Does fretless = flatwounds ?

Discussion in 'Bass Area; The Bottom Line' started by CyberFerret, Apr 4, 2015.

  1. CyberFerret

    CyberFerret Member

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    As a mainly guitar player, I only have one bass guitar in my collection. A nice Schecter 4 string fretless bass that I bought many years ago off eBay.

    I've always used round wound strings on it, and I was about to do my 4 yearly string change on it the other day when another bassist friend was visiting. He saw me put round wounds on and he said "Oh no, for a fretless, you need flatwounds, otherwise the round wounds would mark your fretboard..."

    I didn't think that would be the case at all, but I wanted to throw it out there to guys who play bass for a living - DO flat wounds suit a fretless bass better, or is that all an urban myth?

    (Note: I rang our local music stores to get a price on flatwounds, and it turns out none of them even carry the strings in stock due to the really low demand.)
     
  2. s2y

    s2y Member

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    Definitely an urban myth because VERY few bassists play their fretless enough to worry about needing a refin. Just don't try to bend like you would on a fretted instrument and you'll get plenty of life out of the fingerboard.

    I will say that I'm fond of rounds on epoxy or Dymondwood/phenowood and flats on bare wood (especially Brazilian), but more due to the tone than worries about fingerboard wear.
     
  3. georgestrings

    georgestrings Senior Member

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    Sure, rounds might "mark" your fingerboard a tiny bit, but don't typically wear one to the point of causing issues... Personally, I can deal with a less than pristine appearance for the sake of function - and will probably always run rounds on my fretless basses...


    - georgestrings
     
  4. Gotham City Blues

    Gotham City Blues Member

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    That has become something of an urban myth. I've never seen a destroyed-by-rounds fingerboard. Any string will leave scratches. I have a set of pressurewound rounds on my fretless. I suggest you go by what kind of sound you're after, rather than worrying about an alleged wrecked fingerboard.
     
  5. Multicellular

    Multicellular Supporting Member

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    I wish I had some old pics of my Warwick before I had it refinished. Not an urban myth at all, roundwounds will tear up your fretboard more than flatwounds.

    However, it is still something that takes some good time. Wearing troublesome grooves in the Warwick's ebony neck took a couple years, probably of 5-10 hours a week playing. Comparatively, my BSX bass, also ebony, had amount the same amount of play and has never had to be refinished.

    So as you are mainly a guitar player, it probably doesn't matter. If you play it every day, it is a consideration. I have three fretlesses, two with flats and one with rounds. I like the sound of the rounds better on the Warwick.

    Coated rounds are also a good compromise.

    See also:

    "I generally don’t worry too much about roundwounds eating up the neck on a fretless. True, it will chew up the wood faster than flats, but it really takes a lot of playing either way for it to get too bad."

    Fretless Bass: A Guide for Choosing the Best Strings
    http://www.notreble.com/buzz/2013/09/04/fretless-bass-a-guide-for-choosing-the-best-strings/


    "I respectfully disagree. Rounds will eventually tear up a fingerboard."

    "Rounds will definitely eat up a fingerboard."
    Will Round's tear up my fretless fretboard?
    http://www.talkbass.com/threads/will-rounds-tear-up-my-fretless-fretboard.1138568/


    "I've had my fender fretless 12 years and had my fingerbord dressed 3 times. Once every 4 years doesn't seem unreasonable to me."

    "It'll chew up the fretboard over time, eventually may need to be replaced or resurfaced."

    Roundwound Strings on Fretless Bass: Terrible For Fretboard? (advise please)
    http://www.harmonycentral.com/forum/forum/Bass/acapella-17/502987-
     
  6. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Member

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    I have used both (and Half Rounds, too) on various fretless basses over the years. Unless you are very heavy handed you should have no problems with rounds, just do as mentioned above, don't bend the strings like one does on a guitar for vibrato, play more like a cellist would. I have a Martin Keith Elfin 5 fretless that I have had since 2010, I recently put TI Jazz Flats on it (I wish I had done so way before as they sound amazing on this bass) but it has had D'Addario XLs on it up to this time and there are some marks on the ziricote fingerboard but those have been there since I got the bass, due to the dimwits at Bass Player as they had borrowed the bass to review it (June 2010 issue) before I received the bass from Martin. Fantastic bass, BTW, check out Martin's work. :)
     
  7. MoPho

    MoPho International Man of Leisure Silver Supporting Member

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    2 of the very best fretless players. Jaco rounds. Pino flats.
     
