#1
I just bought a new fretless bass. Very low cost. It's a Chinese brand - Stagg. All black with a Rosewood fingerboard. I got it from eBay. Despite all the negative PR it’s not a terrible bass. It’s light. I would say it’s 4 times lighter than my Squier 5 string. The first noticeable problem – it’s a fretless and it is “mwahless”. On a new bass I always change the strings as the first order of business. I like the DR Sunbeams round-wounds and they usually unearth a more likeable personality.
For this bass I realized that the neck and the body were the only things I would keep. The rest would be replaced. I like the neck because it’s actually rare to find a fretless Rosewood bass neck without marker lines or position dots on the fret board. This neck has dots only on the top side. It has JP-90 style pickups. Pbass on the neck & Jbass at the bridge. They aren’t too bad for passive pups really and could actually get by if absolutely necessary. The tone control doesn’t do much. It goes from dull to a little brighter.
The tuning machines are awful though. I thought they would break off in my fingers as I tuned the bass for the first time. The bridge is like a standard Fender type 4 barrel saddle bridge top loaded. I read that over time it loses it’s color.
So, I think for under $400 I could retrofit this bass with some off-the-shelf parts to make this a half decent instrument. Tuners, bridge, pups & electronics and then some Rotosound strings. I’d like to stay away from routing cavities if I can.
Has anyone gone through this already? Suggestions?
Last edited by roneldjr at Dec 14, 2013,
#2
Yes; people do take low-end basses and turn them into fine instruments. It is an expensive, frustrating and time-consuming process, but if what you start with is sound, then you can do it. The problem is that you are highly unlikely to create anything that is any better - or even truly as good - as you would get if you took the "upgrade" money and bought a new and better bass. But if you are a pathological tinkerer, then the "upgrade" route might be the way for you. It certainly worked for guitarist Eddie Van Halen.

Schaller makes some of the best tuners, with Gotoh a close second. Take a look at them.
"Maybe this world is another planet's hell?" - Aldous Huxley
Last edited by FatalGear41 at Dec 15, 2013,
#3
So true. I guess I do like to tinker. I did consider the new vs. upgrade scenario and your 100% correct. What drew me to this particular bass was the neck and then the overall cosmetics. I knew the sound would probably be lacking right out of the box. I'm curious to hear from anyone that has gone this route and experienced the "frustrating and time-consuming process" you mentioned. Since I haven't modified any of the other 10 or so guitars I own other than repairing one acoustic bridge I wouldn't say I rise to the pathological category but I get the point.
#4
I've not tinkered...yet.
I'd say build if you want the experience of building - if you enjoy it why not?
Build if you can't buy what you want or afford to have it made. Its very very very unlikely as a first time builder you'll do as well as those with decades of experience.

The cost/experiment/frustration part is easy to see. You want to replace just about everything. Tuners, easy. Strings..you have an idea from experience. Most folks don't use rounds on a fretless...hard on the fingerboard. YMMV of course.

You want a new bridge, new pickups and probably new electronics while your at it. Which ones? there is cost to get them, time to set them up. you may find no, they don't fit like you thought, sound like you thought. So now you have to decide is it setup issues, wiring, wrong choice of parts or something else?

I've been reading a book on bass' with the thought of modding mine...wow, the sublties you don't know can kill you.

You may end up 'building' this bass 2, 3, 4 times to get what you want. If you enjoy the journey then who cares. If you are after a 'result' then it's faster, cheaper and better to just go buy the 'result' in the first place.

It's your money, your journey - enjoy it!
#5
I love this bass. A new Hipshot "A" bridge -solid brass (black), a set of EMG active PJX set of pickups along with a urethane finish on the fretless neck. What a difference. I replaced the dead flat wound Chinese strings with some DR Sunbeams and now the tones are terrific. The neck had some back bow so I adjusted the truss. The action and intonation adjusted so it's 3-4 32nds - buzz less. The EMG solderless system is pretty slick and works great. Only minor drilling to accommodate the wiring but otherwise the pups dropped right in no problem. The sound is really nice. Very distinct tones between neck and bridge or both. I'm still waiting on the TusqX black "slab" to file down a new nut and I ordered the wrong size Hipshot tuners so I had to re-use the originals for now. It still looks like a Stagg BC300-BK but it sounds so much better. The one feature I really like is more for aesthetic than playability reasons. The rosewood neck has no dots, no fret lines. Now that it has been refinished with a satin urethane treatment it really looks beautiful.