New MIA Fretless Jazz Bass... need advice on making it better

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bassman45, Aug 7, 2005.

  1. Bassman45


    Jul 16, 2005
    Just picked up a new MIA Fretless Jazz Bass...

    The "mwah" sound is non existent.. not good :meh:
    The pickups sound very dry (unlike the EMGs on my P-bass).. need to change them :crying:
    And finally, the intonation was really off. I adjusted it a bit but ended up bringing the saddles almost all the way up to the "string-thru" holes :eyebrow:

    I bought this online because nobody had them locally. It's beautiful.. "sunburst" with rosewood fretboard. It's for recording only. If you were in my shoes, what would you change or do first?... setup, strings, PU's? I want to keep it but it's just not very playable in its present state. Suggestions?

    Thanks for your time and help :)
  2. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    An epoxied fingerboard and roundwounds will add zing with your mwah, and this is my personal favorite. You also may want to check out some Dimarzio Model J or Nordstrand J pickups.
  3. syciprider

    syciprider Banned

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire
    Return for an even exchange? Maybe the next one will be a keeper.
  4. spc


    Apr 10, 2004
    South of Boston
    If you can return it, I say do it, find something you like. We've all modified basses, but I think if the bass does nothing at all for you now, there's a damn good chance that it won't do anything for you after all of those mods.
  5. Are the strings flatwound? How do you have the pickups and EQ set? Are you using vibrato and the tips of your left hand fingers instead of the pad?
    Are you playing near the bridge?

    IME all that stuff affects mwah. Check that first before you decide to spend money. If you already have...get some nordstrands and DR Lo Rider nickles and you're good :p
  6. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Bill's mwah recipe (in no particular order):

    1) Roundwounds
    2) Low action
    3) Favour the bridge pickup
    4) Pluck the string up near the fingerboard so it vibrates with a bigger amplitude (if you want that sort of "buzzy" mwah - a position by the bridge will give you more of a "singing" tone).
    5) Left hand slurs and vibrato
    6) Fingerboard finish (hard and shiny is best)
    7) EMGs for their fantastic clarity, but they do need a bit of EQing to bring out the mids.
    8) Natural tone of the body/neck combination (this is obviously the bad bit of news as far as this thread goes).

    See what you think of the result - sound clip.
  7. bmc


    Nov 15, 2003
    Thanks Bill..You saved me from writing it out. I have a MIJ rosewood necked fretless jazz that gives me lots of mwah because of:

    1. very low action (almost buzzing)
    2. roundwounds (flatwounds didn't do it for me)
    3. favoured bridge pickup.

    I bought it with EMG's and swapped them for Custome Shop 60's. The EMGS's enabled the mwah very well and very cleanly. The Custom Shops just give me a vintage sound.

    No need to epoxy. Lots of people have been able to get mwah from fretless basses without boat epoxy.

    My advice is to see if you can achieve the sound you want by going the round wound and low low action setup first..
  8. i don't know much about fretless basses, but i do know that it sounds like a good setup is in order. if that doesn't work, i would follow bill's recipe.
  9. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Dead right - I meant to mention that in my first post.
  10. Bassic83


    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    Check the height of the slots in the nut- if they are the same as a regular fretted bass, you might need to file them to get them closer to the fingerboard. I like mine down almost to the wood, it really helps with the mwah developing fully. If the slots are too high, the string loses too much energy from your fingertips forcing them down (deflection).
  11. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Yep, another good point. Low cut nut slots are definitely a feature in a well set-up fretless.
  12. spc


    Apr 10, 2004
    South of Boston
    I think we're missing the point here. He's not asking about mwah, he's asking about modding a bass that he just purchased, and that he already doesn't like. Can you return the bass?
  13. Return it or work on your technique.
  14. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Yes, but he did ask about setup/strings/PUs in his original post, and said he wants to keep the bass. But you're right, I do think we need a bit more info! Bassman45, can you tell us what it is about the bass that you like enough for it to be a keeper?
  15. Bassman45


    Jul 16, 2005
    Sorry for the delay in getting to you guys... great info!

    In regard to your comments, I guess I was expecting more from this bass. My '75 P-bass is awesome.. the only modification has been the EMGs and GHS roundwounds. This bass has stock Fender flatwounds, which I know don't do much for it's sound. The setup really bothered me. To tell you the truth, this is my first fretless and I don't have any other instrument to compare it to. So I don't know if it's a lemon or not? :confused:

    Looking at it, it's very well made and shows a lot of promise. I guess throwing more money at it isn't the best alternative though given the fact it cost nearly $1,100. Yes I can return it. Sam Ash has a good return policy. it would be a shame though...
  16. Yes, that is it exactly!!! My Zon has an incredible mwah in part because because of 1 - 8 above
  17. oversoul

    oversoul fretless by fate

    Feb 16, 2004
    I also agree that a fretless doesn't necessarily need roundwounds and hard finish to get a good mwah, I was trying a MIM Jazz with flats the other day and the slide was pretty satisfactory, I was actually amazed as I remembered another MIM fretless I had tried earlier this year!
  18. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Bassman45 - thanks for the info. I think if I were you I'd take it back to the dealer and explain that you like the bass but have some concerns about it, especially the setup, and see what they suggest. That of course depends on Sam Ash (I've been in one of their stores whilst over in the US but not dealt with them, so obviously I don't know how responsive they'll be in this situation).

    If they can do a setup job that gets close enough to what you want to convince you it's worth keeping, then fine - mods can come later when you've had a chance to play it for a while and do some more research. If the setup doesn't work (or doesn't happen), return it and keep looking.

    My own search for a fretless that I was happy with went on for a long time - but in the end the knowledge I gained from trying as many basses as I could find gave me the confidence to actually put together my own Warmoth/Status baby. I'm glad to say this turned out great, for me anyway. But although you can get a good idea of what a project bass will turn out like, no matter how careful you are there's still a bit of a gamble involved. Take care and good luck in your quest for fretless Utopia!
  19. bannedwit


    May 9, 2005
    Buffalo, NY
    Quick Question on this topic...

    He mentioned that the strings are too high and that the intonation is set WAY back.

    Won't a Truss Rod Adjustment bow the neck backwards causing
    a.) Closer String to Fretboard and
    b.) Different intonation

    Just a thought, I haven gotten basses brand new or used that have had to be set up. If Sam Ash had this bad boy sitting or a while then who knows how it warped or even if it went through some crazy temperature changes on the UPS truck???

    Just a thought, please let me know if this would help...
  20. Bassman45


    Jul 16, 2005
    Just a note... the strings height is fine. I adjusted the intonation after I received it. Like I said, I had to adjust the saddles almost to the back of the bridge which seemed strange.

    So yes, that could be an indication of a bad neck adjustment, whether factory or shipping induced. :)