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Fretless as first bass.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Lobsterdeth, Mar 18, 2008.

  1. Lobsterdeth


    Jan 6, 2008
    I have been teaching my girl bass for a few months now, and she wanted to get her first bass because she had problems with me lending mine to her so she wants to go to GC.

    She was a double bassist so she thought she wouldnt have much trouble with the VM Fretless Jazz, I am trying to keep her away from it by telling her why she shouldn't but she is insisting.

    So talkbass, I need your help, is there anything I can tell her to keep her off it? She's been playing for like 3 months and she can't really nail the frets so good right now and stuff, but she just wont budge.

    Any help? This is urgent.
  2. Isn't this what practice is for? It sounds like she knows what she wants and even though it's not what you want, it is going to be her bass.

    I think it's great to offer her advice and teach her some things, but at the end of the day it is going to be her bass, not yours.

    My advice would be to let her pick her own bass. :meh:

    That's my .02
  3. I'm a Dad myself, and I play both fretted and fretless, so please excuse me being so forthright on the subject :)

    It sounds like she has her heart set on a fretless. It also sounds like you want her to have a fretted so that she stays in tune when she mis-fingers a fret, which goes against what a fretless bass is about.

    My feelings are if your daughter really wants to play a fretless bass and sees a fretless bass in her musical future...and she is willing to put the time in to learn the proper intonation, and maybe even get professional lessons if she is stuck...then maybe you should encourage her development in that regard, rather than find reasons to justify your need for her to play a fretted bass.
  4. Lobsterdeth


    Jan 6, 2008
    ...I guess I was being kind of paranoic, thanks guys.

    I had doubts at first because she only liked it cause of the looks and price and she didnt mind if it was fretless, she said she'd get a Std Jazz or sumthin if it wasnt so pricey for her. But well I guess I'll just help her out.

    Thanks guys.
  5. drumsnbass

    drumsnbass Bassic User

    Dec 13, 2004
    Phoenix AZ area
    I LOVE fretless, and am pretty much teaching myself (really practicing) at this point.

    I play an identical fretted version of the fretless every oonce in a while, but I am much
    happier on the fretless.

    If she is happy on the fretless, go fretless. Wht be resented for forcing a choice that
    she doesn't really want? then if she becomes de-motived, it is YOUR fault.
  6. Ramstien


    Aug 19, 2007
    If she played double bass, wouldn't it be easier for her to play a fretless?
  7. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005
    Get her a fretted bass. Why? Well, first give her a reference pitch (let's say D to be interesting) and ask her to sing a major and minor scale ascending up to the 9th and descending. If she can do it in tune (and I'll bet you $20 she can't) then she's ready for a fretless bass.

    Because she plays double bass that doesn't automatically mean she can play a fretless well. Double bass has all sorts of landmarks on the body and neck to help you play in tune and if you're playing arco you're forced to adjust your intonation as you play but electric bass is just a rail and if her ears aren't very good then she will just be contributing to the bad intonation in the world and believe me, there is no shortage of that.
  8. kevinmoore73

    kevinmoore73 Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2007
    Cleveland, OH
    Let her get the fretless. I'm glad when I was a kid and starting out on trombone that my dad didn't make me get a fretted one.
  9. peterpalmieri

    peterpalmieri Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Babylon, NY
    I see absolutely no reason why someone can't start out on a fretless if they want too. Learning to play an instrument is all about enjoyment and if that's what she wants no problem.

    Another note, there are not "all sorts" of landmarks on an upright, you've got the "D neck" and that's it.

    Many people have learned to play trombone, violin, viola, Cello and Double Bass without frets, as their first instrument.

    I don't see it as a big deal and if she can get grips on intonation early on in the process it will stay with her for a long time.

  10. pmaraziti

    pmaraziti Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 12, 2006
    If she managed DB, it's only a matter of time and dedication to manage a fretless I'd say... let her do what she loves and encourage her even more if needed. I was forced to learn piano when I was a teenager while I always liked bass... if I did start with what I wanted I'd be at least a happier bassist !
  11. bmc


    Nov 15, 2003
    Let her go on fretless. If it gets her excited, let her run with it. None of us mastered fretless overnight, and if it inspires her to play, she'll work on nailing it.

    My daughter learned on a fretless, despite there being a couple of fretted basses in the house. She struggled with the intonation but it really challenged herr and she loves challenges.

    She's onto a couple of fretted basses now and occasionally grabs my fretless when she's home.
  12. hunta


    Dec 2, 2004
    Washington, DC
    I'd say let her go fretless. My first bass was a 5-string (this is like 15 years ago so it was weird I guess), and my second bass was a 6-string fretless. My bass teacher really tried to talk me out of getting a fretless, and grudgingly requested that if I was going to get one that I get lines on it. I did and, lo and behold, the world did not end.

    Get her to appreciate proper intonation and the rest will come, fretless or not. As long as she has ears (and uses them) she should be able to play a fretless.
  13. As a trombone player and fretless bass player, I say go for the fretless. Intonation comes with experience. If you get her what she wants, she'll be more inspired to practice... and she will almost certainly take better care of the instrument that she is asking for.
  14. The only bass I owned for ten years was fretless...I wish I never had done that. Its a fun toy but not for a first bass.
  15. If she is dedicated to learning the instrument starting out on a fretless will likely only improve her intonation and ear over time. My first intrument was a (fretless :p) violin, and I attribute my excellent intonation (which is really the only thing I am excellent at :cool:) to being forced to listen and tune constantly when I was younger. Granted, playing out of tune for I while is likely a fact of life, but as long as she is aware of the issue and she isn't getting frustrated and giving up she is likely to end up a better player in the end.
  16. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005
    Wait, are you saying it's ok for her to know she's out of tune and it's ok not to be upset with the fact that it sounds like crap as long as she's expressing herself? What kind of Sesame Street psychology is that?

