fretless intonation.... drawing the line!?

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

  1. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music. Supporting Member

    I play fretless because of "Mwah"
    Not to purposely play out of tune.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2018
  2. Old Blastard

    Old Blastard

    Aug 18, 2013
    Interesting. I learned fretless before the internet by reading about double bass technique and cello. I discovered that positioning my thumb in certain spots and using my fingers correctly that I can place my fingers almost exactly where the frets should be by holding my fingers naturally.

    When I learned cello later, I already had much of the technique from playing fretless. Left hand technique and listening close for the F you WANT to play, plus practice, made the difference for me. I switch from fret to lines to smooth board fairly effortlessly because my hand does all the work.

    Ps: I thought I'd add took me a while to play fretless well enough to take it into the band and longer to not stare at the side dots during a gig. Keep playing it, fooling with it, improvising on it and checking your tone and technique.

    All of the above, and all of the advice you've got here, create gung fu ... excellence through time and practice.
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
  3. evanrunyon


    Nov 27, 2017
    Brooklyn NY
    throw on some lines or dots with pencil. unless you're sliding into every single note you play you'll need some visual cue to grab those notes (especially higher ones) out of nowhere with any sort of accuracy.

    your ear is the ultimate arbiter but you have eyes, too, so you ought to give them a runout sometimes, too. jaco had lines and, on upright, edgar's got dots.
    thmsjordan and reddog like this.
  4. ficelles


    Feb 28, 2010
    Devon, England
    I also learned fretless bass before learning cello... taught myself fretless bass by buying one (unlined Fender Precision) then playing along with the music I liked which at the time was Brand X (Percy Jones) and Joni Mitchell (Jaco Pastorius). I've only ever had unlined basses except one brief period with a lined Jazz which I didn't take to. I've also never been able to completely stop looking at my left hand even though I don't really need to. I learned cello later on like @Old Blastard, and had classical lessons which means reading what you play from sheet music so looking at your left hand is not an option. Of course you just do it and mostly play in tune, but you need a good ear so you know when your intonation is in. If you can hear when you're in tune, then practice will get you the muscle memory after enough time.
    thmsjordan, Wisebass and Old Blastard like this.
  5. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    Tape all the fret postitions. Remove them when you find you don't need them. Get your eyes off the instrument. Use your ears.
    reddog likes this.
  6. I have a Pedulla fretless with lines so I were always looking at them. That way you can play using the same technique as on fretted bass (4 fingers left hand, long leaps across the fretboard), only must be a bit more careful with finger placement, which can be learned fairly soon.

    This worked for me for a few years, until I needed to play from a sheet, making looking at the lines impossible. I didn't have a problem with fingering, but had quite a problem with precise transfers of positions. Nowadays I think that the muscle memory cannot be really precisely learned for long jumps (like fret 2 to fret 14) on a bassguitar. At least for me.

    Instead, I started to use double bass fingering (3 fingers left hand) much more. This makes you run around the fretboard much more, but the leaps are smaller, following each other, and way much easier to learn. This goes hand in hand with the technique of sliding into the right tuning, getting your ears much more involved.

    If I were to buy a new fretless, I'd buy with no lines, so it would force me to use my ears, where lines would tempt me to use my eyes.
    reddog likes this.
  7. Brb, practice time. First unlined fretless.
    2018-07-03 13.41.44.jpg
    reddog, Matthew_84, Wisebass and 3 others like this.
  8. john m

    john m Supporting Member

    Jan 15, 2006
    Install temporary side dots as reference points as others have suggested. Not every half step (fret).

    Use open strings as a pitch reference rather than
    a tuner. Match the 7th “fret” note with it’s corresponding string. I.e. E on The A string to the open E; A on the D string to the open A string.
    Then move on to intervals: 5 ths and 3rds are usually easy to hear.
    Can you play a major scale on your fretted instrument? Then do it on your fretless while listening but not looking at your left hand.

