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Fretless Intonation Problem

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by bass-shy, Jan 30, 2006.


  1. bass-shy

    bass-shy

    Jan 11, 2005
    Florida
    So, I defretted a bass a few weeks ago. It is an ESP LTD B-50. The defret went well and looks great, but I am having trouble intonating it properly. At the 12th fret, the harmonic and fretted notes are very close. However, notes at the 5th fret are all noticeably flat. Tuning this bass with the 5th fret and next open string method is impossible. I have a feeling that it has something to do with the nut. I filed the slots down during the defret process, but I don't know if I went far enough. Also, the neck is almost completely straight and I am using 40-100 DR Hi-Beams, if that matters. The notes around the 5th fret ARE between the lines, they are just very close to the next, higher fret. It appears to me as though the strings are having to travel too far to reach the fretboard, thus making them flat. I thought I would consult the ever-helpful TB before digging into the nut again, just to be certain. Does anyone know if I am on the right track? All opinions and advice are welcome. Thanks.
     
  2. My experience is that height of the strings may affect.
    You say the 12th fret is very close? Try to adjust the brigde a bit (use a tuner) so that the 12th match both by harmonics and finger on fret
     
  3. bass-shy

    bass-shy

    Jan 11, 2005
    Florida
    Yeah, the notes at the 12 fret are within one cent, the tuning discrepancy of my Korg DT-10. The "in tune" light stays on constantly, I just know that there is a potential for them to be a little off. According to my tuner, they are dead on.
     
  4. Did you have this problem when it was fretted?
     
  5. bass-shy

    bass-shy

    Jan 11, 2005
    Florida
    Well, I defretted it the same day I got it so I don't really know. I bought this bass specifically for defretting and upgrading. I figured I would learn how to do things like electronics and hardware changes and defretting on a cheap bass. My intention is to learn how to do these things, not to make a cheap bass better. Hopefully that is the case, though.:meh:
     
  6. it would have probably helped if you would have intonated the bass with those same DR strings prior to the de-fret...however, don't fret (haha...bad pun)...

    you need to "temper" your tuning...that is, first set up the 12th-fret harmonic with the marker, THEN tune the strings again...then repeat the 12th...(repeat as necessary)...

    now move to the 5th position/next open tuning and tweak it so that it sounds good...you WILL have to finger slightly sharp here, regardless...it's either finger sharp here at the top or finger flat at the bottom (it's a fretless, YOU choose the intonation that works for you).

    Once you get the hang of it, the lines will only be a guide and your ears and fingers will determine the pitch, not your eyes.

    as far as your nut slot, it plays some in the game and should be set quite low...but that's not all that plays into the equation...string gauge, action, and relief also play a big, big part...
     
  7. bass-shy

    bass-shy

    Jan 11, 2005
    Florida
    So, is it normal for notes not to fall directly between the lines on a fretless? I have been playing fretted basses for years so I am familiar with set-up and intonation, but this is the first time I have attempted to do anything with a fretless. It is possible for me to play this bass in tune, it just seems strange that the notes near the 5th fret aren't spaced evenly. I don't know if this is typical of fretless basses or what. Thanks for your help thus far.
     
  8. Still I think you have some adjustments to do on the bridge.
    (and maybe change strings).
    Last desperate advise: Are you able to bend the neck sideways? Might be it..
     
  9. bass-shy

    bass-shy

    Jan 11, 2005
    Florida
    Well, I can't bend the neck sideways. BTW: What would that imply? I have never heard of such a thing. I will heed your advice and make more adjustments with the bridge. It took me a long time to get the intonation to be as good as it is now. Maybe a few more tweeks wouldn't hurt. Thanks for your help.
     
  10. Volk

    Volk

    Dec 18, 2005
    South Jersey
    Ummm, unless I'm mistaken on a fretless bass you play ON the lines, not inbetween them. Basically your finger becomes the fret. That's probably your problem.
     
  11. kjones

    kjones Supporting Member

    Dec 4, 2004
    Maryland
    Volk is right (I've played fretless 30 years). If you think about it, a fretted bass strings vibrates beginning at the fret. Similarly, you should be putting your fingers right on the fret line for correct intonation.
     
  12. Kronos

    Kronos

    Dec 28, 2005
    Philadelphia, PA
    Actually, according to Gary Willis, on the lower notes, you should have the fret line basically in the middle of your finger, the 12th, your finger should be slightly behind the fretline, and the further up you go, the further back your finger goes. Here's what I'm talking about. This should also help you intonate your bass.

    http://www.garywillis.com/pages/bass/bassmanual/intonation.html#3
     
  13. kjones

    kjones Supporting Member

    Dec 4, 2004
    Maryland
    Actually, to be precise, it's even more complicated than Gary is stating in his book (and website). For exact intonation advice, you also have to know the nut height, the overall action, and the string gauge as well as how hard the player presses down the strings. So you're right Kronos, there is some variation, but starting at the fretlines is a good place to begin, and as his ear develops, he should naturally gravitate to the right position.
     
  14. bass-shy

    bass-shy

    Jan 11, 2005
    Florida
    I guess it would make sense that my finger becomes the fret. I had no idea that I should have been shooting for the lines themselves, not in between them. The only other fretless I have played doesn't have lines. This will make a world of difference. This is exactly the sort of question I should have asked sooner. Thanks for all of your help. Great links, BTW. I guess it's back to the tool box for me. Thanks again.