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Frequently Asked Questions

 

Questions

Q. I'm not sure if I'm good enough to play fretless…
Q. Should I order a lined or unlined fingerboard?
Q. You have a lot of wood choices - how will this affect the tone?
Q. Why is the sound of my bass distorting?
Q. How often should I change my strings?
Q. My string balance is uneven. How do I remedy this?
Q. Will I hurt the instrument by adjusting the truss rod?
Q. My volume control scratches or distorts.
Q. How do I install a wooden thumbrest?
Q. Why do the lines on my fretless bass appear to have raised?

Answers

Q. I'm not sure if I'm good enough to play fretless…

A. If you can carry a tune I believe you can play fretless bass, because it all comes down to the ear. As for technique I don't think it's much different from playing fretted bass, but you get all the added nuance of a fretless. People ask about getting a fretted model vs. fretless and I always advise to go for the fretless because they're so expressive and so much fun to play. With the La Bella tapewound strings intonation is quite easy due to the fact that there are no windings. This makes it very easy to play and it can't be compared to playing a solid body fretless with roundwounds, which I consider much more difficult to play. Many people have only tried roundwounds on a fretless, but after they play a Rob Allen bass with the smooth La Bella tapewounds they realize it's practically a different instrument. (I make fretted basses also, the above is only my advice to people who want a fretless but aren't sure if it's the right choice for them.)

Q. Should I order a lined or unlined fingerboard?

A. Most players prefer the lines, especially if you sing and play bass, or play sessions and/or new material often that you are not familiar with. For this the lines can be really helpful. The one advantage to the unlined fingerboard (besides the super clean elegant look) is that since the wood grain running along the length of the fingerboard has no saw cuts through it, the tone is ever slightly more resonant. We're splitting hairs here, but people do ask about this and I've noticed over the years that some of the most exceptional basses I've made have indeed been with unlined fingerboards. I don't think most people would even notice the difference between lined or unlined, but for the ultra-purist it is something to consider.

Q. You have a lot of wood choices - how will this affect the tone?

A. I offer a variety of different woods primarily for appearance and just for the sake of variety because there are so many beautiful woods to choose from. As for the tone, I try to achieve the same basic sound from each bass: warm, woody resonant organic bass tone. So it comes down to wood combining. Basically there are brighter sounding woods and warmer sounding woods, so if a customer wants a mahogany body (very warm) I know that it will need a maple top (bright) to balance it. A walnut top (warm) on the same body could make the bass too soft or dull sounding. So depending on what look you prefer I can make suggestions for what a good combination is. After making hundreds of basses over the years I have a pretty good idea of what goes well together, and choosing the wood for each bass is actually one of the most fun parts of making the instruments. After I select the woods (fun) I actually have to work… but my goal is always the same in the end, so even though the basses look quite different from each other, the sound is pretty similar.

Q. Why is the sound of my bass distorting?

A. Piezo pickups can have up to twice the output of magnetic pickups. Be sure to use the padded input and/or reduce the gain on your amp.

Q. How often should I change my strings?

A. Nylon wrap strings like the La Bella's we use will last a very long time. As they age they get warmer and produce more overtones. Brand new strings produce a better fundamental with less overtones and you may find this is easier to intonate. It's really a matter of taste.

Q. My string balance is uneven. How do I remedy this?

A. Loosen the strings to where there is only a little bit of tension on them and press downward and back (towards the end of the body) on the saddle with your thumbs. Be sure there is even space on either side of the saddle as it sits in the bridge slot. Bring the strings up to tension and press down and back on the saddle again with firm pressure. This should cure the problem. If you still have problems please contact me.

Q. Will I hurt the instrument by adjusting the truss rod?

A. You will not damage the instrument by adjusting the truss rod. Only a slight adjustment is usually needed (a quarter to a full turn) to produce a nearly straight neck (optimum). In order to hurt the neck you would have to use extreme force and several full turns on the truss rod nut (see the online owners manual for more information on this).

Q. My volume control scratches or distorts.

A. Remove the back cover plate and spray some high quality contact cleaner into the back of the pot. A little is all that is needed. Now turn the pot back and forth for a minute or so and the problem will clear up. If you live in a humid environment, it's not a bad idea to do this twice a year as maintenance.

Q. How do I install a wooden thumbrest?

A. Start by adhering the thumbrest with some scotch tape or similar to be sure you like the position. Once you determine the location, put a thin film of white or yellow glue on the underside of the thumbrest and place on the instrument. Clean the excess glue with a moistened swap and let sit overnight. Repeat the last step again to remove any remaining glue film.

Q. Why do the lines on my fretless bass appear to have raised?

A. All wood moves with the change of atmosphere and humidity no matter how well it is sealed. As the years pass this happens less and less as the wood "seasons". If the line markers in the fingerboard seem to have raised slightly do the following: with a perfectly flat wood block or similar lightly sand the top of the fingerboard with 400 grit sandpaper. Just a few strokes is all you need. Sand in one direction only. Next use some #0000 steel wool and follow with a coat or two of "minwax wipe on poly" to oil the fretboard. Follow the directions on the can and wipe the neck dry. This will insure a perfectly flat surface to produce even string "buzz" along the neck.