Saturday, November 20, 2010

Don't Fret

A recent post on TDPRI made me thing of this again.
A couple of years ago I bought a neck on Ebay from a guy who had sold a lot of neck and had a lot of positive feedbacks. Unfortunately, he must have been having a bad day when he built my neck. Edges that should be square were rounded over, the end of the heel was cut for a Strat instead of a Tele and the frets were a mess. I didn't pay a lot for the neck and hate Ebay hassles, so I just tossed it on a shelf and forgot about it.

Several months later I got to thinking about a Tele lap steel and thought this neck might work. I removed the frets that hadn't already fallen out and inlaid brass strips in the slots. I refinished the neck and installed some tuners, then decided that the neck was really too thin for a lap steel. So, back on the shelf.
A couple of months ago I got to thinking about a fretless Tele and remembered the orphan neck. I matched the neck up with a mahogany body that's been lying around in my shop and got to work.
I've looked at fretless guitars for a long time. I've even owned one for a while, but I decided to put it out of it's misery the last time I moved. Now I want one again. And being the Teleblogster, I know I want it to be a Telecaster.

I am fairly sure that, when this happens, I want it to have a glass fingerboard, so it doesn't suck sustain as much and sounds like this. Well, more like this. You need to be Ned Evett to sound like this, more than any other guitarist I know. But a glass fretboard on a blackguard Tele just wouldn't work for me.

This is closer. I mean, I'm not going for a doubleneck. Not yet, anyway, and if I do, the Gatton plan of baritone and standard, not glass and normal. Not that that isn't a plan.

The plan is, chrome pickguard, control plate and big bridge plate. Non-standard pickguards are a plus. So is a chromed-up bridge pickup, be it lipstick or PAF. And, come to think of it, an Alumitone pickup from Lace would look sweet on a black body.

There's something to discuss here. Glass won't suck up string vibration the way even the hardest woods will, but still, I think going with a Sustainer in the neck position would be the move. It might be obvious, but I've been wanting a Sustainer guitar (or Sustainiac; I'm not THAT particular) for at least five years. Also, I'm thinking that I'll want to play with compression most of the time, so as noiseless as possible for the pickups. I'm wanting to try Lace Sensors.

Plus, it seems that having a maple headstock at the end of all that black and silver seems to be so wrong. Something more like a John 5 neck, except with, of course, the silvery mirror fingerboard. (If it's fretless, you can't call it a fretboard, can you?) Not there for the Les Paul switch, but that's OK.

So, I know how to play with pickups. I'll be able to step up and learn how to do the Sustainer thing. The thing that I'm not 100% about is the fretboard removal and the glass part, but now there's an Instructable about that, too. 

The last thing I've found, the last thing I'll find until I start putting it money into this, is that coated strings like Elixirs rattle much less if you slide on 'em, and if you're playing fretless, that's all you're gonna do with 'em. They're best with the action dropped way down, and you're sliding not bending, so going thicker is smarter, too.

So, action items are: Tele body, Tele neck with rosewood fretboard. Sustainer. Lace bridge at least. Steam the fretboard. Get glass. String up. Low action. Elixir strings. Now, I suppose I should go earn some money.


Joe Walker said...

Sounds awesome. Is it for me?

I'd love to hear a fretless neck on a Moog guitar, with those active pickups.

Dave Jacoby said...

Moog: That would be good.

I've had a Moog in my hands twice. First time it was at the Moog booth at Gearfest, and I didn't really get a chance to run it around. There was an autowah thing I couldn't get running. Second time, the instrument had no batteries and thus nada.

Fretless: It's for me. And it's in my head only. But if you want to run with it, go ahead.

Furtheron said...

I tried out a fretless Yamaha (custom second hand job) at a shop recently. Hopeless! It'd take a lot of work to get there - the guy in the shop demoed it with an ebow which was interesting but I don't think I'll head in that direction just yet :-)

Love the twin neck though... :-)

Dave Jacoby said...

As a fiddle owner, I can say that there's four things that distinguish a fiddle from a guitar: How it's tuned, how it's held, how the note is sounded and the fretlessness of it. With fretless guitar, you have the same tuning, the same straps, the same picking, just the microtonalism to work out. Think of it as slide but different.