Thinkin' About Going Fretless

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Johnny BoomBoom, Mar 14, 2002.

  1. OK folks - I'm considering going fretless and need some advice!!!

    I have several fretted basses already, and while I love Spector basses, I don't wanna spend that kind of money to find out I can't hack it.

    I've read here that a lot of people rave about MIM Fender Jazz basses and how upgradable they are! I have never tried a Jazz, but now might be the time.And later if I like it I can upgrade the necessary bits to my choosing (if I desire!)

    I reckon that I can get an MIM Jazz here for about £320 (about $450). I'm not sure if the Lined Fretless option will make much difference.

    I have checked out my local stores and they do not carry fretless basses - I'd need to order it. What are your opinions on this as a starter fretless bass??

    Also, if I do go this way, what sort of things should I look for in a Jazz fretless when I go to pick it up??

    BTW I'm considering going fretless to increase my flexibility and sounds arsenal. I had considered going to a 6 string fretted as well - but don't know what I'd do with one right now, maybe at a later date.

    I'd be grateful for any info on my fretless Jazz thoughts that you care to share!!

    Edit: Yeah, I used the search function on Fretless, got a lot of good info, but thought I'd ask this for specifics!
  2. Well, one thing you need to be consider with a fretless is your fingerboard wood. Just because it's a good sounding/looking fretboard wood doesn't mean it's suitable for a fingerboard. In my opinion, ebony is best... due to it's extreme durability, brightness in tonal character, and ease of maintenance. Many other woods are OK... but stay away from soft woods i.e. birdseye maple and the like. They may look great but will wear extremely fast.

    Strings... while many modern fretless players use the same roundwounds they use on their fretted instruments it makes more sense (at least to me) to use either flats, pressure wounds, or half rounds. In the end, and after a bunch of trial and error, I personally settled on Thomastik-Infeld Jazz flats. Unique sounding, long lasting, low tension, but expensive as h*##.

    Lastly, set the action up lower than your fretted basses. Usually you'll play your fretless with more sensativety and feeling (and less thrust) than your fretted.

    Remember... opinions are like rear-ends... everybody has one. :p
  3. Oh yeah... one more thing... I'd personally skip the six stringer. Convert one of your current fours to a piccalo bass and REALLY add to your range of sounds. :D :D
  4. Hi Johnny.

    I've just been considering likewise. I popped into my dealer for a bit of a try-out and I'm now not sure whether or not to go down that route. My personal circumstances dictate that I probably wouldn't have the time to practice the fretless so it seems a mite pointless now. I've a thread going on Technique that you might like to look over.

    I deliberately tried 2 entry level fretlesses at my dealer: an Aria (model ?) and a Yamaha RBX270. The Aria has no lines whilst the Yam. has.

    Now, not being at all competent on fretless, I found both quite difficult to play (no surprise there:eek: ) The Aria was, on balance more difficult because of the Yam's lines. I found the Yam better built and nicer to play but it had a really pronounced dead spot on G between about 2 and 7 "frets". I wouldn't buy one for that reason (unless that one's a rogue, of course).

    Can't help you at all with Jazz although they do seem to be well thought of on here.

  5. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    The thing I don't like about the Fender MIM Jazz fretless is that the neck side markers are between the note locations like on a fretted bass. On the vast majority of fretless basses, the side markers are at the note locations. This may make it more difficult to play the Fender, and definitely will make it more difficult to transition to another, more high end fretless in the future, should you "find your voice" on this instrument.

    I have a Dean Edge 5 fretless and I can't recommend the Dean highly enough. It is a very nice instrument for the money and a great bass to start out on IMO. Mine was my first fretless and cost me just a bit over $400US.

    If you have good technique to begin with, lined or unlined doesn't matter as much as you think it will.
  6. Thanks for your help guys!

    Philbiker - I'm not convinced my technique is so good that I wouldn't need the lines!!! I hear you regarding later transitions (if it works out, oh yeah, a Spector fretless could be mine!!)
  7. CS


    Dec 11, 1999

    If you dont mind going private try I did a search re fretless in Scotland and the only one that came up was a Soundgear for £225. You could try keeping an eye on the site and see what comes up.

