Fretless Tele

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Bud Veazey, Nov 19, 2010.

  1. Bud Veazey

    Bud Veazey Tele-Holic

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    Here's my latest build, a fretless Tele. There's a story behind this guitar. It begins with a bad neck.

    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.

    The finish is nitrocellulose. The bridge pickup is from a Tradition JR series Tele. The neck pickup is from a Fender American Standard. The bridge is a six-saddle top loader from the parts bin. Wiring is standard Tele.

    When played like a regular guitar this guitar sounds Oud-like. Of course I had to fight the impulse to fret the strings behind the fret line. The finger has to rest right on the line. Playing a chord is tricky, especially if the chord requires adjacent strings to be fretted at the same location. Single notes and double stops work.

    It's an interesting sound, but I don't know any Oud tunes so I tuned it like a Dobro and played it with a slide. It roars.
     

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  2. Rob52

    Rob52 Tele-Holic

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    Nice looking Tele. I made a fretless 6 string electric once, many years ago, couldn't get on with it so I put frets in. Never thought of using it for slide, though I play quite a bit of slide! (Dumb)
     
  3. deaconque

    deaconque Tele-Meister

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    Do you really need a slide with it being fretless? Seems like you could get the sound of a slide just by it not having frets.
     
  4. bonaventura

    bonaventura TDPRI Member

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    thats sweet.

    where did you source for the brass strip?
     
  5. Colt W. Knight

    Colt W. Knight Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Nah, you really need a something slick to get that slide sound. I used things from zippo lighters to beer bottles. But you couldn't get that sound with bare fingers.


    I built a fretless baritone once. It was cool, but I never could play it well enough justifying every building or owning anything fretless again.
     
  6. Bud Veazey

    Bud Veazey Tele-Holic

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    I got the strips from Hobby Lobby. Just about any craft or hobby store has selection of small gauge metal strips, rods and sheets.
     
  7. Bud Veazey

    Bud Veazey Tele-Holic

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    I have to agree. Building it was a fun exercise, and it sounds good with a slide, but I think it's better suited to someone who has a flair for Middle Eastern style music. It definitely sounds more like an Oud than a guitar. An Oud player might enjoy it as a secondary instrument. I saw a Youtube video of Guthrie Govan playing a fretless guitar (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PyOZhgQnvU) but I suspect he probably could play a string on a broomstick with a good amp and some pedals.
     
  8. Colt W. Knight

    Colt W. Knight Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Chet Atkins got to where he played a fretless nylon string guitar a lot in his later years, and I never really cared for his tone when he played it. I think Chet is a good example because he sounded the same on a Gretsch, Gibson, or Tele. Man his playing was rock solid.
     
  9. nofrets

    nofrets Tele-Meister

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    Nice build! Two of my basses are fretless - one original, one conversion. I used purpleheart veneer to fill the fret slots, but I really like the brass idea - may have to try that at some point.

    Also, there's a ton of info on fretless instruments (mostly guitar) at Unfretted.com

    Cheers,
    P
     
  10. bonaventura

    bonaventura TDPRI Member

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    @ nofrets and budveazey : what kind of wood did you use for fretboard?

    any concerns of fretboard being worn down from direct contact with the strings? especially for bass...
     
  11. Bud Veazey

    Bud Veazey Tele-Holic

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    I have forgotten what the fretboard wood is. It is very dark and very porous. I had to put about a dozen coats of nitro on it to get a smooth finish. Since most of the finger pressure would be on the fret line which has a brass inlay, I don't think you'd see the same indentations that you see on a standard guitar that has seen a lot of "cowboy chords." However, I'm sure years of play would result in some finger dents.
     
  12. Reverend D

    Reverend D Tele-Meister

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    Pretty guitar! Never tried a fretless guitar, played my old bass players vintage modified or whatever it was called with the ebonal fretboard, really liked it although he never played it for crap. I think the first time I ever went whoa on fretless bass was on the Paul Simon Graceland concert, he had a bass player playing fretless that was just knocked out. Not only was good with that style but could play slap also, just a killer player.

    Regards,

    D.
     
  13. SatelliteOrders

    SatelliteOrders Friend of Leo's

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    My #1 acoustic for a long time developed neck problems, so I retired it for an A/E. A friend was making cigar-box guitars and wanted frets, so I said "Have these". I strung it up after and played it fretless for fun, but I decided that if you're really going there, you need electricity to back your move, and probably compression. Plus, I moved to a smaller place, and so it didn't follow me.

    I could do reasonably well by feeling the fret ruts with my finger, but really, you're to beginning to have your intonation be something your hands and ears do, not just something your tuner and screwdriver do. I have some experience with that, as I also play slide, steel and violin. When you're learning that, you learn use your ears, not your eyes, so you need to practice with tuned accompaniment, either other musicians or recordings.

    So, if I had that guitar, I'd keep it and play it. I'd consider doing something with the fretboard, going really hard like ebony or pero ferro, or something else. Ned Evett uses glass fretboards and gets a close-to-steel sound with it, as you can hear here.



    He also seems to be playing a Tele these days.
    [​IMG]
     
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