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Fretless (hopefully!) Intonation

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by ryco, May 30, 2005.


  1. ryco

    ryco

    Apr 24, 2005
    97465
    Hey! I was wondering what kind of exercises anybody does to help with their intonation skills on fretless. I play notes against open strings and harmonics and match notes with a tuner (sabine stx-1100). To be honest sometimes my skills are right on and awesome - and some days I want to cringe (guess what kind of day I'm having today!).

    Playing with good intonation on fretless is essential as has been posted many times before. I would like to know what you more experienced cats do. I'd like to know what you stand-up players do. And it doesn't have to be all serious. If there's fun, entertaining, goofy things throw those out. "Woo woo" stuff is good too.

    I know a little vibrato goes a long way. But it's like singers - I like hearing the person land on the note and then embellish from there. Thanx in advance for input.
     
  2. Hekbass

    Hekbass

    May 21, 2005
    Zephyrhills, FL
    Hey, I have played fretless almost exclusively since 1996. I never had major troubles with it, and I think I know why - I started playing around 1992, and I always aimed at having all 4 fretting fingers spread out, and fingering the notes very, very close to the actual fret - right behind it. Many people do not do this - they bunch their fingers and do not really fret the notes very close to the frets most of the time. Now, I still had to work on it, and I went through (most of) Steve Bailey's method. Using open strings is very helpful. Also, the ear is very important - you can play octaves, fifths, fourths, maj./min thirds, maj/min sixths all over the neck. Try to get a feel for the spacing of your fingers at different points in the neck, and most important, let the notes ring out as double-stops and really LISTEN, and adjust as necessary. Play the double-stops making one of the notes very obviously flat or sharp against the other, and try to learn to hear the difference - it's a big help if you can quickly know whether you are sharp or flat relative to what your guitarist/keyboardist is doing. You can also do shifting excercises on one string - anywhere from a 2 fret shift, to a whole octave, back and forth. Hope all this helps...
     
  3. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    It sounds like you are on the right track. Utilizing open strings and a tuner when practicing alone...always a good idea! The real key for the upright bass is use of the Bow, but that wont help you much. It's a combination of developing your ears, and developing muscle memory, while keeping good technique. No magic fairy dust here, just keep practicing, you'll get it!!!
     
  4. 43apples

    43apples Guest

    Nov 9, 2003
    Yup, i'm with Lowphatbass on this one :). I had some problems with learning to play fretless myself, but the advice from people on this forum helped me alot!

    Here's a tip from me to you:
    When playing fretless, use a QUALITY amp, and play LOUD! With a muddy tone, and low volume settings, you won't hear the errors in your intonation, the details of your playing technique, and also it isn't inspiring to play either!

    Cheers!
    -Erlend
     
  5. Bassist4Life

    Bassist4Life

    Dec 17, 2004
    Buffalo, NY
    Hey there! I'm an upright and electic bassist. When practicing intonation, it is best to keep things simple. It sounds like you are on the right track. I used to make my keyboard "drone" the root of a scale. For a C major scale I would make the keyboard sustain a C. Organ used to be a favorite voice for me to use because it seems to blend nicely with the bass. I would start with whole-notes ascending/descending. Then half-notes, then quarter-notes, then eighth-notes, then triplets, then sixteenth notes. You get the idea. I would set a quarter note at 60 beats per minute. Believe me, you'll really get the tonic of the key sounding in your ear! This process really doesn't take as long as it seems. When I go to orchestra rehearsal, I used this as a warmup.

    Another way to make sure you're in check is to use simple melodies in the same key. Play songs like Mary Had A Little Lamb and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. When you feel comfortable, move these melodies around "the cycle". Do them in the keys of C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, and so on.

    I hope these things help you out. They sure worked for me. Keep it simple. Intonation is something that even the best players in the world need to work on daily.

    Joe
     
  6. ryco

    ryco

    Apr 24, 2005
    97465
    Thanks guys! These were all excellent suggestions!Thanks 4bass for a good excuse to drag out the old Jupiter6. And LoFat - I always find your posts down to earth which is really important for SpaceBasses like me!
     
  7. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses, Hipshot products
    Great thread, I hope I can add some to it. I occasionally play fretless, and I've learned a lot - still feel a have a ways to go though. One of the main things I learned is that it simply gets easier with time - almost on it's own. I play and play and play, and I play better and better and better... duh! It's a lot easier for me to nail notes without having to whirr them these days.

    I also learned over on the DB side of TB that you need a little warm up time every time you pick up the bass. If I'm playing at a gig I tune myself up for at least 10 minutes before playing. I'm always a little more off when I first pick it up than after I've warmed up a bit.

    Steve Bailey in an old issue of BP magazine recommended playing in a pitch black room. I've done this a handful of times. It's frustrating so I guess it would be helping if I stuck with it. I'm afraid of the dark - when playing fretless.

    Not looking at the neck is my biggest challenge. I really hate gluing my eyes to my bass at a gig. I like to look at the audience and that's what I gotta start working on. I have a Dean Pace EUB that I ordered coming to my house in about a week or so. I think I'm going to play in the dark, because I really want to use it on as many gigs as possible.

    That's all I got for now.
     
  8. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    What's up JOE.....when I read the part about practicing fretless in a pitch black room my blood pressure shot-up a bit and I think I may have gotten feared slightly!! I forgot about that one, I fell over playing my upright one time in a pitch black room, actually it was the school's upright(many years ago!)so I guess that was the silver lining...Anyway.....
    when I was drilling hard on upright I used to play written exercises (even if I knew them from memory)and had to keep my eyes "on the music stand" because your eyes need to stay one step ahead of where the music is(this was symphonic stuff). Thinking back on it the principal is sound through and through regardless of the situation. Even if doing a Blues Jam Night thing our eyes should still be free to communicate and pick-up on cues, etc. Certainly interaction and eye contact between us and the spectators can be very important also, and how are you going to get the sound person's attention of we have to stay glued to our fret-markers all night???
    Yep, this is probably why I will stick to my frets...or my upright, there are no reference points to see anyway it's all feel and ear...besides, trying to "look a note into tune" only draws more attention to the fact that I may be SCUFFLING!!
     
  9. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Ontario
    I play a lined fretless, but the lines aren't always in the right place, so intonation practice is still very essential. Mostly, I've been doing a mix of what the original poster has been doing and lowphat's methods.

    I've been playing DB for about 5 months now, and personally, I find not looking at the neck to be much easier to do on it than on a fretless BG. I was watching the Jaco video and he mentioned something that I think makes a lot of sense, how on a DB, you can feel your positions and your intonation because the neck is so short and changes shape dramatically in the distance it does span. BG is a bit more different, though, as I'm sure you've noticed :p. There's a lot of discussion on the DVD about how he practiced intonation, so if you can seek that out, it might help significantly.