    You guys all need to take a step back and read all of the comments that have been posted above this one. "I started out playing violin...and my intonation is great" and the violin has tactile landmarks to give you a fighting chance (just like the double bass does, and it's NOT only the D neck at the heel. What if you have an Eb neck? What then?) "My kid played trombone and that doesn't have frets" and he was also playing in an ensemble with a bunch of other kids playing trombone and they learned to move their slides to be in tune with each other. How many fretless bass ensembles can you join in middle/high school?

    She would be better off with a fretted electric bass. Her intonation will be great, she won't have to stare at the neck constantly and can read her charts (did you remember that part?) and she won't throw it down in frustration as "Electric bass sucks because I can't play it in tune!"

    My kid wants to learn to drive in a Ferrari and my kid thinks he knows everything in 7th grade and want to go straight to high school and my kid is obviously smarter than yours because she wants to play fretless bass is the parent projecting themselves on their child.

    Go buy her a Squire P-bass and a Ed Friedland book. She'll have more fun right away.
  17. Which is exactly what I was referring to when I said, "as long as she is aware of the issue and isn't getting frustrated and giving up".

    Of course she needs to be aware of her intonation whatever bass she is playing and diligently work to improve it. That being said, electric guitars and electric basses are two of the only instruments you would start a child on (the other obvious one would be piano) that do not require the constant fine adjustment of tuning with each note that is played. If you are suggesting that every student should start out on an instrument that removes tuning from the equation, well, that is one opinion and certainly not an uncommon one. That being said, many musicians begin on instruments that are far more difficult to play in tune than the fretless bass guitar without any long-term detriment.

    As to your argument regarding tactile landmarks, my experience has been that teaching intonation based on tactile landmarks is a surefire way to wind up with horrible intonation. Is your real concern that the EBG's neck runs quite a bit longer than that of the double bass before the hand bangs into something? Seriously, when you started playing a fretted bass, how long did it really take you to be able to find the 5th, 7th, or 12th fret without looking? The bass we are discussing does have fret markers and I would say it is unlikely that the young lady in question, having played double bass in the past, is simply wailing away on the thing without any regard to whether the notes she is playing are the correct ones and are in tune. If she is, indeed, failing to pay attention to her intonation problems, that would be a strong indication that she is not aware of the issue, in which case my entire suggestion would be, as I stated in my previous post, that the fretless is not a good choice.

    In regards to the lack of high school fretless bass ensembles, are you suggesting that she will be unable to tell if she is out of tune unless she is playing with such a group? As long as she is either playing in an ensemble or playing along with some manner of recorded practice material she will be able to tell if her intonation is off. This of course presumes that there are other players in the ensemble who are playing in tune (criteria that a middle school fretless bass ensemble, or for that matter a middle school trombone choir, would be unlikely to meet).

    I don't believe that this parent is trying to suggest that his kid is brilliant or that he even wants her to start on fretless bass. The original post was, in fact, a plea for advise on how to convince his daughter not to commit to the fretless. If she has found an instrument that really speaks to her and the barriers to learning it are not nearly as great as many people seem to assume I see no reason not to try to assuage the concerns of the OP.
  18. thmabes


    May 4, 2006
    just let her do it. she can make her own mistakes.. let her.
  19. nsmar4211


    Nov 11, 2007
    Let her get what is going to keep her practicing on bass. Get her a lined one if it makes you feel better.......buy her a good tuner while you're at it so she can play the note and see if it's in tune.

    I have purchaed pedals......I'll probably never use em on stage.... but when I was thinking of buying them I wasn't gonna because I'd never use em. A friend made a comment that's stuck with me, basically, if it'll keep you interested enough to practice BUY IT. So... I bought it. So.......buy her the fretless, and let her know you expect to see her practicing on it if it means you're spending more money than you planned on.

    The world could always use more bass players :)
  20. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005

    I mean no disrespect to you, but the general consensus of the posters on this forum is "Yeah, it's a great idea! I wish my parents would have bought me a fretless bass when I was that age!" when the reality of the situation is a double bass player wanting to move to electric bass should resist the temptation to go fretless because "that's what they're used to" and get a fretted electric bass.

    As far as playing in a fretless bass ensemble in middle school, at that age kids kind of play by consensus. If one alto sax is rushing they all will rush. If one trombone decides that Ab is _here_ then the other 'bones in the section will tune to that note. In her case (if there is one) she would be the only bass in her section (let's call it the rhythm section) and unless she has magic ears and is mature beyond her years she won't hear her intonation, she'll be listening to see if she's playing the wrong notes and that's it.

    When it comes to my double bass the heel on the neck, the feel of the nut, the left upper bout and the feel of the body against my leg all contribute to my muscle memory and help my ear and my intonation. I had a Clevenger EUB for a while and I'd be damned if I could play that thing in tune. An electric bass has none of those landmarks to help her.

    We're all on the same team here, man. OP asked for help and it's saves him some $$$ to break the bad news to him instead of giving him bad advice and end up selling the unplayed fretless for a loss because she's lost all interest.

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