When is a fretless not a fretless?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Happy Jack, Aug 11, 2018.

  1. I bought an Ovation Magnum III last year, the first I've ever played or owned, and I loved it so much that I decided to go looking for an Ovation Magnum II - that's the one with the strange body shape and the 3-band EQ for a tone control.

    I found one in a pawn shop in Louisiana and, astonishingly, it appeared to be a factory fretless with a macassar fingerboard. So I bought it.

    I've just finished cleaning it up (it needed it, it really needed it) and re-stringing it, tuned it up, tried to play it, and my intonation was all over the shop.

    It didn't take me long to realise that the dots on the neck were in the fretted positions so - crudely - about a quarter tone out for a fretless. Ah, so it's a de-fretted bass then?

    Well, no. There's not a blemish on the fingerboard, absolutely no evidence that frets have been removed at some point or that any work has been done to it. OK, it's been shaved then?

    Well, no. Not unless someone managed to source exactly the right dot markers for the newly-shaved fingerboard, and then installed them in the wrong (i.e. fretted) positions!

    I have to say that I am completely baffled. The only theory that seems to fit would be that someone abducted a neck from the Ovation production line after it had received its dots but before it had the frets installed (Was that the production sequence? Damfino.) and used that to create an unofficial fretless.

    That makes no sense to me at all, and I wouldn't have taken the trouble to type it out if I could think of any other explanation.

    The bass works well, plays beautifully, and sounds magnificent. I've used permanent Sharpie to black out the misleading side dots and I can't see the fingerboard dots when I'm playing, so there's no actual 'problem' here.

    But I'm curious. What on earth has gone on here?

    Any ideas?
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Hmmm. Ovation wanted to make a fretless, but didn't want to go through the hassle of moving the dots. Simple. Now if there was only another Ovation Magnum II fretless handy to compare against. Hmmmm. Anyone?
    Lance Bunyon, MattZilla and lz4005 like this.
  3. MD


    Nov 7, 2000
    Marin Co. CA.
    Maybe the FB was replaced at some point?

    Regardless - without pics, it doesn't exist.:)
    TolerancEJ and Wisebass like this.
  4. Ovation%20Magnum%20II%202_zpsdhycjq7w.jpg '] Ovation%20Magnum%20II%202_zpsdhycjq7w.jpg [/URL]

    Ovation%20Magnum%20II%201_zpsgztuutwg.jpg '] Ovation%20Magnum%20II%201_zpsgztuutwg.jpg [/URL]

    Ovation%20Magnum%20II%206_zpsll5vtvmk.jpg '] Ovation%20Magnum%20II%206_zpsll5vtvmk.jpg [/URL]
    Bassist4Eris, Bass V, JIO and 13 others like this.
  5. And no, I have no idea why each photo now appears twice!
    jefff100 and Garret Graves like this.
  6. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    too bad you had to make that 'adjustment' as it appears to be a pretty cool instrument, otherwise.
  7. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    What are we talking about here anyway? Are we talking about the dots on the SIDE of the neck or the dots on the face of the neck? Dots on the face are irrelevant as you can't see them when playing anyway just as you said. Side dots are another matter. You can find them in fretted positions sometimes (My Carvin AC50 fretless is like that but is lined), but if the fretless bass is lined and ends of the fretlines are clearly visible, then the wrong side dots are really no problem. However an unlined fretless with fretted side dots will drive you nuts in no time. So the Question is does this bass have side dots and where are they positioned? Older basses when fretless was just becoming popular can have wrong dots because some makers just grabbed their fretted necks and left the frets off them to build a fretless.

    I bought a Chinese fretless ABG that came with NO side dots so I added my own by drilling holes in the side of the fingerboard and filling them with white epoxy. Also I have a fretless wishbass where the side dots are simply all over the place where the previous owner solved the problem by buying one of those stick-on LED strips configured for a fretless bass. That could work for you too. It is the side dots that give you your quick reference points so they are the important thing to have right. Front facing neck markers are for the audience to look at.

