Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by AngryArgentine, Nov 22, 2001.

  1. Hello,
    I think this is a good idea but I could be very wrong. I was thinking about something today. A fretless bass can be hard to play if you don't have a good ear. But some people really love that fretless sound. So what if instead of the metal frets you had wood frets, I understand they would have to be made of a hardwood such as ebony, and that the strings would wear them out some. But my question is, would it work? Would you still get that fretless sound?
  2. barroso


    Aug 16, 2000
    interesting. i do not have any idea if this could work. it would be a really hard wood or maybe it could be a material as graphite...
  3. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    No, the fretless sound comes from not having ANY frets - the material doesn't matter IME.

    Somebody here posted a link to a guy who makes guitars with wood frets.

    But on a bass? Maybe with piezos or Lightwaves and nylon strings, but that would be a totally different sound...
  4. Wood frets? I suppose you could do that, but you definitely wouldn't get the same sound, and I imagine that the wood frets would wear out rather quickly...
  5. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    It's been done--Danny Ferrington's built at least one bass with an ebony fretboard and ebony frets. I read that it sounded sort of "dark and woody" as I recall, but I have no idea what the fretwear was like.

    However, a key eleent of the fretless sound is the way the strings make contact with the fingerboard. That doesn't just mean the string sitting on wood, but the string actually vibrating against wood over a (relatively) wide area that changes as the note attacks and decays, rather than breaking cleanly over single contact point like a fret. That's where the "mwah" comes from!

  6. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    Someone was also selling, in the back of BP a few years ago, a device that clamped on the bridge that would, with the flick of a switch, give you "that fretless sound!". Must have pushed some bits of wood up near the strings to buzz against them. I never read any reviews of the thing, and I've never seen one. To me that means either, 1. it was crap, 2. it was GENIUS and the CIA squashed it quickly as too revolutionay (think of it, every bass player with the mwah! disastrous!). :D
  7. Woodchuck


    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta / Macon (sigh)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    "It'll never work! This will float like a lead zepplin!" - a friend of Jimmy Page's upon hearing Jimmy's idea for a new band. Jimmy offered him the lead singer's job, BTW.
  8. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Actually, it pushed bits of metal, not wood, up near the strings. A virtually identical version was marketed for guitarists to give them "that sitar sound". I suspect it was much more successful at emulating a sitar (which actually has a bridge that buzzes against the strings) than emulating a fretless, but there's not exactly a huge market for the "bass sitar" sound...

  9. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Wood frets are really common with nylon stringed instruments, like JMX said, and I've even seen a fretted violin with ebony frets.

    Bass strings, however, would wear them down pretty quick, and the frets would soon be way out of tune.
  10. why do you need wooded frets when you can get fret markings across the fretboard anyway?

    Also, not to change the topic or nething, but would a fretboard made out of metal or kevlar or sumthing sound ok? Ive played on plastic ones and they sound crap.
  11. A solit metal neck would be insanely heavy. A hollow metal neck would be easily dented, and kevlar? I'm pretty sure that would be VERY expensive and also, VERY, VERY ugly.
  12. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    I think the question was about metal or kevlar fretboards. But there have been some aluminum-necked basses (Kramer and Travis Bean to name two). They were heavy, but the main problem people had with them was that they felt cold! :)

    There are at least two manufacturers who make metal-board fretlesses right now, Andreas and Vigier. I've only heard one recording with a metal-board fretless (Peter Murphy's _Deep_), and it doesn't sound terribly different. I think it helps a bit if you want to slap, and still want the metal-on-metal sound (not that slapping on a wood-board fretless sounds bad).

    I don't think kevlar would really be a good fretboard material. Kevlar's claim to fame is its strength and, when embedded in resin, stiffness. These are good qualities for a neck - I'm not sure what makes kevlar not good or unnecessary as a composite neck material. A fretless fingerboard needs to be stiff and strong but mostly hard and smooth. I've never seen anything kevlar that was smooth, it's usually got a pretty big weave.

    You know, I think Kevlar is a trademark, so forgive my lack of capitals so far. :)
  13. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Travis Bean made guitars and basses with aluminum necks, Andreas makes the Basking Shark bass with an aluminum fretless or fretted fingerboard, and some european company offers metal fingerboards as well.

    Almost all guitars and basses have a metal truss rod in the neck. Warmoth necks have 2 steel stiffening rods in them. Carvins used to. Martin guitars have a steel T bar in them. Ovation roundbacks have something similar.
  14. You could try making the wood frets about three times as wide as normal ones, and see how that goes.

    But I really like the idea of Kevlar necks. In case of assasination attempt, instant bulletproof shield. Of course, this wouldn't be much use to the guys with a Fender Jazz, but JT would be pretty comfortable.
  15. Keith Moon...correct?
  16. what about Vaccaro replacement necks? don't they use an aluminium core with wood on the outside or something like that?
  17. RicMeister

    RicMeister Guest

    Nov 25, 2001
    Why not just get a lined fretless? Or else just convert a fretted to fretless?
  18. FalsehoodBass


    Jul 22, 2001
    Denver, CO
    i saw a Roscoe online a while ago with an aluminum fretboard.. it looked really cool.. but being online.. i have no clue how it sounded...
  19. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I think you are mistaken on the idea of the "fretless sound."

    IF you are talking Mwah, then it wouldn't matter what the frets where made of, the simple fact they are there would goof it up. Mwah is created by the low action of the string and the string vibrating slightly against the length of the fingerboard when it oscilates. Frets, no matter what they are made of, would prevent this.

    This second factor of the "fretless sound" is technique. Part of the playing fretless is moving in and out of notes, vibrato and other little things. Ask any good fretless player here at TB (I am not one of them) and they will tell you that they can play and make a fretless indistinguishable from a fretted bass just by the appropriate technique. By carefully and clearly fingering notes and choking out the mwah. Fretless "sound" is really more in the player than the instrument.