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intonating a fretless

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Unspoken511, Dec 24, 2013.

  1. Unspoken511


    Jan 22, 2012
    I have a Music Man Freltess Bongo 5 string, lineless, with dots on the side. I know these dots line up exactly where the fret would be, and they are accurate up to the 9. after, they're off, in increasingly larger increments. I know the whole point of a fretless is to use your ear, which I do, I rarely look at the dots, however, when I play the upper register, it's nice to have a reference point, especially when the notes aren't where I think they should be. Any advice on how to make the notes closer to the actuall dot that they should line up to, or something else to help?
  2. I had to do the intonation on my Fender Jazz after I changed to tape wounds. I just did it like I would any other fretted bass by comparing the open note to the octave (12th fret or where it would be). Of course with a fretless, there's more room for error so it's not quite as easy. Give it a shot, it's not too difficult and remember with a fretless, you may not get it perfect but I'm sure you can get it close enough that you won't have any real issues. Good luck and let us know how it goes!
  3. tedsalt

    tedsalt Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2010
    Kansas City
    How old are your strings? If they're worn out maybe they won't intonate correctly. Or maybe you got a bad set of strings. The other thing to look at is action. Your bridge saddle heights may need some adjustment (lower). Of course I could be wrong ...
  4. Unspoken511


    Jan 22, 2012
    I did the intonate with the octave, harmonic, and open note. The 12 is right, but everything above that is off, and the strings are about a month old.
  5. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    How are your action (string height), set-up, and fingerboard relief?
  6. Unspoken511


    Jan 22, 2012
    Action is like 1/16 of an inch off the board, almost right on the board. All strings are of uniform height, and the neck is flat. I don't know if it's exactly 180 degrees, but it's flat to the naked eye.
  7. MIMike


    Jan 1, 2013
    West MI
    Switch to thumb position when you get high on the neck.
  8. Unspoken511


    Jan 22, 2012
    I've seen Steve Bailey do that. Some cello players in my orchestra use that technique, but I've never tried it on electric bass. Would that solve my problem?
  9. I've owned quite a few fretless basses and it's been my experience that this is normal.

    To play notes in tune on my Rob Allen lined fretless, I finger the note directly on top of the line when playing near the middle of the neck. Closer to the nut I need to play a little on the "flat" side of the line and in the higher register I play a little on the "sharp" side of the line to be in tune.

    You can adjust the intonation to change where the in tune notes will lie in relation to the dots/lines on the neck but from my experience, you will always have to compensate slightly when playing in different registers. It's a good chance to really get to know your instrument!
  10. tylerwylie


    Jan 5, 2008
    Dunwoody, GA
    On fretted basses ya because the frets put dents in the strings... not really the case on fretless though.