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Fretless bass recommendations
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Guitars, Basses, Amps & FX Goto page 1, 2, 3  Next [all]
Author Fretless bass recommendations
(I promise I did search first! Didn't find any specific threads)

I'd like to try my hand at fretless bass (I've played fretted for a few years) but am a little lost where to start. Don't want to spend a fortune obviously as I may discover it's not for me. I'd probably prefer to stick with 4 strings.

From the research I have done the Squier Jazz Bass fretless seems a good buy.

Any thoughts or other models to consider?
1. an upright (contrabass)

2. G&L (love this brand)

3. Warmoth (assemble your own from ready-made parts)

...Sire V7 Marcus Miller Fretless might be an alternative similar to that Squire you mentioned.
I've been playing a fretless Kala Ubass Ukulele. Rockin' Banana!
I guess a lot depends on how much you're willing to pay. I've used a number of fretless fender jazz basses, and really like them. Perhaps get a cheap squire jazz bass, and put a warmoth fretless neck on it?
Yes, sorry, budget maybe €300-400 (new or used).

Thanks for the suggestions. I have a G&L bass and agree they're very nice but a bit more cash than I can spend at the moment! Hadn't looked at those Sire Marcus Miller basses though - they get some pretty good reviews and are a similar price to the Squier ones.
Just me
I have a Dean active 4 string fretless. The bass is nice for the money. The active pickups in some modes are too noisy for my likes. Bought because I needed a fretless for a project and wasn't going to spend the kind of money on it I would spend on a daily player. It did turn out to be better playing than I expected.
I know this may not be what you want but I really dig this guy. I have had one for a couple of years now and find I play it much more than my fretted base (a modified ~1960's Gibson EB-0). The strings take a little getting used to and the size does of course (half scale) but it still is a very cool bass. I think I paid ~$250 of mine.

A Guild Ashbury bass:

If you are looking to stay on the cheaper end of things, Dean and Squier are certainly going to be two solid options. I owned a Dean Pro 4 for a while and though it was nice, I personally found the neck too thin.
phase ghost
sduck wrote:
I guess a lot depends on how much you're willing to pay. I've used a number of fretless fender jazz basses

Second this. Fretless Jazz is easily my favorite bass.

That said, while shopping for guitars a month or so back, I played a fretless Warwick. Streamer or something I think. Oh man, that fucker played great. No fret lines (which I prefer), but I was impressed. Almost took it home and I wasn't even in the market for a bass.

But, you can't go wrong with a MIM fretless jazz for the money. Ibanez makes a bunch of fretless models, but I haven't played any.
For this budget you could have a Warwick standard. Had a fretless corvette and loved it. Much nicer feeling7confort than on any fender I tried. Plus the standard version are really made with good quality. I'll never get a German version anymore; for 3 time the price I didn't noticed any huge improvement.
Thanks for all the further thoughts everyone.

I may take a trip into town and see if any of the music shops have some models I can try in person.
Have you tried just playing fretted with flat wounds? You can approximate the fretless thing w/o the intonation issues.
scottmoon wrote:
I've been playing a fretless Kala Ubass Ukulele. Rockin' Banana!

I have a fretted Ubass. How do you like yours? I love mine. One of the few pieces of gear I own that get a "cute" from my wife. (Isn't that the real reason we buy gear in the first place? hmmm..... )
In my opinion a fretted bass with flatwounds sounds nothing like a fretless bass -- the personality of the instrument is totally different mostly depending on the frets, not the strings.

When I wanted a fretless I went to a music store that has LOTS of used instruments and played everything they had. I ended up with a Guild fretless that's a bit odd and no longer made, but it was by far the best sounding and best playing instrument they had at that time. I put flatwounds on it because I like that sound.
I had the Squier fretless for a couple years. Nothing amazing but definitely a solid choice if you're just looking to try something out.
The Grump
A used G&L USA made is the way to go. L-2000 or L-2500. Save up and make the move, you'll be glad you did.
I've got a Cort B4FL that I'm quite happy with as a fairly inexpensive fretless option. I got mine used ten years ago and it cost right around $350.
I have the Ibanez SRF700. Very versatile, plays great, etc. Reasonably priced used. es_id=51&data_id=158&color=CL01
Those Squire (vintage modified I think) fretless Jazz Bass are very not bad. If it is your main instrument, spend $1000+ but if it is for exploration, or fun... get a budget one. You can always swap pickups for cheap and get more milage that way.

I have a 1996 ish Peavey Foundation USA made that was like $200 new and I have got tons of enjoyment out of it. Stock pickups too.

A friend has a Fender Tony Franklin signature fretless that is amazing, but $$$

Pro tip. Use round wound strings. It will take a long time to do significant damage to the fingerboard. You can get that Jaco growl. If you want "flat wound sound" you can roll the tone knob and use the neck pickup.

You could also find a budget bass and de-fret it too.
phase ghost
e3p0 wrote:

Pro tip. Use round wound strings.

I hear this all the time. But, man, once you go flatwound, rounds are like playing barbed wire.
Sorry, just realised there were a load more posts in the thread since last time I looked.

Thanks for all the further suggestions. It's definitely going to be a experiment/try it out type purchase so I wont' be springing for a G&L or anything else that sort of price at this moment!

I've never used flatwound strings. Apart from how they are made, what is the difference in terms of playability and sound?
Roundwounds on a fretless is imho a bad idea. If you do use roundwound strings on a fretless plan on having a luthier repair/replace the fretboard semi-regularly.
Ramases wrote:
I've never used flatwound strings. Apart from how they are made, what is the difference in terms of playability and sound?

Flats and nylons are more comfortable (smooth is lower friction than bumpy).

Flats have less 'zing' (overtones) than roundwounds.

Nylons are the darkest sounding. Rounds are the brightest.
I have played roundwounds on my fretless almost daily for 20 years. The board is fine.

I might play with a lighter touch than some.

My fretted bass doesn't show too much fretwear either. I can only imagine if you play hard enough to damage a fretless there will be tuning issues with fretted basses along with fretwear.

I also feel flatwounds are harder on my fingers. I never used Thomastic only Chromes or the nylon tapewounds. Never could get used to the sound. They sound like OLD strings. I also have always had a thing for string talk too. I love hearing it on records and the radio. I love it with the acoustic guitar, electric, and bass. I miss it when it is not there. Like when producers edit out singers breaths. Sounds unnatural to me. I also like to pluck harmonics and slide them kinda like a lap steel "trick". Some of that goes away with flats.

I had an upright for a few years. Because I used a bow occasionally I kept flats on it. I did play an upright at a bluegrass shop that had lower tension round wound strings on it and it was awesome.

Different strokes for different folks I guess. If everyone had the same opinion this would be a boring conversation.

To the OP: try both rounds and flats. I have played 1970s basses with original boards and frets that are still very playable. I have seen 1 year old basses that need work. Frets are wear items. Fretboards can be planed. Heck you can replace necks for cheaper than a module or two.
Thanks for the clarifications on flat vs roundwound.
I'll maybe pick up some flats to try on one of my fretted basses to see what I think. Need to save up for the fretless one.
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