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Fretless bass: Fret markings/lines or not?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by brlottermann, Nov 22, 2012.

  1. brlottermann

    brlottermann

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    Hey guys,
    I recently posted asking for suggestions for a nice fretless bass. Soon thereafter, I was confronted with a dilemma. Fretless bass with fret lines or a fretless bass with none? Some people think that a "real" fretless is COMPLETELY fretless, in that it doesnt even have fret markings. My gut feeling somewhat agrees with this, but I'm sure its narrow-sighted to say that. What do you think? Fret lines or not?

    Thanks,
    Brian L.
  2. Mark Perry

    Mark Perry

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    Fret lines.

    Double bass has quite a few inbuilt reference points - Where the neck joins the body, where the neck join ends etc. Without lines or dots at least, electric bass has none.
  3. pocketgroove

    pocketgroove

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    No fret lines, but side dots. Dilemma solved! I'm about to buy a fretless as well, and I prefer the unlined look. However, there's nothing wrong with having a lined board.
  4. AngryJohnny

    AngryJohnny

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    If you are unsure and plan on using it in a live setting in the near future I would go with lined. Unlined necks look pretty spiff and are the standard for most of the pro fretless players I've seen, but I don't see any reason not to go lined if it makes the job easier. I break out my fretless for my band's occasional semi-unplugged sets. I could probably get by without the lined markers at this point, but at the time I was sure as hell glad to have them and I'm not replacing the neck for status sake.
  5. danomite64

    danomite64 Supporting Member

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    My personal preference is unlined.
  6. SquierJazz72

    SquierJazz72

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    I'm thinking of making my next bass purchase a fretless too. I think I would want the lines, or at least side markers to begin with, as it would be my first, and I have no experience with one. If I had more experience, unlined would be my actual preference.
  7. RED J

    RED J Half Hip, Half Hick Supporting Member

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    I've had both, but always liked the clean look of an unlined board. A great deal from a TB'er landed this little baby in my lap, I'm loving it.I really have to pay attention. The short scale is not everybody's choice, I know, but I play both short and long scales. The tone is beautiful. It does have side markers, which unlike side markers on lined fretlesses I have had, are at the note position and not half way in between. Douglas WVEB. Really like the look of unlined maple boards.

    [​IMG]
  8. Wallace320

    Wallace320

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    Unfortunately, side fret markers are moreoften than not placed in traditional fretted position (very center of the hypothetical fret, not where the actually note is supposed to be) so I experienced on my own that, unless you're a fretless pro, you'll need those lines to be precise...

    Cheers,
    Wallace
  9. Turnaround

    Turnaround

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    Bass Technician, Club Bass - Toronto
    I find fret lines to be entirely useless. Most often you can't see them when performing - lighting is often horrible in performance situations.

    However, I do find side dots to be useful, especially if they contrast well with the surrounding wood. Be sure that the side dots are placed where the frets would be, not in the usual position between the fret positions - otherwise they too are useless.
  10. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Don't just TalkBass - PlayBass! Supporting Member

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    Unlined, here. :cool:
  11. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

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    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs, Jule Amps
    Every unlined fretless bass I've owned had the side dots at the fret location.

    I vastly prefer unlined. The side dots (assuming correct placement) are enough of a visual cue. I think lined is more confusing, and often causes players to place more emphasis on visual rather than aural cues.

    This is a religious argument so it'll get ugly soon.

    [​IMG]
  12. rasbass

    rasbass

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    I concur that side dots seem more useful than lines. I have a NS EUB with both side dots and dots on the fingerboard- I can't really see the latter.

    I actually put few side dots on my upright- find the right spot, hit it with a little white-out, and you get all the help you need. While some purists may object (and I know some who do not) I figure that anything the helps me play better is good.

    When you are so skilled that you do not need the side dots, the white is easily removed.

    PS- For orchestra pits, I use florescent tape side markers for beginning a tune in the dark.
  13. rasbass

    rasbass

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    Unlined.

    I concur that side dots seem more useful than lines. I have a NS EUB with both side dots and dots on the fingerboard- I can't really see the latter.

    I actually put few side dots on my upright- find the right spot, hit it with a little white-out, and you get all the help you need. While some purists may object (and I know some who do not) I figure that anything the helps me play better is good.

    When you are so skilled that you do not need the side dots, the white is easily removed.

    PS- For orchestra pits, I use florescent tape side markers for beginning a tune in the dark.
  14. richfirstbass

    richfirstbass

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    I use lined, myself for 40+ years. Almost 20 years ago, I went to a clinic given by Brian Bromberg. He used and still uses lined fretless basses. His reason is that it helped with intonation when he absolutely had to nail the intonation. His attitude was that "there are no rules". However, he's not absolutely dependent on having the lines there. Neither do I or should you. Using your ears is always necessary when playing the instrument.

    Having played for so long and purposely doing so, I don't look at the fretboard, either with fretted or fretted, unless there is an awkward position shift. But after awhile, those awkward shifts become more instinctive. You should try to wean yourself from depending on looking at the fretboard. This is particularly helpful when reading charts, you won't lose your place so easily (that could be really awkward)!
  15. Wyattsgroove

    Wyattsgroove

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    I will also agree with side dots and unlined board. When I play an unlined board I rely on my ears, not by sight. I've also found that sometimes the lines don't intonate on cheaper basses.
  16. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Don't just TalkBass - PlayBass! Supporting Member

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  17. unclejane

    unclejane Guest

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    Only thing with lines is to make sure they're done right. Usually, they're just plastic inserts glued into already-cut fret slots, generally as a cost-cutting measure. This can eventually lead to problems with the inserts popping out and causing buzzing. Also, the cuts in the wood can lead to very small depressions in the area of the slots, causing buzzing even if the inserts are staying put. This is rare, but can happen if you live in, say a dry climate with widely varying temps.

    So if you go lined try to get one with a hard finish on the fingerboard - this seals the wood and makes it impossible for the inserts to come out.

    I prefer unlined for that reason and all my FL's are unlined with just side dots. I originally taught myself the FL on a lined bass, but eventually found the lines to be kind of distracting. It's not a huge deal, though, so don't turn down a good deal on a good lined. It'll serve you fine either way.

    LS
  18. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Don't just TalkBass - PlayBass! Supporting Member

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    My Rick Turner RB4FL is lined.........the above comment directly applies. :cool:
  19. bassybill

    bassybill The smooth moderator... Supporting Member

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    Try before you buy.

    I can manage without lines, but I admit I like them there as a safety net from time to time. As for side dots - I find playing on a fretless neck with the dots where the frets would be VERY disorientating. I actually sold a bass for that reason. I like the dots on my fretless exactly where they are on my fretted basses, between the "lines".

    People need to understand this is a matter of preference rather than "correct" or "incorrect".
  20. jamminology101

    jamminology101 Gold Supporting Member

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    Side markers....that way the crowd thinks its unlined but u have some reference points that the crowd can't see...some people may call it cheating but whatever makes the job easier...

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