My first fretless and intonation problem

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by kevmac, Jul 18, 2019.

  1. kevmac


    Mar 17, 2019
    Rhode Island
    I have just completed my fretless kit build,it was a fretted kit but I bought a fretless neck for 50 bucks and used it.The neck has no markers but all the measurements seem correct, placement ,scale etc.My problem is that I can't seem to be able to correctly intonate it.Part of the problem is the bare neck with no point of reference for the 12th fret.Is it possible the cheap kit bridge is the culprit? This is my first foray with fretless so it's all new to me.
    Any help will be appreciated.
  2. Set the G string so the string saddle is right at 34"(assuming that's your scale length). Measure from the bridge side of the nut. Measure 17" from that same point and put a piece of tape on the fingerboard at that point. Your G string should be in tune open and at that point. If not move the saddle until it is, it might have to move back a hair. Now intonate the other strings off the piece of tape that's at the 12th fret.

    I play fretless almost exclusively - so that process works, but understand that your finger is round, not a point, so it's pretty hard to say the instrument's intonation is perfect. Your exact contact point with the fingerboard is difficult to control, it's not as accurate as a fret.
    Tad and T_Bone_TL like this.
  3. kevmac


    Mar 17, 2019
    Rhode Island
    Thanks Jisch,I'm gonna try this tonight.I've played bass for many many yrs. but this is my first fretless. I'm an old bastard and have always loved the sound of it but had my hands full on fretted.Now in retirement I'm trying to mark off the bucket list. One more thing,the side dots as I understand should mark where a fret wold be but some do and some don't .Is this a result of the poorly intonated bridge?
  4. ixlramp

    ixlramp Guest

    Jan 25, 2005
    Jisch's advice seems good.
    When i intonated my fretless (which has side dots at the fret positions but no lines), intonation was a little weird due to the 'finger' problem mentioned. I eventually worked out that the point to be considered the contact point between string and fingerboard seems to be roughly at the bridge edge of your fingertip, not the midpoint of your fingertip.
    kevmac likes this.
  5. All the fretless basses I've played I made myself, I have always put fretlines on the side of the fingerboard and dots in the normal positions.

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