A question on fretless basses with and without fretlines

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by SlapPopBass, Jul 9, 2013.

  1. So I just watched this guys video:

    Basically what's he's saying is that the dot positioning on the side of a neck for a fretless with fretlines is different from a fretless without fretlines in that in a fretless without fretlines you play directly on the dot at the side of the neck, while in the other you have to play on the fretlines themselves, or you'll be out in tone. Is this true? Does this really apply to all fretless basses in general with and without fretlines?

    Personall experience wise, I've only owned fretted basses, but the fretless basses that I do wound up playing are the ones with no lines. I'll need to be clear on this little issue cuz I'm gonna build a fretless soon, and I was contemplating whether to build it with or without frets, but after watching this guy's vid I just feel like building it without the lines. Anyone input or help would be duly appreciated. ;:D
  2. Sorry, little spelling error above, when I say "tone" I meant "tune"
  3. Matthijs

    Matthijs Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2006
    For fretless without lines the side dot is where the fret would be. On a bass with fretlines the dot might be at the same spot as a fretted bass, but I'd prefer the dot to be where your finger should go. Otherwise it makes no sense to have the dot at all. Especially since you probably can't see the fretlines very well when your standing on a stage.
  4. That's correct.

    I play a fretless without fret lines which means I play 'on the dots'. I prefer this only because that's how I originally learned fretless.
    With a lined fingerboard, each dot is immediately 'above' its respective fret line - if you understand what I mean.
    It does take me a bit of adjusting to play a lined fretless as a result.

    There's a lot of debate as to whether its better to play on a lined or unlined board, and in the end it depends on what you prefer.

    Because I got used to playing on an unlined board, I personally find this less confusing than all the lines. It's also got me to make better use of my ears. However, there's no denying that if you can't hear yourself properly in the mix, lines are a lifesaver.

    Good luck.
  5. kulit17

    kulit17 Wal Collector #35 Supporting Member

    There's no right or wrong answer to this. It's all personal preference. I have a Wal lined fretless and the side marker inlays are on the lines. I've seen other unlined Wal fretless basses where the side inlay are both one the 'lines' and in the traditional location, in between the fret lines.

    I've also had another fretless bass in the past where the side inlays are in the traditional location.

    So for a custom build fretless the side inlays can go either way on a unlined. So whatever your used too, go for it! :bassist:
  6. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    On an unlined fingerboard the dots should be where the frets would be. Some commercially made basses put them where they should be and some put them between the "frets" as they are on a fretted bass. But if you are building a fretless bass then you want the dots where the frets would have been not between them.

    In my opinion, on a lined fretless it makes no difference where the dots are since you will go by the lines not the dots and you only use the dots as a "roadmap" to which "fret" is which just as you do on a fretted bass. I personally have no trouble at all seeing the fretlines, while standing, while on stage. At the very least you can easily see the ends of the fretlines. So a lined bass can have the dots in the same place they are on a fretted bass without any problems.

    There is a compromise choice you can make too: use lines but just very short ones on the top edge of the fingerboard. If I were having an "unlined" fretless neck made for me that is how I would have it made. And I would have dots on the edge of the neck too in the fretted bass, between the lines, positions.

    But it is your choice so suit yourself!

  7. For me personally the dots on my Peter Malinek Physica bass make it easy to find my ways on a long broad neck:

  8. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    I suggest that it will work out better without frets.


  9. MD


    Nov 7, 2000
    Marin Co. CA.
    For the most part yes. With few exceptions, a lined fretless
    will have side dots between the lines. The lines are nothing more than fret slots that have been filled in to make the neck fretless; hence, the dots between the lines, and in the wrong location for fretless.

    On an unlined board, the side markers should be on the note at the 3, 5, 7, 9, 12... positions.

    All that being said, anyone going custom can do whatever they want.

    Seriously? I can't see any sane builder doing this.
  10. Fresh Eddie

    Fresh Eddie

    Nov 13, 2008
    New England
    The first fretless I ever owned was an Ibanez P-Bass copy and it was unlined, but where the frets would be they inlaid small black lines (it was a maple board) that went around the corner of the fingerboard so you could see them at the very top edge from the front and the from the sides (like they cut a 45 degree angle and inlaid a triangle, if that makes sense) and the dots were where they would be if the neck was fretted.

    It made sense to me at least. My next fretless was a MIJ Fender Jazz, which had no lines and had the dots as described above, where the frets would be.
  11. stanley00


    Mar 15, 2010
    Albuquerque, NM
    I've owned fretless basses with and without lines and currently own a lined fretless Stingray. If you go with an unlined you could always use thin tape to make temporary fretlines to help the learning process. I see that done commonly with beginners learning cello. Once you get the note positions on the board in your muscle memory, it will come naturally. Most of my playing is done while reading from music. The lines on the fretless neck help occasionally if I need make large jumps up and down the neck or to make sure I'm where I should be if something doesn't sound right.