Godin Z-1 Fretless Bass – Reloaded

I have no idea if anyone of you remembers this very special beast here:

Godin Z-1 fretless bass
Godin Z-1 fretless bass


I got it years ago when I still had hair. It is the good old Godin Z-1 fretless 4-string bass with the Zeta piezo bridge and a long wooden thumb-rest. No visible pickup, some crystals doing all the magic, active tone control with bass/treble and a volume knob. It was meant to sound very acoustic, a bit like a double-bass but it didn’t. Its sound always reminded me of the plastic sound of an old Ovation guitar, just an octave down and without frets. But I loved it and I still do love it. And I love it again as you will see.

A while after I changed it to look a bit different from the stock instrument. First I painted  the ‘IN’ of the ‘GODIN’ logo black to blend in nicely with the black background ;-) Okay, not much of an improvement I must admit…

And then one day, I must have had too much time and nothing to do and changed the outfit of the bass from black varnish to red stained waxed wood. What a mess that was.

I hated the job of taking the paint off, it took hours. I remember the first stroke of sand paper on it. It’s when you start something you get to this point where there is no turning back, no ‘undo’ key to be pressed and you just have to continue. I was over that point. I took al the varnish off. I also sanded the back of the neck down to to make the neck a bit thinner and no varnish on its back slowing me down. Impressed by some Ibanez body shapes I also rounded off the sides of the cutaways to make it look sharper.

I think the best head shape of any guitar is the Telecaster shaped form (if there is a head that is) – luckily enough Godin did that already.

See for yourself:

Lady in Red

Lady in red
Lady in red

I could have been totally satisfied if there weren’t a few other problems with this bass. One was that when I was playing and sweating the red stain wear off and ended up on my shirts. And as I said earlier, I was never totally satisfied with its sound coming out of the piezos. But when listening to its dry sound it was singing and sounded fantastic. The piezos cannot translate any of the cool sounds that this bass can produce. I am missing the growl and mwah out of the amplifier but I knew it’s there when playing dry. I wanted this sound over an amplifier. So in 2013 I started my update program for this instrument.

Project Magnet Pickups 2013

First I contacted Godin trying to find the usage of the internally unused connectors of the circuit board. They sent me a plain schematics file they found for the electronics of this special bass guitar. That’s all they had. And it was enough.

I discovered that Zeta who build the circuit were well prepared for all sorts of connections. The addition of two magnetic pickups and even a buffered output from every single string. This would have given me the possibility to add a 13-pin socket for Axon and Roland synthesiser gear like the Roland GR-55, VB-99 etc. Maybe another time, I decided that I will add  one magnetic pickup in the bridge position. Any synthesised sound would not make up for missing sound.

But which pickup shall I get? I found one a lot closer to me than I thought: I’ll use one of the pickups of my Washburn Bantam bass. They are Le Fay Rough Crystals that Rainer Dobbratz built years ago for my Bantam bass. Reason for this was that I wanted to keep the wooden thumb bar and I wanted it at the same height of the pickup. The pickups are in a wooden housing. I sanded the ears off to make it perfectly square. To find the perfect position I gathered up some Lego bricks to build a helping construction to place the pickup on top of the strings. Having done this the tough part of the job needed to be done:

  • Getting the wax coat off using very smelly Liberon wax remover
  • Creating template for the pickup routing
  • Routing
  • Varnishing the body and the head with transparent varnish
  • Spraying the pickup cutout with Graphit 33 from Kontakt Chemie and grounding
  • Setting up the electronics
  • Finding a good position for the additional pickup blend control and setting it up


Great improvement, I like the looks of it, I like the sound of it. The wooden pickups blend in so perfectly as if they were made for this bass guitar. I didn’t mind correcting any of the dents the bass got from using it. See for yourself:

Godin Z-1 refurbished, isn’t she beautiful?
Godin Z-1 refurbished, isn’t she beautiful?


Some pictures