  8. RickC

    RickC Gold Supporting Member

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    A friend of mine played a factory fretless Pbass exclusively, used rounds, and said he needed to have his rw fretboard re-surfaced every three years or so. Jaco's use of boat epoxy on his fretboard probably eliminated the issue for him. But as stated, if you're not playing it A LOT shouldn't be an issue anyway.

    /rick
     
  9. buddyboy69

    buddyboy69 Member

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    I use half rounds and epoxy finish. Rounds will gouge, especially where your favorite key is. The E on the 7th fret A string is a common culprit. Jaco had his necks changed and re finished frequently, and with epoxy. If you only play a little it's not a big deal. My rosewood board gouges easily, my maple does not. So there's that too.
     
  10. s2y

    s2y Member

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    Epoxy needs to be refinished every so often and tends to make a horrible sound when you wear a spot into it. It's not terribly difficult and it generally doesn't eat into the wood.

    Dymondwood is simply indestructible. I have it on a Conklin bass. Roscoe uses it as well. Zon uses a similar sounding phenowood (phenolic). The trade off is that it has a fairly signature sound and it's very bright sounding. I bought mine in '07 and it still looks pristine to the point that a guy repairing an electronics issue simply thought I had never played it.

    The deep, meaty, and thuddy tone of my Rob Allens is another fav. Brazilian rosewood on my Mouse 30 with LaBella tapes is bass heaven for me.
     
  11. slave

    slave Member

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    I'm mainly a bass player, but I play guitar aswell.

    Rounds will get you more of a mwah sound, flats will tend to kill a lot of that.
    I've used flats exclusively on all my basses for 10 years, and will continue to, except for my Maton JB4 fretless, which I have rounds on.

    It's all about tone.
    If the fretboard has to be re-dressed once or twice in a lifetime so be it.
    I wouldn't worry about redressing a fretboard until you get pitting so bad you have intonation issues.
     
  12. FFTT

    FFTT Member

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    Ebony is quite brittle and needs to be treated every few months with woodwind bore oil like you use on clarinets & oboes. My luthier uses Bore Doctor. Without conditioning the wood dries out and can split the finger board.
    This happened on my Larrivee Parlor. Fortunately my luthier used a fine epoxy pen to stop the hairline crack before it spread.

    Not only do round wounds cause wear to a fretless fingerboard but so do your fingernails.

    Metal against wood plus fingernails and you'll need to have your fingerboard planed once in a while with heavy use.
    Even my antique violin had to have the fingerboard planed, mostly from fingernails.
     
  13. NorCal_Val

    NorCal_Val Member

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    Always loved Mick Karn's tone; round or flats?
     
  14. FFTT

    FFTT Member

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    Tapewounds aka Nylon Wrap strings give you the advantage of protecting your frets or fingerboard without being thud dead and lifeless, because that tape is layered over a round wound core, so they still sing.

    Until you've tried a set, it may be difficult to grasp how slicky fast they are, while reducing generally undesirable string noise and finger clack.

    For valuable vintage basses, there really is nothing better.
     
  15. royd

    royd Member

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    I play fretless exclusively on bass and I use roundwounds. Flatwound and roundwound sound different and I greatly prefer roundwounds.

    I don't think there is any question that they will cause more wear than flatwounds - how much, though, depends on multiple factors including string gauge, how you play, fingerboard material, etc. It is a tradeoff, so choose what works for you.
     
  16. Bassomatic

    Bassomatic Silver Supporting Member

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    Pretty sure Mick used rounds. And Wal and Klein basses didn't hurt, either.
     
  17. NorCal_Val

    NorCal_Val Member

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    Yeah, his tone was so cool!
    I recently went to YT and watched/listened to some of the stuff
    he did with Japan, :bow
     
  18. s2y

    s2y Member

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    Hell of a sound. A Wal fretted and fretless would be awesome instruments. They're back in production, but the price tag is still pretty DAYUM!
     
  19. jay42

    jay42 Member

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    I have seen a maple fretboard badly chewed up by round wounds. I think this why Sadowsky offers 'Morado' which many of us know as either Ironwood or Paul Ferro.
     
  20. s2y

    s2y Member

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    Maple is generally not considered ideal for fretless applications. It's soft and can look dirty fairly easily. It's fine if coated with polyester or epoxy.

    I have never had a pao ferro fretless, so I can't comment on durability.
     

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