Fretboard note positions based on scale length

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by bajistaman, Nov 3, 2017.

  1. Hi, I am just learning the basics and when practicing the half position I am finding that practicing my intonation with a tuner is not ideal so I thought that marking the "frets" as a guide would make it easier at the beginning. My teacher told not to mark the fretboard as it will become an eye depending exercise but probably he learnt to play before he was 18 and not 44 as I am now so less time and less skills require some concessions :)

    Ok, so I am trying to find if it's possible to find the notes on the fretboard based on the scale length, my double bass scale length is almost 42 inches and there is a template for this here: but it might be some sort of formula to do it more precisely? IMG_8916.JPG

    Thank you!

  2. The formula is to do what your teacher says. Practice and listen. Use your eyes to make sure you are making the correct hand shape. Do not mark the fret board as a learning device.
  3. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    As someone who switched from electric bass to upright about 4 years, well into adulthood, i don't really recommend markers. While they will assist you in the short term, they will hinder you in the long term.

    Instead of using a visual to enforce my intonation, i strive to use the sound instead. This is done by playing against tempered instrumentation as well as checking certain notes on the neck against open strings. You open up your ears, constantly judging your sound and adjusting as needed. To me, the markers will instead reinforce a visual crutch that will not serve you well in certain situations(for example if reading a piece of music, your eyes can only be in one place at a time).

    When shifting, also strive to FEEL the distance of the shift in your left hand. This is why alot of teachers advocate keeping your fingers on the string as much as possible. There are many intonation exercises to reinforce this(check out the vomit exercise).

    Lately i am also practicing visualization of the neck by essentially closing my eyes while playing. Rather than looking at the fingerboard, i visualize it in my mind. Surprisingly i tend to achieve better shifting and interval jumps with this practice. I've actually found myself making larger jumps on the bass from lower positions to thumb position with more accuracy than usual.

    Now if you must put markers on, don't "fret" the whole thing up like a bass guitar. I would only put a few markers on the bass at "landmark" points, like the octave D or G. But if your teacher isn't recommending it, i would do what they say as they likely have a reason for it(and i agree with them).
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  4. I am all for looking at your hands during practice. Very, very few of us have perfect anything but hands and hand shape working correctly are vital. Getting basic things in tune too soon "any old way" can really hold you back. Work on your ears and your body together. You can't get any kind of consistency without both. One is not more important than the other, but most of us can hear pitch far better than we can deal with the physical issues.
    If you are attracted to the double bass it is a safe bet you hear better than you play.
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2017
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  5. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    It's hard for someone transitioning to understand at first, but the markers will usually hamper everything that comes after whatever note you're targeting with them. Think of it as dividing your focus between visual and auditory clues, from note to note. One note is marked, the next maybe not, then maybe an open, then maybe another get the idea. It's not very practical.
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  6. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    I know that there are some well accomplished bassists who have some markers installed on their fingerboards, mostly above the octave, but I don't personally find them useful, and IMO, the biggest issue with them is that they too often provide the player with a false sense of intonation - it looks right, so it must be right instead of "the pitch I hear matches my expectation". Far more accurate to intonate mostly with your ears, than your eyes.
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  7. jasonrp


    Feb 19, 2015
    I've marked mine and I wish I never did. No matter how hard I try not to, I end up cheating a bit when I first start playing. After I'm warmed up I usually look away but if I have any trouble it's right back to my marks and it drives me nuts because I'll lose my spot on the sheet I'm playing.
    bajistaman likes this.
  8. In a funny way, markers are for great really advanced performers and horrible for beginners. It is important to point out that not EVERYTHING in the world is counter-intuitive, but this is.
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  9. HateyMcAmp

    HateyMcAmp Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2006
    Queen City of the Plains
    Krivo Pickups
    I used markers above the octave for about 6 months, first on the G harmonic and later on the high D harmonic. In some ways, they helped me get the really basic muscule memeory of roughly how big the shifts were when I hadn't spent much time up there previously. I didn't find them very helpful for anything other than a ballpark area and eventually removed them.

    The lower register has open strings to tune against and physical reference points like the neck heel. I would get acclimated to those as opposed to dots on the side of your neck.
    bajistaman likes this.
  10. Probably you are right, it makes me feel unsecure to trust ny ear or my muscle memory, with the bass guitar I am always looking at where I am instead of trusting the many years that I have played over the fretboard.
    The double bass fretless and unmarked fretboard is something a lot more frightening but could be also an opportunity.
    Will follow your advice and trust my teacher.
    Thanks again!
  11. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    Also, the first time a major humidity change comes along, those marker positions will be inaccurate. Ballpark/neighborhood intonation is the most that can be expected from them.
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  12. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    Trust your teacher. I have found playing against a drone to work much better than playing to a tuner.
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  13. tpa


    Dec 1, 2007
    København, Danmark
    To the nerds: s_n = distance from nut to n'th position, S=scale length:
    - but listen to what others have said.
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  14. Thanks!, I knew there was some formula for it :)
  15. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I am not totally against markers for beginners, but just place adhesive dots down the middle of the fingerboard and only at like 4th, 5th, octave, octave+4th, etc. Use your tuner to find the positions. Formulae will be less accurate, as they cannot accommodate variables like scoop, string height, etc. I had markers on my bass for awhile when I had several adult beginner students. Even though I had never used them before, and I'd been playing for like 25 years, I found it hard to not start looking at them during orchestra rehearsals, which was obviously not desirable:)
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  16. Thanks, I saw in the internet some markers added to locate the 1 and 4 finger for the positions: Double Bass Positions - Mr. Tourtellot's Orchestra Webpage
  17. tpa


    Dec 1, 2007
    København, Danmark
    You can also use harmonics. I have given up on a mathematical proof, but according to my ears 12th, 9th, 7th and 5th fret positions have clean harmonics. Harmonics on 9th fret on E string can then give a fair tonal reference for 11th fret on A-string 6th fret on D string, 1st fret on G string. Harmonic at 12th fret on E string will give a tonal reference for 2nd fret on D string, open G string give tonal reference for 3rd fret on E string, open D string will give tonal reference for 10th fret on E string, 4th fret harmonic is same tone as harmonic at 9th fret. So now your challenge can be to find 8th fret :)
    bajistaman likes this.
  18. Looking at this video from street artist ZAZ the double bass player is using very broad marks in his neck (with black tape):

  19. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    You will find some players that use markers all the time, but most players in the classical and jazz scenes do not use them. The only guys i see using them are generally rockabilly players that probably can't hear themselves well on stage due to the huge stage volume or players that don't seriously practice the instrument.
  20. I have been practicing without any visual aid and it works well in my studio but as you said, in some cases, like if you are a street musician, because of the environmental noise might be useful to have a reference.