Fretless Bass Intonation
I've heard fretless players say to play directly on the line (if lines are provided). I can do this on my homemade fretless in the lower register of the instrument, but not so well near the 20th frets. I have noticed that the higher up on the fretboard I play, the further from the fret line I have to play to maintain "in-tuneness" because more length of the string is being pressed against the fretboard, changing the overall string length.
Is this a problem with the actual instrument? I believe that my intonation is set correctly.
Or is it a possible technical error? My fingers too big? I'm using too much of my finger? (I try to use the very tip when playing higher up).
Or is this the case with all fretless basses?
You're going to need to use your ears. It's more important that your intonation is the same on each string where the 12th fret would be(See Note Below)
Your fingers aren't too big. Your ears will get used to the various spots along the neck relative to the contact point of your finger.
If you can hear when the note is off then you can hear when it's spot on.
Note: If you mostly play the lower area of the bass, say first 7 frets then that's where you want to get near perfect intonation.
From there it's just practice and developing you ear.
What makes you think your instrument intonation is correct?
When you play up higher, there is less margin for error so any problems in the instrument are going to be accentuated. If it's right at the octave, it should be right the rest of the way. Check with a tuner and adjust accordingly.
I will de-fault to my ears rather than markings. I use the dots on mine as a reference area only not a specific area.
It adds to the timbre of your playing and could be seen as a dynamic to play a note then "work it in". All this means is you slide/roll the finger tip to correctly intonate the pitch of the note of it sounds out.
Most fingerboard instruments i pick up takes a few run throughs to 'find where i am' in relation to that fingerboard rather than mine......i think it is a common situation for players. :)
It depends on what you're playing accompaniment to. Maybe the guitarist is out? If you're playing with a piano, they're only in tune with themselves across octaves, so you have to adjust accordingly. that's the beauty of fretless, and why I hate fretlines, as a general rule.
On a defretted bass, yeah the strings will be higher than it should so yeah I can see it moving the correct note a little. On my basses made fretless, the fingerboard is much thicker is it feels the same to play a fretted or fretless bass of the same model and it makes those little problems go away.
If you set the intonation directly on the line at the 12th fret then you will get further and further away from the line in each direction.
If you set the intonation just behind the 12th fret line, imagine fretting a note there, then you'll be right on the lines at the nut end of the neck and just behind the lines up high on the neck.
Explained better here - http://www.garywillis.com/pages/bass...ntonation.html
I think we can all agree that Willis knows a thing or 2 about fretless bass....
It takes a while to get handle on the small (and quick) adjustments you need to make up there. Be patient and you will.
Lines on a Fretless Bass: Is it Cheating?
by Damian Erskine
Q: Is it cheating to have lines on the fretboard of a fretless bass? Also, what would be better for a first fretless: picking up a quality used instrument and de-fretting it (assuming I cant find a used fretless) or a brand new entry-level one? The only fretless basses Iíve played so far I liked was a Warwick Corvette and a Fender Jazz. Any other suggestions?
A: First, let me say that anything we play should be in the interest of the music. To that end, anything that serves to help you to play the music better is the way to go.
So no, it is not cheating. Donít anyone tell you otherwise, either.
If you donít play fretless very often Ė or even if you do Ė and the lines help you to play more in tune, than thatís what I would do, because it will make the music sound better. I use lines on all of my fretless basses (actually, my Zon fretless just has line markers on the side of the neck, so it looks unlined but from my perspective I can see where the lines would be. Itís just how the bass was built, I didnít ask for that. I wouldíve probably gotten full lines, if it had been a custom build.)
Edgar Meyer, one of the absolute kings of the upright bass, for example, had fretboard dots added to his neck to help him with his intonation, and his intonation is as near perfect as Iíve ever heard. Also notice that he only uses vibrato when he intends to. He often voices clear and unwavered notes in Ďperfectí tune. Pretty amazing).
I am a fretted bassist who also plays fretless when the need arises and because of that I need all the help I can get playing in tune. Lines are a must for me.
Now, on to the instrument you choose to playÖ Personally, I would get something that was built with the fretless sound in mind when it was built, but thereís certainly nothing wrong with repurposing an instrument and making it fretless. You could even buy a replacement neck and swap them out, leaving you with your original fretted neck just in case you change your mind later.
I would hesitate to suggest one bass over another as it really depends on the feel and sound you prefer. I would try to play as many instruments as you can, to try out a nice variety. If you donít have any resources in your area, you may just have to risk it and buy something online. But I would strongly suggest doing as much research as possible before plunking down your hard earned cash on a bass unseen and unplayed.
The Fender Jazz is certainly a good (and classic) choice, but I would caution that all Fenderís are not created equally and much will depend on how you like your basses to feel. Personally, I came up with more modern feeling basses and I tend to really like only about 10% of the Fenders Iíve played. I must admit though that of the Fenderís Iíve liked, Iíve really liked some of them.
Manufacturers producing factory-built instruments require a little hunting and pecking to find the right one, while small luthiers who hand build each instrument tend to have a more reliable quality control and consistency factor. But those small shop basses come at a (literal) cost.
As with all things on the web, try and ignore the Ďfan boysí who diss anything but their favorite brand. Check out the players you like, listen to educated opinions and listen to sound clips, watch videos and so on. Try your best to ascertain which bass will suit your style and preferences before you lock and load your credit card.
I would also suggest that you try and buy used as well. There are tons of great used basses to be found online and thereís no sense in paying full retail until you decide to get a custom instrument made one, or decide to go vintage. Otherwise, save the money if you can.
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