Carlo Robelli SSBFL Fretless

I didn’t go looking for a fretless bass. I kind of found this Carlo Robelli SSBFL fretless by accident. Which, I’m told, is the best way to find a fretless bass. But honestly, I’d always associated fretless electric bass with people like Jaco Pastorius, whom I admired but had no intention of copying. I’d always thought that maybe I’d buy one some day, but I’d always known that it’d never be anything more than a curiosity to me.

In March of 2004, I put a Carlo Robelli 12-string bass on lay-away at Sam Ash in Charlotte, NC. While I was waiting for the paperwork, I tinkered around with a few different instruments. This was one of them. I decided to buy it almost instantly. The salesmen in the store smirked at me. After all, surely I’d want a better fretless than this. He tried to direct me to an Ibanez that cost about $500 more, but my mind was made up. This was the fretless for me.

My main bass is an Alembic Spoiler. Nothing is ever going to change that. I’m not going to be a Jaco Pastorius wannabe. A fretless bass for me will never be anything more than a curiosity, and a sound that I’ll use only on certain occasions. Why invest more on something I’m likely to use only rarely?

That’s not to say that this bass is junk. It sounds good and plays good. Anyone who disagrees, or thinks Carlo Robelli basses are junk, can bite me. This one may have been inexpensive, but it isn’t “cheap” by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe it wouldn’t compare to a higher end bass like a Ken Smith or an Alembic. But for my purposes, it doesn’t have to.

One last tidbit about this bass: that salesman talked me into trying some flatwound, nylon coated strings with this bass when I took it home. He said it’d help cut down on the damage on the fretboard, since roundwound strings would chew up the wood. He said it was his only complaint about the “lower end” fretless basses. If you wanted “that Jaco sound” you had to use roundwound strings, but they’d destroy your fretboard. After all, Jaco covered the fretboard of his “bass of doom” with Petite’s Poly-Poxy. Luckily, modern technology provided me with an option Jaco didn’t have, and I quickly replaced the horrific nylon coated strings with Elixir Nanowebs, which I’ve been using ever since.



Carlo Robell Fretless - Front Carlo Robell Fretless - Back Carlo Robell Fretless - Headstock Front Carlo Robell Fretless - Headstock Back


Apr 27 2004
Body Wood:
Neck Wood:
Pickups: Two Soapbar
2 volume
1 tone
Sam Ash
Charlotte, NC
Nanoweb .045

“I’m not here to raise hippie consciousness,
I’m here to wet some panties.”

– Jaco Pastorius

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11 years ago

I’ve had one of these for awhile, just occasionally coming back to it, but I’ve had the flatwound black nylon strings on it for a while now…I assume the Elixir Nanowebs don’t eat up the fretboard? After seeing how horrible the display model looked I was scared to switch off of the nylons, but I know it’d sound miles better with metal strings.

I’m just curious about how much they wear into the fretboard. 😛

9 years ago

Hi! The Carlo Robelli fretless bass it is a great price. Now all you got to do is play that Mother…fkOOOOOOh out of a good amp

8 years ago

I picked up one exactly like yours at a pawn shop. Never heard of them either but man do I love this thing. Steel strings. Have owned many boutique basses including Pedulla, warwick and others. Nothing wrong with this inexpensive bass

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