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Fretless necks and bridges

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by tanuki, Jan 9, 2005.

  1. tanuki

    tanuki Bass Minotaur

    Dec 13, 2004
    bristol, england
    hello michael

    obviously you would know a fair amount about the frettless bass !

    i just picked up a new frettless because the musicman stingray i was using was too chunky and clunky. its a bit of a frankenstein with a 71 jazz neck and a 62 p bass body the pick up from a 73 p bass and no idea about the rest

    thing is it is a laquered maple neck and i have now been repeatedly informed that this is a bad thing...
    what do you reckon??

    i am a groove player rather than a soloist so its all about that warm fat slide, since the bass is allready a mix of bits i was thinking about trying out a new bridge or maybew some new electronics, what would you reckomend? My tech wants to put a scaller 3d bridge on it but he is obbsessed with them, do i finally give in? Is a high density bridge going to make much difference?

    I'd really appreciate any tips you can gice me in this area

  2. Chaputa

    Chaputa Bass-Not just fo eatin anymore

    Mar 28, 2003
    Between DC & Balimore
    Hey Michael,

    I guess I want to kinda ask a similar question directly. I was had a fretless bass built recently and was asking the guy to coat the fretboard, and he refused. Said that I could do it on my own, but he didn't believe in such things. I noticed that all your fretlesses have coated fingerboards. I noticed Zon doesn't list it as an option (but I'm sure Joe is accomodating). So I guess that leads to my two questions...

    What is it that attracts you to the coated fretboards?

    Any thoughts on why people don't tend to like them?

    I know the questions can be asked on other sections of these boards... but I'm curious about Michaels thoughts on the subject.

    ...while I'm at it... What are your thoughts on fingerboard coatings, Steve?
  3. Widener


    Nov 21, 2004
    Aptos, CA
    Coated fretless fingerboards give a brighter sound. I'm not sure why someone wouldn't want the extra protection, except that they might be turned off by the tonality and want a darker sound.
  4. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    It's true that coated boards give a brighter sound to closed tones. They also offer longer sustain as the hard surface transmits more vibrational energy back into the string. I have basses with both coated and uncoated boards, but in general I do prefer the coating. It's a heck of a lot easier and more efficient to make a bass sound darker and sustain less than it is to do the opposite, so I prefer to start with as bright and long an acoustic sound as I can. A strong coating also slows the fingerboard wear which is inevitable on fretless instruments, especially if you use round wound strings. And when it does come time to re-surface a board due to wear, it's kind of nice to be sanding off the finish rather than the fingerboard itself. However, all this is really just personal preference and I'm sure tunuki's friend who refuses to do coatings has just as valid a point of view.

    As far as the mods you're considering go tunuki, it really depends on what you've got now and the kind of sound you're looking for. In my experience, a heavy bridge can offer more sustain and can help make an instrument sound more solid, but I think it probably depends on the specific instrument. In my opinion, it's important to listen carefully to the sound of your bass to try to determine if it really needs a modification or if the change you're looking for is better accomplished through playing technique. Personally, I like to get to know an instrument for at least several months before I consider making changes to it. It is tempting to try all the cool gadgets out there, but that can be distracting from the real challenge of understanding the sound that's in your heart and hands. Once you realy know what you're looking for though, don't be afraid to make any changes to your bass to get it.
  5. tanuki

    tanuki Bass Minotaur

    Dec 13, 2004
    bristol, england
    cheers for the advice,

    i was having that new instrument freak out, i allways have to hate them for a month or so before i love them i think!

    Im allready getting a better tone out of it, i had an active musicman fretless before, it seems a lot easier to get mwah, going to a precision fretless is bound to be a change in tone..

    Im finding that now i have to really dig in to get that sound it seems more honest and rewarding really.

    I will replace the bridge tho, the one it has is rattling and rusted, my guitar mender recomends the schaller 3D bridge, have you ever tried that one?
  6. Widener


    Nov 21, 2004
    Aptos, CA
    Chaptua, when I asked Joe Zon to coat my fretless board, he had no problem with it. Just ask.
  7. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    A rusted and rattling bridge isn’t good! That’s definitely something you’ll want to replace. I had a Schaller 3D bridge on the bass that was my main fretless for many years and I liked it very much. It didn’t seem to be especially fat sounding, but it added a nice detail to the sound and the adjustability is fantastic.
  8. tanuki

    tanuki Bass Minotaur

    Dec 13, 2004
    bristol, england
    i really need the thing to sound fatter, i was rehearsing with it tonight at band practice and it just is too thin.. do you know of any bridges that help this or are there any other ways? Extra weight? Pickup replecement?

    Thing is i am used to a fender 70s p bass which weighs a ton (the d-tuner tipped it over the edge! So really heavy, loads of sustain, and my old frettless is a really heavy musicman stingray, this new fretless of mine is a light p bass body with a jazz neck..

    maybe i am just expecting a tone that i am just not going to get, i wanted the feel of a jazz neck but have never been a fan of the jazz bass sound, i thought it was alll in the pickups but the neck carries a lot more of it than i expected..

    im not sure what to do about it as it feals really nice to play, the body is so comfortable, i love the feel of the neck but the sound just isnt too hot.. i dont want just throw money at it, if you had to change one thing to make it sound fatter what would it be??

    by the way thanks and appreciation for all the help so far!
  9. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    This sounds like an issue with the pickups, rather than the bridge. You can replace the pickups with something else, but first, I'd reccomend an active preamp of sorts. Raven Labs makes one specifically for P-basses so there's no modification needed. Instead of a standard tone knob, the tone knob on it has a centre detent, where there's no change. Turning it down boosts the bass and cuts the treble, and turning it up past the centre detent boosts the treble and cuts the bass.
    Also definitely worth looking into are the Aguilar OBP-1, OBP-3, and DB924 outboard preamp. The circuits for the OBP-1 and DB924 are basically the exact same, but the DB924 is outboard and you can use it with ANY bass. I've got the OBP-3 in my fretted bass right now, and it makes it sound incredibly fat when I tweak the bass up a bit.