Fret Lines

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Jimbo, Sep 27, 2001.

  1. Jimbo


    Dec 4, 2000
    Philadelphia, PA
    I really want to get a fretless bass. I've played some and I love the tone and sound. The thing is, I'm not that good so I was considering getting one with fret lines. This might be a dumb question to ask, but would I be considered any less of a bassist if I used fret lines? Will I regret the decision later?
  2. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    I think that some people would consider you less of a bassist if you have lines. I wouldn't, but some people would.

    It's better to play fretless with your ears than your eyes, but it is nice to have lines as a guide, and they are also very useful when you are playing in a very loud situation where it's hard to hear yourself clearly.
  3. Josh Ryan

    Josh Ryan - that dog won't hunt, Monsignor. Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 24, 2001
    Just pretend you thought it was a fretted bass the whole time.
    edit: I wouldn't think any less of you either, Embellisher brings up an excellent point, I've played in less than ideal acoustic situations more than once myself, and I can imagine the lines would be useful for a while. Eventually you won't even need to look, I'm sure, but who cares anyway, it's all about the sound.
  4. Phat Ham

    Phat Ham

    Feb 13, 2000
    Jaco had fret lines, and I don't think anyone considered him a lesser bass player for it. Some people might consider you lesser for having lines, but IMO those people's opinions don't mean much because they are getting caught up with things that don't really matter. What you play is what you play, regardless of whether there are lines on your bass or not.

    I've heard some people say having fret lines can affect the tone, because the lines are made of different material than the rest of the fingerboard. I don't have any personal experience with this, so I can't comment on it.

    I also think an unlined fretless looks cooler than one with lines. But that's just my personal opinion, and its just an aesthetics thing.
  5. Bass Guitar

    Bass Guitar Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2001
    Jaco had fret lines because his bass was a defretted Jazz bass - his fret holes were filled with a wood filler so the fret lines were hard to see from far away - I don't think he really used the fret lines anyway - watch him play and you will know what I mean.

    In the end, you don't really need fret lines - fretless basses have dots on the side of the neck most of the time that corresponds to the positions of the frets. I would suggest to go totally without fretlines and rely on your ears for good intonation. However, in the end, the best thing is to go and try out fretless basses for yourself, and decide for yourself. Don't let what other people think about fretlines stop you from choosing your fretless.

    Good luck! :)
  6. Tapp


    Aug 29, 2001
    USA, Mississippi
    Jimbo, I had this same question about 2 months ago when I had the opportunity to purchase an excellent used Pedulla 5 fretless. I loved everything about the bass except it had no fretlines and I am new to fretless. Many people told me I could use various tapes to make my own fretlines and such but what has helped me the most are the side dot markers. On the Pedulla they correspond to the actual fretted note and I have not needed fretlines. I have played the bass live one time and recorded once and my confidence is increasing. It's all about digging in and playing that fretless as much as possible. If you read music, fretlines can be a distraction too; my ears and those side markers are all I need.

  7. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Fretless master Gary Willis swears by his lined fretboard.
  8. Well...I don't have the testosterone thing going on, and I don't really care what anyone else thinks. I have lined! :D
  9. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Simple, no?
    be :cool: TRY'EM ALL !
  10. Go for a double neck, one with lines and one without. ;)

    I say go for the lines and when you get used to the fretless and how to react to it, start working on perfect intonation without looking at the bass at all.

    I wish I could afford a fretless, lines or no.
  11. I've owned both... I prefer fretlines. I find I play in tune more on basses that have lines. I also prefer my fretlines to be on the darker side so they're there when I want them and not distracting when I don't. Both Zons I've owned have dark or black lines against an almost black fretboard.

    IMHO, forget about fitting into someone else's definition of "cool". It's about what you are the most comfortable with.

    If you can play more in tune and confidently without fretlines, go for it.

    Playing out of tune is not cool - regardless of how it may "look" :eek:


  12. From what I've read, Jaco was a proponet for lined fretless basses. Here's a comment Dann Glenn made on the subject in his column:

    When asked in an interview years ago about protecting a fretless fingerboard with epoxy, my dearly departed friend Jaco Pastorius said, "it's essential." He used these same two words to me speaking about the fret-lines.

    Anyway, I agree with everyone that you should go with what your more comfortable with.

