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5 String Fretless Opinions

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jazzcasey, Mar 27, 2013.

  1. jazzcasey


    Mar 27, 2013
    Hi everyone, I was thinking of getting a new bass, but couldn't decide between Fretless or a 5 string.. I love the Fretless sound but going across the strings on the 5 string seems appealing to me as well.. So I thought why not both in one? I've seen plenty of Fretless and plenty of 6 strings but not too many of the mix. If I like both is it a good idea to get both, or one 5 string Fretless bass?
  2. ShirazBop

    ShirazBop Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 29, 2006
    Greensboro, NC
    New to 5 strings and loving 'em. Have a Fretted P and a Fretted J.... Would love to have a Fretless P/J... Might have to build one...or mod a perfectly good P5...
  3. Jaco Taco

    Jaco Taco

    Jul 30, 2012
    Do it! I'm getting a fretless for the first time and its going to be a 6-string! Dive into what looks cool, I say!!
  4. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    If you've never played FL before (or only briefly dabbled but never really considered the functional differences from fretted), my response may not make a whole lot of sense (or rather, you may not fully appreciate its potential significance). One of the biggest challenges of a FL electric bass (in contrast to double bass) is the hand-eye relationship and how it changes from string to string. On a fretted bass, it's fairly easy to bar two or three or even four notes across a single fret. Your finger needn't be perfectly parallel to a fret for this to be done properly.

    On a FL bass, learning where the intervals of a perfect fourth (e.g., G, C, F, Bb) lie is a challenge because, depending on how you hold your instrument, the distance of these notes from your eyes varies. This is the parallax effect; the same is observed when looking at an automobile speedometer from the passenger seat. You can't really get a proper reading.

    As a result, properly intonating a FL electric is, in some ways, easier when changing positions rather than when crossing strings. As you move up the neck, the parallax error decreases as your hand comes into direct line with your eyes.

    This is why so many FL players stress ear training, and of course, this is critical. But it's also critical to be able to nail that note without using your ear to decide if it's correct pitch and then adjusting that pitch. That sound gets old quickly.

    It's not really too difficult to learn how to properly intonate perfect fourths across strings, but for some players, it may be easier to properly intonate by position shifting as opposed to string crossing and vice versa. So, the advantage you perceive on a 5-banger may or may not work out to be an advantage in the FL realm. Or, it may. ;)
  5. Do it! And when you first start playin around plug into a tuner, helps you visually get the note more precise without relying on staring at the fret(less?) board.
  6. CTC564

    CTC564 Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 7, 2011
    Toms River,NJ
    Awesome advice...thanks for posting!!!

    I just got into fretless myself this past year and have already purchased my second 5 string...it is a lot of fun to play but will require much more patience to learn how to play it reasonably well so plan on putting in plenty of time
  7. JLY

    JLY Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Great response fretlesssMamia. I agree 100%
  8. unclejane

    unclejane Guest

    Jul 23, 2008
    Not sure about this. The higher priority, really, is to become independent of what things _look_ like on the fingerboard as much as possible as soon as possible. Instead, what things sound like in response to what you do on the board is really the skill you need to acquire and where the biggest challenge is.

    Intonating a perfect fourth on the FL is a manual skill and it just needs to be practiced primarily by listen and adjust in the usual way, just like other aspects of intonation.

    In fact, staring at the board can slow you down here, at least it did for me until I discovered that listen and adjust is the main way to play in tune. Vision helps you to get into position and in the ballpark in terms of "fretting" notes, but I don't think that's the goal.

    Steve Bailey, for example, advocates practicing in the dark as a means of weaning you off this visual method of trying to intonate. I believe I've heard this from other FL players too. I've done a lot of this and it really has helped a great deal. And obviously how things look isn't available to non-sighted players, who I imagine can come to learn FL instruments just fine....

  9. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    A fretless is a nice tool to have. I played mine exclusively while I was waiting for my 5 string fretted to be built. When my fretted bass came, I had a hard time putting the fretless down. I used it on what I would call "fretted" gigs and loved it.

    If you have the budget, get a Roscoe. Mahogany body, diamondwood fingerboard and "JB" pickup placement.
  10. mark beem

    mark beem I'm alive and well. Where am I? Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    Alabama, USA
    Go for it!! I'm loving mine!! :bassist:

    DSCN0625_zpsb4753356. DSCN0617.

  11. bluesblaster


    Jan 2, 2008
    seriously, I would start on a fretless 4 and then evaluate as to whether you really need that low B for fretless. Just my 2cents worth.
  12. Go for it.
    A fretless 5 is now my main and fave bass instrument.
  13. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Switching to fretless takes a bit of adjustment, sure, but I don't think it would be that much more adjustment to go to a fretless 5-er. I say do it! It's nothing a few weeks of woodshedding can't solve.
  14. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead! Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Many companies offer a fretless with fret lines on it to give you a hand with the transition. Carvin makes 5'ers with fret markers on their fretless necks, which may help with the intonation issues some people have stated. Carvin basses are pretty slick too, from what I hear.
  15. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Carvin's are, indeed, very nice instruments, their fretlesses in particular. The ir string spacing tends to be on the narrow side, if that's an issue for the OP.

    Lines on a FL are a hot topic of discussion on TB with many members both for and against, and for a number of different reasons - ALL legitimate.

    Without opining in either direction, I'll just suggest that the OP try both lined and unlined FL basses out and see which feels more comfortable. They seem to be a love 'em or hate 'em feature.
  16. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    IMHO, fretless 5ers, strung BEADG or EADGC are great, but sound so different from fretted 5ers that there are good reasons to have both fretted and fretless.

    The main musical issue is the gentle attack of the fretless may not be well-suited, IMHO, for some punchy/funky textures, like Mo-town, Urban/R&B, and even Ska and Reggae. The attack of a fretted 5er is much quicker/sharper.

    In addition, IME it is more mentally fatiguing to play fretless all night—though I have done it many many times. It takes concentration to finger consistently, be on target for shifts, and constantly monitor, listen, watch, etc. while singing, nailing the groove, and staying in the music.

    Finally, fretless 5ers are harder to play chords on, and don't particularly work well for slap—though again it can be done, even to brilliant effect, but slap on my fretless 5er lacks the "fret rebound snap" of slap on a fretted 5er.

    All IMHO, YMMV. :cool:
  17. MontzterMash

    MontzterMash Supporting Member

    Dec 6, 2010
    Hi, I've got a fretless four string, and can easily imagine that a five or six string fretless has some good advantages: less shifting (which is when I have to look), and with a C string, you could play closer to the nut (where there's more margin for error on finger placement).
  18. I finally switched from fretless (almost exclusively) to fretted basses a couple of years ago. I think fretless basses are wonderful but if your intention is to play on paid gigs every weekend, a fretted bass becomes much more practical and in the end will make you sound consistently better.

    I used to play a J and P, both defretted since the early 80s and when I finally gave them up (I keep both though) to a MIJ P/J Lyte, I realized how hard I made it to myself all those years just to preserve that fretless tone, mostly appreciated when soloing.

    Now I can play, look around and enjoy the gig a lot more. BTW, a friend let me borrow both of his fretless 5 string G Willis (a blackie and the expensive blondie) for 2 months and it was great but the level of concentration had to be even higher, pushing me to redline more often than I cared during sets.
  19. eee


    Jan 17, 2009
    Dear jazzcasey

    My name is Casey. I like jazz. I have a fretless 5 string. I like it.

  20. Mojo-Man


    Feb 11, 2003

    Roscoe fretless 5-strings are to die for.
    Keith and the boys make a killer fretless.

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