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partially fretless bass, likely reinventing the wheel.

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partially fretless bass, likely reinventing the wheel.

Postby Jedi Clampett » Thu Jan 26, 2017 12:29 am

In 1957 The fender precision bass got a 4 saddle bridge. The reason being that when soloing in the upper frets, it would lose intonation.
Seems to me that the neck being fretted to the 12 fret, but fretless above allows the use of a vintage 2 saddle bridge and then the musician plays fretless when soloing abv the 12th fret.

Really interested no so much opinion, but experience, certainly someone, sometime came to the same conclusion I have and would love to know how it worked out? What are the drawbacks?
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Re: partially fretless bass, likely reinventing the wheel.

Postby Beate Ritzert » Thu Jan 26, 2017 5:03 am

The drawback is that playing with correct intonation on a fretless bass in the upper octave of a string is really difficult. I would consider a very different pattern: leaving the "solo" range fretless. That would mean E fully fretted, A up to, say, fret 9, D up to 5 and G fretless. Although my fretless basses have none, fret lines are probably a necessity on such a finger board.

But in actual playing i would switch between two instruments: a fretted bass with a 4 saddle bridge and maybe even nut compensation and a fretless bass, also with fully compensated bridge.
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Re: partially fretless bass, likely reinventing the wheel.

Postby David King » Thu Jan 26, 2017 5:35 pm

Jedi,
You aren't asking for opinions but I'll give you mine anyway because someone else might benefit from it some day. If the only reason to do this is so that you can have correct intonation with a 2 saddle bridge, why not file the witness points on each half of the saddle to get the compensation needed and an instrument that plays in tune all the time, every time. Also nowadays there are many bass string sets that require almost no compensation thanks to their thinner cores and built-in suppleness.

I have been asked about this fretted/fretless possibility many times in the last 30 years. The problem I see with it is having a step in the fingerboard to bring the fretless section up to the same height as the fret tops. Without the step up the thirteenth fret position would require a lot of finger strength to push the strings down that far and that extra distance would throw the intonation off even further. How would one go about achieving that step? I'm sure it could be done easily with a router type radius jig but it might present maintenance issues
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Re: partially fretless bass, likely reinventing the wheel.

Postby Dave Weir » Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:39 am

Hopefully this isn't too far off topic, but how do you set the bridge for intonation on a fretless bass?
This is my first attempt at it, and I'm at the point of placing the stop tail piece. I need it to be close enough that the silk isn't in the nut, but not so close that I can't intonation the bridge. I guess the other question is, what would be the most set back the largest string might require?
The scale is 30", and the strings are D'adderio flat wound chromes.
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Re: partially fretless bass, likely reinventing the wheel.

Postby Beate Ritzert » Fri Jan 27, 2017 10:17 am

Dave Weir wrote:Hopefully this isn't too far off topic, but how do you set the bridge for intonation on a fretless bass?


I do that as if there were frets. The necessity of compensation at the saddles is independent on the existence of frets...
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Re: partially fretless bass, likely reinventing the wheel.

Postby Peter Wilcox » Fri Jan 27, 2017 12:24 pm

Beate Ritzert wrote:
Dave Weir wrote:Hopefully this isn't too far off topic, but how do you set the bridge for intonation on a fretless bass?


I do that as if there were frets. The necessity of compensation at the saddles is independent on the existence of frets...


Then why aren't violin family instruments compensated? I always assumed it was because the player compensates by finger position, part of learning to play the instrument. I'm not a very good player myself, but when I play stand-up bass I go by ear. And I've made a fretless electric that I leave uncompensated, though it has a 4 saddle bridge.
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Re: partially fretless bass, likely reinventing the wheel.

Postby Joshua Levin-Epstein » Fri Jan 27, 2017 12:36 pm

Jedi, A 2 piece bridge will only adjust the intonation on one string or the other. Even if you never play above the 12th fret, you need 4 bridge pieces. Everyone is welcome to disagree.

Beate, It is just as easy to play out of tune in the lower registers. I know all too well... I agree one should have at least one fretless, to insure humility if nothing else.

David, all one would need to do is have the frets get progressively lower as they approach the 12th fret. Doesn't Stew Mac make a tool for that?

Dave Weir, Beate is correct. I intonate the fretless by matching the stopped (fingered) note to the octave. You'll hear the difference. Make sure you're really on the octave and not rolling your finger in either direction for the stopped note. I don't know how much compensation you'll want. some people make a temporary tailpiece and move the bridge manually until the outside strings intonate.

Not that anyone asked but:

1) a long time ago, Jaco did a little "clinic" at Berklee when he was in town with Weather Report. I asked him if he needed to adjust the bridge pieces on his fretless. He replied in the affirmative. He knew something about playing in tune.
2) When I went to renew the oil finish on my old Schechter Fretless, I removed the bridge to find that it had been originally installed with too short a string length and then moved. I didn't say it was interesting....
3) A friend had a bass made by Marc Campalone before Campalone moved onto arch tops. They came up with a gizmo that was a brass plate at the end of the fingerboard. It looked like a fret that had ground down to the tang. This was to allow the player to slap and still get the "string against fret" sound. It worked, for a while.

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Re: partially fretless bass, likely reinventing the wheel.

