Fretless....5 String or 4 String...Why?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Geoff St. Germaine, Apr 9, 2002.

  1. I am looking at getting a fretless bass in the near future. It is probably going to be a Kinal. I am wondering what people here think so far as whether a 5 string fretless is useful, or whether they find themselves not really using the B.

    I have a feeling that most people will just be of the opinion that they are for fretted basses. But I figure I would ask in case people had other opinions.

    Any insight is appreciated.

  2. snyderz


    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    I play my fretless Stingray 4 and 5 equally. The fiver has a good B string, and I like shifting less on some songs. My 4 is piezo, so I get different tones than the fiver. Both fit well into my arsenal.
  3. are you suggesting then, that you wouldn't play the fretless the same as your fretted?
    if i had a fretted 5er, which i do, i'd want a fretless 5, why would i want to change my thinking of the bass and my technique and such just because i think i wouldn't use the B.
    why wouldn't you use it? and if you can answer that, why are you playing a fretted 5? :)

  4. I'd say stick with a 4. A fretless can be used for any type of music, but, Jazz is probably most often played on a fretless, and most DB players still have 4s. I'm just a traditionalist. A 4 feels better in my hands than a 5, but, this is just me. A 5 is nice to have, but, so is a million bucks; most of us can live without either.

    Just my $.02
    Mike J.

    JAUQO III-X Banned

    Jan 4, 2002
    Endorsing artist:see profile.
    For me one of the nicest aspects of a fretless 5 is that the low B adds a very descent low growl,similar to a bass synth,with proper lyricism.
  6. Nope, I am not, in fact, suggesting anything.

    And as for playing a 5 as a reasons to only play 5s, I don't think that is proper reasoning (just me).

    And why wouldn't I use it? That isn't a reason. I am not sure if I would use it. That is whay I am asking for opinions of the people around here.

    The reason I am getting the bass is basically just to learn to play fretless. I am simply interested in learning my way around as much as I can.

    Thanks for the comments so far.

  7. I play fretless about 50% of the time. I thought about getting a 4, but have never regretted getting the 5s. The same flexibility and note choices offered on a fretted 5 are just as important on the fretless, IMHO - maybe more so.

  8. xush


    Jul 4, 2001
    mobile AL
    no regrets on a fretless 5 here either. I really depend on some of the chord combinations it allows me.

    I like to have a couple of each lying around though, so I may not be the best judge...
    But I will say that I probably use the B string on the fretless more often than on fretted. Does that throw your curve off?
  9. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    Well, I play a fretless 6, if that means anything. And I find a use for all 6 strings, though naturally some more than others, and the high B (no, not high C) probably least of all in most settings.

    My feeling is that anybody who can make intelligent use of a low B on a fretted can make intelligent use of one on a fretless.
  10. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    I say get the five.

    When I decided that I wanted a good fretless, I started to get a four stringer(I already had an old inexpensive fretless) but thought that I would miss the flexibility of having the lower notes, and being able to play in F and G on the B string.

    I had never really spent any time on fretless, despite the fact that the four had been in my possession for over 10 years.

    At first I thought that it might be easier to learn on a four, but then I decided that if I got a nicer four, it would still probably not get played much.

    So, I found a nice enough five, and paid enough money for it that I could not justify it sitting unplayed, and started playing it 100% of the time at church.

    The first few services, I did a lot of root/five stuff, but as I gained confidence in my intonation, I opened it up more and more.

    These days, I play pretty much everything on fretless that I do on fretted, and because of the expressive nature of the fretless, I play a lot of things that I don't play on fretted.

    IMHO, it has helped me to grow melodically, and made me a better player.:)
  11. Ryan L.

    Ryan L. Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2000
    West Fargo, ND
    Not really any help here, but I am planning on a fretless in the near future. Since I have gotten used to the versatility of having the low B string on my fretted basses, there is no doubt in my mind that I am going to be buying a fretless 5 string.

    Anything less would be uncivilized.;) :D
  12. SRSiegel

    SRSiegel Guest

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    get the fiver man. i went from a fretted 4 to a fretless 5. man did that expand the way i look at different lines on the bass. i recently switched my fretted bass to a 5 as well. no regrets whatsoever (cept for the fact that my speakers cant handle a B very well...)
  13. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    If you're used to a five string you'll feel constrained on a four string. Fretless or fretted is irrelevant. If you like fives and want a fretless don't get a four.
  14. I have always wondered this myself, and even started a thread similar to this one about a year ago. My thinking finally came around to this: I like the sound of the fretless notes played mostly on the D and G string, 3rd fret and above. To my ear there is more mwah/growl/ in this range. This is where it sound good to me so I tend to play more here. I tend to not use the B string much, probably for this reason and have also considered switching to a 4.

    Now, only if I can find a (cheap) Zon 4.
  15. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Wow, I absolutely love the sound of the low notes on the "B" string on my fretless. :)
  16. Eilif

    Eilif Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    Go with the 5, if you like playing 5. My frettless 5 sounds great, and I use all 5 strings.
  17. frederic b. hodshon

    frederic b. hodshon Supporting Member

    May 10, 2000
    Lake Forest, CA
    ...for the 5.

    i played 4 stringers for years.

    and yes, i started on fretless in the 70's. had a fretted P in the 80's for a couple of minutes.

    my notes on the B string sound fantastic.

    could be the gear...maybe the player?!?!


    i may get a 4 later, but just as a conversation piece.

    and to beat a topic into the ground...don't listen to those that tell you fretless is mostly for jazz. its a load of crap.

    those that can't (or haven't), dis. they usually just regurgitate what they've read.

    i'm in 2 bands and play only fretless. one is a metal/punk/experimental band, the other is blues/groove rock.

    we've recorded several times. there's tons o' punch, and i can get it to sound non-fretless when i need to.

    broken record huh?

  18. I personally have a five-string fretless. Being that a fretless is a great instrument for expression and solos I reccomend a 5 string. Sure a 5 string has those extra low notes, but another important advantage to consider, is the fact that in soloing, a five string allows you to run further up and down scales without moving as much horizontally.