Neck Relief On A Fretless?.............

Neck Relief On A Fretless?.............

Postby Laredo » Sat Jun 16, 2007 3:44 pm

I am taking the plunge into fretlessdom...........I have been working on (set-up/repair) fretted guitars for some time, but have never worked with a fretless bass. I will be switching strings immediately, so I'm sure the neck relief will need adjustment. I would assume that you can almost run the neck "flat" due to the lack of potential fret buzz. I have seen several fretless basses where the owners have really grooved the nuts low. I am assuming they are trying to get the lowest action possible because of not having frets, is there an advantage to this method? How do most of you fretless guru's run your basses?

Thanks! [smilie=icon_biggrin.gif]
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Re: Neck Relief On A Fretless?.............

Postby froover » Sat Jun 16, 2007 6:52 pm

i spose a "traditional" setup on a fretless would be low nut slots, low bridge height and little or no relief in the neck

but really it depends on how you play, and what sort of strings you are using

i have mine set with a pretty chunky action and a fair bit of neck relief, (a) because i play pretty hard (b) because the TI strings i use are pretty low tension and need more room to vibrate without getting choked and (c) because i want it to mwaaah when i choose, not all the time

half the fun of fretless is finding the perfect setup for you

so what id say is try it a few different ways, avoiding drastic extremes, till you find the way that suits your fingers and the sort of thing you do

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Re: Neck Relief On A Fretless?.............

Postby ghiadub » Sun Jun 17, 2007 12:16 am

I must agree, this could not be a more personal question. I let the bass decide usually.

My favorite fretless has some relief.
In contrast, on fretted basses, I run very little to no relief (but I play lightly).
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Re: Neck Relief On A Fretless?.............

Postby Golem » Wed Jun 20, 2007 1:15 pm

I think we all like to start off with the neck flat on our first FL. Then when the novelty of too much mwah gets old, we dial in some relief.

Since I have a number of FLs of various designs, wearing various strings, so I set them up "organically". I expect differnt things of different basses. If there was some procedure in setting them up that nulled out much of the differences, that would defeat purpose of variety in the herd. You gotta have a clear idea of the difference between raising the saddles vs increasing the relief, even though both will raise the action in the midscale region. With that understanding [which in principle I believe you must have since you set up fretted basses] you just tweak the bass tilll you get what you're after, til it behaves like you want.

I guess the only thing that might not hit you intuitively is the idea of lower nut slots for FL. Don't even be afraid to sand the board a bit. On a few FLs I've found an involuntary slap effect, however slight, that won't go away by normal adjustments. Slightly sanding down the heal end of the FB, perhaps just the last 3/4in of the FB [but on occasion it could be 2in or more] clears that right up. You might be removing *very* little thickness, like equal to a sheet of paper, seldom much more than that if the problem isn't grossly visible to your eyes.

Nuther thing. Even if you've shimmed for neck tilt a few times on fretted basses, it's often considered as some sort of fix for something that's not exactly right with the bass. On a FL, you should consider it just another routine setup option.
Last edited by Golem on Thu Jun 21, 2007 8:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Neck Relief On A Fretless?.............

Postby Laredo » Wed Jun 20, 2007 6:10 pm

Golem wrote:I think we all like to start off with the neck flat on our first FL. Then when the novelty of too much mwah gets old, we dial in some relief.

Since I have a number of FLs of various designs, wearing various strings, so I set them up "organically". I expect differnt things of different basses. If there was some procedure in setting them up that nulled out much of the differences, that would defeat purpose of variety in the herd. You gotta have a clear idea of the difference between raising the saddles vs increasing the relief, even though both will raise the action in the midscale region. With that understanding [which in principle I believe you must have since you set up fretted basses] you just tweak the bass tilll you get what you're after, til it behaves like you want.

I guess the only thing that might not hit you intuitively is the idea of lower nut slots for FL. Don't even be afraid to sand the board a bit. On a few FLs I've found an involuntary slap effect, however slight, that won't go away by normal adjustments. Slightly sanding down the heal end of the FB, perhaps just the lat 3/4 in of the FB [but on occasion it could be 2 in or more] clears that right up. You might be removing *very* little thickness, like equal to a sheet of paper, seldom much more than that if the problem isn't grossly visible to your eyes.

