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Quick review of Tony Franklin Fretless Fender P-Bass Special


Mark Schmieder

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Although it arrived last Friday at my office, I was out FRI-MON and took BART yesterday so only just now got my Fender Tony Franklin Fretless home.

 

Not bad, considering I'm experiencing it at its worst, due to the weird-ass strings the previous owner put on the thing. I pre-ordered some flat-wounds from Thomastik-Infeld last week, so will replace the strings later this week after first making sure it won't screw up the intonation (I also bought a caliper).

 

I went through the entire set list of my jazz/latin/fusion/r&b outfit.

 

Surprisingly, it works quite well on the 60's soul, and even on a few of the modern latin numbers, but not the rock-oriented stuff (including latin rock) or the 70's or 80's soul/r&b. It does, however, work well on 50's/60's surf/pop.

 

Once I change the strings, I'll give it another appraisal for the gigging project, but it will likely become the preferred bass for my weekly jazz workshop.

 

Only a couple of songs cry for the "B" string. This bass has a hip shot tuner on the low "E" string which I pre-tuned (with the tension screw) to low "D" but which some people take down to the low "C". I prefer taughtness over range.

 

My main complaint is that it's flabby due to the strings, which don't have sufficient tension and have zero attack, plus they're weird feeling and too slick. I'll look up what they are when I sort through my piles of papers. I think he said nylon. He doesn't like flats so got special rounds for it.

 

The Precision/neck and Jazz/bridge pickup combination remains my favourite and applies to most of my basses. I also tend to prefer the middle/blend pickup position on most of these basses. Even with these flabby strings, above the fifth position I already get into Jaco territory tonally.

 

Obviously it will not be coming with me to my next gig; I would never break in a new instrument at a gig, especially when the band hasn't vetted it yet. But I plan to bring it to the next Jazz Workshop. My car isn't big enough to cart the stand-up bass around, so this will serve as a good stand-in. :-)

 

BTW the Ibanez fretless that I bought a week earlier (thinking I'd never find a Tony Franklin Fretless :-)) arrived with the worst warped neck I've ever encountered. Fortunately the seller took it back and the refund is in the process of being confirmed.

 

But if it only had electronic problems I would have kept it as I always have that stuff worked on anyway. I wold consider it unethical to return it just because of scoring the Tony Franklin. That's why I made sure I dealt with all of that before knowing if I'd win that auction or not.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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You're just jealous. :-)

 

All my pro camera gear was stolen a couple of years ago. I've been prioritizing music gear over replacing it, but have my first travel in two years coming up in a month, so may finally drop some cold cash on a camera. If so, I'll post photos somewhere (I have to re-find the info sheet on web-hosting photos).

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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Congrats on the find. Look forward to seeing what you think when you've got it "broken in" with new strings.

 

I thought your assessment of the types of music that work was surprising. No good for rock, but OK for surf? Was this because of sound, feel, or both?

 

I would never break in a new instrument at a gig, especially when the band hasn't vetted it yet

 

This caught me by surprise. If I think a bass sounds good for a band, I use it. If they objected I'd think about it, but if I think it works how far off could it be? And all of that assumes they would recognize a difference (beyond visual).

 

Best of luck with the new instrument!

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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I thought your assessment of the types of music that work was surprising. No good for rock, but OK for surf? Was this because of sound, feel, or both?

 

I think it best to wait for this:

 

Look forward to seeing what you think when you've got it "broken in" with new strings.

 

But I really am curious about it, too. If no pics, perhaps sound bites?

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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Oh, sorry; thought it was clear my assessment was based on the current strings. :-)

 

As for breaking it in, this is a publicly searchable forum so I don't ever say anything personal here. Suffice it to say that some bandleaders like to be in control of more details than others.

 

I'm hoping to have time to change the strings tomorrow and maybe lay down some lines, which I could then snip for a taster. I'm still reeling from the past eight months of sacrifice so am trying to quickly catch up on deferred personal stuff before Labour Day, due to a gazillion gigs and deadlines. I really don't have much wiggle room at the moment. I'm trying to change that for the autumn.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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Oh, about the string change, it's going to take awhile, because I'm going to first try them on the Jaguar bass and then the Telecaster bass, to decide if I want to switch to flats on either of those basses.

 

Once all those decisions are made, I'll try to figure out what all of those strings are, so I can post them here as a free grab (except for postage), being that they are barely played and thus have a lot of life left in them.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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Take your time - we'll be here. Nagging you every step of the way :)

 

Have someone with a phone camera take a pic at a gig or rehearsal when you take it out. Maybe we'll believe you then :):rolleyes::)

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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I just finished evaluating all my basses with their current strings and decided not to switch to flats on either the Jaguar Bass or the Telecaster Bass.

