The beauty of fretless...I'm new to it.

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Sundogue, Jan 8, 2014.


  1. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2001
    Location:
    Wausau, WI
    Just recently pulled out the frets on my 5 string Yamaha (which has undergone many changes over the years) and I've been playing fretless going on almost two weeks now.

    I've gotten to the point where I can play everything I did before on fretted without struggling finding notes, and also being able to cop the fretted sound so as not to limit myself to only that fretless sound. I can get the whole mwah thing easily and vibrato, slides and such. I've been working on scales and bouncing about between root notes and fifths and octaves with ease.

    But, is there anything in particular that I can work on that is more specific to fretless and what one can do with it? I've been playing along to many fretless YouTube clips of fretless players, but if anyone has any techniques or specific things I can work on to maximize my practice time I would appreciate it.

    This whole conversion over to fretless has been very enlightening and funner than hell. Inspiring.
  2. nysbob

    nysbob

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2003
    Location:
    Cincinnati OH
    If you're progressing that quickly, work on double stops - major and minor 3rds & 10ths, perfect 4ths & 5ths.
  3. bkbirge

    bkbirge Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2000
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    Work on mastering vibrato control, from none to minimal to extreme, all at *different* tempos. Especially on lyrical songs putting in a really slow vibrato can be magic but can also be very difficult if all you do is one speed vibrato.
  4. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2001
    Location:
    Wausau, WI
    Well, I've been playing fretted bass for over 35 years and I have dabbled on double bass and fretless in the distant past...so it's not entirely foreign to me. Going full into fretless actually has come pretty quickly to me.

    Double stops (and even triple stops) have been a staple of mine for...well, forever. But yes, I do need to work on the "perfect" part. :D I have been working on really knowing the fingerboard, sans frets now, without looking and going on strictly hand position and by ear.

    But yes, without frets I'm finding that sometimes runs and double/triple stops are a bit sloppy without having the frets as a crutch or excuse for being lazy. I do need to work on better hand positioning and angles so I hit all the notes perfectly.

    Amazing how frets allow one to be "close enough" and still sound true. Without frets, it is so easy to be off just enough for a simple chord to sound absolutely horrid. ;)

    Thanks.
  5. Register to disable this ad
  6. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2001
    Location:
    Wausau, WI
    Thanks. Yes, that is a very good point. I'm finding that I need to be so much more aware of my fingering to get cleanly into and out of slides and vibrato properly. Something I never really thought much about before.

    It's really beautiful to be challenging myself on the bass again.
  7. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2001
    Location:
    Wausau, WI
    Also...I'm not sure why not having frets seems to be so different than having frets when it comes to muting. Seems that I never had such a problem muting strings before and now I'm having to be much more concious to mute strings.

    Why is that? Why would not having frets affect strings not being played? Maybe it's just all in my head.
  8. bkbirge

    bkbirge Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2000
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    I haven't particularly noticed that but I tend to play with flats so not a lot of zing usually. Could be your setup also.
  9. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2001
    Location:
    Wausau, WI
    My setup is perfect for what I want from my bass regarding the action, etc. I use roundwounds.

    I think it is more of a left hand muting thing. With frets it was easy to simply left hand mute the strings against the frets (but not enough for a note to be played off it). With no frets the muting needs to be more controlled with my fingers than before. I think anyway. I'm still working on it.
  10. SteveC

    SteveC

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2004
    Location:
    Grand Forks, North Dakota
    I gotta get a fretless back in my stable again!
  11. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2001
    Location:
    Wausau, WI
    I ripped the frets out of my bass because I wasn't in a band and had gotten very jaded by the entertainment industry at large and the local music scene specifically...to the point where all of my gear was in storage and had no desire to even look at my bass, much less play it.

    Going fretless has given me a whole new outlook on playing bass and I'm feeling very inspired by music again. It's inspiring and challenging to me and I feel like a kid new to music all over again.
  12. bswag

    bswag Not a Real Bass Player Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2013
    Yeah, somewhere over the last year I just lost my taste for guitar, and really, anything else with frets. Maybe it's all the jazz I've been listening to, but the sound in my head turned out to be- fretless bass guitar. You're right, it IS like being new to music again, and fun as hell. Play on!

