Is there a sticky for fretless n00bs that I'm not seeing?
Finally got my Squier VM Jazz. Apart from the icky sunburst finish (ask anyone on TB how I feel about sunburst finishes! :hiding: ), I really like it so far. I'm new to Fender basses, passive basses, AND fretless basses, so it's a major change of pace from my Cirrus. I can't get over how good the neck feels. It's really light, it plays pretty easy right out of the box, I'm really impressed; for an Indonesian Squier, it's pretty nice! And for $200, nonetheless.
Anyway, apart from figuring out the paint job (side note: PM me if you have advice about this or know anyone in NYC who could do it for a fair price!), the next step is getting familiar with fretless technique. :D Thoughts, tips, fun bass lines to try?
Hey, Welcome to Fretless. I am in the same boat with you. My regular bass is a Lightwave Saber SL-5 (fretted), a couple months ago, I built a Franken-Fender 4 string fretless from cheap parts off of ebay. Had so much fun with it that I ordered a new Michael Kelly Dragonfly 5 string fretless.
I am struggling greatly with the Dragonfly after my good beginners luck with the Franken-Fender. I know I am not getting the intonation right on, and it really bothers me. I have played with it live a few times and my wife who has excellent pitch perception, tells me that I am doing ok, but I know I am not quite nailing it. Maybe she is being too nice.
Going to keep on playing with it.
My favorite bass line to play on fretless is the Pink Panther theme, there are some slides that just never sounded right on a fretted bass.
Pick up Steve Bailey's fretless book, Hal Leonard's fretless book by Chris Kringel is pretty good too. Play as much as you can to backing tracks so you can compare pitches, I created all of mine in FL Studio, as well as do some ear training. Get some drone notes (such as a C playing constantly) and play a C scale over i. Also, try playing with your eyes closed, not looking at the board for reference. Force yourself to use your ears.
Some people suggest 1-2-4 fingerings, while others do one finger per fret. I learned with one finger per fret so that's comfortable to me fretted/fretless. Found I was more accurate with one finger per fret too, but if you're already used to 124 or one finger per fret starts to hurt, then do 1-2-4. I have pretty large hands, so I'm lucky in that regard.
You could probably find another body in the color you want cheaper than having your's
refinished. You would have to strip all the parts off anyway, and could just transfer them
to a new body.
I would concentrate on intonation. Play along with anything and everything, and work on
playing in tune. Also since the bridge saddles are adjustable for intonation, you may as well
adjust them so the 12th fret note is where you would expect it to be.
With the Fender Fretless, you have the fret lines. Starting out you can use those as a reference guide. The correct pitch may not be right on the line cause of how you're looking at the neck. From the nut to about the 5th fret, your finger will be slightly behind the fret line. As you move up the neck it will go from on the line to slightly in front of line. That's just how it will look visually. Ultimately your ears have to tell you if the pitch matches correctly.
Playing to drone notes, the Hal Leonard Fretless Bass Book, and the Steve Bailey book on Fretless bass are all good books to help get your intonation down ( to echo the previous poster ). Any bass line that you think is cool is a good bass line that you can play on Fretless. One, you already know what the line is supposed to sound like. Two, you may like playing some of those lines on Fretless better because the line will take on a different character due to the sound of a Fretless bass.
Thats my 2 cents and keep playing. You will get the intonation down. Welcome to Fretless.
Not a bad idea to look for another body. I mean, I like the idea of painting it because I'm an artist and appreciate the chance to be creative, but you never know- at the least maybe I could get an unfinished body and save myself the labor of sanding it? I'm gonna post a separate thread about it!
The others made some good suggestions. My big one is playing along with pre-recorded music and keeping your ears open. With time you'll get better.
As a little side story, the first time I brought my fretless Jazz to a rehearsal, coincedentally my rhythm guitarist decided to play slide on some some songs. What a treat for the ears we were!!!
Anyway, the only other suggestion I have (especially with the ebonol neck on the VMS) is to switch to flatwounds.
I've heard varying opinions on flats when it comes to fretless. My bass teacher says he doesn't recommend it because I guess it would kinda kill the tone of this particular bass. I would assume that if roundwound strings are bad for the ebonol fretboard, it wouldn't have come from the shop that way?!
You'll notice some white scratches that develop on the board. I personally hate the look of them, but I'm too much of a stickler for keeping things looking pristine. If you don't mind that though, I may suggest the lightest gauge of Ken Smith Compressors. I absolutely love them. They have a near roundwound tone, last forever, and will be much gentler on the board, but they will still scratch the board over time.
My VM Jazz fretless arrived on New Years Eve. I love it. I put tape wounds on it, so that its easier on the board, the 'muah' sings out and I get the jazz 'bite'.
This video is a good example of the tones I can get from it: http://youtu.be/ts98eVkvxBc
Most of the "damage" caused by strings on any fretless fingerboard are in my experience caused by the player. Don't press down any more than absolutely needed to make the note sound, keep your fingers, strings, and fingerboard clean, don't bend the notes, and don't attack (with your plucking hand) any more than needed to give you the dynamic range your music requires.
Yes, there'll be some wear- but look at your fretted fingerboards too. Being concerned about wear on a fretless is much like being concerned with wear on the brakes of you car. It's gonna happen, it's part of the deal, so deal with it. It's the price of admission and so play what SOUNDS right.
Next, for technique- strive to NOT sound like you're playing fretless. That means you really want to be able to play so that no one knows you're playing fretless. The reason is that you need to be utterly in control of your intonation, and use it for musical effect. You want the intonation shading to be at your command, not at the command of poor control. So work really hard to NOT sound fretless. Then when it's right musically, you'll be able to control the intonation to make it sound right.
Listen closely to how great fretelss players use the unique voice of the fretless musically. That means listen to:
Pino with Paul Young, Don Henley, et. al. His early work using (primarily) the fretless pre-EB StingRay (which as had the fingerboard replaced at least once) and light Rotosound stainless rounds
Jaco- Not just the obvious stuff, but get the live Weather Report album, "8:30". BTW, that's Rotosound stainless regular gauges on an epoxied rosewood board.
Freebo- the earliest Bonnie Raitt albums from the early '70s. Especially dig into "Takin' My Time" and "Give It Up", her second and third albums from '72 and '73. He plays a fretless Precison on almost every track with the greatest tone and touch.
Jack Bruce- Just about anything he's recorded since the mid '80s is his fretless Warwick.
That was from the Old Grey Whistle Test; not sure what I was typing!
Here's another great performance with just Bonnie and Freebo:
Now I am struck by the urge to drink Bailey's from a shoe...
*hit Send too soon. Because I misread that as "Old Greg." Heh.
i epoxied the rosewood board on my fretless for max protection. No marks on the board and incredible mwahhh from the rotosound strings I use. Good luck and keep practicing.
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