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Fretless bass tone

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Leftybass12, May 10, 2010.

  1. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Big Dogs Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    Try roundwound strings and boosting the low mids - around 400 hz.
  2. RexNFX79


    Jan 12, 2009
    I personally like to scoop the mids more than usual and play with the treble and bass especially until I dial in a sound I like. I also change up where on the bass in strike the strings when I'm looking for a quick tonal change. I tend to go for a brighter tone when I'm playing fretless.
  3. snyderz


    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    Strings. Did I mention strings? Each post bumps up, so need to keep making a new thread. Strings.
  4. pjmuck


    Feb 8, 2006
    New Joisey
    Well some instruments either have "it" or they don't, but a lot of the tone is also a combination of your setup, playing position, and especially technique. Experiment with your action and PUP height as well as plucking in various positions from the bridge to neck. A lot of the "mwah" factor lies in a light touch closer to the neck heel, even plucking over the fretboard can give you the tone you might be looking for. Bump your mids to accentuate the swelling attack and mwah as well.

    When I first started playing fretless I focused heavily on my intonation and got it so good such that in early recordings my fretless Jazz was virtually indistinguishable from my fretted J. I soon realized that this was the wrong approach to playing fretless. You want good intonation, but you also don't want to suck the character out of your fretless either. Learn to manipulate your notes via glissandos, vibrato, etc., and you'll find the tones you're looking for.
  5. SlingBass4


    Feb 28, 2009
    Kansas City
    You have a coil splitter switch - start there. Switch it to single coil, re-EQ bass and amp after you've trashed the strings you're using and ordered a set of Sadowsky strings (they have a special price for multiples I recently took advantage of) configured to your taste and needs :smug:
  6. Mayers

    Mayers Guest

    Sep 28, 2007
    Don't forget that Manring has an epoxied fretboard while the Carvin doesn,t have any finish on the fretboard. Also play with fresh roundwound , mid and treble boosted help.
  7. Manring's basses fingerboard isn't expoxied, it's a synthetic fingerboard called phenowood. It's very strong and durable, so wouldn't even remotely need epoxy. The graphite neck probably has something to do with his tone, but the super hard surface has a big impact on his tone. My Conklin has a Dymondwood (similar principle) fingerboard and without trying too hard, gets a very similar Manring sound.

    I also own a polyester coated fingerboard and can say that the difference between poly and Dymondwood is significant to my ears.
  8. fretno

    fretno Supporting Member

    May 10, 2009
    Los Angeles
    Things that will change a fretless tone , strings , I prefer ken Smith compressors on a fretless , pickup panning , I often favor just notched off of center towards the bridge . This gives it a little cut in the mix . Compression and Reverb I always use compression on the input while tracking and 'verb now and then but I tend to be happy with a dry mix . Now chorus and delay really affect the tone and for awhile there it seemed everyone was using chorus on fretless and bass in general and it does offer up some cool vibes and is a nice tool to have in the old tool box . Yes some basses give it up more than others but I bet your Carvin is just fine , I had a B4f for a few years and loved it . I currently play a Linc Luthier which I would swear I like better :D but that old Carvin was great . So here's a clip of my Linc . To me it sounds like what it is . Passive barts ( dark and solid )with a a hair towards the bridge and some compression on the input with a little 'verb on the buss .

  9. MusserMusic


    Mar 28, 2010
    San Diego, CA
    With out getting too off track how would you guys describe Tony Franklin's tone. I love fretless but I'm not part of that world ...YET!
  10. queevil


    Aug 6, 2009
    I think the gear you have is fine. You just need to use what you have and tweak it. I don't think that tone is strictly about what bass you have or how you have your eq set or the strings you use. Gear is important in defining your tone but your hands play just as important of a role especially on fretless and the subtle nuances of your hands that lend to your overall tone are unlike anyone else's on Earth. Michael Manring play a very technically advanced Zon Hyperbass that I read costs about $8500 the way his is optioned. If you were to play it you would sound like...well, you for better or worse. If Michael Manring were to play your Carvin he would sound like himself.

    Someone told me something along these lines when I first started playing fretless and I'm glad because I quit listening to Jaco to try and cop his tone and instead listened to him for inspiration.

    Experiment to find your own unique voice on the instrument. It's always good to have nice gear but I think you should rely less on it and more on the creativity that's inside of you. And, as someone else said it can take a lifetime. That's ok as long as you have some fun along the way.
  11. Don Sibley

    Don Sibley

    Jun 27, 2005
    Fort Worth, TX
    Roundwounds, bridge pup, boost mids. That bass should be killer.

    Have you tried Markbass heads? I couldn't get my sound out of the Carvin amps. Markbass is a lot warmer and then just set the VPF to about 9 o'clock (YMMV).
  12. Leftybass12


    Nov 14, 2008
    Ding ding ding
  13. If you're having trouble with a lined fretless, double check the intonation. Typically, using something like a credit card at the 12th position will be a good test for your saddles. Keep in mind, perfect pitch isn't at every single line. This is why classical stringed instruments remain fretless.

    Without spending $, the best bet is to practice more. If that fails, try unlined and practice, practice, practice.
  14. Bardolphus

    Bardolphus Put some stank on it... Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2007
    Austin, Texas
  15. the low one

    the low one

    Feb 21, 2002
    I agree,

    Try different strings as they have a huge affect. For me I'm back on flats after trying rounds and half wounds but see what tone and feels you prefer.

    Try adjusting the pickup volumes and balance between front and back pickups.

    Try different EQ's but I prefer not to go too mad with EQ as I like my bass to sound as natural as possible apart from EQ'ing for the room I'm paying in.

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