#1
So I'm saving up for a new bass (or a higher end used bass), but lately, I've been attracted to fretless basses. After watching a lot of Manthing videos (especially Adhan... jesus christ!) The whole expressivity of the fretless bass is very appealing to me. Not saying I'm planning to be like Manring, but I'm sure you guys understand.


I was looking at the Fender MIA DLX Fretless Jazz (or just the MIA standard fretless), the Tony Franklin Fretless P-Bass, and maybe a fretless Warwick Corvette STD if the price is right.


All pricey basses, I know. Which leads me to my next question:

Am I just GASing? I've only ever played a fretless bass in high school in Jazz band (an upright bass), and my intonation wasn't too hot. I figured that maybe if I got a fretless, I'd have to force myself to use good finger placement and intonation and all that.

I don't really play jazzy stuff very often either, but I'm well aware that a fretless bass can hold its own in rock/metal situations.


So in summary, my questions to you good people are:

1) Are the fretless basses I named of good value? What are some other alternatives? My price range is about $1500 CDN.

2) Since I have little fretless experience, should I just spring for something cheaper?

3) I've heard that even using flats on a fretless wears the fingerboard down - how badly does this happen? Is there a special "treatment" I would have to do every once in a while to a fretless fingerboard?
#2
Fretless basses are wonderful. I love mine and its one of the best investments I have ever made in an instrument. They have a great distinctive sound and can be used in a variety of genres and styles.

To answer your questions....

1. Yes, but play a few before you buy. And don't discount used. My EBMM FL came to me slightly used for only 900 USD. I love this fretless bass, it has a great Mwah sound, but its a Stingray, so its not for everyone.

2. Again--try out a few. If you think you will get a lot of playing time with an FL, its always best to invest in the best you can buy. I use mine quite a bit, esp. for Jazz, so I for me getting a higher end bass made sense. But playing FL does take a bit of commitment. Getting around the intonation issues can be a bear, and takes some time. If you are looking just to get a fretless bass to mess around with, defretting one of your lesser basses or buying a lower end bass may make more sense.

3. Roundwounds will eat a fretless fingerboard. Flats not as aggressively. I use flats on mine and so far there's been no damage, but I do need to get it epoxied or poly-ed in the near future. Check on the many "defretting" threads for more info.
#3
Buy a cheap fretless to play around with and if you really like it you can spend money on a higher end one.
#4
Thing is, I'm worried if I buy a cheap fretless, it'll be pretty lackluster and I'll be turned off.
#5
Are you warm enough around your bass to know what sound you'll produce when you put your finger anywhere around the bass?

I would scout out a store with the bass that you want and go there every few days to play with the bass, If you love the sound. Go for it.

Fretless basses have heaps of potential for sounds, genre's and styles.
I don't really play jazzy stuff very often either, but I'm well aware that a fretless bass can hold its own in rock/metal situations

Some rock bassist use some melodic bass lines, not tpp far from jazz, for their rock songs, Not THAT many but still their songs are pretty decent.
#6
if you have bad intonation you could get a normal bass and get the frets filed off there will be lines
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#7
Quote by jake_1234
if you have bad intonation you could get a normal bass and get the frets filed off there will be lines


1)Never file them off. The end result will be horrible and uneven. Tearing the frets out and using wood filler is that standard defretting procedure.
2)Why not just buy a fretless with fret lines?


Consider how seriously you are going to take it. If it if fora bit of fun and a challenge, consider something around Squire VM level. If you want it to become your main style, then opt for something a bit higher end.
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#8
Quote by gm jack
1)Never file them off. The end result will be horrible and uneven. Tearing the frets out and using wood filler is that standard defretting procedure.
2)Why not just buy a fretless with fret lines?


Consider how seriously you are going to take it. If it if fora bit of fun and a challenge, consider something around Squire VM level. If you want it to become your main style, then opt for something a bit higher end.


Don't EVER recommend the Squier VM Fretless, it's the biggest piece of junk I have ever played. The fingerboard isn't even wood. IT'S PLASTIC.

If you are looking to get into fretless, but aren't really sure if you'll like it, I would get a used fretless MIM. Anything below that will be a waste of money.
#9
Quote by elemenohpee
Don't EVER recommend the Squier VM Fretless, it's the biggest piece of junk I have ever played. The fingerboard isn't even wood. IT'S PLASTIC.


Ebonol =/= plastic; it's a fake wood
Normal fretless neck = wood covered in fake plastic/epoxy

Such a huge difference there.

