The FRETLEZZ. (could be my worst idea yet)

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by shai-ga, Feb 22, 2024.

  1. shai-ga


    Dec 31, 2006
    So think about this situation:

    Fretboard. With slots. Deep rectangular slots.

    Metal inserts, 3 mm wide.

    Flush with the fretboard.

    Fretboard ends with a bolt-on metal square profile bar, also flush.

    You get the fretless tone and feel, zero action, but also the fret zing and ability to slap or tap.

    Genius or clown?
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  2. MudHead


    Feb 17, 2022
    New Orleans LA
    What about a Steele fretboard? That's a thing! Probably would be a whole lot easier than the project you are describing... Just saying.
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  3. shai-ga


    Dec 31, 2006
    Too thin and harsh sounding probably.
    You still want the resonance complexity of woods with their unique character.
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  4. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    The metal inserts will start out flush with the board... but they won't stay that way. They will expand/contract differentially, so depending on the season, maybe slightly raised or slightly sunk, as the wood board expands/contracts. it might not be enough to affect the tone, but you will definitely feel it. It's been tried before, I remember there was one bizarre version that had "retractable" frets. Another one had interchangeable boards held on by magnets, both commercial failures. that said, and in the Interest of Science, let us know how it turns out. :D
  5. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
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  6. shai-ga


    Dec 31, 2006
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  7. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Isn’t that ideally just a lined fretless? We’ve seen fretted necks ground down to just the tang remaining in the finger board.
  8. shai-ga


    Dec 31, 2006
    But here you have a metal on metal contact with the string hitting the fretted note, and also slap tone is created when the string hits the last fret and continue to ring while still fretted on metal, just like on a regular neck.

    Also optional - mini screws to set the blocks in place, to allow switching between stainless and nickel.
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  9. shai-ga


    Dec 31, 2006
    titanium\nickel\stainless steel:

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  10. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    It might be a challenge to level stainless with a wood surface. :D
  11. thombo


    Aug 25, 2006
    Denver, CO
    Charles Berthoud has a steel fretless bass:
    Sanford Parker plays/played a fretless EGC Bass:

    The closest thing I'd have to a converse would be the wood wearing at a faster rate from fretless gliss, leaving divots in the wood. The said, maybe the metal would protect the wood by leaving a stronger plane at the point where you play most often. Go for it, it could be rad!
  12. Dr. Keebs

    Dr. Keebs Bassmaster General

    Jan 9, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2024
  13. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Classic slap tone is partly the strings hitting the tops of metal frets, at least on the "pops". If the metal is flush with the wood, the string will contact both metal and wood for any fretted note, so I think what you will get will be something less crisp than a fretted bass, but more crisp than slapping on a fretless, which always sounds a little less distinct, more "woody". Maybe that's close enough? If you can solve the expansion/contraction issues, this might work, but wood expands and contracts mostly due to humidity, metal exclusively due to temperature. I remember back in the Day, a buddy had one of those Kramer basses with the "Y" shaped aluminum necks. That thing WOULD NOT stay in tune. Just the heat from your hand was enough to make the neck move. Plus it was like playing a cold fish. I think they made some later versions with wood inserts so it was little better tactile. If you have 24 3mm wide metal bars, and each one expands/contracts a fraction, the total deflection will be 24 times that fraction. You may be adjusting relief on this thing all the time. Science!
  14. ThudThudThud


    Jun 4, 2010
    I seem to remember seeing a video of Bill Clements playing on a bass similar to what's being described. It had wide inserts in the fret positions that made a fretted sound when hit, but the neck was smooth. Can't find it, and I can't remember the name of the company that made it.
    Also, Ashley Pangbourne used to make aluminium fingerboard fretless basses.
  15. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Might work as a super-low action slappable 'fretless wonder', but would almost certainly fail in terms of the fretless 'language'. Imagine trying a nice deep slow vibrato, ±30 cents or more, glissing a harmonic from top to bottom, or getting a bit 'creative' with intonation and the timbre changing every time you roll over from 'tang' to wood and back again...
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  16. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    That stainless fretless Berthoud is playing sounds great, but it’s a single material, the amount of expansion at any one point along it is probably tiny, I wonder how much longer/shorter the board gets based on temperature? Maybe not much, since hopefully it’s kept in a reasonably steady temp range.
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  17. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    SW VT
    I'd think fixed at the nut, held in slots but free to slide elsewhere so expansion/contraction wouldn't affect the overall neck shape. Kinda have to toss out the usual role of the fingerboard, or rather make that the job of the fingerboard you don't see, under the stainless face...?
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  18. ardgedee


    May 13, 2018
    If you're thinking of this because you want a metallic slap sound on a fretless, I've seen pics of fretless basses made with brass plate at the neck heel, just north of the highest stop on the (wood) fingerboard. When the string is slapped, it hits the plate, you get your clang and don't have to worry about how well wood and metal interact.
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  19. SunByrne

    SunByrne trained monkey Supporting Member

    Aug 29, 2019
    Pearland, TX
    Didn't John McVie's fretless Alembic have a stainless steel fingerboard?
  20. J Posega

    J Posega Cat Dad and Dingwall Enthusiast Supporting Member

    Jul 16, 2005
    Portland, OR
    Marco Bass Guitars did a metal groove in a fretless fingerboard thing before:


    I would love to try a fretless aluminum or steel board.