Postby Beate Ritzert » Fri Jan 27, 2017 4:42 pm

Peter Wilcox wrote:Then why aren't violin family instruments compensated?.


because the strings are different. The reason for the compensation is the flexure of the strings at the nut and at the bridge. On the violins this is a lot sharper than on guitars and especially on the bass guitars with their (related to the scale lenght) really thick and stiff strings which bend the strings a few mm around the bridges. That effectively shortens the effective scale - and that's the reason for the compensation. (the major reason, at least on bass guitars, but there a few other effects...)

On the violin family there is compensation as well. There is the concept of "Quintenreinheit" (fifths matchin between strings). That can be affected a lot by positioning the bridge. At least on a violin and problably also a viola that's possible without changing the position of the feet of the bridge; it is sufficiently deformable)
And the position of a violin bridge has to be controlled and corrected quite frequently; it changes due to tuning the instrument (in my lessens as a pupil i was taught that, and it was necessary on at least my instrument...)

So actually there is compensation also in the violins, but it is by far not as noticeable as it is on guitars.
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Re: partially fretless bass, likely reinventing the wheel.

Postby Peter Wilcox » Fri Jan 27, 2017 5:24 pm

Thanks Beate. That must explain why my fretless playing frequently sounds sour. :lol:
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Re: partially fretless bass, likely reinventing the wheel.

Postby Dave Weir » Fri Jan 27, 2017 10:52 pm

"Make sure you're really on the octave and not rolling your finger in either direction for the stopped note."
How do you know you are in the right place? The customer wants no lines, just side dots. I'm sure this would get you in the ball park, but if you tune to E and then fret where you think you should, are you really sure if the bridge is in the wrong place or your finger? Maybe it is not that big a deal and I can sort it out later. I was thinking about laying down a few strips of masking tape to make a temporary "fret". Anybody do anything like that?
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Re: partially fretless bass, likely reinventing the wheel.

Postby Bob Gramann » Sat Jan 28, 2017 12:31 am

I put the side dots on the two fretless basses I have made exactly at the intonation points (and only at the normal positions for fret markings in a guitar). I did compensate the bridge just as if the instruments had frets. I (and the folks who bought these basses) had absolutely no problem finding their way on the fretboard and playing in tune. I have a third fretless acoustic in process now. I'm planning to slot the fingerboard and fill the slots with holly for markers just because it looks neat. I recently acquired a Fender fretless Jazz Bass where the fingerboard is marked like that (although probably not with holly)--I really like that one. I wouldn't do partly fretless. Playing the fretless is too much fun to mess it up with frets. It might help to have either excellent pitch perception or very bad pitch perception--I'm not sure which is working for me.
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Re: partially fretless bass, likely reinventing the wheel.

Postby Jason Rodgers » Sat Jan 28, 2017 1:53 am

Beate Ritzert wrote:And the position of a violin bridge has to be controlled and corrected quite frequently; it changes due to tuning the instrument (in my lessens as a pupil i was taught that, and it was necessary on at least my instrument...)

Isn't that what's known as "burping the bridge"? That is, you tune the strings, they stretch a little, you tune again and again, and eventually the top of the bridge is pulled toward the nut far enough to cause intonation issues. So you push the top of the bridge back toward the tail and it gives a little "burp" as the windings on the strings skip over the saddle.
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Re: partially fretless bass, likely reinventing the wheel.

Postby Joshua Levin-Epstein » Sat Jan 28, 2017 6:39 am

I put the side dots on the two fretless basses I have made exactly at the intonation points (and only at the normal positions for fret markings in a guitar).

Not to put words in Bob's mouth, but I am pretty sure he means that the dots are where the frets would be and only at the third, fifth, seventh etc "frets". I haven't played a Fender factory fretless (vs a conversion) in a while, but I'm pretty certain their side markers are where the frets are as opposed to being centered between the "frets" like on a fretted instrument. I've seen fretless necks with dots at every fret and they make me dizzy.

You can feel that you are right on the harmonic because the string is not vibrating under your fingertip. If you are in the right place, you can pull on the string and it will continue to ring. On a 30" scale bass, the harmonic will be at 15". I would rig up a temporary bridge and tailpiece just to get an idea of what goes where. I haven't done enough to be able to tell you how much compensation to allow but:

The bridge placement can be the same as if the instrument is fretted.
It will be less critical than if the instrument is fretted.
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Re: partially fretless bass, likely reinventing the wheel.

Postby Bob Gramann » Sat Jan 28, 2017 11:29 am

My Mexican Fender factory fretless seems to have a normal fingerboard with the fret slots filled with a contrasting wood. The side dots are between the fret positions as they woud be on any other guitar. On the basses I built, I only moved them up to where the fret would have been on a bass with no other markings.
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Re: partially fretless bass, likely reinventing the wheel.

Postby David King » Sat Jan 28, 2017 3:54 pm

Flat-wound bass guitar strings that requires very little compensation are the Thomastik Infeld JazzFlats -but get your wallet out.
They are constructed like a violin family string with a layer of silk between the core and the windings.
The D'Addario Chrome flats are one of the strings that requires the most compensation.
For round-would strings any of the DR or Fodera strings will require very little compensation if you crimp them down at the bridge and nut after installing them (as you would with any string).
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