Nuther thing. Even if you've shimmed for neck tilt a few times on fretted basses, it's often considered as some sort of fix for something that's not exactly right with the bass. On a FL, you should consider it just another routine setup option.



Thanks......You and the others have left some good info! I agree that basses have different personalities, hopefully my new FL has a good one!
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Re: Neck Relief On A Fretless?.............

Postby oogie boogie » Sat Jun 23, 2007 9:53 am

Here's a decent way of checking your relief: Press the string down on ~14th fret postistion and the 1st fret position and look at it. If there is over 2mm of space under your string, you've got more relief than you need unless you play very hard. If there's less than 1mm, pluck the string and listen for it being choked. I use a very light touch most of the time, so my relief is low. Nut height only matters on open strings so never try to use that as a guage. Rarely does a neck have a perfectly smooth surface, and if so, it's not for long. Anything with wood is going to respond to temperature and humidity, so while it may be awesome one day, the next day you may have to play it differently or adjust it. Also, as you play, the neck wears and you'll get hotspots and cool ones as well.

There's no real formula, per se, except this: NEVER ADJUST YOUR RELIEF MORE THAN A QUARTER TURN EVERY 24 HOURS. NEVER!! When you adjust your relief, it has to be gradual. You can warp, twist or otherwise damage your neck if you try to adjust the truss rod quickly without allowing the wood to readjust and stabilize.

As far as sanding down the neck goes, unless you have a matched radius sanding block, don't do it. Go to a luthier, and have them tell you waht your radius is, then ordewr the block from a luthery supply, and when you do sand, A) wear a dust mask, and B) use fine grit, at least 400, and C) go slowly, lightly and take your time. Restring and check the resurface frequently. Rosewood and Ebony are both expensive to replace, and Ebony is toxic to work with. Frankly, I suggest not resurfacing the board at all, and instead, taking it to a luthier maybe as often as once every six months if you're gigging every night, all night on that same bass. In the mean time, enjoy!!
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Re: Neck Relief On A Fretless?.............

Postby Golem » Mon Jun 25, 2007 8:33 am

oogie boogie wrote:Here's a decent way of checking your relief: Press the string down on ~14th fret postistion and the 1st fret position and look at it. If there is over 2mm of space under your string, you've got more relief than you need unless you play very hard. If there's less than 1mm, pluck the string and listen for it being choked. .............
Oog, I'm wondering if there's a decimal point missing here, concerning the 1mm and 2mm figures? or maybe the "14th fret" was intended to be "24th fret"? Most of my basses, fretless and fretted, wouldn't see 1 or 2 mm relief between the 1st and 14 fret if I took off the rod nut and lost it :-/

Pokin around at my various basses and seeing what clearances they have, I'm guessing that "14th" is a typo meant to be "24th" ? Pulling a string down at 1st and 24th position does show a relief of approx 1mm. Pulling a string down at 1st and 14th shows a relief of only near zero to about 1/4 mm. I do like my action *slightly* low and easy, but nothing drastic, since I long ago lost my fascination with excess mwaw [and also I really hate fret buzz].

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Re: Neck Relief On A Fretless?.............

Postby oogie boogie » Tue Jun 26, 2007 9:12 am

Golem wrote:
oogie boogie wrote:Here's a decent way of checking your relief: Press the string down on ~14th fret postistion and the 1st fret position and look at it. If there is over 2mm of space under your string, you've got more relief than you need unless you play very hard. If there's less than 1mm, pluck the string and listen for it being choked. .............
Oog, I'm wondering if there's a decimal point missing here, concerning the 1mm and 2mm figures? or maybe the "14th fret" was intended to be "24th fret"? Most of my basses, fretless and fretted, wouldn't see 1 or 2 mm relief between the 1st and 14 fret if I took off the rod nut and lost it :-/

Pokin around at my various basses and seeing what clearances they have, I'm guessing that "14th" is a typo meant to be "24th" ? Pulling a string down at 1st and 24th position does show a relief of approx 1mm. Pulling a string down at 1st and 14th shows a relief of only near zero to about 1/4 mm. I do like my action *slightly* low and easy, but nothing drastic, since I long ago lost my fascination with excess mwaw [and also I really hate fret buzz].


