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This is similar to some open-back banjos that are fretless up to the fifth and then fretted, except that your concept for bass is fretless after a certain point? It's worth a try.

Mr. Toone,
I recently started a bass build and had the idea to do fretless from 12- 22. A fellow luthier turned me onto your idea after I mentioned having part of the fretboard upraised a bit. I accomplished the dual plane fretboard but haven't tested it yet. I'd be happy to share my results with you if you're interested.
Take care,
Mike F.

Mike — I'd love to learn what you've experienced. Please send an email and photos.

Mr. Toone,
I'm an amateur solid body instrument builder from Seattle and in about 1982 I built a 4 string bass with a Mahogany neck that has 7 frets basically as described here. Years later I added a 6 string guitar neck to the body to make it a double. After the bass was finished and functioning I had Luther Mike Lull do the neck work. Fret 8 and up were lined with maple veneer and fretless.

FYI, In the first version Mike just filed down the 7 frets so that number 7 was barely there---and it went fretless after that. This worked, but had limits, Mike Lull had the idea to raise the fretboard height. In version two I added an Ebony fretboard to the fretless section raising the height to equal that of the 7th fret. He finished setting up the instrument. I played it today!

Alas, recently I have grown bored of playing the 7 fret format and have purchased a fully fretless bass and am modifying it. In one sense, the method is wonderful, in that you can record and be sure to be in tune, yet still pull out a Jaco link and solo in the middle of the neck fretless. But I've come to the rude conclusion that while the format is great for a fretted player who just wants to 'stretch out' a little without frets, it severely restricts the range of the instrument for a fretless centric player. Just 3 months ago I suddenly realized...to hell with frets anyway! However, all those years---half my life with a partial fretless have trained my hands to play and become comfortable without frets. But it's as if I was a piano player who decided I didn't need a left hand...the method IS RESTRICTING on a basic level.

I think the future of the 7 fret format is as an instructional fretboard, basically training wheels for breaking away from fretted playing.

Conclusion I wish I'd given it up sooner, but I will encourage anybody to try it, because it's very easy to adapt to 7 frets.

Erik Dannevig

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Rick Toone

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