1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

How to add fret lines to a DB?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by owensea777, Aug 6, 2007.

  1. owensea777

    owensea777 Banned

    Jun 16, 2007
    Anyone have any suggestions? I could have sworn I posted this thread yesterday, maybe I forgot to hit the button. What's the best way to make fret lines on a DB? Just use tape?
    Eventually, I won't need them, but any help with this question will be greatly appreciated.
  2. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Just put white-out dots up the side at the 3rd, 5th, & 7th positions and at the octave. Find them with the help of your tuner.

    Its really easy to fill in the rest of the landscape from there.
  3. uethanian


    Mar 11, 2007
    if you have a regular ebony fingerboard, pencil wouldn't hurt. or even better, use a little dot of white-out.
  4. Bass


    Nov 10, 2003
    Hmmm, there was some very good advise in the bass forum regarding lines versus marker dots. :rolleyes:


    If you really want lines instead of markers, you could purchase a white paint marker at an office supply store. Or liquid paper. Just be sure to use a flexible straight edge to get the lines nice and straight across the fingerboard.

    I recall my teacher telling me once that my scales were going a little flat (or sharp don't remember) as I worked my way across the fingerboard, probably on account of the severe angle I was holding the bass. We got that straightened out. Maybe fret lines would've been useful?

    Or you could purchase some white sticker paper and cut it into thin strips.

    I went to the office supply store and bought little round dot stickers to place on the side of the neck at the 2nd, fourth and fifth "fret". (Where's Ken Smith when you need him?) 1st 3rd and 5th fret would probably be OK too, in hindsight. Oh, I see Jake recommends 3, 5 and 7. Yeah, that's probably better yet. I took these off after 2 or three weeks, and I'd recommend you do the same.


    Disclaimer: I'm a novice who's only been playing the upright for nine months, so feel free to ignore the above post.
  5. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    Most folks just use tape. And once you get your ear trained, get rid of them ASAP. They're a crutch, and, while helpful at first, will hinder you down the road.
  6. If you put dots or lines on there, find out where to put them based on the harmonics. This will get you just enough to guess the rest. Octave, fifth, fourth, and major 3rd should be enough. All those have very easy to sound harmonics. The point where the string vibrates least under your finger when the harmonic sounds is where the stop should go. Then learn to hear those positions.
  7. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur GollihurMusic.com

    Mar 22, 2000
    Cape of New Jersey
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music (retired)
    I've always thought that a roll of pinstriping tape from an auto supply store would be good as temporary markers, though I've not tried it. Given it's made to hold up and stay on out in very hot and very cold weather at 75 mph, I'll bet it sticks real good. Also, you could probably choose a darker color that wouldn't be as visually apparent.
  8. Pencil. It leaves marks you can see up close, not from far off, and they disappear about the time you stop relying on them.
  9. pedullabass


    Mar 16, 2006
    I use black pinstriping on my bass for about a year. I play about 7 shows a week but mainly electric bass. I just play the upright a few songs so Im not a true upright player I have to cheat , but at least Im in tune! I have to cut the tape off so it is not under the E and G string because it sounds fretted. I even applied the dots. Cut them out with a hole punch. I use black. You can not tell it from a very close distance.
  10. Goob Grouch

    Goob Grouch

    May 21, 2007
    Norfolk, VA
    I read an article with Ron Carter in Strings magazine and he mentioned something about a grease pencil. I have trouble with chromatics in the music I am playing. My ear would get really comfortable with a scale but once an accidental appeared my intonation would be off because I was uncertain of its pitch. I could check myself against an open string but I found it impeded my practice. So, in an effort to make my search for the correct note faster, I went out and bought a grease pencil - I bought mine for 99 cents. I could only find a red pencil and dreaded marking that red color across the surface of the finger board. So, I marked the side of the kneck while checking my pitch with a tuner. It was much easier than I imagined. And even with the marks on the side of the finger board it was easy to see whether I was in the correct position on any of the four strings - equivalent to the dots on the side of an EBG. Best of all, the grease pencil markings are easy to remove with a dry cloth. I will agree that it is much better you only use the markers when you're in question of your intonation. I found they could be a detrimental crutch. The scales I played so well before were sacrificed to my constant gazing at the markers. But, overall, it was much easier to get through a piece of music I am playing for the first time. Now I'm able to hear and get the tune into my ears and it has helped trermendously with creating the proper muscle memory for my left hand.
  11. mjt0229

    mjt0229 Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    Bellingham, WA
    I definitely agree. Also, don't mark every single note, just the key ones that mark positions that you're shifting to and from.

