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Fretless 5string for funk(ish) sounds in a horn-based band?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by guitarrophobe, Dec 2, 2018.

  1. guitarrophobe


    Mar 20, 2017
    Noble bass people, I need your advice.

    I am playing in a band that consists of several horns (trumpet, sax, etc), percussion, drums and vocals. We're somewhere in the jazz/soul/funk-area soundwise. My current equipment is a Sandberg in PM-configuration through a Tonehammer.

    Since some songs are in Eb or D I'm looking for a 5er. Also I want a new challenge and I really dig the microtonal and expressive options that a fretless offers.

    But I have no real clue what sound I should aim for. The brigde-PU with rolled back highs works quite nicely at the moment.
    Should I go for a bass with a M-humbucker? Or could a piezo as in the SRH500 also deliver? What I do not dig is the Jaco-tone(tm).
    Basses that appeal to me are the Soundgear series (so SR375, SRH505 and SR707), especially the 505 is a real beauty.

    Sadly I don't have the option to test out a lot of different stuff so I'd really appreciate your input regarding sound and possible solutions and basically advice about fretless 5ers.

    Budget is 500-800ish, used is an option.

    Much obliged,
  2. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Glad you mentioned liking the Ibanez offerings - I would suggest the SRF705 Portamento.
  3. Aidil


    Dec 4, 2014
    Jkt, IDN
    yeah, the SRF705 Portamento should fit the job as it has plenty of tonality options from two magnetic pickups with 2-band EQ and under saddle piezo pickups with active tone control. But I find that the combination of semi-hollow body and under saddle pickups on my SRH505 Aerium sounds even nicer, producing warm & woody tone that have made my Portamento gathered dust.
  4. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    These are 2 new options and either one will be a challenge. I'd suggest that by trying both at the same time you run the risk of failing to master either. I'd recommend doing one or the other, but not both together.

    Fretless is a an interesting idea, but you have a solid need for a 5 string bass for this band. I'd get a good fretted 5 string and revisit fretless when you've got that sorted.
  5. guitarrophobe


    Mar 20, 2017
    What scares me about the Portamento 705 is the weird control layout - multiple volumes are in a live situation far from practical. Do you have experience with that?

    @chris_b: Well, the need for a B is not big enough to buy a bass just for that. But since I intend to buy a a (fretless) bass anyhow I'm willing to take the risk. Also I'm not a fan of the small size of regular bass necks so that points me towards a 5er as well.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2018
    chris_b likes this.
  6. guitarrophobe


    Mar 20, 2017
    @Aidil: Could you elaborate a little on the difference between the 705 and the 505? What's the sound that you are going for and is there anything that you miss in one of the basses?
    Also how are you getting along without a master volume on the 705?
  7. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    lost angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    Almost anything becomes viable with practice. I gigged a Zon 5-string fretless for about 10 years. It had a Lightwave optical "pickup" along with a piezo, so I had separate volumes as well as eq. No problem live, and typically I found an amount of piezo signal I wanted and left if there.

    The only things you give up with fretless are the classic slap sound and chords become a lot harder. If you don't play one or both of those, then it just is about listening and practice. I've played all styles of music on a fretless including straight up funk - in fact with a Rob Allen fretless which is piezo only and much more towards the "upright" vibe of things.

    If you buy a 5-string fretless and put away the 4-string, that will be the quickest way to get comfortable on it. Later you can pull the 4 out and you'll either find that:

    a) 4 feels funny and you are now a 5 player
    b) 4 feels like home and you're over the 5 experiment
    c) 4 feels a bit odd, but you like it along with the 5 so you keep/play both

    fwiw over the years I've experienced all three of those, but currently am in the c) camp, switching between 4, 5, and 6 (some fretted, some fretless) depending on the gig. Just takes practice and a desire/need to do so.
    The Nameless, 31HZ, zon6c-f and 4 others like this.
  8. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    I don't understand how those two statements are not antithetical; the bridge pickup with rolled-back highs is the basic starting formula for the Jaco tone!
  9. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    Also just try drop D tuning for a while before you commit to a 5. I do own 5’s but my preference is for 4’s because of the feel and drop D covers it. I guess there’s no way to know until you get one though. Personally I thought the portamento 5 string is a great bass when I tried it. With the extended range fretboard it has you could even tune to standard D and drop to C with the right string set (edit: on a 4 string)
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2018
  10. rutrho


    Mar 29, 2014
    sf bay area
    I tend to prefer tuning my fretless down to D when I need to go that low. I keep going back and forth on the idea of getting a 5 string fretless but I haven't found any that I really liked yet that I've been able to play.
    Element Zero likes this.
  11. guitarrophobe


    Mar 20, 2017
    @Bob_Ross: Yeah I see that. However I'm using an M-style humbucker that gives a lot more punch and oomph than the typical J-singlecoil with its mid-heavy tone.

