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Help finding frets in the dark?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by ashtray, Mar 16, 2009.

  1. Alright - I know the answer is probably going to be "practice until it's all muscle memory!" - but still, failing that, any tips/hints/mods I can do to help see my fret markings on a dark stage?

    I routinely play some gigs in some dimly lit rooms (or use sunglasses to cut down on the stage light leds pointed right at my eyes), and then have trouble seeing the fret marking dots along the top of the fretboard. For some songs I travel a bit (quickly) and need to see where I'm aiming for. ;)

    I've seen a product that is like an led flashlight that clips onto the top of the headstock and shines down the strings - but I'm thinking that would only help me see the fretboard (which I don't look at), and not illuminate the top of the neck (which I *do* stare at too much...).

    I can't be the first person with this issue. So, aside from painting or using glow in the dark stickers all along the top of my neck, any quick tips/mods to finding my position on a dark stage?

  2. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    you are *not* the first person to stuggle with this - maybe that's why some builders offer LEDs for position markers...

    Short of that, some glow-in-the-dark paint on you can dab on the dots will help (I had a buddy do that) but the ultimate solution is practice, much as you predicted.
  3. mothmonsterman


    Feb 8, 2006
    duct taoe a flashlight to your headstock
  4. the engine

    the engine Guest

    Several companies make after-market LED light kits for that very reason. I imagine it's a pretty heavy duty mod though. Probably involves taking of the fret board and doing some drilling. (yikes)
  5. FretFX have generally gotten good reviews from users here as a cheap alternative for SIMs-type internally mounted LEDs.

    I've also read about guitarist Danny Gatton having used Cubic Zirconium as the fret markers on the top of his necks, which amplified the stage lighting and was sort of a "natural LED". It's an interesting concept I've always been interested in, and might try if I ever have a custom bass made.
  6. David1234


    Jun 1, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    Endorsing Artist: SWR Amplifiers
    I've seen a band put stickers on the back of the neck to duplicate the fingerboard dots, like small dots/strips of white gaffa tape. Seemed to work for them.
  7. Altitude

    Altitude An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure. Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2005
    Denver, nee Austin
    I have the same issue. When I play a particular instrument and stand on a stage having a white light shining directly at me and no light behind me, I can't see my fretboard markers at all. The bass in question has no dots on the board, but does have side markers, and the shadows that lighting situation creates just washes them out.

    I bought one of those little clip-on LED lights from Brookstone that you would use to read a book in bed at night, and I keep it in my gig bag for these situations. Amazon has them too.

    I can't say that the light is strong enough to illuminate the whole board, but it keeps me from getting too psyched out.

  8. good question. does anybody know of any kind of glow in the dark material that can be made to fit in the fret slots??? i am putting together a fretless and would love to see the fretlines when i play in darker places!!!!.

    thanxs tons...
  9. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Hillsdale, Portland
    Its muscle memory and ear training. If you play enough, the sounds in your head moves your hand...at least that how I feel.

  10. iplaybasstexas


    Apr 5, 2008

    i play in a loud, exciting agressive metal band. we always have crazy lights and strobe show....but sometimes our light guy leaves it dark for too long.. its a muscle memory man.
  11. Thunderitter

    Thunderitter Bass - the final frontier! Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2007
    I've a friend who swears by these and if you're playing in a Slipnot tribute band no-one is going to notice.:D

  12. ^ Lol...
  13. I've painted over the side markers using white out before, and it worked great on a dimly lit stage. It's cheap and rubs off fairly easy when you want to get rid of it. I have used it on my Modulus Q5 which has very tiny inlayed dots that are near impossible to see in dim light. I agree it's mostly a muscle memory thing but sometimes having a visual reference can be a life saver especially when playing new or unfamiliar material.
  14. savit260


    Mar 6, 2006
    I use a dab of luminescent gun sight paint on the side dots. Works great.
  15. Re: Muscle memory - yeah, my problem is I "improvise" runs here and there, and it's good to see what I'm aiming to pull off.

    Re: Ear - yeah, that's good for sliding up to a note, but not so great so smacking a note by itself and being 1 fret off. Also, the last couple gigs I played, I could not hear myself very well on stage (FOH was ok I think), so I couldn't rely on my ears to tell me much.

    I might try white out, and see what that does. Now that I'm thinking about it, I remember seeing some device that was a fiber optic w/led (I think) that you stuck on top of your fretboard that had lights built in... now I just gotta remember where I saw that thing!
  16. eotpr


    Jun 25, 2007
    I practice with my eyes shut.
  17. You could always wear one of those doctor's head lamps. With a white lab coat, folks might think you're in costume. It would work especially well for jazz or orchestra gigs.

    Or a miner's hat. There are also some neat LED head lamps for camping.

    You'd look like an idiot, but you'd be able to see the board really well!

  18. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    I started doing that about 25 years ago - not intentionally.
  19. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I grow organic carrots and they are not for sale
    The bass player in this video found a solution ...

  20. Found "Fret Optix" - which seems like it was designed for this purpose... just wonder how well it works in the real world?


    As for the "miner's hat" - I brought a "head light" to my last gig. I used it during breakdown b/c the stage lights weren't on, and I had my hands full. Worked great - but yeah, I looked like an idiot. (it's just a strap that goes around your head, with the flashlight piece in the middle... not a miner's hat! hahaha)

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