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Fretless worth it?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Masamax, Dec 16, 2003.

  1. I have a 4 string squire P/J laying around that I am not using too much lately, and was thinking about defretting it. My main problem at this point is whether it's going to be worth it. I play in mostly rock bands and jams. I am only 17 and this is a big investment for me because I would need to pay for the defret (I wouldn't trust myself to do it) and then pay for some new strings and maybe even a new bridge pup (Seymor Duncan probably). This is a lot of cash, and I want to know if it would be worth it to start learning fretless. How long did it take most of you guys to start getting the hang of it? If it takes a long time I may start now but I don't see me playing fretless as a main bass anytime in the future, and it would only be a play thing.

    Do you guys think it would be better to wait or should I start learning fretless right away?
  2. KeithPas


    May 16, 2000
    I would'nt invest that much money or time in that particular bass. If the fretless bug has bitten you save your money and get an inexpensive used one off ebay or from one of the big music stores. I have had a couple of basses defretted that a loved before the defret and hated afterwards, you just never know what you are going to end up with.
  3. I would tell anyone to start playing fretless as soon as they can. You may find out that it's not for you, but I would tend to doubt this.

    I don't find playing fretless *harder*, it just takes more concentration, and this concentration has made me a better player, at least I think so.

    I also think that just noodling around with a fretless in a store, or at a friend's house can lead one to thinking that they're no good at playing fretless. You need your own axe to sit down with day after day and practice. ;)

    How long will it take to get good? I don't know, but if you're sitting on the fence, allow me to push you over onto the fretless side. I wanted a fretless for years, and didn't buy one until 3 1/2 years ago. I now wish that I had done it 10 years ago.

    As for the cost: This is something we all have to do without knowing if it's going to be worth it in the end. I would suggest that you have the bass defretted professionaly to ensure a good job, but do that only - don't worry about new pickups right off the bat - JUST PLAY! If you really like it, you can always do more mods later, or even get a new bass.

    Should you go fretless? Yes.

    If you do, just start slowly with scales and patterns that you know well.

    I feel everyone should try fretless for a minimum of three months at least once in their life. If it's not for you, at least you can say that you tried.

    Just my opinion.

    Good luck in your decision.

  4. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    <b>I'm biased, I've only played fretless since 1977. I suggest you buy a fretless neck, and once you make a decision, sell either the fretted neck or the fretless one. A lot of conversions go awry, whereas a Warmoth or whatever at least has resale value. I'm not a fan of lined fretless necks, I feel that they encourage bad habits. An awful lot of other people disagree though, decide for yourself.

    best of luck,

    ----Charlie Escher
  5. Man, just go the route of Rondo Music and get a fretless SX. That's what I did and I'm not regretting it at all.
  6. Yes yes, listen to this man! I decided after like 3 or 4 months that I love fretless, so I replaced the pickups in my fretless. I will be adding a preamp soon. But a starter fretless is something for you and your bedroom's ears only. Think of it as a practice tool, not a gigging axe. Then you won't need to replace the p/ups.
  7. CamMcIntyre


    Jun 6, 2000
    Masamax-I'm also 17. I would recommend taking the money that you would have spent on the defret, neck pickup, and all that stuff and just buy one from Rondo Music. I'm tempted to do that before i go all the way w/my bass project mainly for the reason of not making a several hundred dollar mistake. They have various models in both 4 string and 5-definately worth a look. That's all

    edit: The reason why i haven't is since my dad tells me and i agree to a certain extent, that i will be comparing the cheapie Rondo bass to my Ray5 which seems like it wouldn't be a fair comparison. Who knows-after the Avatar setup, i'd like to try one of their cheaper ones-the $150ish before i finish the bass so that i don't make that mistake.
  8. steve-o

    steve-o Guest

    Apr 17, 2002
    id go look for a kingston mtd fretless...

    and not just because im selling mine...
    they are awsome basses...better than the rondo fretless...

  9. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    I would definitely go fretless, I wish that I had gone fretless 23 years ago. I have owned a fretless for several years, but never got serious about it because it was a four and I prefer five and six stringers.

    A couple of years ago, I decided to get a nice fretless five.

    I did, and man, did I wish I had gotten serious about it when I was younger!

    It is so much fun, and to me, more expressive than a fretted bass. It has totally changed my playing, for the better.

    I am not as interested in playing 1000 notes a minute any more. I use a lot more quarter and half notes than I used to, as well as more space in my lines.

    I still like to shred, too, but now I do it when the song calls for it, instead of all the time.

    As far as it being hard, you definitely need to invest some time in it, but it is worth every bit of the time that I have invested. I picked it up very quickly, and it has really improved my ear.

    I would really recommend buying an inexpensive fretless over defretting the one that you own. I base that on personal experience. I defretted a bass when I was 17, and it didn't turn out near as well as I had envisioned. I was too sloppy, and didn't take enough time to do it properly. If you have doubts about doing it yourself, buy an SX, a Brice, or a used MTD Kingston.
  10. I am in Canada though. What is the shipping cost of Rondo going to look like?
  11. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Send them an email from the link on the Rondo site. They respond pretty quickly.
  12. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Definitely worth it. Jewels is quite right, and it isn't all that hard, specially at your age.

