1977 Fender Precision Fretless Bass

CRAVE Guitars says…

Pluses: Rarity, cool colour combination. Light weight. ‘That’ fretless bass sound, originality and condition

Minuses: No lines or markers to aid pitch accuracy while playing. Limited applications. Non‑original case

Verdict: Very good at what it does but clearly not for every bass player out there. If you’re into the whole fretless sound and technique, it’s spot on

Model Description:

The ground‑breaking and massively influential Fender Precision bass (or P‑Bass) was designed by Leo Fender in 1950 and released on an unsuspecting world in 1951, To say it was a game changer is an understatement. It rapidly superseded old acoustic upright fretless basses and, for many, it was very easy to play with its fretted fingerboard. The name ‘Precision’ actually stemmed from the fact that the fretted neck made it easy to play accurately in tune. At its simplest, the Precision is a double cutaway 4‑string solid body bass with a 20‑fret, 34” scale length bolt‑on neck and either rosewood or maple fingerboards. The original Precision design had more similarity to the Telecaster guitar. The concept changed after the Stratocaster was released in 1954 and, by 1959, it had established its now‑iconic image and specification. Fender only offered the Precision in classic sunburst as the standard finish from the late 1950s through the 1960s. Alternative finishes attracted a 5% up‑charge, for a custom colour. Electronics are (now) provided by a split single coil bass pickup that has remained largely unchanged since its early days. The fretless Precision Bass first appeared in the 1969 catalogue. Some Precision Basses made in the 1970s were also available with an unlined fretless rosewood, ebony or maple fingerboards. Over the years, the Precision Bass has had many options and variants, such as fretless models, active electronics, and 5‑string versions, while still remaining instantly recognisable. The Precision has been in continuous production since 1951, although the fretless models came and went over the years. The Precision occupies a prominent place in Fender USA, Fender Mexico, MIJ (Japan) and Squier lines. Early Precisions, as one might imagine, have become seriously collectable on the vintage market, while 1970s versions are just now beginning to catch up with their forebears. The Precision is possibly THE definitive electric bass guitar. Genuinely iconic.

Bass Description:

I undertook a great deal of research to try and get to the bottom of this guitar. This fretless Fender Precision was manufactured in 1977 and bought second hand by me in 1978. It is highly unusual in having a fretless ebony veneer fingerboard. At first, I thought that someone had taken a perfectly good workhorse Fender Precision bass, removed the standard rosewood fretted fingerboard and replaced it with an ebony fretless one. This was reinforced by the fact there are no fret markers and the dot markers on the edge of the neck are positioned where they normally are (between where the frets would be). It transpires that Precisions had very occasionally featured factory ebony fingerboards, rather than the more common rosewood or maple, going back to the 1950s, so there is precedent. As mentioned above, some came with fretless ebony fingerboards. Fender has released other Precisions with ebony fingerboards over the years, for instance the Tony Franklin Artist bass (also fretless). The conclusion is that the fingerboard is factory original to the guitar. Whether it was special order or not, I have no idea. It does, however, make this particular Precision either very rare or possibly unique (and cool). It seems ironic that a fretted bass to enable precise intonation is made in fretless specification that is inherently ‘imprecise’. Hey ho. While this isn’t quite in Jaco Pastorius territory (he played a fretless Fender Jazz Bass), the same vibe can be conjured up in a flash, especially with flatwound strings. There’s something about the instrument that means you play it differently. I wish I could do it justice. With the faded white (actually a creamy yellow) body and black scratchplate, the bare black fingerboard seems to blend oh so well to the eye. The original chrome pickup and bridge covers, as well as the thumb rest are also part of the package. As it isn’t a go‑to instrument, its condition is very, very good for its age. To think that back in the 1970s, I was contemplating stripping the polyester finish!


  • Made by Fender in Fullerton, California, U.S.A. in 1977
  • Original double‑cutaway contoured solid ash body
  • Olympic White translucent polyester finish
  • Maple bolt‑on neck joint (4‑bolt) with mahogany skunk stripe
  • Ebony unlined fretless fingerboard (only the standard neck edge dots)
  • Nut width: 111/16” (43 mm)
  • Scale length: 34” (863mm)
  • Original Fender tuners
  • Original chrome hardware
  • Original split single‑coil pickup
  • Original plain black scratchplate, pots, knobs and jack socket
  • Original chrome pickup and bridge covers (in case)
  • Original ebony thumb rest (in case)
  • Original 4‑saddle bridge/tailpiece assembly
  • Non‑original Hiscox ABS hardshell case
  • Weight: 8lb 7oz (3.84Kg)


There have been innumerable artists that have wielded a Fender Precision Bass, although not necessarily a fretless variant. Among the many P‑Bass advocates, here are just a few of them:

  • Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath)
  • John Cale (Velvet Underground)
  • Billy Cox
  • John Deacon (Queen)
  • Kim Deal (Pixies)
  • Roger Glover (Deep Purple/Rainbow)
  • Steve Harris (Iron Maiden)
  • Dusty Hill (ZZ Top)
  • James Jamerson
  • John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)
  • Carol Kaye
  • Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses)
  • Pino Palladino
  • Suzi Quatro
  • Dee Dee Ramone (Ramones)
  • Sting (The Police)
  • Robert Trujillo (Metallica)
  • Roger Waters (Pink Floyd)


Fender made an American Standard Fretless Precision for a couple of years in the mid‑1990s. It was discontinued due to poor sales.

A normal fretted neck usually requires some neck relief to prevent strings buzzing or rattling on the frets. A fretless neck can be almost perfectly straight with almost no relief and no frets to get in the way and cause fret buzz or dead spots. This type of setup enhances both the overall fretless sound and playability.

Detail Gallery:

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