 

Now that the D'addarios are broken in on the TB, I can keep the treble cut at near-unity and thus avoid the boominess (which nevertheless is something one occasionally wants and is one of the points of the mudbucker PUP). I'm quite happy with its taughtness and with the snap of the maple fretboard. This bass as-is will probably now be my preferred 50's/60's rock/soul and 70's rock bass.

 

As for the Tony Franklin string swap, that will unfortunately have to wait.

 

My caliper measures the current strings at 0.117, 0.10, 0.75, 0.69 -- which makes me wonder if the previous owner down-tuned the entire bass to start at Low "B" instead of Low "E". I thought he had simply down-tuned it for shipping purposes!

 

Of course the Thomastik-Infeld Jazz Bass Flatwounds are 0.10, 0.070, 0.056 and 0.043. This is too extreme a difference to not affect the neck, without setup work.

 

I can't tell the brand of the current strings, but they are nylon coated round wounds. They are literally the worst feeling strings I have ever played. I can't imagine using such strings on a fretless ebony neck, as it makes for such slippery footing and a weird tingly feeling in the fingers kind of like that awful Apple Mighty Mouse with the fuzzy "roller" in the middle (feels like a CAT-SCAN probe).

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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It's in the shop now and should be ready in a couple of weeks.

 

Stephen says the current strings are normal gauge but are thicker because of the wrapping, which doesn't affect the actual string tension or resonance due to the material used. I remember him telling me about this before regarding some special upright strings, but had forgotten.

 

They're called Black Diamond strings. They are black on the outside, round wound inside (normal strings), and yellow at the ends. I haven't looked them up yet. They are free to anyone who wants them, except for postage, but I'll have to be careful because it would be easy to damage the outside winding.

 

The hip-shot extender needs some work as well, but the neck is in excellent shape and won't be a problem.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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  • 3 months later...

Finally got this back today, and Stephen did an AMAZING job as always!

 

He very carefully adjusted it so that the growl is even up and down the neck -- as long as I use correct right-hand fingering and pressure.

 

The tonal range is magnificent and it feels like an instrument begging to be played. This is everything I dreamed a fretless bass should be, so my search is over!

 

Stephen says I got lucky with the neck/fretboard, as they usually have to be planed a bit before they can be properly playable with the desired even response that is so important on a fretless.

 

He did suggest swapping out the tuners for lighter ones later on (and maybe the bridge PUP), to make it less neck-heavy. It seems OK to me so far though, but then I tend to play standing up.

 

I'll take a picture of the strings that were on it, tomorrow or Saturday, if anyone wants to see if they can verify what they are and is interested in them.

 

I love the Thomastik flatwound jazz strings. Very sensitive to the touch, and fast action, but not buzzy at all.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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...as long as I use correct right-hand fingering and pressure.

 

I love the Thomastik flatwound jazz strings. Very sensitive to the touch, and fast action, but not buzzy at all.

 

I used Thomastik strings (flat and round wound) for years and right hand technique certainly plays a big part.

I always felt like the sound was compressed with too heavy a touch.

Jim

Confirmed RoscoeHead

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I've got plenty of mwah; it's in the fingers. :-)

 

I suppose though that rounds allow you to get the sound with less effort, but I deliberately want this fretless to be sensitive as it will also help to improve and correct my heavy-handed approach that comes from my first basses having super-high action (my instructor's idea, and I was naive).

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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Mark, if you can I would love to see some pics of this bass :)

 

I really want to add a great-sounding fretless to my collection of basses but it will be a few years, given my other current priorities (i.e. building a house). So I want to live vicariously through your collection ;)

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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I'll be lucky enough if I find time to take and post pictures of the weirdo strings it had on earlier.

 

I just got back from an eight hour (five ninety minute sets) holiday jazz gig -- and that's the way my life has been and will be for much of the next few weeks.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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If someone can remind me how to post a photo, I'll upload the photo of these strings that I replaced, but I'll post this in the ads section as these aren't flats and thus not of interest to MOST fretless players.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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Hey, I thought WE were the bass players. How dare a non-bassist suggest what strings we should use? ;)

 

My go-to fretlesses (wish I had seen this post earlier, nothing beats a custom built fretless, even the Tony Franklin and Jaco models) use either:

 

-D'Addario Chromes (more bass than treble, short sustain, B-string tends to flop around, less magnetic pull on the pickups but closer to the upright tone) which I've used for over a decade.

-Ernie Ball flatwounds (surprisingly solid midrange, semi-tight B-string, comes in a nice light gauge for us old farts with Arrrr-thritis :)

-D'Addario XL half-rounds (or ground rounds?) (brighter than the EBs, best tightness on the B-string, also available in light gauge)

-GHS flatwounds (a mix of brightness of the D'A-XLs with the mid-bass of the EBs)

 

B-strings and 34" scales usually don't get along well. After much experimentation I've had to replace my bridges and go for the .130 gauge for that jazzy-RnB fullness (less attack but more boominess) OR the .125-.127 gauge for pickin' or rock-metal.

