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Best cheap fretless to learn on??

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by stevecool_skint, Apr 21, 2006.

  1. I have been playing now for about 3 years and I own a Thunderbird IV and a Fender Jazz but the time has come that I would really like the chance to learn some fretless work. I know that it gives a smooth and beautiful sound but I also hear that it improves your regular playing too.

    I have a limited budget and wondered what you guys and girls thought about 'Stagg' 'Yamaha' and some of the Precision and Jazz Fretless copies - just to learn on!!!!!!
  2. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Yamaha fretless are great, I had a BB404F that I JUST sold. Awesome bass.

    MIM Standard Jazz fretlesses are nice too. Had one of those. Loved it.

    May want to check out SX basses from rondomusic.com not much to spend on something you're just trying out.
  3. cpach


    Feb 28, 2006
    Santa Cruz, CA
    I have a Yamaha BB404F that's fantastic. They're unfortuantely out of production now, but if you can find one, they're really very nice. Yamahas in general are quality instruments.

    The Rondomusic option seems good. I'd go for the Jazz copy, but then again, I like Jaco.

    MIM Jazz fretlesses are pretty good, but I personally liked by BB404F better at a lower price.

    And definately get a fretless! Such a wonderful voice.
  4. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I'd get any bass I could get a good deal on. The type of bass is immaterial, quite honestly. Just get one that's decent. Fender, yamaha, whatever.
  5. I went through the same process about 15 months ago.

    The Stagg was the cheapest of the bunch @£120, and was rough at the edges, but sounded reasonable. The Yamaha RBX 270 (passive P/J) was well built @£200, and sounded pretty good, and the Vintage 940 (passive P/J, bubinga body) also sounded pretty good @£220, but I disliked the badly stained neckwood extending beyond the 'fretboard'. I also tracked down a Tanglewood Rebel @£160, and found that 'honey' meant translucent banana yellow. I was most interested in the Yamaha, except it had fret lines, and was not available in a natural finish.

    I extended my budget to £300, and picked up a Warwick Corvette second hand - it's heavy, but lovely to play.
  6. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    My first fretless was a Dean Edge and it was fantastic.
  7. johnvice


    Sep 7, 2004

    Also the MIM Jazz has fret markers making the transition to fretless easier. (Jaco had fret markers so you should have them too ;) )
  8. RyansDad


    Jan 31, 2006
    Tolland, CT
    Nothing against those that want lines on a fretless, but you may want to consider going unlined, if possible. First of all, it will prevent you from possibly using the lines as a visual crutch for finger placement. Secondly, and this is just my opinion, but an unlined fretless looks cool to non-musicians. I used my Rogue fretless at a show on Saturday and I had people coming up to me all night, amazed that "you can play that thing without knowing where the notes are." Obviously, your playing is first and image is second, but looking cool is a fun bonus. :D
  9. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Ignore the lined/unlined aspects and buy what you like. I learned on an unlined, but now I own both, and there is no meaningful difference in ease (or difficulty) of intonation on them IMO.
  10. +1 to cpach and tpylons comments. I am the buyer of tplyons Yamaha BB404F. I have owned/played several "budget-class" fretless basses, and this is my favorite by a long shot so far.

    Lots of tone flexibility, well constructed, and the playability is superb. The neck feels great to my hands. On an unrelated side note, the Yamaha headstock is the one of the nicest looking ever IMO.
  11. i appreciate your comments guys and it has certainly given me food for thought!

  12. lefty007


    Jan 19, 2004
    Miami, FL
    I had an SX fretless Jazz with lines, and for $140 it was ridiculously good.

    I only had problems lowering the pickups - the screws strip easily and the pickups won't go low enough.

    Otherwise, it sounded good, it played good (yes, the fretboard wasn't perfect, but almost) and the overall feel is very good - and I'm no beginner.

    A no-brainer - I don't forget the 30-day return policy.
  13. dwjazz54


    Jan 21, 2003
    Jersey City, NJ
    I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Cort Artisan B4 fretless. An absolute joy to play. My first fretless, and still my main instrument.
    For its price, the construction is flawless, the Bartolini electronics are superb, and it has "bwah" and playability that rival fretlesses I've played costing four times as much. And that's not an exaggeration.
  14. lefty007


    Jan 19, 2004
    Miami, FL
    Is a "bwah" an even more expressive sound that a "mwah"?

    Like "bwah" :bawl: ?
  15. dwjazz54


    Jan 21, 2003
    Jersey City, NJ
    "Bwah" has a little more funk to it. Definitely a good thing!:smug:
  16. Minger


    Mar 15, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    Good to see that it got sold...

    Anyways, I can vouch for an SX; I had a fretted one and it was sweet...
  17. Lia_G


    Oct 27, 2005
    I highly recommend the Yamaha BB series. My first fretless was a Yamaha BB350f, and it was amazing. I have MusicMan and Roscoe basses now, and I still say that the Yamaha was a great bass.

    Another one, if you like narrow necks, is an old used Peavey Foundation fretless, if those are available. My first good bass was a Peavey Foundation (fretted), and regardless of some people's anti-Peavey feelings, that was a very good bass.

    It's true that unlined gets you noticed by non-musicians. I also personally like unlined, for my own aesthetic taste. Lines may help in the beginning, but eventually you want to get to a place where you aren't looking at the fingerboard anyway, so they won't matter then. But it really doesn't matter. Jjust find something you like, and go from there. Besides, Jaco, Mark Egan and Gary Willis all do / did astonishing things on lined fingerboards ... ;)

    If you get a lined fingerboard and love the bass, then later decide you'd rather have an unlined, chances are you can get a luthier to replace the light fretlines with dark wood to match your fingerboard. A little stain, and voila ... unlined fingerboard.

    By the same token, if you have a good luthier you trust, any decent fretted bass you like can be converted to fretless. I'm getting ready to have one of my MusicMan basses converted, and that will be the 5th bass I've had this done to over the years.

    Good luck,
  18. 200_stude_1.

  19. andrewd


    Sep 5, 2003
    look for the Cort B4FL. Unlined, bartolini MK-1 electronics, mahogany body, wenge neck. will run $400 something used.
  20. +1


    I bought one of these 3 weeks ago - LOVE IT! (which surprised me, I'm often discontented for a while when I first buy something)


    ... I was reluctant to buy it at first because I wanted fret-lines; as it turns out, I found I really didn't need them - the side-of-fingerboard dots are all I need, and I think a lined fingerboard might even lead me to second-guess my ears :meh:

    ...plus the "unlined look" is preferable, IMO :)

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