Short-scale fretless electric bass

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Short-scale fretless electric bass

Post by Martin Walker »

Hi folks,

As those who have attended a few of the SOS virtual meets will know, I've long had a yen to get a short-scale fretless bass, largely because back in the 70's I had a 2nd-hand short-scale Hagstrom electric bass, from which I removed the frets and had great fun playing.

After several house and job changes, I passed it on to our then bass player as it wasn't really getting used, but have since regretted this on various occasions (and have completely lost touch with that bass player, who doesn't seem to exist on social media).

After mentioning this during a recent SOS virtual meet, Kwackman suggested buying this really cheap Harley Benton fretted bass (what a bargain!)and once again removing the frets:

https://www.thomann.de/gb/harley_benton ... _ebass.htm

Someone else (I think it was blinddrew) also suggested a bass ukelele, which can apparently be found in fretless form, although the tone doesn't sound to me much like a fretless electric bass.

I've performed an online search for other options, and did manage to find just one reasonably priced ready-to-play fretless electric bass, also from Harley Benton - the Beatbass FL VS (obviously modeled after Paul McCartney's famous Hofner bass):

https://www.thomann.de/gb/harley_benton ... series.htm

Short Thomann video demo here: https://video2.thomann.de/vidiot/02591c ... 59vqpa.mp4

I like the fact that it apparently has edge fret markings, but I've got to buy blind by mail order. As I'm primarily a keyboard player, rather than a guitarist, anyone got any comments or thoughts?

Many thanks!

Martin
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Re: Short-scale fretless electric bass

Post by Martin Walker »

Of course what I'd really like (but can't justify cost-wise given my limited use) is something like this Squier Jaguar Bass, modified with an Ebonol fretless fingerboard and DiMarzio DP126 P+J pickups.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGEiJnCUSOU

Gorgeous tone!
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Re: Short-scale fretless electric bass

Post by Wonks »

Do you want fret lines on the fretboard, or an unmarked fretboard?

Defretting an existing bass gives you the lines, but you'll probably also want to move the side dots as well to the corresponding fret positions. It's relatively easy to do.

The HB Hofner style is a short scale (30.5"). It looks similar to the Hofner style kit basses from Pit Bull where I've got some kits from, but their fretless kit is £172 plus postage, so a finished bass for that price is good value.

The rather crude intonation on the Hofner style matters slightly less on a fretless unless you are playing chords , as you can always just slide your finger up/down to the right pitch.

And adding more side marker dots (if necessary) is relatively easy.
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Re: Short-scale fretless electric bass

Post by Wonks »

As a slightly left-field alternative, you could look for an Ashbory bass, with silicon rubber strings. Even shorter 18" scale.

https://www.basscentre.com/bass-centre- ... -bass.html

https://hobgoblin.com/ashbury-au-115-so ... ric-u-bass

The older ones are now more expensive than the new ones.

Not to everyone's taste, but Pabs/Mital Mahta, was quite a fan of them.
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Re: Short-scale fretless electric bass

Post by tacitus »

I switched to short scale instruments a while back to reduce the incidence of pew-bashing when I play in our village church. So my main instrument now is a Hofner Ignition Beatle bass and my funk machine is a Gear4Music short scale cheapy.

I virtually doubled its value putting d’Addario chrome flatwounds on it, but I can’t risk callouses from roundwounds or I won’t be much good on bassoon or recorders …

I suspect de-fretting an otherwise suitable bass is the way ahead if that’s your bag. Slightly less work than building a kit and definitely in the Jaco tradition.
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Re: Short-scale fretless electric bass

Post by Martin Walker »

Wonks wrote: Sun Sep 18, 2022 6:26 pm Do you want fret lines on the fretboard, or an unmarked fretboard?

Defretting an existing bass gives you the lines, but you'll probably also want to move the side dots as well to the corresponding fret positions. It's relatively easy to do.

The HB Hofner style is a short scale (30.5"). It looks similar to the Hofner style kit basses from Pit Bull where I've got some kits from, but their fretless kit is £172 plus postage, so a finished bass for that price is good value.

I have thought through all the options - on my Hagstrom I filled the empty fret slots with wooden strips cut from an old fashioned matchbox, carefully sanded down, and found these really helpful when playing.

The HB Hofner bass claims to have 'edge markings' at all the correct fret positions (plus side dots 'in between' the frets as on a fretted instrument). I suspect I'd be fine with those as a playing guide, but as I haven't been able to find a photograph I'd be grateful for confirmation by anyone who's actually seen one in the flesh or on line.

I also agree that the HB is great value, which is why I'm tempted, and the audio demo sounds fairly good to me tone-wise.

Martin
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Re: Short-scale fretless electric bass

Post by Martin Walker »

tacitus wrote: Mon Sep 19, 2022 7:42 am I virtually doubled its value putting d’Addario chrome flatwounds on it, but I can’t risk callouses from roundwounds or I won’t be much good on bassoon or recorders …

This is one reason why I'm considering the Harley Benton, as I'm hoping its supplied strings will be 'slide-able without finger abrasion ;) My 60's Hagstrom bass came with flatwound strings - it was this model:

Image
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Re: Short-scale fretless electric bass

Post by Martin Walker »

Wonks wrote: Sun Sep 18, 2022 6:33 pm As a slightly left-field alternative, you could look for an Ashbory bass, with silicon rubber strings. Even shorter 18" scale.

https://www.basscentre.com/bass-centre- ... -bass.html

https://hobgoblin.com/ashbury-au-115-so ... ric-u-bass

The older ones are now more expensive than the new ones.

Not to everyone's taste, but Pabs/Mital Mahta, was quite a fan of them.

I've considered the Ashbory bass in the past, but despite the claims of it sounding very close to an upright bass, I can't help thinking it's a bit of a gimmick with that 18" scale, while both that and the Ashbury models (with rubber and plastic strings respectively) are twice the price of the Harley Benton!
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Re: Short-scale fretless electric bass

Post by blinddrew »

Given the price and your requirements I'd just buy the HB. :)
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Re: Short-scale fretless electric bass

Post by Martin Walker »

blinddrew wrote: Mon Sep 19, 2022 2:57 pm Given the price and your requirements I'd just buy the HB. :)

I suspect you're right (as always) Drew ;)

It's just that I hate buying something and then rarely ever using it due to some unexpected reason, so thought I'd see first if anyone would declare the HB as 'unplayable' or 'novelty item' from their own experience.
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Re: Short-scale fretless electric bass

Post by Wonks »

By all accounts it’s quite neck-heavy, but that’s what you get with a small-bodied semi-hollow bass. But I doubt you’ll be gigging it. Otherwise you’ll need a good grippy strap if you play it standing up.

Probably worth getting the bundle with the matching gig bag for £19 more.
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Re: Short-scale fretless electric bass

Post by zenguitar »

If I can help in any way with the removal of frets, give me a shout. I have suitable tools.

And I would suggest that there are better options these days than match boxes for wood to mark the 'lines'. Luthiers' suppliers will have prepared strips for bindings that would be ideal. Maple would contrast nicely, but Holly would be an even lighter option.

Andy :beamup:
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