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Warwick 5-string thumb NT fretless

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Neil Folkard, Nov 7, 2018.

  1. Neil Folkard

    Neil Folkard

    Nov 24, 2016
    Hey. I am looking to add a 5-string fretless to my arsenal. One of the leading contenders, is the Warwick Thumb NT fretless, probably similar to the style that Ryan Martinie uses, with Soften the Glare.

    Any thoughts on this bass in particular, Warwicks in general, and specifically the weight it might be. I have heard some Warwicks are light, but some can weigh 25 pounds, which might be a bit much.

  2. Barticus

    Barticus Supporting Member

    Sep 16, 2017

    My Warwick Corvette 6 with Bubinga body and Wenge neck is my heaviest Warwick of the 5 I own and NOwhere near that. Maybe 11.5lbs.

    It all depends on the woods used
  3. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Thumb basses are typically made with bubinga and/or ovangkol - two woods which tend to be on the heavier side. The only "Thumb" bass I've played that was not heavy was a custom order which replaced the usual African hardwoods with lightweight ash and maple. So, yeah, they're heavy basses by nature. Other thoughts on the Thumb: neck dive tends to be an issue, especially with five and six string versions; scale-wise they feel longer than they are; 26 frets (on the neck-through models) may or may not suit your needs; there was a period from roughly the late 90s 'til around 2010 where the necks were notoriously chunky. Sound-wise, I've played Thumbs that sounded great and Thumbs that sounded less than great. Another point that may be worth considering: Warwick customer service, in my experience, left much to be desired.

    To me the Thumb is the quintessential "must try before buying" bass. And make sure you try it standing with a strap.
    IamGroot and Barticus like this.
  4. Do you know if neck dive is worse on the bolt on models? Someone said on another thread that the neck throughs balance better because the bubinga bodies are heavier than ovangkol.

    My bolt on 5 string weighed 10.046 pounds, Hipshot Ultralites brought it down to 9.731 pounds. It's one of the good sounding ones!
  5. Here's an awesome sounding Warwick fretless Thumb played by Ralphe Armstrong:

    Joshua likes this.
  6. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    I think it depends somewhat on the individual bass but the worst neck-dive I encountered with Thumbs was with a couple of bolt-on 5s that I owned very briefly. My neck-through Thumb definitely had a bit of dive but it was significantly better in that respect than those bolt-on 5s. The bolt-on 4 that was my main bass for a couple of years liked to hang perpendicular but at least it didn't seem to want to dip past a 90 degree angle. I will say that my bolt-on 4 was a great sounding Thumb (I actually bought it at L&M in Ottawa) but I would never want to go back to playing something that heavy!
  7. Stewart13

    Stewart13 Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2016
    Redmond, Oregon
  8. schott1984

    schott1984 Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2017
    Chattanooga, TN
    My 1991 NT fretless is a few ounces heavier than the fretted. My fretless has had the aluminum truss rod replaced with new steel one, so that's probably why. I can't remember weight, but it's like 10-12lbs, I can't remember.

    It has SOME neck dive and more than the fretted, but I use 4" wide straps and you can't tell with a strap that wide.

    It's the only fretless I've used. I just put DR flat wounds on it tonight for a jazz gig tomorrow since I broke the neck on my upright bass :(
  9. I own a Warwick thumb fretted 5 bolt on and played a fretless 5 several times.

    Warwick's are a different beast. Like @Bass 12 said, you should try out before buying. NTs are not necessarily better sounding than bolt ons, depending on your ears.

    I never noticed any neck dive on my Thumb.

    And yes, it is a heavier bass, but I am only 66 and not a girly man, so the weight is no big deal for me.

    EDIT, the only reason I don't play my thumb all the time is that it gets way too much bass lust attention when I take it out to gigs.
  10. The thing with the Thumb is that they do balance acceptably but you must wear the bass the way it is designed to be worn, rather than how you fancy it should be worn. The Thumb is designed to be worn high above the belt line, centralising it's small but dense body over your torso.

    Some people say the Thumb gives the impression that the first position is further away than it really is. This may be an issue to you if you're unable to overcome your muscle memory. It's a case of mind over matter, and nothing that some basic practice can't fix.
    Barticus and IamGroot like this.
  11. I had a bunch of warwicks over the years including three thumb basses and have also met and actually shared the stage with Ryan. Super nice guy by the way on top of being an great player.

    His fretless is a custom shop which you can actually watch the creation of. That bass sounded amazing through the PA By the way.

    We talked shop a little bit and we even checked out each other’s basses briefly. He’s basically into all the German made Warwick stuff and he’s not afraid to modify them at all including swapping all the electronics and shaving the necks to get the tones and comfort he wants. But he does seem to prefer lighter weight thumbs. Thumb basses can be everywhere from like 9-12lbs so there is def some variation in weight that should be considered. Outside of basses he had two of the 1000w class d Warwick heads and two Warwick 410s but his sound through the PA was just bass and DI.

    As for stock factory fretless thumb basses in general they are awesome. The neck on his is custom and is where the bulk of the “customization” is. Obviously it’s easy to see his fretless has Bartolini pickups but it also had fretlines which the production fretless thumbs don’t and the neck profile was totally custom for him if I remember right.
    Both the NT thumbs I had balanced pretty well. I do agree with you that they were designed to be worn fairly high. Look no hands D961263B-A112-448C-A930-AF214DFA753D. BAD6A743-8BAE-4072-BD68-FF55F9AE8EF1.
    Anywho a good strap helps, using a wireless pack attached to the strap also acts as a counterweight a little bit. I didn’t have neck dive issues with the NTs I had. The BO was a different story though. I just don’t think that body style was designed to be used with anything but bubinga in mind. The bolt ons are noticeably neck heavy.
    As for how long they feel, that is absolutely true. They do feel like a longer scale than they are. I went from playing 34” thumb basses to 37” Dingwall and I actually didn’t notice much difference in reach for my fretting hand. I also remember thinking the “custom” musicman bass I ordered was mistakenly made as a shorter scale.
    IamGroot likes this.
  12. Neil Folkard

    Neil Folkard

    Nov 24, 2016
    Hey, thanks for all of the cool information. That is so awesome, that you got to hang with Ryan! Yes, he is a super nice guy. I talked to him for a little while, in Chicago, after a Soften the Glare show. He told me that he got his fretless with lines, more for performance purposes, than anything else. He also said that he owns an unlined Pedulla fretless.

    At the moment, I actually found a very nice Ken Smith custom 5-string fretless, at a local Long & McQuade Black Friday sale. It is used, but in mint condition, and was going for $2,000 (as opposed to the almost $6,000 new, that it would probably cost...in Canadian dollars). It is a quality instrument and very punchy...almost overwhelmingly so, lol. I am currently putting in time, trying to tame this beast, as it were.

    I'm going to give it a few months, and see if this is the right bass for me, or if I still will want a Warwick or F bass, as my 5-string dream fretless.

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