    Defretting a Squier could be worth it. If you have decent hand skills, and lots of patience, you'll do OK.

    Just remember: after taking away the frets, you need to file down the nut slots! String height exceeding .5 mm at the nut will make it very much harder to play well!
  13. i completely agree, i just bought a kingston 5 fretless, i couldnt get myself to shell out big money for a secondary bass and this was the answer. absolutely stunning sound and playability for a pruduction bass with passive electronics.

    definitely give them some consideration, my new 5 fretless was less than $500 and totally a steal.
  14. theaterbass29


    Nov 14, 2003
    Nashville, Tennesse
    Endorsing Artist: Aguilar Amplification, Sadowsky, D.Markley, Spector
    Im still in the completion stage of defretting my Fender Jazz (a la Jaco). I have had many fretless' before this however, including a Pedulla Pentabuzz, and an Ernie Ball Stingray 4. Just to give you an idea of the cost of doing it yourself, here is what it cost me.
    $150 Seymour Duncan Antiquity II pickups
    $75 Leo Quan Badass II bridge
    $40 Sanding supplies from Stew-Mac.com
    $20 Radius block for leveling
    $40 Urethane finish (Auto Paint store)
    $325 plus is the total so far.

    Now for $325, you can get a large abundance of fretless basses that are of decent quality. Try
    musicyo.com, they sell Tobias and Steinberger fretless basses in this price range, also, the Mexican Fender Jazz fretless is around $350. I havent heard of the brand listed above in other replies, but if that many people think its a good buy, it probably is. The bottom line is what sound do you want? Do you like Jaco? If so, you probably want a Jazz style instrument. Maybe you like Pino Palladino, then you should check out a Stingray style bass. I dont recommend a P bass fretless because the sound is typically too muddy for the voice of the fretless to speak.
  15. My Squire is a PJ, but I know from experience trying fretlesses at stores that P doesn't sound that great, although it's the bridge pickup that is really important (and what I would probably be using almost exclusively, hence the upgrade!)

    My problem is I can't stand the jazz bass body style.
  16. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    Idk.. i like my rondo fretless.
  17. Marshy


    Dec 19, 2003
    Cambridge, UK
    I'm a newbie here, so treat me gently.

    However, I'm going to respectfully disagree with one or two people who said it's not worth defretting the Squier - if it's similar to my one, that is.

    My first bass was a Japanese Squier Precision (32 and a bit inch scale, 21 frets, split P pickup, all passive), and when I bought a better fretted bass, I decided I had nothing to lose and had it professionally defretted.

    For around $150 (I'm converting from UK pounds) a luthier removed the frets, filled the slots with maple (nice contrast against rosewood), reprofiled the fingerboard, sorted the nut, etc etc.

    And it sounds great. It's not a fast bass to play, so if you're looking for a million notes a minute, it probably won't be for you. But in the case of this bass, caress it, and it's wonderful. It's got that woodly growly tone that appeals to me deeply, and is a sound I've not found in many more expensive fretless basses I've tried (disclaimer: I've clearly not tried them all, but still...) The bit about "caressing" is important though: quite a few people have picked it up, spanked around on it, and it sounds terrible. Right hand technique is very important, but that's an acceptable trade-off as far as I'm concerned.

    The caveat is that I wouldn't have attempted the job myself, then or now. That said, the price I paid is, in my opinion, eminently reasonable.

    I guess the vindication exists in the fact that it's still my main bass: I recorded 9 out of 10 soungs on my band's album using it, and my fretted bass hardly gets any use at all.

    If you want to hear what it sounds like, my band's site is in my profile and there are MP3s to download. (And that's not intended to be a blatant plug, but to prove that my nasty fretted bass turned into a lovely fretless.)
  18. i was thinking of doing this exact thing i have a squire p bass special and i was wondering if i should defret it or get a neck or a whole new fretless bass although i am only 14. i have also invested over 2 grand in bass gear in the past 6 months so i think it might be time to slow down a bit and give it a while before i get a fretless but good thread i think i am gonna go ahead and do it.
  19. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    You can get an Essex fretless for the price itd cost to get a Squier professionally defretted, and the Essex is better.
  20. mjw


    Jun 12, 2001
    Spring, TX USA
    I agree with Marshy and Embellisher. At the moment, I own two basses. Both *used* to be fretted. Several months ago, after pretty much falling in love with one of them while yearning for a fretless and knowing I couldn't really afford one, I decided to have one of them (Carvin LB75P) de-fretted by a highly rated local luthier. The result was wonderful. He replaced the frets with "blonde" (perhaps maple) fillers which IMO are great with the ebony fingerboard. I absolutely love the new tone, feel, action, and overall characteristics of this bass. To be honest, I loved it before, but fell in love with it all over again after having it defretted. And, as I recall, it was under $100 USD! :)

    I finally realized why people rave about fretless!

    And for me, I adjusted to it pretty quickly, although the one thing I noticed is that in order to play in tune, I really need to fret almost directly over the "ex-frets" (on the lines), versus what I'm used to on a fretted bass. Now, I don't really know if this is just typical of fretless basses in general, or if mine is the exception. Regardless, that's my observation.

    I say go for it. Fretless is a whole 'nother dimension! :)