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fretless bass intonation setup question

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by electricdemon3, Jul 28, 2000.


  1. electricdemon3

    electricdemon3

    Jul 28, 2000
    how do I set up the intonation on a fretless bass neck that does not have fret marks? It is hard to tell if I am exactly over the harmonic with my finger where the octave is.
    The harmonic can still be produced even if i move my finger slightly up or down the neck, which affects where the pitch will be if I press down on the neck to play the octave. Is there another way to set the intonation on a fretless?
     
  2. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    To begin: The reason you must intonate a fretted instrument is that a fretted note will sound where the fret is -- and you can't move the frets. On a fretless on the other hand, if you know where the in-tune position is for each note on each string, you don't theoretically need to intonate a fretless bridge because it is possible to adjust finger placement to play every note in tune. In the practical world, however, where ordinary people intend to play the 7th position at the same spot on all of the strings, then you probably want to justify the strings all to each other. (I do.)

    Most fretless basses have SOME position markers. Mine has side dots on the neck binding. You use those to finger the octave. The harmonic needs to match THAT fingered note. So it's your job to finger in the same spot every time -- good advice in any case with a fretless.


    If your bass has NO markings, then YOU have to decide where you're going to finger the octave. On a 34" scale instrument, use exactly 17" from the fingerboard edge of the nut. I suppose then you should mark that spot, at least to finish the intonation job for all of the strings.

    Re: your question about being able to produce the harmonic within a range: That is exactly WHY you use the harmonic -- it'll ring true no matter where you hit it.

    Let me know if you're still having trouble with this.


    ------------------
    *******************
    * eli@ilovefretless.com*
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    [This message has been edited by Eli (edited July 29, 2000).]
     
  3. electricdemon3

    electricdemon3

    Jul 28, 2000
    thanks for the info. I already have a fretless that has fret lines made of maple in the neck. I had no trouble setting the intonation on that bass. But now I would like to purchase a fender P-bass and replace the neck with a warmoth fretless without fret lines since I dont look at the neck anymore when I play. I also found out that warmoth necks come with the side dots that line up with where the frets would be. I guess I could put a straight edge across the fretboard lined up with the side dot where the fret would be. To ensure that it is a perfect 90 degree angle, I would hold another straight edge flush with the side of the neck against the straight edge that goes across the fretboard. Then I could put a piece of masking tape across the fretboard along the straight edge to mark where the 12th fret is and set the intonation with the edge of the tape. That way I can be sure to line up all the finger positions properly on each string vertically. This may sound like a lot but I am a perfectionist when it comes to setup. Also, call me crazy but I like the sound of precision pickups better than jazz pickups in a fretless.
     
  4. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    Finally gotback to TalkBass and saw your post.

    If you want to take it to the nth degree and if you frequently play high up on the neck (like I do), then here's the next step: repeat the intonation process at the 19th "fret". Again, you'll have to decide where you're going to finger this position. If this bridge setting wants to be substantially different from the 12th fret intonation setting, adjust the bridge *half* the distance and recheck the 12th fret intonation. Then you keep going back and forth until you reach the best compromise; one position will be a little sharp and the other will be a little flat.

    This having been said, on fretless I really feel it's not possible to be this perfect in fingering the really high positions, and you're going to be using your ears more to be in tune up there than your eyes and the fret marker dots. So my practical advice is, don't sweat this step as much as the 12th fret. It's more important, and less worrisome, to perform this 19th fret adjustment on a fretted instrument where you really can't "fix it on the fly".

    Let me know how this goes, OK?

     
  5. electricdemon3

    electricdemon3

    Jul 28, 2000
    Yeah I usually use the 19th fret as a check when I set the intonation. I'll let you know how it goes but it may be a while before I start my fretless project since I want to buy a new drum machine and some more mics. I have been doing alot of recording lately with friends but right now I only have two mics and a borrowed old school roland tr 707 machine. Originally I wanted to make a fretless out of a p bass because that is my favorite sound but since I already have a yamaha fretless p bass, I have been thinking about purchasing a 6 string fretless. The only one in my price range is a Carvin. However, if and when I get one I'll let you know how the intonation is when I get it. I have never bought from carvin before but hopefully it will come with perfect intonation. Ive gotten new instruments before that came with terrible intonation but nothing I couldn't fix.
     
  6. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    Yeah, the price is the reason I got my Carvin fretless 6 -- least expensive fretless 6 on the PLANET (new, at least). The fact that is a really nice bass came as an extra.


     
  7. mactac

    mactac Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Victoria, BC, Canada
    I`m not sure I understand. You should be able to adjust intonation without frets at all. You just need to find the octave harmonic (it`s exactly the 12 way point on the string), and make sure it`s tuned exactly to the right note using a good quality tuner. If you`re a bit off on the harmonic, it doesn't matter, because it`ll still sound, and if you`re far off, it won`t sound at all (it'll sound a different note).
     
    AltGrendel likes this.
  8. JustForSport

    JustForSport

    Nov 17, 2011
    And when intonated (on a fretted bass) the saddles are NOT 90' across, so why would the harmonics at the 12th (half distance) be 90' across the fingerboard?
     
  9. mactac

    mactac Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Victoria, BC, Canada
    Very good point. OP, are you 100% clear on how intonation works?
     
  10. mactac

    mactac Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Victoria, BC, Canada
    Wait - are you thinking that you need to use the "pluck the harmonic and compare against the fretted note at the 12th fret" method of setting your intonation? Because that's not the best way to do it, especially on a fretless!
     
  11. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Supporting Member

    Feb 28, 2014
    San Diego, CA
    When I got my first fretless (1985, I think) I found it utterly puzzling - and I too was very worried about correct intonation, etc.
    Eventually, I learned to *let it go*. It took me years to figure it out, but the best way to plan fretless bass with good intonation it just to play the snot out of it. Gigs, practice - use it when you shouldn't. Just play it and your fingers start figuring out how to maintain good intonation. I know, sounds odd - buy there it is.
     
  12. mactac

    mactac Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Victoria, BC, Canada
    I think the OP is talking about setting the intonation per string via the saddles. Sure, with a fretless, it's less important, but you do want to be fretting all the strings at approximately the same place on the fretboard. In other words, if you're playing around the 12th fret, you want the notes to be all be aligned so the E,A,D,G are all at the same place.
     
  13. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Supporting Member

    Feb 28, 2014
    San Diego, CA
    Oh, I know he is - which, frets or no frets, is dead easy - but I recall fiddling with my bridge back on my first fretless because I was SURE it was the intonation of the instrument that made me sound bad - But I learned.