    Totaly cool-looking Fretless bass, by the way!
    TomB likes this.
  8. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    fwiw I once owned a Rickenbacker that was built as a fretless bass from the factory...but same deal as your Ovation: The dots on the face of the fretless fingerboard were in the same position they would be in for a fretted bass, behind the associated fret. But no fretlines, just dots on the face of the blank plank.

    To further compound the confusion, the side dots were placed where the frets should have been! Came from the factory that way. Some manufacturers clearly don't think things through...and also look to maximize efficiency of production in some areas, while making more work for themselves in others.
    wideload, SirMjac28 and Happy Jack like this.
  9. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Just take it to a luthier and have the dots removed and place some side dots or lines whatever you prefer. Or convert it to a fretted.
  10. B-Mac

    B-Mac Just like Aretha Sang... R-E-S-P-E-C-T Supporting Member

    There’s no standard for this. Different manufacturers and luthiers do this differently. Adapt. Move on.
  11. rockdoc11


    Sep 2, 2000
    As an offshoot on this thread, I once owned one of these Ovation Magnum monsters, and discovered something very interesting you can try for incredible sound effects.

    Do you see each of the three sliders for the three band EQ? Each "knob" actually controls two different sliders.

    Try pulling the knobs off, and moving each slider in a pair in opposite directions (one +, one -). IIRC, you could get some incredible sounds that way!

    Sorry for the potential hijack!
  12. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    There are a lot of poorly designed fretless bass dot layouts. This is one of them.
  13. That would be an affirmatory to both. Imagine a standard fretted bass, then wave a magic wand and make the frets go away without leaving any trace they were ever there.

    Now that's what I'm talking about.

    As luck would have it, I installed a FretFX LED strip on my Mike Lull T5 just last week - love it to bits. So I'm already thinking along those lines.

    Thanks. :)
    bassbenj likes this.
  14. Now that's very interesting. I got into a conversation on Basschat with a guy from (?) Croatia who posted photos of his bass with the knobs missing and I asked him a question along those lines, i.e. was that a 6-band EQ or similar. He thought not, but perhaps a previous owner had done as you suggest.
  15. MD


    Nov 7, 2000
    Marin Co. CA.
    Did a little search.
    Looks like they may have done both - I don't see any lines in the 2nd pic.



    Although I don't quite get it; why bother installing dots if you're not going to cut the fret slots.
    Garret Graves likes this.
  16. MattZilla


    Jun 26, 2013
    because the Magnum is so awesome that double the pics are required for the internet to support it.
  17. Ha! Certainly it's heavy enough.

    I've spent years on a crusade to only own/play basses that weigh less than 8lbs.

    My Magnum III weighs just shy of 10lbs.

    That Magnum II fretless weighs dead on 11lbs.

    Thank God it's a fretless - the extra weight of all those metal frets would have turned it into a Black Hole.
    tonequixote likes this.
  18. I had a factory unlined fretless Warwick Rockbass Corvette where the side dots were in the fretted side dot position. I asked Warwick about it directly and they admitted it was a factory error and that a few made it out like that before they caught it.

    I got used to it after a while, but it took a while. I did make a mark 17” down the neck so I had a proper location to set intonation to.
  19. Drucifer

    Drucifer Not currently practicing Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 20, 2009
    Houston Heights, Texas
    Endorsements: your name could be here, Mr. Sadowsky!
    I have a lined Rob Allen and the side dots are in the fretted position, it's a pain because they are luminescent, or at least much easier to see than the dark lines. It just may be they didn't bother to relocate the dots from building fretted bass necks.
  20. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Rickenbacker does the same thing, the dots on the fingerboard are exactly where they would be on a fretted bass...making them useless :banghead: On the other hand, Ric places the side dots in the right locations :confused:


    TomB, Gilmourisgod and MattZilla like this.

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