How to Defret a Bass Guitar

jaques-jones-osmosis.jpg To begin your project, go directly to the “Defret Instructions” in “Catagories.”  If you want a quick pep talk first, continue reading.

I decided to remove the frets from a pawn shop guitar after visiting Victor Wooten’s F.U.N.K. Fest in Southern Indiana and watching Steve Bailey absolutely tear it up on his fretless six. Later on that weekend I had the pleasure of joining an after-show where I was able to really play a fretless four in a live situation for the first time. I found myself trying to emulate what I saw Steve Bailey doing with his bass. I was playing a custom built Jazz style bass. It was light as a feather and made of swamp ash; such a beautiful instrument. The sounds that I was able to produce were so wonderful that when I got home I decided to make my own fretless.

It is important for me to mention that the first time I tried to defret a bass I was flying blind. However, by taking great care and deciding that I would not settle for less than my own expectations, I was able to finish a fine product that I am quite proud of. I do have some woodworking/refinishing knowledge and experience with set-up and customization. If you don’t know how to set up a guitar don’t fret (sorry). You can call your local music store and they will probably be able to point you to someone who does after you finish your project.

So, having finally decided to take the plunge, my first step was to find out how to do it. So I popped “bass defret” into my favorite search engine and went to work. What I found was that lots of people wanted to try this and lots of people were out there offering support. I suggest checking out as many picture tutorials as you can find. This will give you a good footing from which to start. The important thing to remember is that most of the sites that you see will tell you that it is “easy” to defret a bass. While the steps are simple enough, if you don’t approach the process with care you will certainly ruin your axe. The misconception comes from the fact that frets are usually easy to remove. However, all you have to do is look close at the hundreds of pictures out there that have nasty scars around the fret lines to see that not everyone should try this. There is much more to the process than just getting the frets out.

My next step was to pick a bass. I play a custom jazz that I put a lot of hours into and I just couldn’t bear the thought of messing it up. Besides, I need frets most of the time. I have a lot of spare parts left over from previous customizations, and I thought it would be a good idea to find a Jazz at a pawn shop that had good wood, but could use some upgrades. Instead what I found was a beautiful 70’s model Epiphone hollow body that needed some TLC. The instructions that follow will explain the entire project step by step. I will tell you what worked as well as where I made mistakes that cost me extra work. If you take your time and don’t settle for less than your expectations you will have a great project that will make an excellent conversation piece.



  1. Hey Man, My buddy and I decided to create another Music oriented blog. Mainly in a Q&A format. Check it out if ya want.


  2. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience with this. Nothing sounds or plays like a fretless!!!


  3. Can you email me with some hints & tips about how you made this blog look this awesome , Id be thankful.

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