How To: Fretless Bass Conversion

Our Facebook friend Ryan Pusiak posted a question on our Facebook page, asking about the best way to go about converting a fretted bass into a fretless one.

So we decided it was a great opportunity to feature the series from Jason Holder, one of the guys at The Musician’s Den in Evansville, Indiana. Jason really breaks down the process in great detail.

This is a BIG series, but really worth watching if you’re looking to do a project like this.

Part 1:

Jason describes what to look for in the neck quality and intonation, and starts pulling the frets.

Part 2:

Jason preps the open fret slots so he can begin creating the maple veneer to act as filler.

Part 3:

Jason demonstrates how to radius and trim the maple veneer fret markers.

Part 4:

Jason glues the maple veneer fret markers and trims them to get them flush with the neck.

Part 5:

Jason cleans up the fingerboard, reattaches the neck to the body, and levels it.

Part 6:

Jason completes the fingerboard prep.

Part 7:

Jason finishes up the fingerboard finish, and discusses what’s left.

Part 8:

Jason files the string nut, put on the strings, tuned it up and reviews the action.

Part 9:

Jason wraps up the work on the nut and glues it in place.

Part 10:

Congrats… you made it. In this last installment, Jason wraps up the project and hands the bass over to its owner.

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Share your thoughts

  1. Bernard Dowd

    I suggest go buy a fretless bass like I did, instead of going thru all that!

    • Michael

      It’s a lot cheaper to just make the conversion. That’s what i did and mine plays and sounds amazing.

  2. I did this years ago with a Peavey T-20 bass with a maple neck. Not really having alot of guitar repair tools and such at the time,I resorted to a more primative After pulling all the frets and cleaning up and leveling the fretboard,I put a piece of masking tape along the lenght of the neck,extending above the edges of the fretboard. I then very carefully filled the slots left from the frets with Elmers glue,with the tape keeping it from running out the sides. After letting the glues dry,pulled off the tape,trimmed the excess with a razor blade,alittle sanding and steelwool touch up…and bingo!!! Came out great!! The Elmers dries to a darker shade than the maple,so I had distinct fret lines,and it played awesome!! Fretless conversion on a budget…lol

  3. Great how to series on a making a fretless bass. Not sure if i missed something or not but can you do this to a neck thru bass? I have a homebuilt neck thru bass that i would love to make fretless. I also enjoy the DIY challange and sense of accomplishment.
    Thanks for the videos?

  4. I have a Washburn t24 which is a neck through that I had defretted. It playe like it was ment to be fretlass and I don’t know why Washburn didn’t make them this way from the get go.
    I do feel that not finishing the rosewood with a better surface is a mistake. mine is coated with super thin CA (super glue) and the finger board is so responsive due to the ultra hard surface. The gloss look is also stunning. Roundwounds on a fretless,no thanks. modern flatwounds with alloys sound fantastic and are very expressive. actually I just put flatwounds on my fretted bass.

  5. […] Victor is a busy bassist, teacher, and more recently, record label owner. We caught up…5. How To: Fretless Bass ConversionOur Facebook friend Ryan Pusiak posted a question on our Facebook page, asking about the best way to […]

  6. felipe

    I did this about 2 months ago on a pos acoustic bass I had (Laminated top) sounds pretty good, lots of damage from the fret metals, I suggest hammering horizontally instead of prying them, leaves nasty scars on the fretboard

  7. Clifton

    I would like to try this, if I had the tools to work with! I have a Fender bass that I would to go Fretless with. :^D

  8. Awesome tutorial!!!

  9. Paul Kempkes

    Greetings Jason: What’s the reason for pulling the frets first? What if you just filed the frets flush with the fretboard?

    • my guess would be the different sound the remaining pieces of metal from the frets would make when you’d slide. I’m only guessing though.

  10. […] 2. How To: Fretless Bass Conversion […]

  11. Why don’t just file UNDER the nut, if the strings slots are alright?
    And why don’t just glue down the maple veneer on a flat fret slot, you wouldn’t have to radius them..

  12. Why do you file the top side of the nut and not just the under side? It would save you a lot of work. The only reason you need to do this is to get the strings closer to the neck, right?

  13. my question is is this easier and cheaper than just buying a fretless neck?

  14. Adding in the fret markers could ruin the flow of sound through the neck. You’d absolutely have to use the same kind of wood as the neck.

  15. Louis

    problem with this method is the string height. I found in my conversion it’s too high as the bridge and many other after market bridges I’ve tried do not get the strings low enough.

  16. Gregg

    Step 1: Pick up pliers
    Step 2: Yank em out
    Step 3: Coat the fingerboard with marine epoxy

    There you have it… Bass of Doom

  17. Peter

    If you are serious about doing this to your bass, then this is most likely the best instructional video available online. As long as you are first made aware of the different challenges that come along with a lined fretless fingerboard. If you haven’t really played on one before, then you might want to sit down and just try one out for a little. Even though it still has fret lines, it is more challenging to play than many people think. Your decision to do this should be taken into careful consideration. With that being said, as long as you slowly, carefully, and patiently follow every step in this video, than this will be a successful and rewarding procedure.