    When I first got a fretless bass it was unlined and I was eventually able to get some decent intonation, although I did find myself referencing the dots on the side of the neck occasionally.

    I recently added a second fretless bass to my arsenal, a used Lakland 55-94, and it has fret-lines. Again I tend to only use the lines as a reference, to check and make sure what I'm hearing is correct, and they only help in making that process quicker.

    I do think the lines are very helpful when your in a situation where you can't hear yourself very well and I'll bet anyone who gigs a lot can attest that happens quite often.;)
  13. bassmonkeee

    bassmonkeee Supporting Member

    Sep 13, 2000
    Decatur, GA
    I've got a custom unlined fretless 4 string Curbow. I have no trouble playing in tune. When I get my new 6 string Curbow fretless, I am planning on getting dark lines. I don't really feel like I will need them too much, but there are just times when lines help. When it is hard to hear the bass (a very good example, Em), or when I am playing 3-4 notes at a time above the 12th fret.

    Ultimately, unlined "usually" looks cooler to alot of people. But, its up to you. Don't bother with what others think is cooler.

    Hell, if I listened to what others think about my gear, I wouldn't play through a Carvin rig, and I wouldn't be as happy with my Peavey Palaedium bass.
  14. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    Absolutly depends on the color of the bass, What kind of shoes your wearing, and if it is sunny or cloudy. ;)

    :eek: What do you THINK!!!:eek::confused:
  15. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I went through this same question when purchasing my Carvin BB-75. I debated one this issue for some time before ordering the bass. In the end I decided on without fretlines, for the simple reason that it looked better, (how shallow am I), and that I wanted to rely less on the visual, and more on my ears.

    The lack of fretlines forces me to work on my intonation, which forces me to develop my ear. This has been a very valuable tool. It still have a slight problem with the second fret on the D and G strings. I don't know why, but if I have poor intonation, it's usually right there.

    Friends have picked up my bass and tried to play it, all the while declaring panic at the lack of fretlines. After they played it, each and every one of them told me it wasn't as difficult as they thought it would be originally.

    Ultimately, the decision is yours, but who cares what other people think about your masculinity because of it.
  16. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    My first two fretlesses were unlined. I had no problem playing in tune. Then along came my Pentabuzz. It has lines and I prefer a clean fingerboard, but it's such a good bass and the price was so right that I wasn't about to walk away from a good deal because of a cosmetic detail. Most Pentabuzzes come with lines anyway. I still prefer unlined, but It's not an issue for me anymore.
  17. melvin


    Apr 28, 2001
    My first (and only) fretless has lines, seeing its a MIM Jazz, but I could careless if people think Im less a bass player because those lines, for a couple of reasons

    1. I dont even look at my fretboard
    2. The person that comments on that cant play fretless worth crap (the one time I let people play my bass)
    3. I never care what people say about me if its not good.
  18. Jimbo


    Dec 4, 2000
    Philadelphia, PA all fretless basses work like this? i always thought that the side dots were just so you know the general area of the fret but you would still have to guess where the fret line would be.

    if so, that would make life a little easier.
    does anyone know for sure?

  19. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Yes. Some fretless basses have side markers that show the correct position.

    As for lined fretless, it is up to you. You are no less a man for playing one. Although I should mention this. They don't help that much. In some cases they hinder.

    Fretless is what I call an exact art. Part of the style is moving in and out of positions to get the right intonation. In fact, sometimes I don't even move my fingers, but actually "roll" them up or down the string to effect the intonation. The precision required is more than the markers allow. This sounds hard, but your ears train themselves quickly.

    Secondly, we all know the flaws of a fretted instrument. Part of the beauty of fretless is you control your own destiny as far as intonation goes. When playing fretless, especially up the neck, you may discover that your ear is telling you to be one place and the marker is somewhere else. It is very possible that your ear is right.

    There is nothing wrong with markers, but in the end they aren't going to save you any work as far as playing fretless goes.

  20. Depends on the instrument. What I have seen is that typically if the bass has fretlines, the fret markers are in the traditional place - between the frets. On basses without lines, the markers are typically directly above where the lines would be.

    When I had my Zon Lightwave made, I asked Jow for dark fretlines and for the markers to be directly over the lines. This was not typical for him. I also asked for an additional marker above where the first fret would be. I've found that very helpful.