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Fretless players: What about a nut made of the fingerboard wood?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Temcat, Feb 5, 2016.

  1. A question to fellow fretless players: does anyone use a nut made of the same wood as the fingerboard? If yes, has it actually improved tone consistency for you?
  2. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Other than almost every upright bass player?

    I've played fretless basses with ebony, plastic, bone, tusq and brass nuts. The only one that had an unpleasantly noticeable tone difference between fretted and open notes was the brass one.
    Lia_G likes this.
  3. Well, I meant a fretless electric bass, not an upright. Intuitively, brass nut doesn't sound like something that would work well on a fretless in terms of tone consistency. Did you hear a noticeable improvement with an ebony nut or was it just marginal?
  4. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    The difference between ebony/plastic/tusq was so little as to be insignificant.
    tfer likes this.
  5. Thank you, that's good to know. So I probably won't be specifying an ebony nut if I decide to order a new fretless neck.
  6. Smoove-Groove

    Smoove-Groove We've got bush, We've got bush!

    Jun 18, 2013
    Ontario, Canada
    The only problem I could see with a wood nut would be the slots deepening over time from wear a lot quicker than plastic from tuning/re stringing etc...
    gebass6 likes this.
  7. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    I mean, do it if you want, just don't expect it to sound much different.

    Its more important to get the nut cut exactly right. That makes a huge difference to feel and playability.
  8. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    May 3, 2009
    N.E Illinois
    Since a nut is quite small the string pressure can put it at risk for breaking more than any other material.
    Strength,hardness,brittleness and density of the wood should be considered.
    mech likes this.
  9. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    I was thinking something similar.
    I probably wouldn't do a skinny Fender-style nut out of wood, but a thicker Les Paul style one on a tilt back headstock instrument would be structurally sound if installed correctly.

    The person who pointed out that wood would wear out faster than other materials has a point, in theory at least. If you used roundwounds and a D-tuner it would wear out a lot faster. With flats and staying in standard all the time, it would last decades.
    JustForSport and gebass6 like this.
  10. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Can't go wrong with either TUSQ or bone IMO. As was said before, getting a nut that's properly cut and installed is more important than anything else about it. (One more argument for a zero-fret when you think about it. I'm surprised you don't see more of them on fretted basses.)

    There's an ultra minute difference in tone between bone and tusq if you really listen to them when unplugged. But it doesn't translate once you plug your bass in AFAIC. YMMV on that.

    Nice thing about synthetics are they come in colors. With bone, it's pretty much whatever color it is. Some people are very particular about that. I generally prefer cream or white depending on the instrument. But that's me. I don't get crazy about it. I just think those two colors look best.
  11. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru.......... Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2006
    Here is my Martin Keith Elfin 5 fretless with a matching nut (ziricote).

    Elfin 5 FL-Headstock-Detail-1200_9148.
    Photograph Copyright © Jeffrey P. Scott 2010 All rights reserved.
  12. blowinblue

    blowinblue Blue in name only. Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2006
    SoCal USA
    Ebony nut and fingerboard. To my ears consistency is somewhat improved but open notes still sound different than board notes.


    M. M.
    lz4005 likes this.
  13. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    On the fretless basses I build, I use an ebony zero block and an aluminum nut. The zero block functions like a zero fret; it's the final contact edge with the string, out in front of the nut. The aluminum nut keeps the spacing of the strings, and provides a smooth radiused ramp for the string to rest on as it turns down into the headstock.

    To answer your question, yes, making the nut or zero block from ebony will make the ring of the strings more equal between open and fingered positions. But, like the others have said, there's not a whole lot of difference in the hardness between ebony and bone or Tusq. The difference will be more noticeable between ebony and metal.
  14. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    My Roscoe fretless has Diamondwood fingerboard and nut.
    Came that way, so I can't tell if it might have sounded different if it were another material.
    I can tell you I like it.

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