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Fretless and Lined Fretless Confusion...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by SamHD, May 2, 2005.

  1. SamHD


    Nov 22, 2004
    Ok, I'm reading a lot about fretless here, but I can't seem to really figure out the answer (or clarification) to this question...

    True Fretless, you put your finger in between the "frets". Meaning, if there is a dot on the top edge of the board, you'd either place your finger in front or behind the dot.

    Lined Fretless, you'd play (put your finger) right on the line (the fret marker).

  2. Jim Dombrowski

    Jim Dombrowski Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2002
    Colorado Springs, CO
    No difference between "true" (or unlined) fretless and "lined" fretless. You must place your finger at the exact point of true intonation. However, some manufacturers do not change the placement of the position dots on top of the neck between their fretted and fretless basses, so the dots could possibly be in the wrong position. This usually only occurs on basses where they make all the necks the same and the only difference is whether they install frets or filler lines.
  3. Ed Goode

    Ed Goode Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    Fretless playing is all about intonation. The use of lines or dots is, at best, a very basic indicator of the approximate location of the correct pitch .... you can not count on it for proper intonation. Each bass is set up differently so things like string height & tension, relief, possible neck bowing etc, will all impact intonation. Heck, the size and thickness of your fingers can impact the actual point on the neck where intonation is proper.

    When learning to play a fretless the lines and dots may have some use .... most experienced players don't use them much.
  4. Sorry, wrong answer. While you personally may find that fretlines may only have "some use", there are many "experienced players" as well as full-on professionals that find fretlines a useful addition for fretless intonation.

    However, in an interesting turn I fully agree with your first paragraph. Lines shouldn't be a player's only source of correct intonation, but neither should they be removed from the equation entirely. Some players don't need them, some do, some like them as "backup". That has nothing to do with experience.
  5. Some people like Fords and some like Chevies. I find that lines distract me but if they didn't, I'd have no qualms about using a lined fretless. Use what works.
  6. Chuck M

    Chuck M Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    San Antonio, Texas
    I have never underestood how fretlines can distract a player. Don't look at them. Is that better?

    I think an unlined fingerboard looks very nice. There is an elegant beauty in a nice piece of ebony that has no dots or lines on it. There are even a few players who can play in tune on an unlined fingerboard. Most players cannot play in tune on a lined fingerboard much less an unlined one.

    The fingerboards on my fretless basses are lined. That is a bit of help at times. I still struggle with intonation at times and know that all honest players will admit to having the same struggle.

    Some nights, you can do no wrong. Other nights you cannot play in tune to save your life.

  7. Hey if lines are good enough for Jaco, I don't see why not...I learned how to play fretless on my current bass and the lines were a huuuuge help in learning proper intonation...the best way to learn it is to play notes against open strings, a great song to practice this with is continuum. Throughout the song you have to keep playing an open E, so all your notes must sound correct against it. Through learning this song my intonation improved vastly, obiviously its still not where it should be, but then again it never will! Im always learning!!!
  8. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    I never pay attention to lines when playing fretless (most of the fretlesses I've played were lined). I DO pay attention to the side dots. Something about the way I hold a bass, fretted or not, I can barely see the front of the fingerboard most of the time, so I also look at the sides. In that case it doesn't matter if there are lines or not.
  9. quatre03


    Aug 20, 2004
    I know what you mean, like jaco and gary willis....oh wait woops :rollno:
  10. SamHD


    Nov 22, 2004
    Ok, thanks everybody for the help. It sounds like it really doesn't matter, and it's all about intonation.

    I think the dots on the top edge would be a must have (at least for me), the actual front lines.... maybe, but after what you guys have been discussing here, I realized that I don't really look at the front of my board all that often.
  11. Ed Goode

    Ed Goode Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    Is it appropriate to quote yourself :confused:

    Seeing as to how a few feathers always seem to get ruffled on this subject, I guess I should clarify my previous statement. :D As you can see, I said "don't use them much", I didn't say that experienced players never use them nor did I insinuate that the use of fretlines and/or dots somehow makes one a lesser player.

