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Fretless Sounding Dead

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Turbocharbo, Feb 10, 2019.

  1. Turbocharbo


    Feb 16, 2005
    Hey guys

    My late 90s MIM Fender Jazz sounds kind of dead. It was just setup yet it still lacks sustain and sounds kind of dull in a mix. I've upgraded the pots to 500k and changed the pickups to 70s repros from The Pickup Wizard (which are amazing BTW). Tried a bunch of different strings as well. I hear the dullness when I play it acoustically which makes me think the issue may be the neck, the body or the bridge.

    Does a neck swap help improve resonance of an instrument? What about a body swap?

  2. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    What strings have you tried?
  3. saabfender

    saabfender Inactive

    Jan 10, 2018
    I’d put on better tuners, a better bridge and a better nut. That will firm it up quite a bit. Made a world of difference on mine.
    patrickj likes this.
  4. Turbocharbo


    Feb 16, 2005
    @fourstringdrums: It came with flats and I also tried Labella Gold Flats. I currently have rounds on it which helped make it overall less dead sounding. Any specific recommendations for strings?

    @saabfender: I forgot to mention that it has new bone nut. The only bridge I see myself getting is a MIA pure vintage threaded bridge. Think that would help a bit?

    I didn't know better tuners helped with sound, can you extrapolate on that?
  5. JIO

    JIO Connery... Sean Connery Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    The Mission SF/CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    Before I assume a bass is lacking, I find a really good player and have them play it through my amp (in this case a '76 Ampeg B-15N). If it still sounds lacking, then you and he/she can conjecture why it's lacking and consider possible solutions. As much as I can subjectively access the quality of a bass hearing it played by me, hearing it played through my same amp/d.i. etc by a good player allows me to 'hear' it objectively. I didn't set out to do this as a test, but over the years I have experienced it having a friend who is a good player (good technique and feel) play a bass I own through my amp. It's surprising how objectively you can hear it not being the player. Worth a try before you change parts on it.
    Old Blastard likes this.
  6. If all else fails, a neck-swap definitely helps, st least it did in my (specific) case....probably moreso than a body-swap would help.
  7. Turbocharbo


    Feb 16, 2005
    Good point JIO, I'll see if I can get a bass player friend of mine to play it. I've done some records with it and the engineer agreed that it sounded dull in a mix.
    JIO likes this.
  8. When doing a string change, Fodera recommends checking that the tuning machine bolts are tight and that the bridge screws are tight. If they're loose it can affect sustain. I don't know if that's the issue but it's easy to check, might be worth a shot.
    bobyoung53 and FrenchBassQC like this.
  9. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Neck bolts as well. If those are a half turn loose it can drastically effect how it sounds.

    OP should also consider coating the fingerboard in epoxy or CA glue. That will brighten up a fretless and give more sustain.
    bobyoung53, Aqualung60 and saabfender like this.
  10. Turbocharbo


    Feb 16, 2005
    The bass was thoroughly checked by a good tech so I highly doubt any loose bolts and screws were left out. I'll still check though.

    I thought of doing the epoxy thing... is it an easy job?
  11. As easy as spending $200 to have a pro do it...
  12. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Using CA glue is supposed to be much easier for a first timer.
  13. Turbocharbo


    Feb 16, 2005
    I guess that depends on how much 200$ is worth to someone?
  14. rashrader


    Mar 4, 2004
    Baltimore, MD
    How much relief is there in the neck?
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
    bobyoung53 likes this.
  15. Turbocharbo


    Feb 16, 2005
  16. rashrader


    Mar 4, 2004
    Baltimore, MD
    Read through this setup guide. Pay special attention to the Neck and String adjustment sections. When Buzz Basses are mentioned, the guide is referring to Fretless Basses.

    Basically, you want a flat neck with the strings as low as possible. Read the guide for details.

    juancaminos and SaxBass like this.
  17. Carl Hillman

    Carl Hillman Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2010
    What kind of fingerboard finish do you have?

    I have an old MM Sabre w/a rosewood neck that never quite had the fretless sound I wanted.
    I shipped it to HG Thor Guitar Lab where the neck was coated with epoxy and superbly set up.
    That did the trick.

    HG Thor Epoxy Fretless
  18. Artman

    Artman Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2017
    Georgetown, TX
    Single coil vintage wind pups? Go back to the 250k pots, and install a fresh set of your favorite strings. Then see if it still sounds lifeless. I tried 500k CTS pots on my Fender Jazz and it sounded dull. Went back to 250k and it came right back to life.
  19. Turbocharbo


    Feb 16, 2005
    I doubt the issue is in the neck relief because it's been checked by a good tech that I trust. It looks mighty straight IMO. The bass originally had 250k pots. I remember it being even more lifeless before. PUPS are 70s CBS style single coil vintage wind and they sound great:

    ThePickupWizard Website

    I'm going to guess that the issue I'm hearing is due to the mellowness of the strings hitting the rosewood finish. I just put a fresh pack of Rotosound Swing Bass standard gauge strings and it's making a BIG difference. I've read that putting an epoxy finish on a fretless neck brightens the tone and adds sustain. Although the new strings are helping a lot, I'm still hearing the inherent dark quality of the bass which makes me think I should put epoxy on the neck.

    My tech is going to get started on that tomorrow. Let me know if you guys have any tips!
    porterbass likes this.
  20. JeezyMcNuggles


    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    Well, a new neck is a lot more, so $200 shouldnt be too bad for you. Or, you can just give it a shot yourself. Its painting man. It's not hard. Just meticulous. If you dont get it right the first time, just sand it off and try again. No biggie.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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