    @Aidil: Just found out that the 705 has three volume knobs. Neck, bridge, piezo. This already makes me not wanna use it because that's a nightmare in a live situation. And I don't want to buy a bass that I have to mod right from the start. How did you deal with that?
  12. nilorius


    Oct 27, 2016
    Riga - Latvia
    In fretless world you get your sound a lot from your fingers, so there are no models witch can't catch something from other brand models. For you - check out some Ibanez models, something different - Fender j-bass (don't be afraid, not every j-bass sounds like Jaco).
  13. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Big Dogs Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    Like @nostatic I gigged a fretless Zon for several years in a funk band, and another year in a horn-driven so yes, it can work if you work it!
    Mostly bridge pickup was my go-to sound, but for a rounder tone on older tunes I'd sometimes favor the neck pickup. Also right hand position has a really noticeable impact on your tone on any bass, but especially on fretless.
    bucephylus, zon6c-f and mike o like this.
  14. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    I've always rewired any multi-pickup instruments to have multiple volumes over blends or switches, so yes you could say I have. It takes little effort to get used to, so I wouldnt let such a trivial detail become a show-stopper...
  15. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    You’ll find the right one someday.
    rutrho likes this.
  16. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    It can be done. I prefer a fretted bass for funk.
    I did see Rick Fierabraci playing his fretless Pedulla with Blood Sweat & Tears.
  17. Uncle Hanky

    Uncle Hanky

    May 10, 2017
    F1BFBD78-64EF-4959-A40E-908386411A1E. I’ll echo previous advice: put the four away and concentrate on the five. I went from fours to fives, and recently got a sixer which also happens to be my first fretless. This means, of course, that I can finally offer someone on here firsthand advice, hahaha.

    So yes, you’re not only extending your range, you’re also having to REALLY PAY ATTENTION to your finger positioning. Forget your four exists for now and WOODSHED.
    zon6c-f likes this.
  18. BassBrass


    Jul 6, 2009
    Boston MA
    I got oneofthese in 5 and it's most excellent; did a trusrod tightening in the Fall that gave it back the growl sound use bright nickle DR rounds, both pu's on full, and a Grizzly bass overdrive eq for "funky" music for Punch (with some of it's high mid cut that emphasizes the low mid) which you Need, (also a louder amp than fretted) also a compressor with attack control, I use the Hypergravity.
    Uncle Hanky likes this.
  19. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    San Diego, CA
    I do nothing but fretless with some very rare exceptions. I have yet to find a fretless five that has everything I want.

    Right now for the songs that need it I have a B4FL tuned down to BEAD and that works well, but I'd prefer to drag out just one bass most of the time instead of two.

    If lines on the fingerboard aren't a dealbreaker then you might want to take a look at the MTD KZ fretless five. It's a wide 5 (19mm at bridge).
  20. MuttThud


    Aug 31, 2017
    The new Sire fretless 5s are excellent, and really good value. FWIW the thing to watch for when going from a 4 to a 5 is string spacing. My brain has got used to 19mm, and when I tried the Ibanez fretless 5 (in fact most of the Soundgears, including fretted), I found the tighter string spacing pretty difficult. That plus adapting to fretless (I mostly play fretted) made it all more difficult than I expected. I also play a Sandberg (California VM 5 string, fretted) and love the fact that the string spacing is around 19mm so the same as my 4s. The VM5 is a P/MM and I hear you on the bridge pickup sound... I prefer it to a jazz bridge pup in fact as it seems to have more bottom end mixed in with the ‘bark’ compared with my P/J 4 string (even after I fitted the P/J with Seymour Duncan quarter pounders).
    bholder likes this.

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