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Fretless as main axe?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by basslax, Jan 24, 2001.

  1. basslax


    Apr 20, 2000
    Washington, DC
    it just dawned on me that down the road i will want/need a fretless. Do you think i sould use a fretless as a main axe or should i have a fretted with a fretless to tool around with? im thinking im gonna end up w/ a warwick corvette and a MIM jazz delux, but if im gonna use fretless mainly ill get the corvette fretless, but if i shouldnt rely on a fretless all the time ill get a fretless MIM and a fretted corvette. whew. i need help please!!

  2. Monkey

    Monkey Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Ohio, USA
    I've been using fretless as my main axe for about 15 years, and haven't even owned a fretted for ten years. I play mostly reggae, r&b, blues, rock, some jazz, and never even think about a fretted. I don't slap very much; if I did, I would get a fretted for that. Slapping doesn't sound too bad on my fretless, but it is not for me. I like a big, round sound, and fretless is perfect for me. I also hated taking two basses to gigs, and my fretless intonation improved a lot when I started using it exclusively.
    If you have good intonation, I don't see anything wrong with fretless as your main axe.
  3. pc


    Apr 4, 2000
    Montreal QC

    I used to be scared to play a fretless as you are now, then I took out the frets of one of my basses... as Monkey said, intonation is just about practice...

    Today both of my basses are fretless :)

    [Edited by pc on 01-24-2001 at 07:54 PM]
  4. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Can't recommend fretless as main axe. There's already a thread on this.
  5. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Lots of pro's use fretted and fretless 50-50. Some of then claim the fretted are their main, others the opposite, but I think that's a matter of what they started with.
    I'd rather have my old fret-free.....
  6. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    If it were me I would have the fretless Warwick and the fretted Jazz. Don't feel guilty if you use one more than the other. Use the J live and just enjoy playing fretless at home.

    When you get confident go for it.
  7. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    You CAN have fretless as your main or only bass. Noone asks this questions about UPRIGHT bass, eh? I played fretless exclusively for a few years and I know a local guy who has been using a fretless P as his sole bass for over 20 years doing everything from blues to C&W to GB with it.

    The usual reason to play a fretted bass is that it sounds different, I find that all else equal it cuts through better because the attack of the note is stronger. The intonation issue is a moot point since if you are going to play fretless you are going to have to learn to play in tune (it's not that hard).

    Some bands will fire you if you try to play fretless bass :( so over the course of a long career you increase your chances of gigs if you also play fretted. Keep in mind that many of the players who are known as fretless-only are also stylists (like Jaco, Karn, etc.) not meat and potatoes sidemen. Many others who are known for their fretless playing have gone back to frets (Sting, Pino, Danko, Levin, etc.).
  8. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Sure you can use a fretless as a main bass but... it can depend on how you're playing it, who you're playing with and what is needed for the gig. I use fretless and fretted interchangeably but I also don't go into New-Age, Mark Egan mode (absolutely no disrespect intended) when I have to play "Brick House".
  9. basslax


    Apr 20, 2000
    Washington, DC
    the thing i was ssaying is that i would get a warwcik fret/less, depending what i would be able to play more, and a MIM to slap around on if i went w/ the fretless warwick(ore a MIM fretless if you think i should usually depend on a fretted). pc a while ago i took out the frets of this old $20 jbass copy i have and that and jaco have inspired me to go fretless, so i know i like it and think i can handle the innotation. btw, did jaco use an active j or the reg. jbass?
  10. membranophone


    Mar 19, 2000
    Madison, WI
    Jaco's famous bass was made in 1962, when active electronics did not exist.
  11. Basslax, I have a fretless Mexi Jazzbass, and recommend it,
    or any other fretless highly. Now, you should take into
    consideration that my bass has line markers in the neck,
    and that's a big difference to a truly fretless neck. I can
    play the lined neck just as well as a fretted neck, and even
    prefer it. I must admit though that I'm still a visual
    player, and when I take my eyes off the fingerboard, I start
    to stray, and screw up. I'm not a master by any means, but,
    since I got my fretless(July 2000) I understand how devoted
    one must be to play fretless like second nature. I'd suggest
    that you try it. Your talent will decide the issue for you.
    If you think of it, most bassists don't play fretless regularly, and from most of the conversations here, and at other forums, most bassists don't own a fretless. It's as though it's a challenge; If you can sound 80% as good on a
    fretless as on a fretted, you pat yourself on the back.
    We all go back to the fretted one, myself included.

    Now, upright players have my utmost respect; no frets, a
    scale that's about 10 inches longer than a long scale electric, and strings that fight you every step of the way.

    I can't wait to get mine. Someday.(sigh)

    Keep it jazzy Lads.
    Mike J.
  12. VicDamone


    Jun 25, 2000
    I agree with Brad J. use the right tool for the job. Once you get a fretless you'll answer this question on your own right away. The main thing is to get a fretless, find someone realy good to set it up for you and play the crap out of it.

    I would suggest some light Elixer strings to start with. I've been using a Raven PHA-1 headphone/source mixer/preamp to learn tunes but playing through the headphones has been brutally reveling of my sloppy technique. I recomend practicing through headphones to anyone playing fretless.

    Use alot of open string notes to check your intonation while playing. Most of all, have fun. You've just taken the chain guard and the fenders off your bike and you've got cards falppin in the spokes. It's time to ripp!
  13. Go for it! If you are going fretless, a Warwick is a great place to start. The necks are solid, and the ebony fingerboards are smooth as silk.
    The headphone idea is a good one too, not to save others ears, but to help develop your own. Intonation is suddenly about to get very important to you, and the 'phones will help you hear it better.
    Enjoy. It becomes an addiction.
  14. my main bass was a pedulla fretless for about 12 years so i would have to say yes. but maybe that is only on a pedulla i can play anything on that thing and it sounds great. i only just switched to fretted about a half a year ago and i still prefer the fretless.
  15. zaphod


    Jan 14, 2001
    Since i was an upright player long before i went guitar, i can't imagine playing anything but a fretless. In my personal opinion, they are a lot more fun, and it really isn't that hard to get good intonation.
  16. basslax


    Apr 20, 2000
    Washington, DC
    one more...would playing a fretless help my upright innotation as well? im having a hard time w/ that so would a fretless help my ear for innotation? i dont have an upright to practise on at home and i guess fretless would be the next best thing?
  17. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    Let me add my voice to the chorus who say you CAN use a fretless as your only axe. Heck, when I go on the 50's thru 90's rock gig, my fretless is the only one I take. The band loves the sound. I do own a fretted and take both on my soft jazz gigs. No, I don't slap.

    Interesting question about how fretless applies to upright intonation. I also own an upright but haven't used it for YEARS. Even though I play fretless at all the soft jazz gigs, when my bandleader suggested I play upright to record one song, I found I couldn't play in tune at all. So my experience would suggest that you have to have an upright IN YOUR HANDS to learn how to play an upright in tune. But I do agree that a fretless will at least help your ears.

    So get the fretless. You'll love it.

  18. zaphod


    Jan 14, 2001
    Using a fretless would definatley help your EAR for intonation, but remember that the space between notes is different, so it would feel strange for your fingers. And, it obviously would not help at all for whatever bow work you may do with your upright.
    Oh yeah, if you are really worried about intonation, get a fretless with fret lines, it will help.
  19. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    I took my new fretted bass on a gig last night and had to force myself to put away my fretless after two great sets. I had brought the new bass to check out live but the Legacy 5 Standard fretless sounded so good... it was tough.

    Turns out the fretted bass (a Clover Bass-Tard 5) is amazing, too. I am so lucky;)

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