 

Bottom line is that you probably do best with a separate fretless for classic rock-R&B blues and one for modern rock-metal. Hopefully I've given you a proper range of choices based on tone.

 

:wave: (i miss this little guy :)

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I am very very happy with Dogal flatwounds. These venetian strings are wound manually on a round core. It is a difficult process, according to them.

I think they are quite bright and very light to touch, but with a very solid bottom line.

I prefer flats, not too much into mwah, but still have a lot of it when I need to.

Never tried Thomasticks, but they should be quite similar. Less tension, according to who has tried both.

On my fretted I stick with D'Addario. Cheaper strings, means new strings more often and all the growl a Jazz Bass can give.

-- Michele Costabile (http://proxybar.net)
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The TF got its first serious workout at rehearsal last night, and the band gave it more of a thumbs-up than I did. :-)

 

Personally, I think I will reserve this bass for singer-songwriter type stuff, and modern fare. But it worked surprisingly well on 60's jazz.

 

In general, I consider Upright bass and Fretless Bass to almost be opposites (minimum vs. maximum sustain). But some songs take well to fretless (the best examples last night were Chick Corea's "Windows" and Wayne Shorter's "Footprints").

 

The tonal range is greater than I'm used to on a fretless, due to the P/J blend. It's nice to have that choice, if going through a set or a gig that covers a wide range of material.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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my preferred electric fretlesses tend to be either P/Js or J/Js. I thnk you're on the right track with your analysis on how each configuration seems to fit with a certain music style. Good choice; if the TFFFP-BS were available back in the 90sI would've gotten one.

 

approach to the URB is significantly different enough that I needed advice on holding and playing it when I started out - and a few DVD instructional videos. you really don't need to go there unless you're really into capturing the vibe. Lee Rocker is a good start but when you check out Willie Dixon... there's also Stanley Clarke's urb work with Return To Forever. Inspiration for the future.

 

For the fretless, I just watched old Jaco videos with Weather Report and the Joni Mitchell Band. Somewhere I have an old VHS tape of Jaco's "Word of Mouth" band. I did see him live a few times but after each show I was afraid to touch a bass for a few days. Glad I got over that...

 

:wave:

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  • 1 year later...

Where is Stephen located? I just bought a new bass and I want to take it someone really good.

 

Thank you,

 

John

 

It's in the shop now and should be ready in a couple of weeks.

 

Stephen says the current strings are normal gauge but are thicker because of the wrapping, which doesn't affect the actual string tension or resonance due to the material used. I remember him telling me about this before regarding some special upright strings, but had forgotten.

 

They're called Black Diamond strings. They are black on the outside, round wound inside (normal strings), and yellow at the ends. I haven't looked them up yet. They are free to anyone who wants them, except for postage, but I'll have to be careful because it would be easy to damage the outside winding.

 

The hip-shot extender needs some work as well, but the neck is in excellent shape and won't be a problem.

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BTW I am really loving my Warmoth Fretless P-Bass -- especially after putting LaBella flats on it (regular; not the heavy Jamerson set). It's everything I wanted the Tony Franklin to be, but I might have simply received a less than stellar example of the TF Special. OTOH Warmoth necks are renowned, and this is the nicest fretless neck I've ever played (even better than my old Godin A4 that I sold). The pickups are not identified but seem very vintage. We're having to guess at most of the specs.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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The heavier strings can ruin the neck, as most aren't built for that tension. Too much setup work and switching of parts to accommodate.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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  • 4 years later...

Zombie thread!

 

Mark, if you are still around, how did your appreciation of the TF fretless evolve ?

 

Like I mentioned in this thread, I am interested in getting one and since the house has been built, maybe now is the time :)

 

It would scratch several of my itches:

 

- a P-bass

- a P/J configuration

- a fretless bass

 

Win/win/win!

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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I hated hated hated it. It seemed that all of the "P" stuff should have been "J" and vice-versa, in terms of the hybrid decisions.

 

The Warmoth was a far better bass all around, but ultimately I end up not liking the sound of short scale fretless (short scale relative to upright bass).

 

In some ways, I'd say the Godin Acoustibass that I owned for over a decade, was the best fretless, in spite of its microphonic tendencies (hollow inside).

 

First version is better due to the thumb rest that they later removed and a unique sound vs. trying too hard to be an upright.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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Interesting! The consensus seems to be it's a top bass for the money, and I am seriously considering getting one.

 

Especially since there is one up for sale second-hand. The price is too high, given the current store prices. Additionally, the ebony fingerboard has a (small) crack in it.

 

I am considering a lowball offer to see if the seller will take it. Would need to fix that crack, then... On the other hand I guess I would prefer a new instrument with a 3-year warranty ...

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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