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How Can my Fretless growl with flatwounds

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by STILLJAZZIN, Jan 20, 2014.



    Jan 20, 2014
    I had a Fender Jazz many years ago, and recently an Ibanez bass. I liked the sound of the Ibanez so I just bought a Fretless Ibanez 5 string SR375, it's used with low miles. It came with round wounds, but the rosewood fret board is showing some marks from strings, so I put a set of flat wounds on it. Now I can really slide into a note and have fun with that, but it lost any good tone or growl.

    How can I get a growl, or a Jaco sound? 1. Put round wounds back on and let em eat. 2. Buy a good pre amp like a Sansamp VT. Any other ideas?? I don't play bass very much (switched to keyboards) so the round wounds will eat my fingers and make it hard to slide. A preamp is over $300. Does anyone have a better method to make this bass produce some good sound. Half rounds? Other pre amps? Thanks...:meh:
  2. dedpool1052


    Jan 10, 2011
    Seattle, WA
    it's still possible to get growl on a fretless with flats. personally, i'd lower the action a good bit, get the neck set with very little to no relief. favor the bridge pickup when playing. also, the brand of flats plays a good part of it as well. some are more traditional sounding while others can be a bit in-your-face.
  3. Gorn

    Gorn Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Let the rounds eat and play with proper fretless technique. Never bend strings perpendicular to the "frets" like you would on a fretted bass. Roll your fingers over the strings for vibrato like a cello player would. If you play daily for several hours, you'll need to get the fingerboard sanded down in several years.

    Full disclosure, I stink at fretless, but that seems to be the general consensus reached on threads asking this question.
    BlueAliceOasis and Brian Wright like this.
  4. BrBss


    Jul 9, 2010
    What brand of strings are on it? TI's, Sadowskys, and Chromes are all fairly growly flats.
  5. Duckwater


    May 10, 2010
    USA, Washington
    Fender/Chrome/Sadowsky/TI flats or maybe GHS bright flats(ground wound), low action, lots of bridge pickup
  6. Kael


    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    If you want growl/mwah, there's no substitute for rounds. Yes you can get some with flats by setting the strings low to the fingerboard and straightening the neck's truss rod out. The amount you get however will be very small compared to what you can get with rounds. Fingerboard wear will happen regardless of what type of string you use. With rounds it will occur faster. So what. You can have the fingerboard dressed periodically. Not much different from needing to get frets dressed.

    There's nothing wrong with using flats if that is the tone you are after. You don't need flats just because you have a fretless.
    BlueAliceOasis likes this.
  7. othefool


    Feb 25, 2004
    Chico, CA
    I have used rounds on all of my fretless bases so far (my one currently has black beauties, which might offer some extra protection, idk).

    Marks will show up on the fingerboard right away. Not really an issue. I played exclusively fretless for years, and after 5-6 years of serious playing my main bass (stingray fretless) lost enough wood to start having problems. Got the fretboard dressed, cost around a bill, and it was good as new.

    I say, go for the tone you want. My $.02.
    BlueAliceOasis and Brian Wright like this.


    Jan 20, 2014
    Wow, great input, thanks. I have DR Legends on now. I only played them for about an hour, will they get better with more time? I did lower the action, and raise the pickups. I want to stay with flats since I don't play bass every day, they are easier on the fingers. Great sound clip from Duckwater with those Chromes, I would be happy with that sound. I may try Chromes. Would a preamp or effects help to get that growl sound.?
  9. use rounds and let them eat the fingerboard... then replace your fingerboard with ebony, my fretless had ebony fingerboard and rounds strings on it
  10. Joebone

    Joebone Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    Los Angeles
    Ditto. Sadowsky flats, particularly in the lower-gauge set, seem to do pretty well on the growl front…but for ultimate growl, you probably need rounds…but do you really need ultimate growl?
  11. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Growl and mwah are two different animals. For mwah, lower the action and set the neck as close to flat as possible. For growl, raise the action and become comfortable with your bass by overpowering the high action until it learns to growl back. The latter is what I do (long time double bassist here). I prefer to make the instrument speak in response to what I'm doing rather than accepting what the instrument has to say when under no duress.
    BlueAliceOasis likes this.
  12. Marcury

    Marcury High and Low

    Aug 19, 2007
    Mid Hudson Valley, NY
    I suggest you try Tapewounds. They sound somewhere between flats and rounds and won't eat your fingers or fingerboard.
  13. MethodsofDance


    Nov 19, 2013
    Mine has flats (Fender 9050s, try em) currently and still manages a nice "mwah", the neck is basically dead straight and the action pretty low.
  14. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    +1 on the other suggestions to lower the action and straighten the neck.

    Truthfully, you're better off with rounds for the type of sound you're looking for, but you can get near it with flats.

    Also, consider that it will take years to cause any considerable wear on a rosewood fingerboard, even with rounds. The string windings will make little marks on the board, but it won't go much further than that for a long, long time. Once it does, you'll be able to dress the board at least a couple of times so we're really talking about a many-year time period that you could use rounds on this bass with no real issues.

    If it really concerns you, try GHS Compression Wounds or Ken Smith Compressors (very similar to each other). They are smoother than rounds, but still provide many of the same sonic traits.
  15. Kael


    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    Malarkey on the growl. The growliest instruments I've ever owned have had low action. Yes you do need to dig in a bit, but if you need to jack the action up high to make that happen, get the fingerboard dressed.
  16. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Very low action is necessary. Then for flats - TI Flats. Or, you could try ground rounds/half rounds.
  17. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    I use half rounds and quarter rounds.
  18. "Growl" is all about the mids.

    Rounds and flats have different mid response, so when you switch from rounds to flats, you have to switch up your right-hand technique. Experiment with different plucking positions and techiques. I find I get good results on flatwounds when I pluck a little closer to the bridge with a more stacatto touch. YMMV.

    Personally I have 2 fretlesses and use flats on one and rounds on the other, as I find the sounds are distinct, and I enjoy both.
  19. woodyng


    Dec 19, 2007
    Oregon coast
    And there are some tapewounds that are even growlier than others. I've used Labella White tapewounds on 2 of my fretted basses,and they sound great,planning on getting a set put on my fretless Carvin AC40 soon.
  20. pnchad

    pnchad Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2005
    black tape

    they are round wounds with protection - they are also the very best strings for fretless whether your're concerned about the FB or not