    Proper fingering and positioning is important-
    If this is not part of your current technique,
    It might be time for a teacher.
    reddog likes this.
  9. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    If you really want some temporary guides, you can find very thin (1/8") painters' tape in craft stores. Only a few bucks, and easy to take off the training wheels.
  10. Matthijs

    Matthijs Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2006
    Having to play from sheet music actually helped me alot too. It forced me to rely less on eyes and ears. Especially since I’m a lousy sightreader :)
  11. Turbo Sparky

    Turbo Sparky Supporting Member

    May 14, 2018
    South Eastern U.S.
    Entered the fretless world about 3 weeks ago. 2 Cents:
    *Proper fundamentals will take you farther AND quicker than forcing it by attempting to play music you are already familiar with. Posture, fretting hand/finger placement, and SLOWING down to almost continental drift speed. If your technique is sloppy, the fretless WILL allow you to embarrass yourself in private.
    *Practice intonating by playing "against" an open string. Play an open E and then find it on the A string, D string, and G etc.
    *If playing an unlined, play "on the dot." If you intonate on the E string at the first dot at the dot, that IS the G and so on. If playing a lined fretless, play ON the line as if the fret was there. At least with my fretless, there is only about 2mm of "forgiveness." I would presume with a higher quality instrument, the "forgiveness" is about 1mm.
    *Practice simple scales and arpeggios...SLOWLY.
    *NEVER practice your fretless without TUNING it FIRST. If it is out, you are out.
    *After a bit it becomes almost second nature. However, IMO every single time my intonation was/is out it is almost ALWAYS my improper fretting hand/finger placement. Stop, take a deep breath and then begin again.
    *I learned that the more proper and accurate I am on fretless, the BETTER my tone/sound is on my fretted bass; no sh*t. Silky smooth, and quicker.
    *I do not use an in-line tuner to practice/play with my fretless. You WILL know you're "out" when your ears tell you.
    Just my personal observations and experience(s). Slow is smooth, and smooth is quick. Be quick.
    reddog likes this.
  12. John Le Guyader

    John Le Guyader Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2006
    DC Metro
    Painters tape works but easily comes off. Tape for car detailing will hold up longer and can easily be removed...but as I mentioned in a earlier post and others have also said, side dots are really the way to go...
    reddog likes this.
  13. SamanthaCay

    SamanthaCay Like bass guitar OMG!

    Nov 16, 2008
    Denver, CO.
    I'm in the technique is of most importance camp.

    If you play fretted with you're left hand fingers right behind the fret and are good enough at it, that it comes natural and is something you always do without thinking you'll be a-ok on a fretless.
    reddog likes this.
  14. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    00 images2b2.png
    Wisebass likes this.
  15. SamanthaCay

    SamanthaCay Like bass guitar OMG!

    Nov 16, 2008
    Denver, CO.
    MonetBass likes this.
  16. SamanthaCay

    SamanthaCay Like bass guitar OMG!

    Nov 16, 2008
    Denver, CO.
    Another thing I just thought of, What scale is that Wishbass? it will make things easier if it's the same as what you're used too with your other basses.
  17. donCameron

    donCameron Inactive

    Jun 3, 2017
    You don't even need side dots. String players have been doing it for centuries.

    learn about the neck positions and practice. I don't think it's a good idea to go from fretted to fret-less, since you aren't putting your digits in the proper spot for fret-less.

    postitions on cello and double bass - Google Search
  18. Atshen


    Mar 13, 2003
    Grim Cold Québec
    Sorry if this has been mentionned (didn't read the gazillion replies), but one important thing is to practice in the same position than you're going to perform. I mean, if you're going to play standing, then you should practice standing. And leave you strap always at the same length.

    If you change your bass' height or angle because you've been practing while sitting, then all the muscle memory you've acquired will go out the window.
    Eric DK likes this.
  19. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I find that true for newbies. I find it totally untrue once you get some decent experience under your belt.
  20. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    If you can clearly hear the note in your head before you actually strike it, chances are you'll hit it right, or within a whisper of it. If you don't have that note in your head first, you don't stand a chance
    Papageno likes this.
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    Primary TB Assistant

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