The VM fretless is a great bass, especially for the price. I tried one out at Guitar Center, and it had a great sound, smooth feel, and pretty good electronics. The VM is one of those Squiers that's so.... not Squier-ish. I didn't realize it was until I looked at the headstock. Well worth it.
#10
I just popped out my frets on my gsr200. I'm not regretting it, but making an already muddy sounding bass even muddier with fretless+flatwounds is something awful. If you are going to get a fretless, make sure its a bass you are going to want to play. If you spend a little extra and find out that you dont want a fretless, then you can always sell it for a little extra.
#11
Quote by elemenohpee
Don't EVER recommend the Squier VM Fretless, it's the biggest piece of junk I have ever played. The fingerboard isn't even wood. IT'S PLASTIC.


For it's price it doesnt sound too bad. I was more suggesting it on reliability and playability pluses, rather than the tone. The one I played was quite comfortable to play, and the sound didn't induce vomiting. Therefore, for a budget, it could be quite anice starter fretless.

Admittedly, a used MIM would be nicer, but harder to come across.
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#12
Quote by Charlatan_001
Thing is, I'm worried if I buy a cheap fretless, it'll be pretty lackluster and I'll be turned off.


Just because it's cheap doesn't mean it'll be a piece of crap, go play some cheap ones and buy one you like.
#13
Pink Muse I'm just going to assume you haven't ever played a non-VM Squier fretless, or are just tone deaf/dumb/blind.

Quote by Pink Muse
Ebonol =/= plastic; it's a fake wood
Normal fretless neck = wood covered in fake plastic/epoxy

Such a huge difference there.


Wrong. Ebonol is a synthetic plastic designed to look like ebony (which by the way, it doesn't). It may be a fake wood, but fake wood is still plastic. Just because it has wood in a name doesn't mean it sounds or feels anything like real wood. I've had a lot of experience with ebonal, and none of it was good.

A normal fretless neck as you call it, is coated in epoxy, which is a resin, and has nothing in common with plastic. It can be applied as a powder coat(which I've never seen on a bass) or as a liquid (the more common of the two) which then hardens to protect the wooden fingerboard from the wear of steel strings.

Yes, ebonal does happen to change the natural sound of the bass, but it still retains the majority of the wooden sound.

Ebonal is a plastic engineered to LOOK like ebony. I emphasized look because to take your words look =/= sound or feel. The reason it is used on the Squier VM fretless is because it is cheaper for them to purchase than wood.

If a "fake wood" and real wood sound so similar to you just make a bass out of fake wood and use that. It'll be cheaper I promise. (Oh yeah, they use fake wood as flooring in low-budget housing that they want to make look fancy, and even there you can tell it sounds different just by walking on it.)

The VM fretless is a great bass, especially for the price. I tried one out at Guitar Center, and it had a great sound, smooth feel, and pretty good electronics. The VM is one of those Squiers that's so.... not Squier-ish. I didn't realize it was until I looked at the headstock. Well worth it.


The VM fretless is an awful, awful bass. I have owned two high quality fretless basses (a warwick fortress, and a custom made bass) and I use them as my main basses. But this bass, for the brief period time I played it, made me loathe my own fretless basses. The construction is exceptional cheap, especially for Squiers, it's a poor rip-off of Jaco's bass. Which means they just didn't have to pay the extra 5 cents for them to make the pickguard.

All in all this bass probably cost them under $50 dollars to make, and reflects it in the quality of the instrument.

Oh yeah, a normal fretless instrument does not have an epoxy coated fingerboard, the only fretless instruments I have ever seen with a coated fingerboard are electric basses, and only because the "Jaco" sound is considered the standard fretless sound.

/rant
#14
1. You could probably talk the shop into selling a Jaco sig to you for under $1500. It's the same price as the Tony Franklin sig. I think the American Deluxe can get a GREAT modern bridge-pickup tone. The MIA Standard Jazz IMO is a bit boring to me. It's pretty straight forward. The Warwick would be interesting, but IMO the REAL Warwick sound comes from an active model.

2. Fretless instruments are really "pissy and tempermental." You want it to set up, stay in tune, and play as well as possible. You want the maximum neck stability you can get. IF you're going to start out with an expensive instrument, you'd want your fretless to be the expensive one. You want maximum rigidity, playability, and clarity.

3. Ah, fingerboard wear. Flats DO eventually start to sink into the wood a few years after playing on soft, soft rosewood. It's quite delayed, but it can happen. I emailed Tony Franklin about him using roundwounds on a bare fingerboard and he told me that he uses ebony for this exact reason. He says after three years of heavy use, his personal bass doesn't have much wear at all. He DID say he uses Sunbeams, not Hi-beams. Therefore, an ebony board should hold up to both your flats and nickel rounds. If you can handle the pickup switch instead of blend control, the Tony Franklin could be great. If you like modern, the Warwick is up your alley.