    {"Strange things, strange things happen every day... You may have a taste for something, someday that taste may go away." - Lazy Lester}
  13. Marial

    Marial Pooped Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2011
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    Yep, it's a wonderful thing. :)
  14. bachlover

    bachlover Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2013
    Location:
    Calgary, AB, Canada
    Same here - fretless has rejuvenated my playing and added more fun to it. Last week I got an unlined Godin A5 and it's even more challenging. I found that doing "straight" poplike worship songs at my church not too difficult, but I definitely needed work on the intonation. Like a previous poster said, it's amazing how much more leeway you have with frets, much smaller window without 'em! Yesterday, I started running through the jazz sets I've been working on with a guitarist, and that was a whole new ball game for me - rewarding at the same time as the fretless sounds awesome on those old standards. I recommend picking up the irealb app ($10!!) that you can play on an iphone or android driven tablet (non windows) - hundreds of standards to choose from. Like I said, very challenging and rewarding to work on.
  15. SteveC

    SteveC

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2004
    Location:
    Grand Forks, North Dakota
    + 1,000 on irealb for practice. It's great.

    I gotta get a fretless again.
  16. boristhespider9

    boristhespider9

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2008

    Same here. Just ordered a Carvin PB4 fretless. Can't beat the price right now! Back to fretless! No lines!
  17. SteveC

    SteveC

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2004
    Location:
    Grand Forks, North Dakota
    Unfortunately, I'm spoiled. I'd have to get another Roscoe. Best fretless ever.
  18. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2001
    Location:
    Wausau, WI
    I am really, really digging the switch to fretless. It plays like butter...like soft butter. Such smooth transitions between notes. I'm just loving not having those hunks of metal strips on the neck!

    It's opening a whole new style of music I listen to, besides what I play. I'm hearing new things I never really paid attention to before. Also making me re-think how I approach bass lines and how I go into and out of them!

    It also has me thinking of the bass more in terms of how it integrates into the music, rather than thinking solely of the bass part out of context. Like instead of thinking of what notes to play, I'm now thinking how those notes make the music sound overall. Not that I didn't listen to everything before...I'm just more aware of all parts now. Making the bass line swell with the vocal line for instance.

    It's feeling more like a greater musical instrument with more melodic possiblitiies than I ever realized before.

    Fun stuff.
  19. Joebone

    Joebone Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Feelin' you, Bro.

    I'm a bass hobbyist, but was a pro trombonist several decades ago. Have edged into the fretless thing over the last year, and increasingly feel that frets are an impediment to expression. Even took a lesson so as to start getting some left-hand technique, and looking for more lessons/growth. Fretless is so, so expressive - if you are playing the right kinds of music that can let that shine through (and I am playing folk/latin/jazz when I currently play out) - it is the bomb. On that muting thing, I mostly play 5-string and find that floating thumb technique for muting is a nice complement to the lighter touch that seems to get better tone on fretless.

    Enjoy!
  20. Neon Scribe

    Neon Scribe Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2009
    Location:
    Seattle, WA; Nyack, NY
    Get honest feedback about your intonation. I like to run my audio through the computer with a tuner app running in a really large window. Play some sustained note exercises with a giant inescapable meter showing you what those notes really are. I like to use AP Tuner on Windows, it's simple, free (donation-ware), accurate and you can make the window as big as you want. They have iPhone and Android versions but I haven't tried them. There are surely Mac applications available as well. A standalone tuner is fine, but use one that you can easily see and that shows you clearly how far you are from dead center on pitch. You may have heard that pitch accuracy is a matter of ear training. Indeed it is, but it is more complicated than that. You are using your sense of pitch combined with proprioception (the sense of your body's position relative to itself and other things) to develop the muscle memory of where each note is. Using a tuner is not cheating, it's just adding visual feedback to the auditory feedback. This is different from looking at fretlines or markers as you play. If you watch the lines while you play then you are developing direct hand-eye coordination, which is OK, but you want to learn to play while reading a score, watching your bandmates or watching the audience. The tuner provides visual feedback for your pitch, rather than visual feedback for your hand position.
  21. lowfreqgeek

    lowfreqgeek Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2010
    Location:
    Albuquerque, NM
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist: Regenerate Guitar Works
    Brings to mind an interested revelation I had the other night while writing/recording a melody part. I was trying to get *something* down with my fretted 6 string. It just plain wasn't happening. So I picked up my fretless Stingray 5 and this very fluid, flowing melody came out.

    I decided to try the same melody on the fretted 6 and very quickly noticed that it was completely foreign to me. I had to transcribe the line, just like I was transcribing someone else's solo that I'd only heard once or twice before.

    I put the fretless back on and the phrasing and intervals and everything that made the original part so cool was right there again. The more I thought about it, the more I became aware that I my fretless soloing is generally superior to any solo I could improvise on a fretted bass. Now I don't notice any difference in just grooving, but when it comes to melodic fluency, the fretless is where it's at for me.

Share This Page