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Jack White goes fretless with his new super-cool Fender Custom Telecaster Bass

Jack White has added a fretless bass guitar to his ever-growing arsenal of custom gear. White checked in from tour to show off a new Fender Custom Shop design that he has developed with the Big F’s doyens of design, pickup guru Tim Shaw and master builder Chip Ellis.

The custom Telecaster Bass is finished in Blue Sparkle and augmented with white hardware – including an arm-rest – to match the aesthetic of the custom Jazzmaster with onboard pitch-shifting and triple-pickup Fender Telecaster that he has debuted in recent months.

We are used to White showcasing electric guitars with tricksy electronics, or with gizmos that extend the six-string’s potential. His Three-Wheel-Motion Low Rider Telecaster is a classic of the genre – a guitar that is like a love-letter to G and B-Bender technology, and also features a Drop D switch for good measure. But fretless bass is a new one on us.

As it turns out, it’s a new one for White as well, but the idea for his fretless Telecaster Bass arose from him playing a Jaco Pastorius model (presumably Fender's Artist Series Jaco Pastorius Jazz Bass) on his forthcoming solo album, Entering Heaven Alive, which hits stores July 22 through Third Man Records. 

A call was duly placed with his friends down in California, with Ellis and Shaw spec’ing up the design. “I really love it,” White said. “It is a challenge to play, to know where to put your fingers exactly to be in tune.”

White says they are presently testing the Telecaster Bass live, and it will be interesting to see which songs he will be using it on. 

On the last couple of dates on the Supply Chain Issues tour he has only been playing two songs off of Entering Heaven AliveIf I Die Tomorrow and Love Is Selfish, neither being obvious candidates for a fretless bass intervention. 

White did reveal that it did have a custom control circuit that allowed him to bypass the pots.

“Right now, while we are testing this, it has pop-up pots, and the ability to switch between pickups as a selector and the ability to bypass the pots and go straight to the output jack, without going through any of the pots,” he said.

White’s tour picks up in the UK, where he will play the Eventim Apollo, London, on June 27. See Jack White (opens in new tab) for full dates. Entering Heaven Alive (opens in new tab) is out July 22 and is available to pre-order.

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Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to publications including Guitar World, MusicRadar and Total Guitar. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.