Intonation on fretless bass
hi there, so long story short...what is the intonation, is there bad or good intonation on fretless?
how does one achieve good intonation?
bad intonation is the bane of playing a fretless instrument therefore one must practice practice practice and concentrate on hitting every note dead on the money. Since I started on upright at ten I have pretty darn good intonation. Oh and intonation is the ability to play every note in tune without frets.
I think Michael Manring says that loopers are good things to practice your intonation with. He seems to do alright.
1,2,4 is a great place to start. Learn to play full steps with the index and pinky fingers. You will soon learn that nature has been unkind to you because neither the middle finger nor the ring finger is positioned properly to finger the note in between. Since the proper pitch is slightly closer to the higher note than it is to the lower note, you might be inclined to think that the ring finger is the best choice. Odds are it is not.
What I do is rotate my left wrist slightly (rotate the wrist just a bit so the palm is facing more toward the body of the bass. What this does is make the fingers no longer perpendicular to the fingerboard. Now they point slightly toward the body of the bass and/or the higher notes. Now when you drop your middle finger in between your index and pinky, you can nail that note in between. Increase or reduce your wrist rotation to find that spot that gets you there.
Avoid using your ring finger until you get up around the 7th or 8th "fret" position. Then you can use the one finger per note method. You'll need to train your ear to get good intonation and work to maintain, develop and hopefully improve it to the point where it is a non-issue.
One thing I do periodically is set up a simple chord on my electric keyboard. I have a sustain pedal and I put a heavy chair leg on it to keep the chord going as I run notes all over the board. Not only does this help intonation, it helps your ear understand the relationship between any note and the chord you are playing on the keyboard.
Another key to good intonation is knowing what bad intonation sounds like. Once tuned up, play around with the side dots by playing what you think are well and poorly-intonated notes. Also, you should recognize that in the lower positions, you can pretty much intonate well with your finger "on the dots" but as you go up the neck, the width of your finger is sufficient to make intonation off if you finger directly centered on the side dots. In higher positions, you need the dot to line up with the part of your finger that is stopping the string, which is not the exact center of the finger pad, but somewhere "upstring" from there. You need to learn where that is on you.
Great input so far. I will add two elements to this.
First, it is often suggested to start playing fretless by playing a fretless version of the fretted bass you currently play - allowing muscle memory to transfer a bit more easily. In other words the neck you are accustomed to and the positions, etc are now on the fretless. This is what I've done with my first fretless and I also went for no lines/no dots. Glad I did.
Secondly, there'a s flip side to what has been said up to this point and I never anticipated it. In short, while playing with the band, I noticed a tonal problem and I adjusted my hand a bit to be "in" and did so without looking - only by listening. When I finally glanced at my left hand to see the visual of what I had done, my left hand was OFF positionally. But the pitch was correct. WHAT? It was the GUITAR that was out of tune. My position and pitch had been CORRECT. Self-doubt had abounded and so I corrected.
What a learning experience.
And I'll just say this: fretless is a blast and a world of fun.
So, it's understandable that you assumed you were off - that's natural (unless you're (not you; the proverbial you) totally arrogant :smug:). But at some point, you improve to the point where maybe you're not wrong, and it's important to maintain that suggestion that you could be wrong but know when you're not. I can't explain that, it's a personal thing that comes with hours on your instrument.
This is why I chose a lined fretless.
You play 'on' the line for best intonation.
No lines here. Use your ear!
In my experience (I play Double Bass (DB), fretted Electric Bass (EB), and occasionally fret-free EB), fret-free EB is THE toughest to play with "correct" intonation. When compared with DB (42" scale), fret-free EB (34" scale typ.) requires closer exact finger position for "correct" intonation. On a DB, there is a greater tolerance concerning your finger position versus "correct" intonation, especially since most DB work is close to the nut. As you move up the fingerboard, obviously finger location is MUCH more important. The most important thing is to LISTEN. This is the only way to be in tune. Unfortunately (requiring exact intonation on the bass), the band is supposed to be listening to the bass to get the correct tuning for the ensemble. Of course, if your band has guitars (fretted-type) and keyboards, this will not be the case. You will have to listen to THEM, to have "correct" intonation. In my big bad, I typically listen to the piano for the correct pitch, as the pianist it typically playing long sustained notes, with the guitarist chugging along on short quarter notes. When the pianist is not there, you DEFINITELY notice that your pitch standard is gone. In that instance, I typically play as many open notes as possible to stay in tune.
Actually, when playing solo fret-free EB (as opposed to actual supporting fundamental bass), it is easier to play in tune, as you can use a lot of vibrato (typically used by violinists, cellists, etc.), often used by Jaco and others, and you have the backing band to listen to. The string players utilize this vibrato (especially on longer notes), as their scale length is TINY!, and is VERY difficult to play in tune (I do not envy those string directors teaching youth, when all those kids are playing those even smaller scale violins (suzuki method)... must be IMPOSSIBLE to play in tune)).
Good luck, and remember LISTEN!
This is why 'Simandl method' and similar methods work with String bass/ Double bass. All played exclusively with 3 fingers....
No lines/ no frets. All the while looking at music you are reading and NOT at your fingerboard. It works well in the format of symphonic music genre. May work to some degree in jazz...but using 4 fingers..one finger per note method... makes much more sense to me.
I used to play DB..took private lessons. To this day..Simandl method creeps in and messes up my electric playng as far as shifting/ positions is concerned.
Some unlined electric have side dots...don't be fooled by 'purists'.
Edgar Meyer has fingerboard dots on his upright....
DOTS ARE CHEATING!!..LOL.. STORY....
After high school., I bought my first string bass and took private lessons fom A S O Bassist, Jane Little. A tiny woman with giant patience with me..
Anyhow..She had an answer for my every complaint.
i whined to her about playing in lower positions, i complained about my hand size.
She placed her hand to mine.. Her hand was half size of mine then proceded to show me..She got full vibratto on LOW F with her ancient 7/8 symphonic bass...Then went entire length of board....full vibratto on each note...and back...then asked..Now, what was your complaint again??.. ....I digress...
...When I whined about intonation... and wanted to use stick-on dots. She said that wascheating and was for babies...
Eventually I learned that in order to improve, I needed to wood shed at home and my only complaint would be that I didn't practice enough.
.HEY...I was a teenager..long hair and wanted to be a symphonically trained rock star..sighs...
Bought my second string bass..7/8 ROTH from her..then bought my 72 Rick 4001-s...quit taking lessons when I realized sadly] that A S O players made little $$ with their museum piece instruments, education , skills and talent. Rock Star made more sense..I was a teenager, right.... so I sold my string basses in 1979.
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