    I have both fretlines and octave dots on my fretless ... they don't do anything for me, but I don't care that they are on the bass, either. I come from a DB background, so that likely has some impact on my opinions. I also see, regularly, that the other fretless players in my circle don't use fretlines or dots as a reference point .... and if they did, I wouldn't care :)

    Hey, do what makes you feel good, no skin off my nose :bassist:

    And seriously, with the Jaco references :rollno: Jaco used fretlines, Jaco only had 4 strings, Jaco didn't have boutique basses ..... let it go :rollno: Jaco could have played a 2 x 4 strung with chicken wire and still been a better player than most of us here (me, for sure) ;)
  12. I don't play fretless, but I don't pay much attention to the frets on my bass; rather to the side dots. I love the look of a smooth expanse of fingerboard and if I decided to get a fretless bass, I'd be tempted to go with an unlined one.

    Of course the intonation problem is most important. Besides bass, I play dobro and steel guitar. We are constantly concerned with our intonation on those instruments. It's not just the apparent visual location of the bar (which due to parallax is always changing), but even a slight change in how the bar is held or change in pressure from one finger or another can make a difference. I would imagine that changes in finger pressure, as well as setup, could effect intonation on a fretless bass. Of course there was a reason that Leo called his first bass a "Precision" bass.
  13. well, talking about Jaco, he didnt go out and bought a lined fretless bass, he pulled out the frets, hence the lines.
  14. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    That's the exception not the rule. Most unlined fretlesses have the side dots at the note locations. Having them between the note locations would make it very difficult to intone. As such, a lined fretless and an unlined with proper side dots are very similar in function.
  15. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    When you look at the neck, the frets act as a visual cue as to where you put your fingers - which is behind, not on those lines. Now switch to a lined fretless. All of the sudden you're putting your fingers on those visual cues instead of behind them. I can easily understand why this might be distracting. Are you supposed to not look at the neck at all? I don't see how you can look at the neck and not look at the lines.
  16. nemo


    Mar 19, 2004
    I debated over this recently when I ordered custom neck for my fretless.
    Eventually I decided to go with unlined board with side dots on place of each "fret" (bigger dots on 3, 5, 7, .. positions, smaller in between).
    This is IMO best of both worlds - I like look of plain ebony board - sort of unlimited feeling.. plus I can use advantage of dots on the side.
    I believe that having dots acutally helped to build my muscle memory faster over time.
  17. bstringrandy

    bstringrandy Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2004
    Jacksonville, FL
    My MIA lined Jazz Fretless showed up on a Friday morning. After correctly tuning the strings open and setting the intonation, I spent a few minutes with my Korg rack tuner to learn where the A really was on the E string etc. and then took it out to a gig that night!

    Loads of good advice on this thread. I found the fretlines to be helpful in making the switch to fretless. I find myself looking at them less and less now and will make the jump to an unlined board sometime in the future. I love the look of a smooth unlined board!!

    Use a tuner at first as a starting point to learn where the correct pitch is and then go from there! :bassist:
  18. SamHD


    Nov 22, 2004
    I agree! :hyper:
  19. boogiebass


    Aug 16, 2000
    Well, personally, I always play 100% in tune and can do no wrong...NOT! ;)

    Seriously, tho: great comment, Chuck. You speak for me there, too! When the drummer winces and the guitarist snidely asks, "What is that, a FRETLESS?" (He pronounces "fretless" like it's a communicable disease), I know it's one of those bad nights! :eek:
  20. chris h

    chris h Guest

    Jun 16, 2002
    Oxford, England
    I am playing this bass at the moment, without lines. I think lines would be helpful if they were offered on this bass but I didnt mind so much as I really got it to challenge myself anyway and find I am learning very quickly without them; it helps me be more careful and precise.


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