    For a beginner I'd mark lines at 'frets' 2, 5, 7, and 12. On the D string, that'd be E, G, A, and D. Let your ear fill in the rest while you play, and look towards removing the lines as quickly as possible.

    I've been playing for fifteen years, though, and I still pencil in a line at the octave, which I use primarily when I'm not given the opportunity to play my way up the string to reach that position - passages that begin there after a long rest, it's handy to be able to look, place my hand ahead of time, and then look back at my music or the conductor.
  12. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    I just started play DB and first teacher was against using markers, even though I found out with other students he did use them??? I did use pencil line once to help with a shift, it wore off about the time I got used to the shift.

    I started with a new teacher yesterday and he doesn't seem opposed to markers. But is having me use open strings to work on intonation right now.

    I would pose the question is the opposition to dots be for tradition sake, or other reason? Seems like if a few dots will help intonation why not? Especially when you hear about even great player making temporary marks all time?
  13. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur GollihurMusic.com

    Mar 22, 2000
    Cape of New Jersey
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music (retired)
    I'd say, tradition, and probably the perspective of players who think that, as you progress past the need, you will wish you didn't make permanent marks.

    It could be viewed as kinda like being 16 and riding a bicycle with training wheels.

    However, I wouldn't criticize any player who felt the addition of markers would enhance their play-- I'm sure not guilty about the side markers on my bass guitar necks, and anyone who has heard me play might suggest I put big dots on all my own string basses :eyebrow: . I sure wouldn't tell Edgar Meyer that he's a sissy for having them on his bass, either.

    One can do a very nice job of installing permanent markers with the various flavors of inlay dots available from Stewart Macdonald, for example. Just use a bit of the identical size, make a shallow hole, put a dot of superglue in there, and tap in the dot.
  14. CPike


    May 28, 2005
    Dallas, TX
    Bob, I used that exact analogy back in my private teaching days - I would tell the kids that training wheels don't teach you how to actually ride a bike, they just keep you from falling flat on your face while you get used to how it feels to ride. Same thing with markers - they don't teach you how to play in tune (your ears do a better job of that). The markers just keep you from falling flat on your face intonation-wise until you get the feel of it. It's a means to an end - but I would never begrudge any slab players who do this for their occasional DB gigs.

  15. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Developing your ear is the best thing you'll ever do for yourself as a DB player. And you've gotta start from day one.

    Put on your tape, your markings, whatever. Then practice intonating without using the markers. Just don't look. It's OK to sound like **** in the practice room. It's impossible to get good without sounding like **** so do us all a favour and do it in the practice room.

    Pick a note. Play a half step up from that (slide, use another finger, whatever.) Slide up a whole tone. A minor third. A major third. Work your way up to octaves and more. Learn about the vomit exercise.

    Do this work every time you practice.

    Seriously, it won't be long before you can do it too. The faster you do away with the tuners and the tape, the better.

    For a real rush, once you've done that pick up your fretless EBG again. Once you get used to moving from your DB sea legs to your EBG land legs again, the thing is now more like a child's toy to you than it ever was before. You'll have your way with it and it will be very cool.
  16. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    A chisel and ball-peen hammer does a nice job. Just eyeball it to roughly 1" apart and you'll be fine.
  17. Whenever I get a new bass, I put light pencil marks at the G, A, B and octave (using a tuner) and then cover the marks with a sliver of clear scotch tape. I can see it while playing but it is almost invisible a few feet away. I'm not super picky about getting the marks in exactly the right spot, they are just a rough guide. 99.9% of the time I don't look at my neck while playing but sometimes I'll get disoriented and need to find where I am quickly without fishing around. The markers are really good for that. I hate fishing around for notes.

    I currently gig with 3 different basses all with different mensures: 39.5, 41.5 and 42.5. It usually takes a couple of tunes to really lock in the intonation with the bass du jour. I should probably settle on a single bass and it wouldn't be as much of a problem but I usually settle in pretty quickly and I like having the different palettes.

    The other reason to keep the markers is for recording. It is nice to have a visual reference so I always, 100% of the time, start in tune even from a cold start. I may not stay in tune for the whole tune but at least the first note is always in tune and I don't have to sample the note before the take.

    I used to be self conscious about it but then I found out Edgar Meyer uses reference markers that are way more blatant than mine. After that, who cares. I play in tune (most of the time). You can't see the markers on a recording.


Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.