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Fret or not

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by Zerozeddy, Nov 22, 2004.

  1. I have noticed that most bassists who tend towards playing solo seem to prefer fretless models.

    Do you reckon it's easier to write melody lines on a fretless? Or is it just a stylistic preference?

    a bear of very little brain, who long words bother.
  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi Andrew,

    good question - I think there is a great expressive potential in the fretless bass. The ability to affect the note in such minute ways, with slides and hammers and bends and also have such a great deal of control over the envelope of the note just with your right hand position is pretty attractive when you're trying to find some kind of melodic/expressive voice. The fretted bass can be very very expressive too, but I guess there's something in the sound of the fretless that draws us all in.

    For me, the most expressive option is to play both! Because so much of what I do involves looping and layering my bass sounds, I can quite easily switch between basses mid song, if I want to... :)

    The problems with fretless are also pretty easy to spot - number one being intonation. number two is also intonation. :)

  3. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Clearly, I'm not Michael or Steve, but I am primarily a fretless player and an (aspriring) solo bassist.

    I definitely agree about the expressive potential about fretless, and I'll also say that it's much closer to a voice than a fretted instrument is, so when you're playing, it can be very much like singing -- only you're not limited by natural gifts (or lackthereof).

    If you've got the capacity (polyphonic tapping, looping like Steve) to do both bassline *and* a melody, you could, conceivably, be your own bass + "singing" duo. On www.basssource.net , there's an interview with Steve where he's discussing with TB'er Tim Cole what frontiers of bass are yet to be probed, and he mentions that no one's really taken bass and singing very far yet. While it isn't technically singing, with the proper mixture of technique, note choice, and style, you *could* do this with a bit of work.

    This is something I'm working on personally -- I'm in a program at school where <30 high school musicians spend a semester at my school and learn the broader points of recording, music theory, live performance, and making a living as a musician. I've got a few initial tracks done at the school and I'll be spending a lot of time with the Roland ADAT we've got (bands have the full studio booked solid) and post some examples within the next couple weeks of what I've been doing in this manner.
  4. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Although I certainly agree about the the expressive potential of the fretless, it's funny -- I've always thought the fretted was actually a bit more favorable toward solo playing simply because it's easier to play polyphonically on it.