Does a fretless bass require a radiused fingerboard?

Hey folks, working on my second bass build. This is an upright suitcase bass.

Does the fingerboard need to be radiused? The fingerboard I have now is flat red oak. My access to power tools is limited so if I can get away with a flat fingerboard I will.

I should also mention that I would like to play country/bluegrass/rockabilly/psychobilly if that makes a difference. I know little about upright bass playing technique and I am wondering if the radius on the fingerboard is essential to playing slap bass styles.

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  • Very nice job! What scale is it? Is it more like an upright scale (~41") or a bass guitar scale (30"-35")?

  • Nice, you need one addition though.

     A cup holder in that top panel for your beer after you open it :D


    Second video is up!

    I had a really tough time trying to get peizos to work. I "wanted" them to work. I really thought I was on to something about having one under the fingerboard but that was really 'talky' no matter how I tried to deaden them.

    The rod peizo in the bridge was very quiet or had some buzzing.. when it produced anything. I have a feeling the pressure of the strings may have crushed some of the elements causing it to malfunction.

    So I installed a small speaker on the back much in the same way as a microphone because it sounded great mic'd. Unfortunately the 'bass' of the bass is not really picked up on my camera. As I feel obligated to say... It sounds so much better in person.

    My wife and I spent a good portion of the weekend jamming. She developed some mean looking blisters on her right index and middle fingers from playing. I play it much more often and I don't have that problem.

    Sometime this week I'll try and record us playing together.

    • Sorry the piezos didn't work out for you.

      You might, and I say might, run into problems with the speaker being low impedance, getting very noisy driving an amp input. I had a similar issue using an earbud as a contact mic, which I cured using the transformer from the guts of a '57. You probably don't want to gut a working '57 but Radioshack and the like sell little transformers that might help.

      For future reference, piezos are quiet, very quiet when in line with a pot, places like sell piezos with 3 channel EQ buffer amps, like you get on an acoustic bass for $6-10.

      Awesome build ;)
    • I considered that route but I really wanted this to work passivelyas a passive system. Making a standard mic mount on the bridge is a decent solution. I am not very sure how much I want to drill a mic-sized hole because I may find a less standard mic that works better.

      I may have some microphone guts in a parts box somewhere. In the mean time it works well enough for casual jamming and messing around.

      Bass frequencies are difficult to work with... my next build I think I will use steel strings for mag pups.
    • Someone once suggested to me that I wrap foil around my acoustic strings to allow them to be picked up magnetically, I never did try it, but I'll throw it out there. Also you can get conductive paint that might do the same thing, or just wind some solder around the strings where they meet the pickup.

      Also, I imagine the case behaves much like the shell of a bass drum, so you could always mount a mic in there sideways, or cut a hole in the side, if it makes things easier. It doesn't need to point at the front or back.

      Transformers are passive btw. But yes, EQ/amps are not.

      If musicians friend still have those $30 kick mics they had, they have a ring on the XLR, you could cut a small hole that allows the XLR end to jut out, and tighten it in place with the ring. Just throwing ideas out there.
    • Most foils aren't made of magnetic metals. And copper or aluminium foil (the most common types) wouldn't work with magnetic pickups in any case. It would have to be some ferrous metal like nickel, or some combination of the two. I'm guessing it would also sound pretty crappy.

      Fellow member Turtlehead tried dipping peizos in a rubber compound that seemed to help things greatly. Take a look at his video here:

      FWIW, I have never heard a peizo pickup that didn't benefit from going through even a simple basic onboard preamp. I personally think they're pretty harsh sounding when used on their own. And their bass response isn't that great to begin with, so you really need some EQ if you're using one with a bass.

      Sticking a high impedance microphone inside the soundbox is definitely worth looking into. As long as you can control the feedback you should be good.


    • I have heard in the past that there are a few tricks that work such as sliding a small spring such as you would find in a ball point pen over the strings over the pup to be picked up. Haven't tried it but I don't like the idea of putting crap on the strings. Makes good armchair sense though.

      I think the best route for me as far as amplification goes is to simply mic the current set up that I have. I may re-wire it to exclude the volume knob but I do like having control on the instrument. I have toyed with the idea of an active preamp like you linked and I may do that in the future. I think I may have to remake the bridge for a rod peizo if I decide to go that route.

      The reason I used a small speaker for a mic is because I have recorded bass cabs and bass drums for years using a speaker wired to an XLR cable as the bass mic. The large diapharm picks up bass tones "better". The low E on a bass is only at around 41HZ, just barely above the limit for human perception. Thus my logic was that more surface area of a mic diapharm the better. That am I am cheap and am not excited about convincing my wife that I 'need' another microphone for such a limited function.

      The speaker I am using for a mic is a very small 8ohm speaker I picked up in Korea. I had some DIY amp kits that had 8ohm outputs and had to look far and wide for a small speaker in that rating... most had no indication of their resistance. The paper cone is rather stiff and I think it would be better with a more sensitive diapharm... like vocal mics are often a clear thin plastic that seems to be more responsive. When I was in the Army I threw away dozens of the old rotrary phones and I took the vocal elements out first. The quality surprised me but they don't seem to be terribly responsive.

      Another idea I have kicking around my skull is to cover the f-holes. My logic is that if they are covered the air pressure inside the box (suitcase) has no place to go and will exsert greater force or pressure on the speaker (microphone) element. I'd do this in a way that still has the f-hole form but no real function other than look pretty flicking cool.

    • Regarding the f-holes on the one hand I get what you mean, on the other hand when I mic a kick, the front skin is usually off, so there is no pressure, just sound waves.

      Different loudspeakers have different motors and different suspensions, but yeah if you have a stiff speaker but it as a large range of travel, and you only move it a little then you aren't getting much out of it, OTOH, if it only has a small range of travel, you shouldn't need to have to move it far to generate a signal.

      I never had much luck using a speaker as a kick mic, I tried it with a few speakers I had, and it never gave me a satisfactory result.

      I have used headphones to mic an acoustic instrument quite a bit though.
  • Thanks very much.

    Here's a quick video my wife shot of the bass. It sounds much better in person and I can't wait to get this thing wired.

    Forgive the playing, I'm not a bass player much less an upright bass player.

    DIY suitcase upright double bass:
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