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In theory..shouldn't fretless be cheaper?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bad Brains, Mar 22, 2004.

  1. Bad Brains

    Bad Brains Banned

    Jan 7, 2004
    Detroit, michigan
    I have alaways noticed that a lot of the fretless basses i see tend to be more pricey then the usual fretted. Is there a reason for this? In theory you would think they work be cheaper because less materials and less work. I was just woundering, i don't see a lot of beginner cheap fretless out there. Perhaps there is something more technical i don't understand yet.
  2. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    With mass production, any change in the production process costs money (at least that's how the bean-counters calculate it). So when the majority of prducts is fretted, changing the process to make a few fretless basses may make it more expensive.

    With most smaller companies handmade basses either cost the same and occasionally fretless basses are actually cheaper, though.

  3. Good post.

    And i have a good example...a fretless RIC costs the same as a fretted RIC.
  4. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    There's actually a big debate about it somewhere here in the Basses archive. This is how I see it:

    Major companies should charge the same for it. If a fretless was some sort of unique one-off, I could understand an upcharge for having to change production methods. But fretless basses, although far less common than fretteds, are still manufactured in the hundreds or even thousands by these companies. The cost of setting up a different production method would have paid for itself long ago by this point.

    Small builders or luthiers should also charge the same for it, even if everything is done by hand. The materials do cost less, and even if the builder is using a thicker fingerboard to compensate for the lack of fret height, the cost is minimal and again the chances are the extra stock of thick boards (so long as they weren't being purchased piecemeal) would have paid for themselves long ago if the luthier has made a number of fretlesses and added an upcharge for them in the past. The other materials, ie fretwire vs. flat board or veneer lines, also cost less. There is a lot less work involved as well. I've seen lines being put into a fretless board and sanded, and it takes much, much less time than putting in the frets, leveling them, doing the crowns, etc.

    I suppose that they could charge less for a fretless, but I see charging the same amount as fair. I just can't see the validity in charging more for it, unless the builder has made very, very few fretlesses. It has always looked like a way to tack on an unnecessary cost.
  5. Diek


    May 25, 2003
    Another thing to consider, fretless basses often have ebony fingerboards, which is a one of the most expensive woods in the world. Mass produced instruments don't always have ebony fingerboards, but some do. It would make sence for a fretless bass to cost a bit more if it inculdes an ebony fingerboard.
  6. I've been told that for a fretless to play well, you have to take special care in dressing and planing the FB. With a fretted you can adjust to an extent for little imperfections in the FB by just making sure the frets are all leveled--the argument being that this is a little easier than getting a wooden fretless FB just right. By this view, a little dip in the FB would be meaningless if it fell between two frets, as long as the frets were level, but it could have a major effect on playability for a fretless. Dunno if that's entirely true, but I do know my bass guy claims fretlesses are harder to get playing right all up and down the neck.
  7. In theory shouldnt a bass cost less than a guitar becuase it has 2 less string*

    *Well not really anymore...but mine does
  8. Marlat


    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK
    Don't worry, its a common misunderstanding - it costs more because to make a fretless the luthier has to pull all the frets out :D

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