fretless basses!!...?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Dr_Pepper, Dec 2, 2000.

  1. Dr_Pepper


    Nov 25, 2000
    i was in a music store today and tried out this fretless bass they had. Can't remember who it was made by. Well I've heard about these things, and i think talkbass were offering one as a prize a few months back. The thing i found most strange about them was the sound they made. When you put your fingers behind it fret it simply shortens the string length, but when you put your fingers down on a fretless bass the string is just lowered, which means wherever you put your fingers down a big part of the string is 'skimming' on the fretboard. It makes a kind of twangy sound, which is pretty weird to hear. I think it's made specifically for slapbass cos of the sound you get from it. Does anyone own a fretless bass here?

    Plus i tried a couple of guitars way out of my price range...makes me want to throw my second hand piece of junk in the trash.
  2. Welcome to TalkBass Dr_Pepper!

    I take it from your post that you haven't been exposed to fretless basses too much. That's OK cuz you will get an earful from the bunch around here about them.

    Yes, we do own fretless's!! I personally have 1 and am building another. Others on this forum have many, many more with as many strings as 8 (correct me if I'm wrong JT). The fretless electric bass isn't a new creation. They've probably been around for the better part of 40 years. Probably the first, most recognizable versions were from Ampeg and the most popular and numerable are from Fender. My first professional level bass was a 1976 Fender Precision, bought new, that was soon converted to a fretless with a neck change. You are right about the different tone from the fretless neck, but they aren't used for slapping in general because of the lack of a good metal stop (fret) for making a nice "pop". Fretless playing could really be thought of as a different state of mind when it comes to playing, both for it's difficulty maintaining intonation and for the artistic possibilities that are revealed by it's tone. There are even virtuoso's that are known primarily for their fretless work like Jaco Pastorius and Percy Jones. Keep looking, reading, and listening to TB to find out more about the interesting aspects of this instrument.
  3. 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
    The technical name for that "twangy sound" is the "mwah." People (like myself) spend countless time, effort, and money seeking the ultimate mwah. The Pedulla Buzz basses are widely known for their mwah. I have a Pedulla ThunderBolt fretless 5, and I'm just thrilled with its mwah. I hoping the Lakland fretless(due this month, praise god, whatever you perceive it to be) is comparable.

    The distinctive fretless sound isn't everybody's cup of tea, and it doesn't fit every piece of music. The basses can be adjusted tone-wise to take out some mwah, though, usually by panning to the neck pickup, and backing off some of the mid frequencies. I'd say that my Pedulla has one of the widest tonal ranges of all my basses, maybe even my fretted Lakland. I'll say this, they are a ton o' fun to play.
  4. snyderz


    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    I agree totally with Hambone...
    "fretless is a different state of mind"

    and with Munjibunga....
    "they are a ton of fun to play"

    I'm a 90% fretless, 9% fretted, 1% eat,drink,work,sleep kind of guy!!

  5. I have to agree with you all as well. My first "real" bass was a new '76 fretless P also (maple body & fingerboard).
    Fretless opens up so many options for sounds.
    But not much slapping.
    It has been almost 15 years since I last used a fretted bass as my primary axe. I keep one around for the occasional funk tune, but have used fretless in jazz trio, 8 piece blues, and lots of rock.
    For me it was a simple thing to pick up, I played trombone 6 years before bass, so my ear had developed (intonation).
    Give it another try again sometime.
    I would rather be fretless than fretful.
  6. nanook


    Feb 9, 2000
    To each his own.

    Personally the fact that the note on a fretless is almost never exact and the sound is muted, by the very design, turns me off. Too much gray for me, I'll stick with black & white.

    I can see how it would be an easier transition for an upright player. It would maybe be good for a Polka band.

    For some it may be just the right thing. No criticism meant, just my observation.
  7. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    I've had great results slapping on fretlesses with dual pickups. Just as a P doesn't really lend itself to slapping (for the most part) neither will a fretless P. YMMV
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Of course - it may just be that the bass DR. P tried was very poorly set up! ;)
  9. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    That's true.

    BTW the notes aren't "muted" with roundwounds.
  10. a bassist down my local; jazz club plays fretless funder jazz with a block of 3 metal (obvioulsy) frets between the neck p/up and the bass of the fretboard.

    he slaps and gets the hard snapping slap of a fretted bass, but the warmth and 'mwah' of the fretless. its sounds freaking wicked!

  11. BTW: Funder are the very rare range of basses made before Leo Funder changed his name to Fender in the 50's.
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Arfur - I thought you meant the Westone 'Funder bass"

    I had a fretless Thunder III in the 80s which had a great tone until it was smashed up in transit. I wouldn't mind having one of these again - though-neck with ebony board and active electronics.

    Actually when it has beem mentioned that the "note is never exact" on a fretless - it's actually the other way round. Fretted instruments are always a compromise on intonation and it's only a fretless that can play the exact pitch for all scales and keys. But this does depend on the player rather than the instrument! ;)

  13. alx564


    Jul 31, 2000
    Emmaus, PA
    I didn't know you could even slap on a fretless. I knew that you can but I didn't really like the sound of the slap and I thought it would hurt the fingerboard.
  14. i guess it would be pretty damaging, but then so is slapping a fretted bass. the top 3 frets on my old bass have about 1/2 mm grooves from slapping - and I still cant do it right!

    Les Claypool and Squarepusher are the only fretless players I can think of who regularly slap - I'm sure there are loads more tho.
  15. alx564


    Jul 31, 2000
    Emmaus, PA
    Well I tried slapping on my fretless yesterday. I really didn't like the sound at all. Maybe it is just because I have a horrible bass. I don't know but it just didn't please me.
  16. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    What kind of bass? I use a Zon, but I checked out a defretted Warwick Thumb yesterday that sounded very nice.

    As far as damage goes, I have yet to have a fretboard repaired from any damage I've inflicted on it. It depends... on the bass and how you play it. These generalizations are too much.