Author Topic: fretless bass thoughts / advice  (Read 4934 times)

jkn

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fretless bass thoughts / advice
« on: November 09, 2009, 07:00:59 AM »
I'm planning to buy a fretless bass next year - but on my first scouting trip around town I found a used one in stock and like it.   I know there's a few bass players on here - so yell if you have advice...

My wife wants me to buy something brand new (I have 2 used basses and a used guitar - never had anything new...) - I'm not necessarily hung up on "new" so much as "good".

I've never owned a fretless - and have played one for about 30 minutes total in my life... ;-)  I'm looking more in the mid-range / solid... was thinking in the $800 price range.   I know I can easily jump up to a couple grand easily in buying basses/guitars - don't really want to with this.   On the other hand - this will probably be the only fretless bass I buy. 

OPTION 1

So the one I found for $500 used is a 2002 Fender Jazz Bass made in Japan.    Good price?   I'm estimating it was probably $850 new.   I'm seeing most similar models now made in Mexico.   I'm not sure if there's a huge significance in the location  it's made with these (at least until I jump up into the $1500 and up American models).

The used one I found appears to have never been played - no scuffs, no scratches... still has bits of the sticky film that protected the pick gaurd under the screws.   So appears to be someone that bought a fretless -and then rarely picked it up - or played in such a way that they never left a mark.  

It has EMG pickups - which appears different than most 'new' cheap models I'm finding.

OPTION 2

Save up for a new one.   Buying advice anyone?



« Last Edit: November 09, 2009, 07:02:42 AM by jkn »
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Wayne Higgins

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Re: fretless bass thoughts / advice
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2009, 08:49:32 AM »
A Japanese 2002 Fender Fretless for $500???  Where, I'll buy it!!!!!!!!

Honestly, you won't find a better one.  I have a Mexican Stratocaster.  Love it.  Fender snobs will tell you that the Mexican Fenders are inferior to the Americans, don't believe them.  My reasons... 1:  it can't be the workmanship.  Mexican's have been making guitars for centuries.  American Fender's are made in Arizona, and I'll bet the people in the American Fender factory are Mexican anyway.  2:  Wood and other materials.  Are you kidding me?!?!?  The wood would have to be brought in from somewhere at both places, and the mechanical parts are from the same place as well.  The only difference I know of is that the American Fender's are said to use thinner wire in the pickups.  The Squire's ARE inferior.  As far as Japanese, the reason they don't make Fender's in Japan anymore is because the Japanese were doing a better job than the Americans.

I had a 1972 Fender Jazz that I rebuilt into a nice fretless bass.  I had EMG pickups, and everything on the bass that was replaced (everything but the body and tuning heads) was from Stewart McDonald.  I traded it a month ago for a Les Paul.  I wasn't playing it anymore.  My first fretless bass was a Fender Precision that I bought in 1981.  Played that for about 8 years.  Sold it when I was in school.  I wasn't in a band anymore and needed a bicycle.  The bike was stolen two days after I bought it. 

SOOOOO my advice.  BUY THE JAPANESE BASS!!!  The worst thing that could be wrong with it is the wiring, and that will cost you hardly anything to redo.  $18.98, to be exact.

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Electronics,_pickups/Supplies:_Wiring_kits/Wiring_Kit_for_Jazz_Bass.html
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Scott M2

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Re: fretless bass thoughts / advice
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2009, 01:26:28 PM »
Now that's exactly the kind of answer you want from a query like this!  8)

jkn

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Re: fretless bass thoughts / advice
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2009, 01:35:44 PM »
Wayne - thanks.

I sent several questions to guys I know that really know basses -and it's pretty much unanimous... buy it.

We're going tonight to see what I can talk them down to.   

It felt good in my hands - I enjoyed playing it - it looks excellent - and no one I've asked has started warning me that that era of Fenders from Japan was bad or anything... 

I'm pretty much sold. 

While it's kind of stretching the budget right now - it's there now - and it won't be in 6 months.   So - I think I'm going to do it.

