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Setting String Height on a Fretless

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by DavePlaysBass, Oct 31, 2009.

  1. DavePlaysBass


    Mar 31, 2004
    Ok. Basic question. I did some searching but did not really see what I was looking for.

    I setup fretted basses all the time. Love doing it. I guess I am a little heavy handed in my playing as I have gravitated toward medium gauge strings set up to medium ish string height. That is compared to trying to setup lower gauge strings lower as I was 10 years ago.

    I have my first SX fretless coming (5 string Jazz LPB). I just ordered a set of Sadowsky Flats (45-130).

    When I start setting things up I would set the relief like I normally due which around 0.015" at the 9th fret. I would then set the string height measuring from the 12th fret up (with the first fret capoed).

    Is is still good or valid to use the capo with a fretless?

    Also given there is not 12th fret, would I want the string height to be comparable to the distance between the string bottom and the fret on a fretted?

    I find the Sadowsky article and 12th fret numbers to be a great starting point. And I usually end up in the medium to medium high per the Sadowsky measurements with a fretted.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. ByF


    May 19, 2009
    Yes, you can still use the capo to set the relief, but you may want the neck straighter than you would set a fretted bass. Yes, I would start with the 12th fret height, but go to the board--that would be a good starting place, and adjust from there.

    One thing I could never find in a book or on-line is that you may need to cut the nut slots deeper. Some manufacturer use the same stock nut on a fretless bass as on a fretted one, and the slots will be too high by the height of the missing frets. You can take the slots down to where they are just a few thousandths of an inch off the board.

    Have fun.

    derylgallant likes this.
  3. DavePlaysBass


    Mar 31, 2004
    Does anyone have a good recipe for getting the right nut slot depth? And can I do the nut filing with common hardware store items? I have never ventured into the world of nut slot filing.
  4. start with two business cards thickness from bottom of string to top of board. Some like it lower, but too low can be problematic.

    get a set of those little needle files and work slowly with a SLIGHT back angle around 13 degrees... this way witness point is on the board side of the slot and notes will ring clear and in tune.

    set action according to how much "mwahh" you want and how easily you want it to come out. I don't set my action too low, but certainly as low as any of my fretted basses.
    I personally set relief on my fretless pretty straight, but I do the same with the fretted instruments (about 1 business card thick on the 8th fret).
  5. DavePlaysBass


    Mar 31, 2004
    So I would file until the part of the nut that is closet to the board is about 2 business cards high and the nut side closest to the tuning pegs would be slightly lower?

    Also can you pick up a set of these mini needle files at Lowes or Home Depot, or should I be looking else where. I see Hardware store needle file sets and then I see Hobbyist mini file sets. I am thinking maybe the Hobbyist mini file sets would be more in order?
  6. Mojo-Man

    Mojo-Man Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2003

    As someone already said.
    Nut height is more of an issue.
    It must be lower than a fretted bass.
    bass nitro likes this.
  7. hasbeen

    hasbeen Commercial User

    Sep 23, 2004
    Vice President, KMC Music. Warwick U.S. distribution
    You are correct. If it was higher on the rear of the nut (closer to the machine heads), then the string would terminate and intonate there. Yes, you can get the set of files at any hardware store.
  8. hasbeen

    hasbeen Commercial User

    Sep 23, 2004
    Vice President, KMC Music. Warwick U.S. distribution
    very good post. ....this is the way to do it.