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How do you tune a fretless?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Squnk, Jan 15, 2003.

  1. Squnk


    Oct 20, 2002
    I got my second bass yesterday, an used Ibanez RoadStar 2 fretless, anyway I tuned in using my electronic tuner and when I play it I get a buzzing noise from where I place my finger on the fingerboard and just wanted to know is there a differant way to tune a fretless because before I tuned it for the first time I didn't have this problem. Thanx!
  2. BlacksHole


    Mar 22, 2000
    Rockville, MD
    Assuming that your bridge appears to be adjusted so that all strings are pretty much at the same height difference from the fingerboard, and also assuming that you are tuning by pressing at a location equal to the 5th fret, I believe the buzz is because you need to adjust your truss rod slightly - you need a little bow in the neck as yours is too straight. BTW, for fretless I prefer to tune by the harmonics (5th fret to 7th fret comparison). If you're getting buzzing on the harmonics, then something must be loose somewhere on the bass.
  3. Squnk


    Oct 20, 2002
    Thancks for your help, I think Getting the fretless was a bad idea. I think I might trade it in for a well fretted bass, but the whole reason I got the fretless was because I hated frets but now I miss them.
  4. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    You tune a fretless just like you tune a fretted bass. Your problem is most likely that the bass is improperly set up. For a fretless to buzz, you most likely have the action set too low and/or have a reverse bow in the neck that requires a truss rod adjustment. Take it to a pro and have a set up done.

    Are you tuning using your open strings? Is this a lined or unlined fretless? If it's a lined fretless (don't try this with an unlined neck), tune the open string, then hold down the string at the octave until you find the spot that is exactly in tune. Is your finger now directly on the line or slightly behind the line, or is it significantly away from the line? If you're not close to the line, this is further evidence that the bass is badly set up and needs that neck adjustment and the intonation set at the bridge.
  5. Squnk


    Oct 20, 2002
    I was thinking about trading it for a nice danelectro they had there.
  6. BlacksHole


    Mar 22, 2000
    Rockville, MD
    "Nice" and "Danelectro" in the same sentence? (Can you tell I'm not a Dan fan?)
  7. Squnk


    Oct 20, 2002
    come on, you can't get better than a Danelectro Longhorn, a nice cardboard plywood body with a scew as a truss rod that is like heaven( i am beinf sarcastic) I am more of a fender man, I was really thinking about getting the Mustang Reissued.
  8. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    And a similar foundation in Sweden. I might even pay for the shipping - possibly.
    I had one of those years ago. Marvellous feel!

    The "buzz" is probably what others call "mwaah", perhaps a little too much. Reason is low action, and possibly too flat neck. Remedy is higher action and possibly more relief.

    However, fretless do sound that way, more or less, because the fret height is 0.
  9. :eek: Don't give up on your fretless so soon, you must give it time.

    The previous posts have said how to tune it and also to look at the truss rod set up so I wont repeat that. Oops I just have:oops:

    Have you tried to press slightly harder on the fretboard? You might be causing a buzz by loosening your pressure on the fretboard and thereby causing the unwanted noise.

    Anyway I would encourage you to give it a few weeks of experimentation before you get rid of it. You must have wanted a fretless otherwise you wouldn't have brought one in the first place so give it a chance.

    There preach over.


  10. Kelvin


    Apr 30, 2000

    Tune an open string. Preferably the G string.

    Use harmonics to tune the rest. The harmonic note is more "forgiving" when you're slightly off the fretline.

    Hope this helps.

    Oh yeah... trust your ears. They're normally a better guide to intonation than your sidemarkers or fretlines.
  11. Squnk


    Oct 20, 2002
    It is a lined bass, I have tried pushing harder an it didn't work. The noise comes from the E string and sometimes from the G string. I just have one more question, should I attempt to adjust the truss rod or should I go to a music store and have a pro do it?
  12. Squnk


    Oct 20, 2002
    and thanx you all for your help!!!
  13. DarkMazda


    Jun 3, 2000
    Squnk: do you know what I do when I tune a fretless?

    1) Tune your G with a tuner
    2) On your D string, fret where the 5th fret would be, and then find an area where it would tune with the open G string..
    3) ret should be easy (Fret 5th area on the A then open D etc..)

    This would be one of the best ways to tune a fretless IMHO. This will also tell you where to you would fret to get the most "intonated" sound for that specific note ;)

    good luck!

  14. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    Fretli are supposed to buzz, except it's called Mwah. Mwah, and smooth glissandos, are the primary reasons for owning a fretless bass. Before paying a tech to do a setup, sit down with an experienced player and get their opinion. Consider getting a teacher -- this person could give you an expert opinion on setup and show you how to tune.
  15. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    Roadstar II, good enough for Jaco.