fretless setup help please - low "frets" unplayable

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by BarkerBass, May 1, 2012.

  1. Hey all, I'm new to fretless but have been playing bass (fretted) for 10 years or so now and do my own setups, I play with a low action a light touch, usually a ramp, and don;t mind fretbuzz in moderation but after defretting a bass of mine I'm finding it really hard to setup.

    The bass plays great from about the 5th fret upwards. The neck is as close to flat as I can get it but the 5th fret, especially the first 4 or so frets on the G string and the 5th fret on the A string all rattle and don't sing like the rest. any ideas?

    Thanks for your help guys, I wanna learn fretless so please help me get the most out of this bass.

    Cheers, BB
  2. hdracer


    Feb 15, 2009
    Elk River, MN.
    I would put a little more relief in the neck and then come down on the saddles.
    Or raise the nut
  3. raising the nut would only prevent buzz on the open strings, me thinks.

    loosening the rod for a little bit more relief should work since there could be a back bow in the middle making the strings choke on the lower frets. Now you said you defretted the bass, did you check that the board does not have humps and dips that could have been masked by the frets (like the frets being leveled but the board not?)
  4. pnut166


    Jun 5, 2008
    Shim the E side ?
  5. Did you do anything to the nut?
    Usually, the nut would be lowered about the thickness of the (removed) frets. This would put the string clearance back to what it was before the frets were removed. For a very low action, you can bring the nut/string height down to about .010" above the fretboard at the 1st fret position. Once you lower the nut, I think you will want to raise the saddles until you get the amount of buzz (mwaah) you desire. The amount of relief needed will depend on how flat your fretboard is. If it has any bumps or humps, you will need a littler more relief to clear them.
  6. SamanthaCay

    SamanthaCay Like bass guitar OMG! Commercial User

    Nov 16, 2008
    Denver, CO.
    QC technician for WMDevices
    Your setup is most likely a combination of things and the only help your going to get here is possible answers no absolutes.

    I figured I could at least post though to give you a little help in the bass terminology department.

    First, fretless basses don't have frets they have positions, so where you would say 5th fret for a fretted instrument you say 5th position for a fretless.

    Second, high on the neck equals high in pitch, for example the 12th is higher then the 7th.

    Hope this helps and good luck with your new fretless.
  7. Slowgypsy

    Slowgypsy 4 Fretless Strings

    Dec 12, 2006
    NY & MA
    It's entirely possible that when the bass had frets... the frets were correctly leveled... but without frets the board is not correctly leveled. You might have to have the board slightly re-planed. Just a thought....
  8. Thanks for the help guys and sorry for the terminology issues, positions not frets, I'd hope you'd still know what I was asking but thanks for letting me know the difference.
    I'll try giving it some relief and perhaps a neck shim and get back to you. Keep the advice coming though.

  9. Hey guys, I just gave the relief a try and played with the action and shims a fair bit and keep finding an unresolvable buzz/crap-out point on the 5th position so I'm assuming this means the neck has a bump around the 6th position. somehow the E and D strings seem to be less effected but still rattle slightly while the G and A strings don't make a note on the 5th position thy just crap-out, make no noise other than horrible buzz.

    Does this sound like I've got a high patch around the 6th position? I think if someone confirms this I'll give the neck a sand around that point to try and level it, the varnish needs a quick wet,n,dry sanding anyway so more in that area won't be hard. Cheers and please let me know what you think
  10. famousbirds


    Aug 3, 2009
    Unfortunately it's usually not that easy. You sand a bit at the 6th fretline, your problem moves up to the 7th fretline. To have nice clean action all over the neck, you'll want to level the neck true. This means taking off the strings, adjusting the trussrod so the neck is completely flat (or as close to flat as you can get it - use a ruler to check), and then using a radiused leveling block to ensure the entire neck is level. Spot sanding might work but it'll likely create more problems than it resolves.

    Stewmac sells radiused sanding blocks - these are great because they allow you to ensure a completely level fretboard while preserving the natural curvature of the radius.
  11. +1 the longer the block, the better. I got an 8" one from them and it worked great. Start on one side of the neck (say nut on E string side) run it down with even pressure to the end of the neck, and doing it in a straight line, so you stay under E string). The neck"s radius is likely constant through out. If that's the case you need to keep the sanding block straight. So if it totally covers the neck at the heel and none of the block is over the edge, as you move up to the nut, the left side (if it's a right handed bass), should be a bit over the edge near the nut. So really, the fretlines should always be perfectly 90 degrees perpendicular to sanding block.

    Once you run down one length (nut to heel), move the block over and go up/down the middle of the board (under A and D strings), then repeat for G string. You have to sand the whole neck equally. Once you've sanded enough you should be able to see different colours in wood and scratches that show you what has been sanded and what hasn't. Repeat going up and down whole neck until all looks sanded. Use levels or straight edges to make sure it's all level. Once she's all level and it looks like all the areas of the board have equal amount of sanding wear, move up to a higher grit, repeat process, you'll be able to tell what was sanded with new grit and what hasn't, repeat until the coarser grit is all gone, move up to a higher grit. Keep doing this until your board is as smooth as glass.

    What wood is the neck made of? Mine was ebonol, I started with 220 grit, then 400, then 600, 1000, 2000, 0000 steel wool, maguire's car compound, then polishing compound. But I don't know about using last two products on a natural wood. Ebonol is a synthetic wood, more glue than anything, so I felt safe there. I likely wouldn't use it on rosewood or maple though.

    Also, you should cover the pick-ups with painter's tape to prevent the steel wool from flaking off and sticking to the magnets. Before I started sanding, I tape the pickups, put tape over pickups and cavities, taped over the bridge, taped over control plate, knobs and jack, and then stuck the body in a garbage bag and taped it up tight to the neck and ensured no area of the bag was open to sawdust. I did pretty much the same treatment at the headstock, putting tape to and on top of the nut.
  12. Hey Barker, when you defretted your bass, did you fill in the fret slots? If not, then the buzz might be partially attributed by the strings vibrating across the slots.
  13. I did fill the slots with wood filler and since I've read all these replies I've sanded the whole fingerboard flat ( well radiused) and it's helped get the action lower and has slightly alleviated the buzz on the 5th position A string but not got rid of it but atleast the bass is now playable and has some nice mwah.

    In the end this is a beater no-name bass that I'm using to test lots of different stuff on so it's more of a learning project than a serious bass but I'm enjoying learning, even if it looks rough as hell... next on my list is to reshape the headstock :)

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