That only works if you play with a SUPER light touch, high saddles, or have a very choked and buzzed out tone. You have to have [b]some[/] relief. Not a lot, but some. If you get it right, you're not going to have more than 3mm at the 24th fret, and less further down,without excessive buzz. That's on a good day.
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Re: Neck Relief On A Fretless?.............

Postby Golem » Tue Jun 26, 2007 11:49 am

oogie boogie wrote:........That only works if you play with a SUPER light touch, high saddles, or have a very choked and buzzed out tone. You have to have [b]some[/] relief. Not a lot, but some. If you get it right, you're not going to have more than 3mm at the 24th fret, and less further down,without excessive buzz. That's on a good day.
Measuring static height of my action, no strings pressed anywhere, the 'E' strings are between 2.25 and 2.75mm. But when you pull down a string at 1st and 12th, there's only just enuf clearance to show that the FB is not totally without a hint of relief. Pulling down at 1st and 14th [instead of 12th] definitely increases the clearance but it's still very slight.

Now that the summer humidity has struck, some of these basses display the above clearance with the rod nut fully loosened. There is absolutely just no way to increase that very slight clearance [therefor very slight relief] into the range you specify [1 to 2mm], unless I crank the tuning to something like GCFBb [which is close to breaking a string and tighter than anyone would want to play].

I never figgered myself to have a light touch. Actually, I'm pretty klutzy with my right hand, being left handed but playing a normal bass. Sumpinz not adding up with the numbers.

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Re: Neck Relief On A Fretless?.............

Postby oogie boogie » Wed Jun 27, 2007 5:09 pm

Golem wrote:
Now that the summer humidity has struck, some of these basses display the above clearance with the rod nut fully loosened. [smilie=coz.gif]
Maybe you're thinking in cm, not mm.


2.75 mm is about the distance from the outside of the front this letter m to the outside of the line on the back. That's some pretty damn good action for a bass. If you can get to less than a single mm action without choke or buzz on any of your axes, you let me know because I can think of a whole world that will buy them in droves. As for the difference between the nut and first fret height, if your nut is correctly cut , it should be fairly insignificant.
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Re: Neck Relief On A Fretless?.............

Postby Golem » Thu Jun 28, 2007 10:46 am

Completely agree that with a properly cut nut, the pressing down the first fret is close to no change in action measured at the 12th or 14th fret. 2.75mm is a dimension we all know and can visualize, cuz it's nearly exactly the diameter of the typical 0.105" E-string.

My static action under the E-string [no strings pressed anywhere] is usually just about that same 2.75mm dimension when measuring at the 12th fret [and less than 2.5mm under the G-string]. Obviously, if I press down the E-string at the 14th fret, that 2.75 mm of static action height will almost completely disappear. It's gonna be zero height at the 14th cuz I'm pressing down the string there, and it's gonna barely rise at all two frets away at the 12th fret, and somewhere between the 14th [string pressed] and the nut it's gonna be maybe 0.2 or 0.1 mm. That's why I had asked about whether a decimal point was misplaced.

Let me ask something by picturing it a little differently: On your fretless basses if you lay a good straight edge between your 1st fret line and your 12th or 14th fret line, at the relief that you prefer what will be the maximum clearance between the FB and the straight edge ? IOW, how much 'daylight' gets through at very roughly midway between 1st and 14th fret line ?

Really curious why we differ so widely. It's gotta be in the description. Otherwise one of us plays unplayable basses, which I don't in the least believe is true :-)

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Re: Neck Relief On A Fretless?.............

Postby oogie boogie » Thu Jul 05, 2007 3:16 pm

Ahhh....I see the misunderstanding. When pressing down at the 1st and 14th fret (or 12th if you prefer) the height I was referring to is the maximum occurring under your string, probably around the 6th or 7th fret position. Sorry if that wasn't made clear.
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