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Beginning fretless player needs reassurance!!

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by rickreyn, Sep 27, 2002.


  1. rickreyn

    rickreyn

    Jun 16, 2000
    Lutz, Florida
    I have finally gotten serious about learning to play a fretless with the purchase of a GW-1. It's lined so that's good. I have a great ear, so that's good. Now, I know that you have to be on the line to be in tune. Then, a little rocking of the finger (vibrato) will cover if you are slightly off. So if you have to be that precise, do you have to commit the song to memory so that you can stare at the fretboard? Or if the answer is, you just practice yourself silly until you just go to the right spot, what good then are the lines? I tried playing a tune without looking and by sliding to reference pitch and working from there and did credibly. Just need some basic coaching.
     
  2. lamarjones

    lamarjones Supporting Member

    Aug 27, 2002
    Raleigh, NC
    my opinion is that the lines are a safety net, but if you are serious about it, you should be letting your ears tell you if you are flat or sharp. That does take time, and you will sound terrible sometimes, but eventually it will work out, or you will go back to fretted. ;)
     
  3. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    First of all rick...be patient . Time and practice (and more practice) will allow you to develop the muscle memory so that you can take your eyes away from that lined fretboard. Don't let anyone tell you they're "sissy lines" (don't worry...someone will:rolleyes: )...Gary Willis ain't no damn sissy!

    Try this...start off with an F major scale beginning on the B string. Hopefully you're using the proper fingering of 2-4-1-2-4-1-3-4 and back down again. Since your ears are "great" ;) , you'll be able to hear the proper intonation. Forget the vibrato for now, just go for accurate intonation (BTW vibrato is NOT a way to "cover" if you're out of tune).

    Now do it with your eyes closed. Still in tune? Good. Now move up a half step to F#, then G, etc, etc. Do this until you reach the octave of F, still starting on the B string. Open your eyes. Check your position on the bass vis a vis lines. Right on? No? Don't expect to get this right the first time. But if you did...then you DO have great ears!

    Now, repeat this eleventy million times every time you practice, eventually moving it around the neck and starting from different positions. If you're bored with the major scale, use any scale...or even better a favorite melody. Good luck, and again BE PATIENT!!!
     
  4. Lines are cheating. ;)

    Serioiusly though, the lines are most useful for setting your position. Once you are set it should be a combination of your ear and your muscle memory in your hands that keeps you in tune. Those both come with practice.

    Also, vibrato is more of a function of good tone than good "tune"
     
  5. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    Man, I didn't even finish my post before someone said it...:rolleyes:

    Playing fretless bass could easily be compared to walking a tight rope, especially for someone starting out, so what's wrong with a "safety net"?
     
  6. lamarjones

    lamarjones Supporting Member

    Aug 27, 2002
    Raleigh, NC
    please don't think I was bashing a safety net!

    Even when I got used to it for a while, I had an unlined fretless, and a couple of times I would be lost a little, and in a dark room, you can't see anything, so I had to go to strict 'yoda' mode to get back into tune. Happens.

    There was a thread about side leds, even cheesy, the lights on the side would have helped in that scenario......
     
  7. rickreyn

    rickreyn

    Jun 16, 2000
    Lutz, Florida
    If muscle memory is so important, my fretted, my main bass (Lakland 5) is 35" scale, and the fretless is 34" (GW1). Is this going to mess me up?:confused:
     
  8. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    rickreyn, I started playing fretless not too long ago, and to begin with my tuning was all over the place, but with practice you'll find that you can play in tune without looking at the fretboard - and you say you have a great ear, so you should be fine! I've found the best way to play is without looking at your fingers anyway, it makes it easier to just be in the groove if you're not thinking too much about what your hands are doing.
     
  9. Oysterman

    Oysterman

    Mar 30, 2000
    Sweden
    Nah. I have a 35" fretted and a 34" fretless, and they get along fine. I suck just as much on both of them. :D But that might have something to do with my muscle memory developing on 34"'s.
     
  10. I had a 35" fretless and a 34" fretted and they didn't get along well at all. Food for thought.
     
  11. CS

    CS

    Dec 11, 1999
    UK
    Some pointers (and some of them are conflicting-bite me ;) )

    1 put your fretted in its case and leave it there. I mean it. Next rehearsal, fretless, next gig, fretless. I played mine live two weeks after I bought it :eek:

    2 decide on the application. some players (and I suspect you are one of them) use fretless as a choice rather than a way of life.

