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Half-fretless?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by brane, Aug 16, 2005.


  1. Hey all,

    I was at an open mic jam the other night, and was talking to a fellow bass player a bit. He was describing to me his main axe... and honestly, I don't even know what make it is, because I couldn't get over what he told me about it: it's only fretted up to the 12th! From 13 on he plucked out and filled in... and so when he's playing some higher register fills and stuff he says he gets some fretless "mwah", but he doesn't have to worry about intonation when he's just rockin out down low.

    Now, at first I thought that this was one of the coolest things I've heard. I couldn't wait to get a bass that I consider a "beater" that I could try this experiment on (or rather, get someone else to... I dont' want to get into defretting myself).

    But then I started thinking about the technical issues. Namely, string height. If I'm not mistaken, a lot of the fretless sound has to do with the string lightly buzzing against the fretboard. Thus, they tend to have a rather low action, no? But having half the board fretted would neccessitate a higher action over the fretless part than you would normally find. So would the end result simply be a part of the neck that sounds like the rest but your slides would be "smooth"?

    Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Or, even better, any actual experience with a bass built (or shall I say modified) like this?

    Oh, forgot to mention, he didn't actually have the bass at the jam, so I didn't get to see it in action. I got to see him play, though, and the dude was smokin'. He obviously knows his way around a bass, so I'm really stuck part way between incredulity and "damn, that's cool!". :)
     
  2. Yeah, they sure exist. They aren't that common but I've seen some pics of em. They don't seem to have any functionality issues, which I can't explain since I've never played one. Someone else will be in a better position to answer your questions. Cool idea though!
     
  3. tplyons

    tplyons

    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    I believe this has been done by using a fretboard that is thicker where it is fretless (rides about the height of the frets) to get the mwah, but doesn't get in the way of fretted notes.
     
  4. these just don't seem practical to me...

    on fretless, it is much easier to intonate the lower notes anyway, so where's the advantage?
     
    TrustRod likes this.
  5. yeah, i think it would work much better the other way around!
     
  6. RE:PEAT

    RE:PEAT

    Jun 24, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    I agree, the reverse makes more sense if it works. How about this one..
     

    Attached Files:


  7. how bizarre! Now THAT I'd like to try!
     
  8. there are basses called Fretted/less, where their 'most popular' model is fretted up to 12th, then fretless u pto 23rd with the 24th fretted for slapping.....and the fretless section is raised to fret height....veeeerrrryyyyy exxxppeeennnsssivveee

    www.solidbodyguitar.com
     
  9. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    Philadelphia
    I think retaining the frets down low makes sense, because it seems to me that intonation could be more difficult down there for two reasons. First, the notes are farther apart, so there's more physical room for error. Second, it's more difficult to hear lower pitches precisely. Also, I think there's less "mwah" down there anyway, so why not keep the frets? (I haven't had much fretless experience since playing cello in 6th grade, so I could certainly be off base here.) I think these are the reasons some builders offer this option, like Matt Pulcinella (www.mpguitars.com).

    Plus, I would think a well designed fretboard in this configuration could reduce fret buzz. Not that there should be any on a custom bass anyway, but it can't hurt.

    I'm curious about this option myself if/when I decide to go fretless.
     
  10. Matt Pulcinella ( http://www.mpguitars.com ) offers a semi-fretless neck option. Kramer used to have a half-fretless option on their old aluminum-necked basses, too. I've never played either one, though.

    By the way, in the picture above, those are just lines--not frets--going partway across the board.

    Mike
     
  11. RE:PEAT

    RE:PEAT

    Jun 24, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    Mike, you're absolutely right. I noticed that after I posted. But somewhere I remember seeing a Pagelli bass with real frets in a similar configuation. Cheers.
     
  12. I think I remember seeing that one, too...and thanks for reminding me of the maker. I was totally blanking on that one!

    Would definately love the opportunity to try one of those out sometime.

    Mike
     
  13. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Kramer offered half-fretless as a factory fingerboard option 25 years ago on their metal neck basses...fretted to the 9th fret, then lined fretless above that. The also offered both lined and unlined full fretless boards.
     
  14. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    That beauty isn't as bizzarre as you think--those are partial fretlines, not partial frets. It's completely fretless.

    MPG offers half-fretted also. Another option that's been done is E-A strings fretted, D-G fretless.
     
  15. John browns guitar factory is the one your looking for. They defretted my 6 string thumb neck thru and poly'd it did a fantastic job. They specialize in half fretted and fretless basses check out their site johnbrownsguitarfactory
     
  16. Strabel

    Strabel

    Jun 28, 2015
    Bourgogne,France.
    Ibanez Musician ,i think the first who had a half fretless in the 1980 s
    I still have this bass but made it fretless all the way.(like Sting from the Police )
    It didn't play very well in the fretless part.
     
  17. dtripoli

    dtripoli

    Aug 15, 2010
    I've had beater basses that wouldn't intonate past the 12th fret no matter what you did.
    Perhaps he pulled those frets out to manually compensate for the correct notes.
     
  18. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Half fretlesses have been done in all possible forms by many brands.
    Separation below or over the 12th fret, somes strings fretless and others not, diagonally across the strings descending and uprising.
    They are specialty instruments that respond to some players' uses but there is no perfect solution.
    It's up to you to decide what fits you best.
     
  19. HalfManHalfBass

    HalfManHalfBass

    Jan 21, 2003
    Status Basses in the UK offer this option. The first 12 frets are fretted, then the remainder of the fingerboard is fretless.

    However, in order to not increase the action over the fretless part of the neck (because the action would need to be higher over the fretted part of the neck to clear the fret tops) the fretless part of the fingerboard is raised to be nearly as high as the last fret.

    Peace,

    Rob.