Fretless - intonation differs from bolt-on to neckthrogh?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Joebone, Jul 17, 2013.

  1. Joebone

    Joebone Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    California Republic
    I'm blessed with good basses, a great set-up guy, and good ears - I was a professional trombonist many years ago.

    Predictably, as I play more bass, the fretless bug has hit. I know I should get with a teacher and internalize a left-hand fingering discipline, but I'm just having a ball right now, and have used the fretless on my last few gigs.

    So, the question. I recently got a Lakland prototype 34" 5-string, which is a bolt-on, as compared with the neckthrough Pedulla and Yamaha I have on hand. All axes were set up by an excellent tech, and I have the same strings on the Pedulla and Lakland. The Lakland ergonomics work a lot better for me - I got it back from set-up last night and was able to play for two hours without any wrist or hand weirdness, which I cannot do on the Pedulla. BUT it seems a whole lot harder to play in tune than the Pedulla or Yamaha - and while the Pedulla has lines, the Yamaha does not, and it does not present the same difficulty as the Lakland (which has side dots and lines, but no lines across the fretboard).

    In listening, it seems that the Lakland's notes have a lot more of the upper harmonics coming through, which I understand is typical for bolt-on as compared with neckthrough. But I'm wondering if this also means that intonation for each single note has to be dialed in that much more, so that the upper harmonics line up right for the specific key in which you're playing, whereas the fundamental-rich neck-through is "easier" to play in tune because you don't have the complication of the upper harmonics. It's almost like the neck-through resists the even-tempered scales implied by the fretlines on the Pedulla. OTOH, I've thought of those lines as a distraction.

    Am I on drugs? Anyone else have thoughts on this?
  2. 73jbass

    73jbass Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2004
    Probably the 35" scale of the Lakland for the difference tone and intonation. 35" gives you a bit more room for error.
  3. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    The position markers on all fretless basses are really more like suggestions than the rule of law. I've always found lines to be a bit distracting, but it all really comes down to personal preference. As long as your markers get you in the ballpark, your ears, as they develop, will get you the rest of the way.

    As far as more upper partials on a Lakland... there are so many variables. It doesn't really matter why it sounds the way it does in the long run, you'll find that before long you're making the adjustments you need to make without thinking about it.

    I switch out between a lot of fretless basses and they all have different degrees of in-tuneness (Did you see me just make up a word? Cool!) but after a few minutes I find my feet and I'm fine. The more you switch between the three, the less you'll notice the change.
  4. inthebassclef

    inthebassclef Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2012
    Here is what I have found to be the case more than bolt-on versus neck through. The strings you use on a fretless. I have found that for fretless basses you need to use a string that intonates well when compared to fretted basses.
    I had a fretless p bass for a long time and now have a fretless J as my P bass finally kicked the bucket.
    Certain strings do not intonate well on a fretless bass. For example I received my p bass with tapewounds on them and they did not intonate well at all even though the set up was spot on. Then I switched it to TI flats and it intonated perfectly.
    Had the same situation with the jazz bass. To me it had been more of a string thing than a design differential.
  5. Joebone

    Joebone Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    California Republic
    It's a 34" prototype....35" isn't the issue.
  6. Joebone

    Joebone Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    California Republic
    Agreed that dots/lines are ballpark - the fascinating thing is that tiny increments seem more critical on the Lakland. You probably are right that I just need to spend time with it - got a few minutes in this morning, and felt more comfortable.
  7. Joebone

    Joebone Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    California Republic
    Totally agreed on that string thing! I'm using R. Cocco nickelrounds on the Pedulla and Lakland - they are also my round of choice on fretted basses, because they do have this weird ability to sound more in tune, when chording, than any other string I've used. Also love the TI jazz flats, which I use on one of my two fretted basses, and am playing with DR flats on my 4-string Yamaha fretless, getting more of an old-school and woody sound.
  8. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    Really, where you place your fingers is going to differ from bass to bass, regardless of the make. I'm sure things like strings and setup make a difference too.

    In this case, i think the Lakland may have better note definition, giving you the idea that the intonation is better, simply because you can hear the note better and more clearly.
  9. pnchad


    Nov 3, 2005
    been playing nearly exclusively fretless for 40+ yrs and have about 18 high-end FL basses

    I prefer lines for when things get loud but I must say...

    FL is about 85% listening - you'll learn to ever-so-slightly roll the pads of your fingers to bring the note into tune - when you're good it's inperceptable (sp?) - string insturments, by definition are not 'tempered' even with frets

    somewhere on here is a bass or guitar with the frets adjusted for more perfect intonation and the actual fret location varies from string to string but as much as a 1/4"

    it's all ears man
  10. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Imperceptible. You were so close....
  11. Tone makes a big difference to how well you can hear pitch. I recently stripped the paint off the fingerboard of my cheap upright, which made it much more articulate but also forced me to pay a lot more attention to where I put my fingers.