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Neck suggestions - putting a fretless neck on a jazz bass

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by northpaul, Dec 23, 2013.

  1. I have a '97 American standard Jazz bass that I was lucky to find for 200 bucks over the summer - was just sitting unplayed for like 15 years and it is in pretty great condition.. A super lucky find. I like it a lot, but I feel like I have my six string for fretted work. I have a straight up piece of crap Peavy Millenium that I took the frets out of and did a fretless conversion (it is pretty bad, I can make it sound good but the bridge pickup doesn't work, truss rod has popped out the neck a little towards the head..). I find myself sadly playing it more than my Fender even though it was supposed to be a backup just because I love the feel and sound of fretless even though the Fender is of course the superior instrument.

    So, might be sacrilege of some sort but I want to put a fretless neck on it. Maybe even try to sell the original neck to recoup some of the costs if it looks like I like the fretless neck and will never put the original back on.

    If I was made of cash this would be easy I am guessing. Lots of choices. But I have a family, a almost 2 year old daughter and we go pretty close to paycheck to paycheck a lot of the time. Selling some stuff I can probably budget 200 bucks roughly.

    First of all is this doable on that kind of budget and if not what should I be looking to save? Secondly, although I play electric enough I am still an upright guy in terms of a lot of my knowledge of where to get things and I am not that familiar at all with where I should be looking, what companies are good to buy necks from etc. I'm not afraid of getting my hands in there and changing out the neck but I need advice about what I should be looking for.

    Sound wise, if it matters, I have TI flats on it and I usually just use the neck pickup. I like a deep fundamental but without being too muddy. I worry that a neck with lots of stuff over the wood might not give me the sound I am looking for; if I found something with an ebony fingerboard played gently with flats like I would on an upright, would I be safe not having epoxy or poly on there? Any other woods that I could play without a coating? Or am I assuming incorrectly that those coatings kill the natural type of sound I like?

    I have been googling and searching for a couple weeks now but not finding much that helpful, particularly about where to look for necks or what kinds. Thanks A LOT for any help!
  2. bswag

    bswag Guest

    Dec 21, 2013
    Well, I Googled "fretless jazz bass necks" and got a bunch of stuff which at least looked helpful. I think a fretless neck is available from Allparts; maybe from Warmoth also; and maybe others.
    I'm guessing the problem would be that not all after-market or replacement parts are necessarily going to fit just right without diddling, so that would depend on your comfort with futzing with it, if needed.
    Them's my best guesses, good luck!
  3. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    Stewartsville, NJ
  4. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    If you can do it without having to sell the original neck.
    If you ever need to sell it, being able to put the original neck back on will help with the resale value I reckon.
  5. I'm heavily considering that for sure. I am trying to do some research on what an untreated maple neck would sound like at the moment - seem to be getting some conflicting answers. Some places say bright, some say that there isn't much sustain, some say without epoxy it won't sound like what one would expect from a fretless. An I have zero guesses since I have only played rosewood and ebony uprights - the only maple I have seen has not been desirable because it is usually cheapo wood painted black to look like ebony. My guess though is that I can't rely on that, though, because it is a totally different beast in all of the important factors when talking about the tone of an electric bass.

    Anyone have any experience with maple fretless necks? The seller doesn't know if this has been treated or not so I assume it will be string to wood for the tone, not poly or epoxy.
  6. I ended up ordering something that was already made on the Warmoth showcase - a clear satin nitro finished maple neck/rosewood fingerboard, no lines. I am not clear if the nitro is on the fingerboard or not - I would guess not but the description was not specific. Pretty psyched to say the least, but now I have to play the waiting game!

    I guess that will give me time to look for a new pickguard since the existing white one will not look ideal. Might go for a walnut pickguard, or if I can find it something smaller than standard. I would love to just go without pickguard but even though it is an American Fender it has the circle cut under there but even worse a channel cut from the controls to the neck pickup, and the hole for the neck pickup is also way too big. Anyhow, thanks for the help.
  7. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    I think you did good! Warmouth necks are great (but pricey). I do not recommend a maple fingerboard for fretless. My favorite wood is natural ebony. Great tone, great wear. But natural rosewood is killer too. Tone will be a tad more mellow than ebony but will sound GREAT!

    I do not recommend coatings on fingerboards for fretless either unless you are going for the Jaco-epoxy sound. Your neck will almost certainly come with no coating on the wood. I strongly suggest buying a bottle of Fret Doctor or Dunlop fingerboard oil to clean and treat the neck later but also to treat it BEFORE you put the strings on it.

    I always love what a new fancy and unusual pickguard does to the look of a jazz bass. Can cost some coin but I've never been sorry I did it!

    I've done a number of basses (like my Chinese SX) by ironing off the fretboard (see internet) and installing a pre-radiused ebony fretless unlined fingerboard. Excellent results. Fingerboard materials here:


    But that is another project. You seem to have this one well under way!

    Good luck!
  8. Wanted to pop back in for a final post to update - I got my Warmoth neck yesterday and put it on. After some adjustments to the truss rod and string height it plays like nothing I have ever played before - so smooth, so playable. Still has a "new string" sound since I wanted to have a new set to go with the new neck but the tone is just great.

    Now I can't decide if I should order a wooden pickguard or not...I kind of like the white.

    DSCF8355-Edit by Paul Hofreiter, on Flickr

    Thanks to everyone for the replies and advice.
  9. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Go parchment for that pickguard. It's still white, but not as bright. I did the same thing you did for a fretless neck. Warmoth all the way. They are really well made necks, and feel great. I got an ebony fingerboard on mine and am having it epoxied, but that's for protection as I use roundwounds on mine. Enjoy that neck! It looks great!