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Looking for suggestions for a fretless with SUBTLE lines

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by doublestop, Apr 21, 2005.

  1. Hi, I'm interested in a lined fretless. But....I don't like white lines on a black fingerboard. What I want is something more subtle. Maybe black lines on a brown fingerboard? Or lighter brown lines?

    Suggestions, anyone? Pics are welcome.


  2. I had a Yamaha BB250F that aside from being a great bass for the money had a rosewood board and the lines were lighter but not white. They could be hard to see if you needed to peek on a dark stage, but they were definitely low-contrast.
  3. Skelf


    Apr 15, 2005
    Moffat D&G Scotland
    Builder AC Guitars.
    If you wanted to increase your options you should have a look at the acrylic impregnated woods. These make excellent fretless boards I have used a black palm board which I got from Gallery and am very happy with in terms of sound and feel. The process allows you to use woods not normally used for fretless like burl/birdseye maple. I have also seen an Overwater with padauk lines in an ebony board which you could not see from about 6 feet away. Another possibility is to have done what I did on my Wal which is to have partial fretlines.
  4. tiefling


    Aug 19, 2003
    Washington DC
    my Zon has brown lines. when you play it you can see clearly but backup about 5 feet and you can barley see them and at 10 feet the board looks blank.

  5. gyancey


    Mar 25, 2002
    Austin, TX
    I like black lines in a pau ferro (brown) board. Another option is "hidden" lines, which can be as simple as a slotted board with the kerfs veneer filled and glued line-side down so they only show on the sides. This method also shows the lines on both FB edges in case a leftie picks up your bass.
  6. MichaelScott


    Jul 27, 2004
    Moorpark CA
    I always think these threads are funny. Do you think anyone actually cares if we have lines on our fretboard? Do you think anyone actually cares if we are playing fretless or not?

    People care about us holding down the line and playing with correct intonation. Getting a fretless bass with no lines or "hard to see" lines makes it harder to play with correct inntonation- and you aren't impressing anyone except the random bass player in the crowd that is educated on fretless.

    I'd prefer (and maybe I am just weird) for the random bass player in the crowd to think I am playing a fretted and walk up to me and say "WOW! Your have some great fretless tone!"
  7. Jean Baudin

    Jean Baudin

    Aug 27, 2003
    redwood city, ca
    Endorsing Artist: See Profile
    my alembic has paduak lines on an ebony fretboard. It matches the paduak top & it's very subtle. If it's just a slight bit dark, the lines are gone.

  8. Andy Brown

    Andy Brown Commercial User

    Jul 23, 2004
    Rhode Island
    Founder/Owner: Wing Instruments
    FWIW, it's not really clear that the original poster is trying to please others in the crowd... maybe he just likes subtle lines?
    rtav likes this.
  9. MichaelScott


    Jul 27, 2004
    Moorpark CA
    You're right he didn't say "I want subtle lines because I think it looks better- I don't really care what anyone else thinks."

    But if he didn't really care about what anyone else thinks then why would he care about the lines? As long as they are there and he can use them then it doesn't matter.

    I don't mean to draw to many conclusions about the OP- this is just a general observation I've made about the two different crowds of fretless players. For some odd reason people don't want to have lines or don't want other people to know they are using lines. This seems odd because, like I posted above, most people don't care about how your bass looks they just care about how it plays- heck most of the casual observers probably think you are playing a guitar with 4 strings and don't even know what a fret is.
  10. but the bass player that owns the bass cares what it looks like, if i am going to shell out 2000 for a custom bass i want it to look how i want and thats how, i think a nice clean finger board looks soo much better on a fretless but if you need lines and have the choice to use any material you want to fill them why not pick out what YOU think looks best. like a car if you didnt care what ppl think why dont you drive around in a poop brown car, becuase you may not like poop brown so you go with the red or whatever
  11. Andy Brown

    Andy Brown Commercial User

    Jul 23, 2004
    Rhode Island
    Founder/Owner: Wing Instruments

  12. I am the original poster, and yes, it's just that I like subtle lines. I don't care what others think about it, nor do I want to impress the audience.......as some people have said, the general audience is NOT AT ALL interested in what instrument the bassplayer uses - if they pay attention to the bass at all.

    No, I want subtle lines, because a) I prefer the look of a blank fingerboard on a fretless bass. A fretted bass may have all sorts of inlays, but a fretless bass looks best completely 'virgin'. IMHO. But: b) I need those damned lines to play in tune (well: sort of, actually :D ) . So, "invisible lines" are a good compromise.

    Anyways, you guys are great. Thanks for the responses, hints and pictures,

    and keep 'em coming

  13. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    There was a discussion in the luthiers forum I think about staining a rosewood or other dark board with light lines. I think they said to use walnut stain, but might have been something else. It turns those bright maple lines into dark red lines that blend in much better.

    Maybe something to consider if you ended up finding a bass you really liked that happened to have maple or an equivalent as the lines, and you wanted to make them more subtle.

    Do a search in there on fretlines and you should be able to find the thread.
  14. Bryan R. Tyler

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

    May 3, 2002
    If you're having it custom made, then your choices are pretty much any color you want-you can get most woods in verneers, or you can have maple lines that are stained to a color of your liking. If you're looking for a production bass, you're kinda out of luck, as white or a more yellowy maple is pretty much all you'll likely find.

    The one thing I'd suggest is to make sure if you're using a wood veneer for the lines, make it be a sturdy wood that will hold up over time. Since you'll be fretting on those lines most of the time, you want them to be as durable as the fingerboard wood, so they don't wear away quicker than the fingerboard.

    When I had my old fretless built, I wanted it to be easy to see where I was playing, as I didn't want dots on the fretboard. I had the luthier use maple lines on the 1,3,5,7,9,12th, etc. frets and purpleheart lines on the 2,4,6,8,10,11th, etc. frets. It made it very easy to see where I was playing. The purpleheart lines were pretty subtle if I wasn't in a good light, and the maple lines were even a little subtle because the fingerboard was polyed, giving them a more muted yellowy color when not in a bright light.

    In good light:
    In not as much light:
  15. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    The most recent lined fretless I had was a Wal 5 with dark brown (walnut?) lines on an ebony board. You could barely see them in anything less bright light.

    In my experience, though, they ended up being fairly useless, because they were so hard to see in the lighting conditions that you typically play under. The more subtle they are, the more likely this is to be the case. On top of that, you hear it when you did slides across them, because different woods shrink differently and they were not perfectly flush with the board. Gimme dots or half-lines, personally...

  16. Andy Brown

    Andy Brown Commercial User

    Jul 23, 2004
    Rhode Island
    Founder/Owner: Wing Instruments
    Man, I almost forgot to post my (former) fretless... I had a Stambaugh SC5 with Burled Maple lines. The lines were made from the same wood as the top. Couldn't even tell from more than 5 ft away.

  17. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
  18. You could always have what Godin does to their fretless basses, which are 1/4" lines inlayed at the top of the fingerboard. You can easily see "over" them, but for all intents and purposes they're blocked by the lowest string (E or B) from the front.
  19. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    Keep in mind, not all stage lighting is very bright. I know a guy who sold a totally scary F bass fretless 'cause he did the "subtle" lines, and just couldn't see them well enough in all cases. I don't know your skill level, so only you can determine if it applies to you. Just food for thought. I know I couldn't do it without spending a lot more time on FL, but then again, if that were the case, I'd just go side markings only... I LOVE the totally blank fingerboard look.
  20. Jonki

    Jonki I will not slap my Bee!

    Oct 14, 2003
    Arendal, Norway
    my Warmoth fretless ebony got brown lines, real comfortable to look at

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