“Zenge” – Semi-Hollow Fretless Jazz Bass

I spent a few years dreaming up this bass. I’ve always loved the classic shapes of Fender basses, but I like to see them with natural woods, hand-picked hardware and unusual mods. I don’t usually name my basses, but Zenge came to mind for this one because it has a Wenge neck from Warmoth and the pickups are Nordstrand Zen Blades. I thought the continuous-sensing magnet seemed intriguing for this build and I’m quite happy with the choice. The body was made by USA Custom Guitars out of Mahogany. The fingerboard is Ebony. Both Warmoth and USA Custom Guitars did a beautiful job with the neck & body, respectively. I added neck screw ferrules instead of using a neck plate. I love that the neck requires no finish, so I left it raw and it feels so great. I made the nut out of Ebony and the truss rod cover out of Mahogany. I made the bridge out of Rosewood. The tailpiece is from Schaller’s Warwick-style 2-piece bridge system. Surprisingly, I ended up having to modify it – The E string slot was too narrow to fit my very common gauge E string, so out came the Dremel. Also, it sat almost a 1/4″ too high, so out came the grinder & files. Now it is perfect and a hell of a lot less than an $80 Hipshot tailpiece. The controls are Volume, Volume, Tone – Varitone, that is (Love those things).

The sound is very clear and earthy, and about as “uprighty” as one can hope. It also sounds good to dial in some dirt. Very versatile. My goal was to have something that could fit in with straight-ahead jazz – not to try and mimic an upright, and not Jaco, but to have an alternative acceptable tone. Like organ bass or what Steve Swallow is able to do with his fretted electric. Anyhow, I think this bass is capable of making such a unique voice – as long as I can put the hours in to craft it!