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Fretless Bass: Dead spots, buzz, or strings?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by frankthetank727, Jul 23, 2012.

  1. frankthetank727


    Jul 7, 2011
    I've got a fretless 6 string bass and as of late, I have noticed that on almost exclusively the A string (and mostly the 5th fret and higher) it sounds like what I am hearing is fret buzz although I wasn't aware that was possible on a fretless bass. I am unsure if it is fret buzz due to a set up issue or if they are true dead spots. I don't know if they are are dead spots though because the sustain doesn't necessarily die out on these areas, but i do get some audible buzzing that makes it through the amp when I play, especially on the higher frets. I should note that I have had this bass about 2 years, and haven't really had to have it set up because I haven't experience any issues. I have never changed the strings (because i haven't wanted to shell out the money for them) though because my playing habits fluctuate with this bass. Could the strings be dead and causing the buzzing problems or is it more likely an issue with the fretboard/bass itself? I've got stock Carvin stainless steels on it right now.
  2. Does the action seem lower than usual? Might need a little truss rod adjustment. Flat or back-bowed fingerboard can cause what you describe.
  3. frankthetank727


    Jul 7, 2011
    No the feel of the bass hasnt really changed. The action is pretty much where i want it and would even go lower if i could.
  4. Well, time to measure relief.
  5. Slowgypsy

    Slowgypsy 4 Fretless Strings Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 2006
    NY & MA
    A dead spot is a lack of sustain and fullness in a particular note... not what you're describing.

    I think you've simply worn some grooves into the fretboard. It's a perfectly natural and normal thing that happens when a fretless board meets roundwound strings.

    The correction is to slightly re-dress the fretboard -or- fill in the grooves -or- whatever the luthier you take it too determines is the proper fix after a hands on inspection.
  6. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    OK, it's a fretless bass; you can't have fret buzz. Also, dead spots are a phenomenon that occur as location(s) of greatly reduced note sustain as a result of the resonant frequency of the neck and they have no association with string buzz against the fingerboard.

    So, what you most likely have is an area or areas where the fingerboard could use some dressing. A good luthier should be able to do this for not a great deal of $. But, if it's a maple fingerboard, you'll lose the finish in these areas and refinishing will be needed to prevent gray oxidation.

    Edit: good point slowgypsy; it might be that rather than having some raised spots on the fingerboard, the strings have worn down the board in spots, essentially creating the same problem from the opposite end of things. Some epoxy or superglue done by a pro might fix that up.
  7. frankthetank727


    Jul 7, 2011
    Yeah, I mean I definitely can see where the fretboard is worn. I can see little lines up and down the fretboard under where the strings are. So then I guess my best bet would be to take it in and see what my guy can do/recommends.

    By the way, my fingerboard is Ebony.
  8. Slowgypsy

    Slowgypsy 4 Fretless Strings Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 2006
    NY & MA
    String wear on a fretless fingerboard is normal. Ebony is a durable wood, but eventually roundwound strings will wear grooves in the wood. Some folks use flatwound strings as the wear is minimal... but you should use the strings you want to get the tone you want.

    Redressing the board -or- filling in the grooves is a typical and standard repair... nothing exotic about it at all.

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