Oh - it's dark red kind of metallic fleck with a pearl pick guard if anyone's interested in the color... ;-)  Oh - and no fret lines - which makes me happy. 

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Wayne Higgins

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Re: fretless bass thoughts / advice
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2009, 03:02:43 PM »
ONE MORE THING!!!!!!!!!!

The Jazz bass I bought was defretted, meaning someone took the frets off of it to make it fretless.  BAD MOVE!  Jazz basses have squares of pearl inlay and when you make it fretless, the strings will rattle on the pearl inlay, making most of the notes on the 2nd and 3rd strings impossible to play.  I ended up replacing the neck.  This could get costly and frustrating.  If it was made a fretless bass, it will have nothing on the neck, like a cello.  If any pearl inlays are on the neck, watch out. 
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jkn

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Re: fretless bass thoughts / advice
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2009, 06:05:48 PM »
Thanks for the advice, Wayne!   No - this is a fretless from the factory...

And I bought it!

It's beautiful - in fact - the plastic film is still on the pick guard!   Amazing.  Not a scuff or scratch.   They threw in a hard case and I took it home...  :-)
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Wayne Higgins

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Re: fretless bass thoughts / advice
« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2009, 06:48:12 AM »
Sweet!
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jblock

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Re: fretless bass thoughts / advice
« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2009, 06:49:30 AM »
A little late here...
I've owned a number of fretless basses in my time and they are fun. I don't have one right now but the next one will definitely be unlined. What I have been doing is using flats on my fretted basses and I think this is the best of both worlds because you can get a good fretted and a somewhat fretless sound.

What kind of strings are you using on it? I'm sure a nice set of flats will make it sing. I've tried many brands and have settled on Daddario Chromes, which have a nice combination of tension and edge, brighter than most flats but they mellow out after a few months. I find Fender flats have too much tension and TI's are too floppy for me. Some folks find Labella flats to be a good choice but I haven't had a chance to try those.

Have fun!
Jonathan Block
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jkn

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Re: fretless bass thoughts / advice
« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2009, 09:42:28 AM »
I've had flatwound on one of my basses before - it's an interesting sound. 

It came with flatwound (no idea what brand) - and judging by the fretboard... hasn't had round on it ever.   Heck - I'm not sure it's actually ever been played.   
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darkenedsoul

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Re: fretless bass thoughts / advice
« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2009, 12:46:40 PM »
To keep in line with Basses, what about a 5 string vs a 4? Is it worth it? Probably depending on what you're doing with it. I have a few electric and 1 acoustic and I want an acoustic electric at some point (classical but me no got finger nails so I'd need to get a pick guard and use a pick) and was debating if I wanted to try to learn some bass down the road. I still need to get off my duff and work on guitar playing... I've had plenty of time these past several months to be doing so but haven't....no urge.

So, get a cheapie 4 string starter bass kit for <$200 or what? Fretless is way out of my league at this point or else I'd be fiddling all over the neck figuring things out! I want a cello to mangle sound with! Ahahahah.

Mike

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Re: fretless bass thoughts / advice
« Reply #10 on: November 26, 2009, 10:01:48 PM »
I use 4, 5 and 6-string basses. I probably use the 4 string the most and detune the bottom E when I need to go low, mostly habit from growing up this way. When I use a 5, I end up using the B as a finger rest and use some of the notes maybe 1 out of 5 songs. It's nice to have that option to go lower but you lose a little edge. Sometimes I'll string up the fiver with a high C instead of a low B; particularly with a trio it helps when the guitarist solos to add some high end. The 6 I use for solo stuff and with a larger band. If I had to choose one I'd go with the 4 because no matter how wide the neck, more strings still equals tighter spacing and I'm used to Fender spacing for the most part.

