seem to apply to how people actually play. Now with fanned frets, you're still going have the shoulder positions-with the way the arm works, you can only move your elbow up and down on it's own. Any lateral movement is made by the shoulder twisting. It may not be abducting from the torso and adducting back in the same way it does to comfortably play a standard fret system, but it's still moving into a different position any time you move your hand up and down the neck. And unless you can play with the steadiness of a robot, the wrist will also move quite a bit. Simply moving from string to string requires some, although minute, wrist adjustment, as the arc of rotation the elbow and shoulder give doesn't comfortable allow you to play without some wrist rotation, fanned or not. Controlling these elbow and wrist movements can also allow your hand to stay in a similar position in different points in space, and as such you can keep your hand in relatively the same position when moving between strings and registers on a standard fret system (just hold two fingers a distance apart and move your shoulder, elbow, and wrist around to see that you can keep this distance almost anywhere your arm moves). The fingering on a multiscale bass requires much more finger movement though, as the note tones are simply different distances apart from each other on each string. On a fretted fanned instrument, this is not much of a big deal, as you can play anywhere between the frets and the note will still be reproduced. A fretless would require much more finger movement and accuracy to reproduce the proper note.

    As Juneau says though, you can get used to playing anything, and people should play whatever they want.
     
  18. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    "Fanned-Fret™" is trademarked by Novak; "Novax" as used by Novax Guitars was trademarked, but has been cancelled on 12-25-2004 due to non-filing of proper paperwork. "Fanned Fretless" has not been registered as a trademark. You could register it f you wanted to.
     
  19. Let see if I can put this correctly.
    Even thou there are differences in scale lengths on each string, the actual differences between notes (or where you'd expect them to be if it were a paralleled fret instrument) are small, maybe +/- 1/8". It took me a while to become confident on the Dingwall fretless and I spent a fair bit of time w/ a tuner to identify exactly where the perfect note was (I have fretlines as well and they are not quite perfect), but now its second nature. However, I suspect i would have had similar experience using a standard parrallel fretless bass
    Dont get me wrong I'll occasionall hit a flat or sharp note If I follow the tuning method described by Gary willis, then freting at the line becomes accurate, if I tune w/ a tuner then I have to rely on my ears and hand position more, eitherway its very do-able.
    Like everyone says you can train yourself to do many, many things, this is no major hurdle and the advantages of the multiscale outweighs any percieved limitations
    frank
    Okay- I'll trademark "fanned fretless"
     
  20. Tony

    Tony

    Feb 16, 2004
    Southern California
    Very interesting ... I'll definitely check into it. Thanks Frank ..

    Take care,
    Tony