fretless intonation.... drawing the line!?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by reddog, Jul 2, 2018.

  1. Matthijs

    Matthijs Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2006
    Besides all of the above: with fretless a consistent left hand technique is extra important. Besides your ears you need to be able to automatise intervals. Your ears are telling you the note you’re in is ok. Technique will assure the next note is immediately ok too.
    Papageno, fdeck and gebass6 like this.
  2. I’ve heard this about upright bass, but I think it also applies to fretless bass guitar.

    “It’s like wiping your butt. At first it’s really messy, but eventually you improve”

    Just keep at it!
    blastoff likes this.
  3. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    Use pencil.
  4. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Gary Willis has lines.
    Jaco had lines (from filling up the frets)
    Mick Karn had lines.

    Just saying....
    project_c and Lackey like this.
  5. Use a grey pencil.
    A white pencil has more contrast on a dark fretboard.
    Both will clean off with an eraser.
  6. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Inactive

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    This. The secret to fretless... use your ears and don't fight it. Play where the notes are.
    Papageno likes this.
  7. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Inactive

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Esperanza has no lines.
  8. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    While I am much more comfortable on a lined fretless, I do have one that is unlined and I get around on it pretty well - just took a little time to adjust. It does get much more dodgy above the octave, but the lines don't help a lot in that regard anyway.

    One of SBL's instructors (Steve Lawson I believe) is very adamant about not getting in to the habit of adjusting on the fly - learn where the notes are rather than learning how to correct mistakes.
    Steve Lawson and Matthew_84 like this.
  9. Download Intunator from your favourite app-store. Great tool, costs a few $.
  10. nilorius

    nilorius Inactive

    Oct 27, 2016
    Riga - Latvia
    The identity of fretless comes at a time, the more you play -the more right it will sound.
    MVE likes this.
  11. Dr. Love

    Dr. Love

    Nov 5, 2008
    Lubbock, TX
    Get a cello drone recording, I use the Musicians Practice Partner Cello Drone for Tuning and Improvisation. Then play slowly through scales and listen to each note and how it sounds against the drone. This will train muscle and ear memory. The true secret of sounding good on fretless is just listening faster than everyone else and fixing it before they notice.
    ctmullins likes this.
  12. diegom

    diegom Supporting Member

    Funny enough, my intonation is pretty good, considering I don't practice as much as I should...
    But the first 3 'frets' of my unlined are painful! Can't play a well-tempered (!) F, Bb, B, Eb or Ab to save my life! I can intonate the E and A by playing the open string. Once I get it all done one day, the next day I have to start all over...
  13. donotfret


    Jun 11, 2018
    Get rid of the fretted bass. Get rid of any kind of visual markers, or at least learn how to completely ignore them. Play along with recordings that are out of tune (as discussed on another thread on here, a lot of them are). Try to play Arabic and Indian music, or any other kind of music that has more than just our chromatic scale. Also transcribe lots of melodies. Try transcribing bebop sax players. Dexter Gordon is a good one to get your ears ready for the job.
  14. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    My only caution on practicing with drones is that you can run into problems with just vs. equal temperment. Certain intervals, like 3rd and 6ths in particular, if you play them so they are "sweet sounding" against the drone, they will be a little bit out-of-tune with equal-tempered instruments like guitar or piano. I certainly think drones can be a healthy part of a well-balanced practice routine, but I'd caution against using drones exclusively.
  15. John Le Guyader

    John Le Guyader Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2006
    DC Metro
    Side dots:

    I use the ones for classical guitar. The bass dots are HUGE and are meant for upright, but even they are HUGE.

    Use a good tuner, make sure all strings are in tune, and carefully determine the correct position. I center the dot for where to place your finger for the correct pitch.

    Lines make no sense to me. I've never look at frets to determine where I am...but dots get me there. Also remember that dots on a fretted electric bass sit centered between the frets. AS I said above I use the dots on a fretless neck to denote where to put your finger to generate the correct pitch note at that location. So, for the E string I put a dot for F, G, A, B, etc. And I check the other strings too at each position across the strings. I takes some playing around and you can mark with a pencil that can easily be removed.
  16. bkbirge


    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    +1 to the turbo tuner, but not really to practice with but to use for correct setups and tuning. It's probably great for practicing with too as it is plenty fast, I just don't use it that way. Also, what hasn't been mentioned before is since you have a Wish bass you might want to double check the placement of those side nails/dots, I've read on here before that they may not be consistently accurate and you may need to move them to the correct spots. It's hard to have good intonation if your reference is out, so make sure your setup on your bass is perfect.
  17. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    It makes a huge difference. Side dots at proper pitch are the best way to go, IMO. In holding my bass in playing position, I can't see 95% of the fingerboard anyway and the only bit I can see is the "Northwest Corner," as Red Mitchell once described it. I almost never play in that region.
    Yes indeed. What you need to get used to is the parallax error that occurs if you are sighting a side dot that is either to the left or right of a perpendicular from your eyes to the neck. This parallax error increases as one moves from the low E to the A, D and G strings (extrapolate as needed for 5- and 6-bangers). For example, if you are trying to intonate a low G, followed by C, F and Bb at the third "fret" position, the G is more or less on the dot as you eye it, but it may be slightly more toward the bridge than your eye is telling you. As you move to higher strings, the amount of error between what your eye is trying to tell you is the correct pitch and what actually is the correct pitch increases. You need to learn to move your fingers exactly perpendicular to the fingerboard. Just use your ears and develop the muscle memory. It's not that difficult, it just takes a bit of perseverance. Best of luck.
  18. basspraiser

    basspraiser Jammin for the Lamb! Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2006
    Chicago - NW Burbs
    I'm doing this with my upright.... Working out so far... But I do have a ways to go
  19. rashrader


    Mar 4, 2004
    Baltimore, MD
    Practice your intonation by checking yourself against open notes.... I also use an application that can generate notes and chords (drones). I use TE Tuner. You can learn by staring at your fretboard, but learning how to use your ear is more important in my opinion. Either way, enjoy!!!
  20. oren


    Aug 7, 2007
    Salem, OR
    There are lots of good videos in YouTube about working on intonation on upright, and most of them could be used for fretless as well. Look for the “vomit exercise”, which can really help. My upright teacher tells me that intonation is a lifelong journey, and that even the best players aren’t always right on.

    It helps if your left hand technique is good, whether you’re playing fretted or fretless.

    I find it helps to spend time improvising in keys where I can continuously check the intonation against open strings. Playing along with recordings is also good practice, especially where the recording was made on a fretted bass.

    It takes time to learn how to listen to your intonation and then even more time to deal with playing it progressively better. Don’t beat yourself up that it isn’t quick - if it was easy, everyone would do it!
    thmsjordan likes this.
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    Primary TB Assistant

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