I would start with a 4 string. You can get something nice used for that money. Any of the big names should do (low-end Fender and Ibanez). The online stores often blow out basses for very cheap so keep an eye out there. Good luck, we need more four bangers.
Jonathan Block
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darkenedsoul

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Re: fretless bass thoughts / advice
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2009, 01:41:27 PM »
Hi Jonathan,

Yeah, a 4 string would be better to start off with if I am to noodle around on one. Starter kits are reasonable enough as well (with small amp = fine w/me). Will check local daddy's junky music or guitar center. And you don't see a lot of 6 string players out there, the dude in Necrophagist is a) a lefty and b) plays a 5 string (sick!). A dude on west coast was slapping a 6 stringer all over the place, was really good. But Geddy Lee is amazing on a 4 string, hands down.

Mike

1000snakes

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Re: fretless bass thoughts / advice
« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2009, 04:10:58 PM »
All of my basses are 4-stringers. My main bass is an Ibanez "Musician" from the 80s. I have a USA Fender Jazz that needs some work, a Tacoma manufactured acoustic bass guitar and my beloved first bass which I call my "hippie" bass. It is a 60s Guild Starfire II like Jack Cassidy and Phil Lesh used to play (Hey, I was born in California!). A previous owner mangled a bridge repair so it had to be replaced pretty much killing any vintage value. I would like to de-fret it someday and as it only has the little dot inlays, I don't think that I would have the rattling string problems that a de-fretted Fender might have. I have only used flatwounds on it and have loved it's warm and woody semi-hollow body tone. I did own a Guild solid body fretless at one time but sold it get a better amp.
I have enjoyed many 5 and 6 string players work as well as Anthony Jackson's 8 string contributions, but my favorite recorded bass moments have always been played by people using 4 stringers.
Peace, Kirk
« Last Edit: November 28, 2009, 04:12:42 PM by 1000snakes »

Wayne Higgins

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Re: fretless bass thoughts / advice
« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2009, 09:05:38 AM »
A 6-string bass is like a 120 key piano.  What's the point.  I read that Tony Levin was using a 3-string bass.  I'd like to see that!

I put nylon wrapped strings on my fretless bass, sounded close to acoustic.  I don't know if they make them anymore.
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jkn

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Re: fretless bass thoughts / advice
« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2009, 01:58:00 PM »
I've had 2 basses for a long long time now...  I don't know that I'd really know what to do with more than 4 strings... :-)

+ G&L L1000 - has a hip shot on it - so I can flip the E down to a D on the fly
+ Gibson Grabber - with gimicky sliding pickup (it does shift the sound somewhat...)

I wouldn't say I'm a technically amazing bass player in any way.  I would say that I "feel" playing bass - and I think that shows through.   Even if I haven't picked up a bass in 6 months - it feels good in my hands (although my fingers get mad at me if I play too long!   ha)   
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jblock

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Re: fretless bass thoughts / advice
« Reply #15 on: December 02, 2009, 11:32:06 AM »
LaBella and Fender still make wrapped flats; I'm sure there's others.

I've used a 6 mainly for my ambient looping stuff, but not much these days since Line6 had a big software update to the M13 effects board, adding a harmonizer (among other things). I use a 5-string G&L2500 when I'm playing with a drummer, although I usually just use the bottom B as a thumb rest. I have an Ibanez hollowbody 4-string that is fairly loud acoustically and works well with a progressive folk-rock duo I'm in. No matter how many other instruments I play I always come back to the bass; it's just too much fun to play
Jonathan Block
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solyaris

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Re: fretless bass thoughts / advice
« Reply #16 on: December 15, 2009, 09:06:09 AM »
ciao,

Hi have the cheapest probably :)

http://www.squierguitars.com/products/search.php?partno=0326608500

not so bad wood ...
not so good pick-ups ...

suitable for my needs, drone making of course:

http://solyaris4.altervista.org/19092009-bassdrone.mp3

giorgio
« Last Edit: December 15, 2009, 09:11:46 AM by solyaris »

jkn

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Re: fretless bass thoughts / advice
« Reply #17 on: December 15, 2009, 02:01:40 PM »
...nothing wrong with cheap.  :-)
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Blackinfinity

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Re: fretless bass thoughts / advice
« Reply #18 on: December 15, 2009, 02:04:38 PM »
Some time in future when I got some extra money, I definitely going to buy a fretless guitar.