If you're taking the more traditional rosewood path, I suggest finding a real LUTHIER (not an L&M repair guy) to apply epoxy/poly to the fingerboard. This will really solve all your wear and tear problems. However, let me say 2 things:

1. The Jaco sig already has this done...

2. The MIA DX fretless has abalone dot inlays, and this COULD mean that the actual application of epoxy to that fingerboard may be difficult, since you don't want to sand over those inlays.
Quote by Cody_Grey102
I was looking at a used Warwick Vampyre LTD 5'er for about $200. I went home to grab my wallet and came back and some jerk with an epic beard got it already..
#15
Quote by Zycho
Just because it's cheap doesn't mean it'll be a piece of crap, go play some cheap ones and buy one you like.


True, but I already have two fairly decent lower-end basses. I'm wanting to save up to get one GOOD bass anyway, possibly being a fretless to boot.


Quote by thefitz
1. You could probably talk the shop into selling a Jaco sig to you for under $1500. It's the same price as the Tony Franklin sig. I think the American Deluxe can get a GREAT modern bridge-pickup tone. The MIA Standard Jazz IMO is a bit boring to me. It's pretty straight forward. The Warwick would be interesting, but IMO the REAL Warwick sound comes from an active model.


True about the MIA Standard Jazz and Warwick.

2. Fretless instruments are really "pissy and tempermental." You want it to set up, stay in tune, and play as well as possible. You want the maximum neck stability you can get. IF you're going to start out with an expensive instrument, you'd want your fretless to be the expensive one. You want maximum rigidity, playability, and clarity.


The thing is, I'm thinking of getting a high-end bass anyway, but it also happens that I'm digging the whole fretless sound as well. So I figure why not combine the two GASes?

The note on quality and maximum playability is the reason why I don't just want to defret one of my current basses: they're just "alright" basses, and if it doesn't turn out too well, I might be turned off from learning.


How bad is Ebonol as a fretboard wood? I read elemenophee's little schpiel and it doesn't seem very positive.

I'm just wondering, because the MTD Kingston Artist and the Ibanez Gary Willis sig are not too expensive, but they've both got Ebonol fingerboards and basswood bodies.

The price is pretty attractive here, but do I have a right to worry about the basswood bodies and Ebonol fingerboards?
#16
From what I understand, Ebonol is a cheaper kind of phenolic resin that Michael Manring uses. Regardless of whether or not that is true, I'm pretty sure that there are different qualities and strengths of ebonol.

I also read that ebonol is similar to bowling ball material, and there are different grades of bowling ball material.

Higher quality ebonol is stronger per weight, meaning they can use less and keep the same strength. Phenolic is so strong that you basically need to paint a few coats on it to protect a neck (i.e. more wood, less resin). I guess on higher end fingerboards, they use higher quality ebonol to allow less material needed to coat the neck, therefore resulting in more wood.

EDIT: Ebonol is very strong - much stronger than normal wood. That's why most ebonol-boarded instruments come strung with roundwounds. Not even the Jaco sig comes with roundwounds. It's put on basses to be strong, not to replace ebony.
Quote by Cody_Grey102
I was looking at a used Warwick Vampyre LTD 5'er for about $200. I went home to grab my wallet and came back and some jerk with an epic beard got it already..
Last edited by thefitz at Feb 19, 2008,
#18
Those MTDs and Ibanezes are as good as it will get. Any higher-end basses will have Phenolic resin.
Quote by Cody_Grey102
I was looking at a used Warwick Vampyre LTD 5'er for about $200. I went home to grab my wallet and came back and some jerk with an epic beard got it already..
#20
Quote by Deliriumbassist
The Gary Willis sig has an ebonol fretboard. And that costs several grand.

Dunno if there are 2 models, but Charlatan gave a link to this one:

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product/Ibanez-GWB35-Gary-Willis-Signature-Fretless-5String-Bass?sku=515068&src=3SOSWXXA

In my opinion, a several-grand bass without Phenolic resin is bananas.
Quote by Cody_Grey102
I was looking at a used Warwick Vampyre LTD 5'er for about $200. I went home to grab my wallet and came back and some jerk with an epic beard got it already..
#22
Quote by Deliriumbassist

Wow.

I know you like the bass, but I think paying $4000 for an ebonol boarded bass is beyond common sense. You should be able to get ebony covered in ground diamond for that price.

If I was looking for a non-tribute $4000 fretless, I'd go for a Zon or a Pedulla or something of that calibre.
Quote by Cody_Grey102
I was looking at a used Warwick Vampyre LTD 5'er for about $200. I went home to grab my wallet and came back and some jerk with an epic beard got it already..