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String Height on Fretless Bass

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Geoff St. Germaine, Dec 27, 2001.

  1. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    I am doing the initial planning on a fretless bass and have a question about string height. Is the string height generally the same on a fretless as on a fretted bass? It would seem to make sense that it would be, but would you now measure from the fretboard to the string, or would you take into account the height that the frets would have had. I am looking to other builders or people with setup experience.

  2. dingz2, it's going to depend on your personal playing style as to where your strings are going to be fixed. If you're a big "mwah" player, the lower you can go - much lower than a fretted. If you are more of "thump" man, you can keep them the same height as fretted. Rule of thumb: measure your fretted playing height then subtract your fret height and you've got a starting point. I personally prefer a very low action - even to the point of a bit of clacking and clicking being heard from the upper register of the neck. You really don't hear this in playing situations but you WILL hear the soothing, dulcet tones of the big MWAH!
  3. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Hm, quite, Ham.
    But what about nut height?
    I.e. the the string height at the front of the nut, or the height of a zero fret?
  4. Damn Sub, you've discovered the flaw in my plan!

    I should have made clear that I was referring to a situation where the nut was the proper height in the first place. The fact that he is planning a NEW bass dictates that he should pay special attention to nut (string slot height) as well as neck relief. You can go pretty low at the nut but I don't have a precise measurement for this.
  5. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    I am probably going to have to make a best conservative guess on the nut height and adjust if it is too high. For the string height, I talked to another builder who uses the same string heght for his fretless basses and fretted basses (though the surface he measures from is the fret on the fretted basses) so I will go with this. Luckily the bridge I am installing has a wide range af adjustability so I should be able to adjust it somewhat if necessary.

  6. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    I think you'd actually need to go pretty low at the nut to avoid pulling notes sharp when playing in first position, (of course, you can roll your finger slightly the other way to compensate!)

    When I'm installing a new nut, I usually add .015" to the height of the fret, (.055" + .015" = .070"), and use feeler gauges to give me that much space between the bottom of the slot and the fingerboard. For fretless, I use a .025" feeler gauge... Both of these methods work for me when roughing in the slots and allow a little in the way of fudge factor for fine tuning. Again, YMMV

  7. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Right. I've found that most parts of a bass are pretty straight forward. But not, NOT AT ALL(!), nut height and relief!

    Robert, why do you use 67% more string height on a fretless?? :confused:
    This will make it a lot harder to play, and less "natural" to finger the F properly. No? :confused:

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