Fretless Setup - action and neck angle

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by ThomasGeist, May 10, 2021.


  1. I am pretty familiar with fretted bass setup but new to setting up a fretless bass.

    So far I have learned that the nut can be cut extremely low with the strings almost touching the fretboard. Action can be pretty low and relief close to zero.

    Where I am unclear however is the neck angle.
    On my fretless Jazz Bass even with the saddles all the way down the action goes from 0.25 mm (.01”) at the nut to about 3 mm (.12”) at the 18th fret line.

    This seems generally pretty high and would require the neck to be shimmed.
    But also: on a fretless how much should the string height rise from nut to end of neck anyway? Should the strings be closer to parallel?

    Thanks for any help!
     
    JRA likes this.
  2. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    The height of the strings from the fingerboard is a matter of how you play and your personal preference. If the strings are too low you get the equivalent of fret buzz. A bit of that buzz is the "mwah" that many like, but too much just sounds bad, clacky or choked.
    Neck angle should be adjusted to allow you to set the string height where you want it by adjusting the bridge. That may mean installing a shim if you want the strings lower than the bridge can accommodate now.
     
    Lenny JG, MAXSPINRUN, JRA and 5 others like this.
  3. rpangelov

    rpangelov

    Feb 14, 2017
    I am having trouble to setup my fretless as well!
    I got Harley Benton Progressive B650 which had high action. As I prefer to play with low action and I really look for the "mwah", I decided to lower it as much as possible. I checked couple of threads here and some YouTube videos and I checked the neck relief. To my very surprise, there is almost no relief! Correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I know, there must be a little relief. I check it by pressing the first and the 17th "fret" and I look at the gap between the neck and the string - there must be space between. If I check it on the low B string, there is almost no space, so I decided to loose the truss rod a little bit in order to get the relief,so I can get low action without "fret Buzz". It doesn't matter how much I loose the trust rod, there is no any change in the relief of the neck - even after waiting for hours, although 10mins must be enough. Do you guys have any idea about that?
     
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  4. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    "Almost no relief" is not an adequate description. We need to know how much "almost none" is. Pressing the 1st and 17th position, can you slide a business card (not a credit card) between string and fingerboard near the 7th position?
     
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  5. rpangelov

    rpangelov

    Feb 14, 2017
    It's a little bit too small for business card. Excuse me - hard to describe. Let's say thats it's the thickness of a A4 paper.

    There is also a little buzz on the B string. Other strings have no buzz at all.
     
  6. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    Unless the fingerboard is very true and even, you probably need a little more relief. That bass has dual action truss rods. If you continue turning the truss rod past the point where the nut is loose, you will eventually encounter resistance again and the neck will start to bow upward, adding relief.
     
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  7. rpangelov

    rpangelov

    Feb 14, 2017
    Indeed - I reached the point where the nut is loose, but I was afraid that I will broke the neck if I continue loosen it as I felt resistance...I am still learning, so excuse my stupidness! Thank you very much for your help. I will keep you in touch.
     
    JRA likes this.
  8. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    That's not stupidness, that's wisdom. If you are unsure, it's wise to stop until you learn more. Which you did.
     
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  9. rpangelov

    rpangelov

    Feb 14, 2017
    Thank you for encouraging me.

    Is it true that a cheap bass will be hard to setup low action properly if you compare it to more expensive models?
    My Ibanez SR series are able to get low action, without any buzz, with a good relief without any adjustments on truss rod.
     
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  10. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    turnaround's advice and counsel is tops (and to the point!) on these matters. FWIW: playing only fretless, and having a half-dozen of the things: every one of them has required a shim to get them playing correctly for my preference of low action from the nut to the end of the fingerboard while having plenty of adjustability at the bridge. and you're right: the nut can be cut so low that it appears/feels like the string is almost resting/witnessing on the fingerboard. for me: the stop at first position should be effortless.

    good luck with your fretless setup! :thumbsup:
     
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  11. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    Not necessarily. It all comes down to build quality and wood quality, both of which tend to be more expensive than lesser quality. Then again I have worked on many expensive basses that didn't set up well without a fair bit of work beyond just the setup adjustments. Generally speaking, you stand a better chance of getting a bass that will set up well with low action at a higher price point than the "cheap" basses.
     
  12. rpangelov

    rpangelov

    Feb 14, 2017
    Thank you very much for your explanation! This is good to know.

    PS: I followed your advice and the bass is yet perfect! Low action, no buzz at all and it feels comfortable to play! The "mwah" is very clear, especially on the high notes on D and G string.

    I use very low action on my fret basses as well - mostly because I am very inspired by the "type writer" technique. I am really used to get desired tone by playing above the frets on the fretbord if I want slap/punch/click sound or above the pickups to get more milder tone, but still with good definition. That's why I am very used to low action and although it has different result on the fretless bass, I'm still used to the feel of low action.

    Thank you very much for your help and valuable information!
     
  13. This is where I am standing right now:

    The issue with neck relief is similar here - almost no relief, even when the truss rod nut is loose. D’Addario .105 round wounds have enough pull to yield some relief, .95 barely and La Bella .105 tapewounds also barely.

    I might need some shimming, just as Jozell above does, to get more leverage for string height adjustment - currently some saddles touch the bridge.

    Main issue however is the D and G string buzz around the 3rd fret line. I talked to Thomann‘s guitar workshop and they said the fret line inserts might be uneven and I should look into slightly sanding down the fretboard to even it out.

    And yes, when I run my fingernails over the fretboard, I can feel the fret lines. So getting the neck fully straight and then some easy sanding will be my next step. I will report back.
     
  14. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

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