Bass Guitars

I have Arthur Von Nagel of Cormorant to thank for getting me out of my narrow focus on acoustic instruments by pressing me to build him a fretless electric bass. Since then I have built several including a second for Arthur that has an extended range (six strings) and a fan fret finger board.

Fan frets are not new. I have seen instruments from the early 1800's that have them. For guitars they seem a bit of a novelty to me and while they can and do make a difference in string dynamics/playability I don't see a compelling reason to stray from the norm for most players. Bass instruments however can benefit greatly from fan frets. Even with a four string bass the low end strings are floppy compared to the treble. Expand the range of notes demanded from the instrument and add one or two more strings and the effect is even more noticeable. The fan when done properly is comfortable and helps balance the string dimensions and tensions across the board.
There is a lot of discussion among bass players regarding wood and the effect it has on tone. More so than among their electric guitar playing brothers and sisters. The superlatives fly as thick as those by wine enthusiasts trying to describe a particular vintage. I am currently of a mind that this has more to do with the players belief in the wood/tone relationship than any significant effect on what the listener hears. Belief is a strong force so I don't discount it. My testing however tells me that by using the same body style, electronics etc. and just changing the wood types (dense vs light) will have as much effect on what comes out of the amp as you will have by testing two production made instruments of the same materials from your local guitar shop.
Notice that I said "what comes out of the amp". That is not to say there is no difference at all. Different woods feel different in the players hands. The weight makes a difference. The sonic properties when played unplugged are significant (and that effects how the player feels about the instrument even when plugged in). And if you want to believe it or not the color, design and even the pedigree of an instrument can affect a players opinion of it. I bring this up because I see too many players obsessing over the tone difference between Walnut, Wenge or Whateverwood. In the end there are more important things to consider (weight and balance mostly) that get lost in the "wood tone is all important" discussions.
Fan frets
Get the flash player here: