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Fretless intonation accuracy when finger length and spacings aren't equal?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Lunatique, Sep 11, 2019.


  1. Lunatique

    Lunatique

    Nov 23, 2007
    Lincoln, CA
    I recently bought a fretless (Ibanez SRH500F), and I'm curious about how other fretless players achieve accurate intonation when the length and spacing of our fingers aren't equal. Do you do finger stretching exercises to increase the spacing between your fingers? Do you simply shift your hand slightly to get the shorter/tighter spacing finger to hit the correct spot?

    I find that my ring finger is the problematic one--it doesn't stretch as far naturally so it always naturally lands on the spot just short of accurate intonation in a 3-fret stretch. I would have to always shift my hand just a little to get the ring finger to hit to right spot. Pinky sometimes has issues if I'm not being vigilante while doing a 4-fret stretch, but most of the time if I'm paying attention it's okay.

    It boggles my mind that advanced orchestral strings, double bass, and fretless players can have perfect intonation without looking at the fretboard constantly. I know part of it is listening and not just fretting the strings, but in a complex arrangement you can't always hear yourself clearly. Is it just mainly muscle memory? And these little prodigy kids--their hands are so tiny yet they still nail it.
     
  2. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA

    Try using your pinky instead of your ring finger (in the quoted situation).
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2019
  3. lz4005

    lz4005

    Oct 22, 2013
    It's all about listening and making sure your monitoring situation is such that you can hear yourself.
     
    rutrho, Element Zero, LeeNunn and 2 others like this.
  4. arbiterusa

    arbiterusa

    Sep 24, 2015
    San Diego, CA
    Used to, yes. This is kind of essential.

    And then practice without looking at the fingerboard. You'll learn to hear when you go out of pitch.

    Also practice one "fret" per finger. Absolutely essential. Especially that pesky ring finger.

    Yep, muscle memory.

    This can have untoward effects, sometimes. I can't play a short/medium scale instrument without staring at the fingerboard like a newbie, or I will play every single note wrong. Longer scale seems to be less of an issue but it is still an issue.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2019
    rutrho and IamGroot like this.
  5. arbiterusa

    arbiterusa

    Sep 24, 2015
    San Diego, CA
    This is stupendously bad advice. Yes, it will solve the immediate problem; it will also doom the person practicing it to a lifetime of bad technique and limited playing ability.
     
    gebass6 likes this.
  6. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Is that you in your avatar photo?
     
  7. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    I've been playing for over 40 years, and this is the first time I've ever heard someone saying to NOT use the pinkie on the fingering hand. Coming from starting on DB, playing on EB with my pinkie (with the ring finger for support) was not only natural, but essential, particularly in first position.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2019
  8. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2017
    California
    It comes from the double bass world. DB players rarely use the ring finger. It's just a different technique, not bad advice.
     
    Inky13, rwkeating, 40Hz and 2 others like this.
  9. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    Not true. DB players are taught to use the ring and pinkie fingers together. Like so:
    [​IMG]
    DB players also use the ring finger prominently for thumb position playing.

    EDIT: In fact, until I started playing guitar and upper positions on the EB, I never used my RING finger independently.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2019
    JC Nelson, rwkeating, dan1952 and 5 others like this.
  10. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    It is actually very good advice. The PINKY is stronger than the Ring finger, and involving the Pinky often keeps the left hand in a more useful position over the strings. "Dropping The Pinky" (tm!)often leads to a very "flat" left hand shape.

    Not intended as a Factual Statement?

    NOOOO!!!!! The end-game should be a relaxed, naturally spaced and shaped left hand, No Stretching necessary! - Stretching can lead to stress, rigidity, and even joint and muscle damage.
    It is better to be "Loose and Fast", rather than "Large and Locked".
    IMFO, of course.
    IME, of course.
    Thanks.
     
  11. In the lowest part of the neck I use DB fingering: 1, 2, 3/4 (together).

    From 4th ‘fret’ up I use ‘one finger per ‘fret’’.

    If I need to reach up/down the neck a little bit I’ll keep my thumb touching the same position on the back of the neck, and I move my hand (either spread it out or bunch it up) to get a 6 ‘fret’ reach. I can get an octave & a 6th range across 4 strings without having to look down.
    eg. thumb behind 5th ‘fret’ = G on E string to high E on G string.

    I don’t play like that all the time, but for certain passages or if I’m sight reading it’s an indispensable skill IME. YMMV.

    PS. Fretless takes LOTS of practice, but it’s incredibly rewarding and these skills you’re developing you’ll have for the rest of your life. Keep at it!!!
     
  12. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    the size of your hand, the length/strength of your fingers, the scale of your fingerboard/instrument, the passage you're playing, and in some cases: the number of strings/spacing = are all variables in determining what technique will get you where you need to be.

    per the OP: you have no choice but to use your ears. good luck! :thumbsup:
     
    Ric Vice and Kubicki Fan like this.
  13. It is absolutely not bad advice. I'm almost willing to bet you favor playing 1-finger-per-fret over keeping your wrist straight...
     
    shughey, MonetBass and Mushroo like this.
  14. arbiterusa

    arbiterusa

    Sep 24, 2015
    San Diego, CA
    Better be, or someone has played a dreadful trick on my mother and wife.
     
    JC Nelson, Lance Bunyon and lucas303 like this.
  15. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    I notice that you don't seem to be using the "absolutely essential" (in your words) one finger per fret technique.
     
  16. arbiterusa

    arbiterusa

    Sep 24, 2015
    San Diego, CA
    I'm probably playing a pedal tone, if we want to get into an excruciating analysis of my technique. What I'd get clobbered for by my violin teacher is that thumb hanging out on the top side of the neck.
     
  17. arbiterusa

    arbiterusa

    Sep 24, 2015
    San Diego, CA
    Here's my famous "zero fingers per fret" technique, while we're deconstructing my deviations from proper technique.

    upload_2019-9-11_14-16-26.
     
  18. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2017
    California
    Yeah, I guess I wasn't clear. What they rarely do is the DB equivalent of one finger per fret (if a DB had frets). But they do use the ring finger as an assist.
     
    MonetBass likes this.
  19. Wasnex

    Wasnex

    Dec 25, 2011

    Have to disagree. Whether it's good or bad advice will depend entirely on the individual and the instrument they play.

    I play both string bass and electric bass, and was a full time pro for over 20 years. I learned string bass first using Simandl fingering. When I picked up electric I continued with Simandl fingering for several years. Eventually it became apparent that I would benefit from using one finger per fret (OFPF) on electric, and I use it most of the time on my #1, which is a Yamaha TRB6P. So I maintain two fingering systems.

    There are some minor patterns that I find very challenging to play near the nut on the B string of my TRB6. Some of my other basses have a longer scale and/or the bridge and strings are offset to the left, so the nut is a further reach. I find my Daion Powermark XB, in particular, really taxes my hand in low positions, so I tend to convert to Simandl fingering rather than risk damaging my hand. I have also found the OFPF does not work for me when I am playing on fretless basses. I simply don't have the reach to safely play in tune with this technique.I am a huge advocate of OFPF, but it's not for everyone or all occasions.

    Also there are some players here on TB who use sort of hybrid system that involves all four fingers, but microshifts are used rather than extending the hand to cover four frets, so the hand it not hyper-extended. Although I don't intuitively understand, this fingering system, I have been shown finger/shift patterns that are as good, if not better, than my OFPF patterns in some instances.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2019
    bucephylus, MonetBass, JRA and 4 others like this.
  20. Lunatique

    Lunatique

    Nov 23, 2007
    Lincoln, CA
    For those who don't use one-finger-per-fret technique, what do you do when you play a song that has a lot of chromaticism? Do you simply not use your ring finger and just alternate between index, middle, and pinky as you're playing all those continuous on-going half-step notes? Wouldn't it be a lot more intuitive to just fret each half-step note per finger?
     
    onda'bass, Ric Vice and gebass6 like this.

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