    3 I learnt this the hard way from Steve Lawson. It's ok developing your ear. I had an argument with a keyboard player whose keyboard was half a cent out. However I would play out of tune and slide it in with a bit of wobble (thats what 10 years of slide guitar does for you). I still slide in and wobble but it's a choice not the only option. Steve and I still disagree in that he thinks you should play a fretless like a fretted most of the time where I believe in wobble slides microtones and dive bombing harmonics (in one bar I might add). However he's a world famous bassist and I do a mind numbing soul draining spirit crushing office job.
    (oh and you cannot have that lyric).
     
  12. rickreyn

    rickreyn

    Jun 16, 2000
    Lutz, Florida
    Did about a 20 minute set with the fretless this morning without too much trouble. Baptism under fire. Only strayed from the pitch a couple of times. I think I will be able to cut it, but will continue the practicing and drilling as suggested.
     
  13. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    rickreyn --

    CS and I have had this conversation before -- but I'll throw it back into the ring:

    I believe that playing some fretted while you're really woodshedding fretless can "re-calibrate" your ear. Like so: Play something on fretless. A few times, so it's in your ear. Now, play it on fretted (make sure the darned things are all in tune with each other!). Hear what the thing sunds like really in tune. Now go back to fretless and reproduce that.

    The risk of playing nothing but fretless WITH NO REFERENCE is that you can get used to your own out-of-tune fingerings, and if you do that too long, you can develop some habits that are hard to break later. However, if you have jam-a-long tracks or something similar to play to so you get immediate intonation feedback, then I can go along with locking up the fretted for a while.

    While I primarily love fretless, there are plenty of songs I play with both bands -- one soft jazz all-original instrumentals, and one folk-rock with an acoustic-guitar-playing singer -- where fretted makes the most sense. I could make fretless work in any of them (except one whe I'm strumming chords), but I think the fretted fits the style and the attitude better. So I definitely fell that while fretless is WAY cooler and WAY more fun, fretted has a place, too. I bring both basses to every gig.

    By the way -- whaddya think of that Willis 5? The only one I ever met had the G in the pickup not functioning, so it was a less-than-overwhelming experience, but I did like the "ramp" under the strings.
     
  14. rickreyn

    rickreyn

    Jun 16, 2000
    Lutz, Florida
    Because I play on Tuesdays and Sundays, the possibility of decommissioning the fretted is very remote. I just got the darn thing to begin with! Still the honeymoon stage! Also with the fretless. So I'll go with eli out of necessity and check and recheck my reference points!
     
  15. rllefebv

    rllefebv

    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    I played about 1/2 of Friday night's gig on the fretless, after having had it for a week... First time on-stage with one in years, (the Ashbory doesn't count!)... One very apparent thing was that playing in tune alone and playing in tune with a band are two completely different things for me at this point!! We played this gig as a three piece which helped a great deal as far as hearing myself, but there were some 'dissonant' moments!!

    High on the list of priorities should be rehearsing on fretless with your band as well as by yourself! I'm a bit hamstrung as my band doesn't rehearse, so I'll have to do alot of fine-tuning, (pun intended), on the job.

    -robert
     
  16. CS

    CS

    Dec 11, 1999
    UK
    So you know where i'm coming from...

    I havent touched my fretless since early August. I'm playing 3-4 times a week with a fretted 5. I'm also playing a lot of guitar (I play more guitar than bass at home)-currently electric and classical. My current bass goals are to read better and do some solo stuff so this may have contributed to the current state of fretlessless ness :confused: Suffice to say and this is my point. That when I migrate to a smooth fretboard again the fretted will go in the case and the chromatic tuner will go in the signal chain for a bit. I'll then play 100% fretless bass until I stop. Hope that makes it clear and always a pleasure to chat/disagree with Eli.
     
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I've heard this a lot on Jazz jams - people seem to think fretless will sound better for Jazz, but invariably the intonation is very "iffy" when highlighted next to saxes, piano etc.

    So others at these jams have come up to me and said - why does that bass player sound so awful? then I have to be very diplomatic and try to explain how difficult fretless bass is to play - but then somebody says - but Double Basses don't have frets!! ;)
     
  18. CS

    CS

    Dec 11, 1999
    UK
    Playing with a cello can be fun
     
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I saw a Cellist playing Jazz last Friday - Ben Davis leads his own band. I was watching his fingering (ooer missus!) and noticed that he played like bar chords a lot - but I suppose on a Cello this is fifths rather than fourths - he was playing a lot of power chords!! ;)

    Seriously it was interesting as there was no guitar or piano in the band to play chords and he just played fragments of chords to accompany, say a sax solo, above the Double Bass.
     
  20. rickreyn

    rickreyn

    Jun 16, 2000
    Lutz, Florida
    I am using round wound strings, and will continue with them (came with bass, always used them, hate flats). They do mark up the fretboard. Is this something that will happen to a fretless with use? Is it anything to be concerned about?