    Alternatively take a rd trip to one of the bass specialist sites. Ring them first and see what they have. Might be worth the train fare to Manchester/whatever.
  8. Thanks CS - that's worth thinking about. Thing is I reckon I can get a good deal out of Sound Control in Glasgow - I just bought a lot of stuff from there with some redundancy money. I also wanna get something that isn't too costly - so that I don't lose a lot of money if it doesn't work out - but also something that's pretty good quality and readily upgradable should it all work out. ALso, I don't have a Jazz Bass yet.

    Cheers anyway dude!!
  9. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    You are welcome, sorry I didnt see this earlier I have been busy.
  10. grovest


    Feb 26, 2002
    I second the Dean Edge Fretless. It's a really fine guitar for the price. (In fact, it would be good compared to an axe $200 more expensive, easily). Check them out on eBay. I sold my six-string fretless for $350.
  11. Pea-NUT


    Jul 1, 2001
    Jerseyville, IL
    I was thinkin' the same thing. I like the look of those Dean Rhapsody fretless basses.Anyone have one around here?
    My next "project" is a 5 fretless. But that comes when money comes. Money does come my way often. Considering im only 15. But im still hustling. I would 2nd both the MIM jazz. Thats the only one i played....out of well....all fretless basses. But there are tons of possibilitys.
  12. catwig1


    Mar 4, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Have you considered converting one of your basses? I defretted my XS-8 a few months ago, with the help of Franc O’Shea. And whoa, it kicks ass.

  13. catwig 1 - it has crossed my mind to de-fret one of my basses. The only candidate would be the Washburn XS-5 though, I wouldn't risk any of my other basses!!!!

    But, the thought of being able to justify to the wife that I NEED another bass by saying - "but I haven't got a fretless" seemed like a good plan!!!:D
  14. catwig1


    Mar 4, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Better not mention having a defret then :). I just noticed that the Bass Centre has MTD Kingston basses in have you considered one?

  15. Planet Boulder

    Planet Boulder Hey, this is a private Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2001
    6,482 feet above sea level
    I once had impure thoughts. Oh, and I pluck my ear hair.
    Be careful if you convert. My Warwick was converted by having the frets ground down (previous owner) and, no matter how good the grounding is (mine was probably as good as it gets), the frets will ALWAYS outlive the wood, especially if they are brass.

    I'd recommend not converting, frankly, because it's quite possible that the bass you are converting does not posses a durable enough surface to withstand direct contact with the strings.

    If possible, see if you can simply buy a fretless neck. I understand that Warmouth is now making replacement necks for Warwick (I can't seem to find their site - anyone?), for example, and they seem to have reasonable prices and solid quality.
  16. fretlines shouldn't be a big issue. Just play songs you know on a fretted on the fretless untill you start to get a feel for it. Its all about feel. I dont even have a fretless but from playing a fretted bass so much I can play an upright bass in tune. I dont have any trouble with fretless when i play them at music stores either. Just play or practice alot and it won't be a problem.
  17. jasonbraatz


    Oct 18, 2000
    Oakland, CA
    1) the frets were GROUND?!?! man that's wierd. most of the time they're removed and filled,and that works fine.

    2) so - your bass has a fretless wenge board?! how does that sound/feel?
  18. Hi... I just went through what you are doing.. I settled on a korean bass, a Brice. I think it is made by Samick, I have a samick 5 string and the components are all very similar. Anyway, The Fretless I bought is a 5 string, with no fret lines. It cost me 150$(floor model). I am not having too much trouble playing in tune, I just use the dots on the side. It does need new strings I just ordered a set of TI's for it.. What a pain trying to find someone who carries a 5 set of flats, had to do it online. The nice thing is after practicing with the fretless for a while, going back to my main fretted bass( A peavey TL5) makes it seem like cheating. If nothing its good for building up your chops, and it sounds real cool too.

    Good luck!
  19. According to several sites I know, birdseye maple is NOT soft. I've never played a bass w/birdseye so I don't know, however.....