fretless intonation.... drawing the line!?

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

  1. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    Central Ohio

    I know the internet has some very serious communication limitations; but, you have so completely missed the point I was trying to make that it both pains and saddens. I apologize for that.

    I purely referred to Billies Bounce because it is a well known standard. No obsession there. Could have been any other bop tune; and my ONLY reason for referring to playing the head is that accurate large position shifts are needed as opposed to smaller relative shifts while walking.

    And to review the context, again, the claim of a multitude of posters was that a learning player should use NO visual marks and play purely by ear on the fretless electric bass guitar. Not the upright bass.

    I strongly dissent from that opinion. I raised the point of playing a bop head as an example of using large position shifts. That was the only intent. I already have 5 grandchildren and am too old to be interested in measuring contests. My main concern these days is for the kids.

    As for the Dig Ups; which I suppose you are referencing, that is not my only gig. Hint: I still play orchestra and I too studied with exceptional upright players.

    It’s a big world. The internet makes it a little smaller. Just a little. But that can be deceiving.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2018
    reddog and Fredrik E. Nilsen like this.
  2. MVE


    Aug 8, 2010
    If your instrument is set up correctly, the lines should be in the right place.
    reddog, Les Fret and nilorius like this.
  3. thmsjordan


    Jan 10, 2010
    Eschew Obfuscation
    The problem for me has always been getting my fingers in the right place. Oy, they do go places they shouldn't, especially on
    reddog likes this.
  4. No. Intonation
    Seanto, reddog, Lackey and 1 other person like this.
  5. bench


    Dec 28, 2007
    reddog likes this.
  6. nilorius

    nilorius Inactive

    Oct 27, 2016
    Riga - Latvia
    If you think that the intonation is so special - how would you intonate your bass ?
    reddog likes this.
  7. bench


    Dec 28, 2007
    who? me?
    reddog likes this.
  8. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    I think it's fine to mark certain landmarks of the neck with a pencil, which will rub off over time. Like the 12th fret octave for example. But don't mark up the whole neck. Also know that your ear is the last line of defense and even having a neck marked won't make you play in tune. I have a fully lined fretless a la Jaco, and while the visual reference helps from time to time, it won't give me the fine tuning to make pitch.

    Dots on top of the neck may be helpful too just to see which area of the neck you are playing for visual reference. Again, won't automatically give you perfect intonation in any way.
    reddog and bench like this.
  9. thmsjordan


    Jan 10, 2010
    Eschew Obfuscation
    Yes, this. I usually will tape the neck for a student, different colors for different positions. It is very helpful for young players. Maybe you could do that for electric as well but you'd need to find thinner tape. Pencil seems a good thing as well since it is not permanent. I remember myself on occasion using dot stickers to mark the high A on the G string like the last time I played the solo bass part in Mahler 1, I was so nervous about getting it perfect. Dot markers are pretty nice.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2018
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  10. MVE


    Aug 8, 2010
    Maybe my ears just aren’t that sensitive.
    But it begs the question, “in tune to what?”
    The fundamental and overtones of a vibrating string are never going to be perfectly in tune with each other.
    I suspect a very bright set of strings would demonstrate the effect you describe in a more pronounced way than a dead set.
    I prefer dead strings, so the fundamental is probably about where it’s supposed to be.
    But, I am just guessing. I have not tested nor do i know the specific physics of it.
    reddog likes this.
  11. bench


    Dec 28, 2007
    i actually wasn't trying to piss anyone off or anything... the frets on a bass are aproximating an equal temperament which means the octave is divided in twelve equal parts which is what most western instruments are tuned to since bach even so the tones then deviate from the overtone series... the problem with a stringed instrument is, that the space between string an fretboard is not equal in different parts of the neck. therefore the string must be pressed down a longer way at fret 12 than at fret 3 which generates more tension and a little higher pitch. on fretless you can counter this effect by "fretting" at "corrected" positions...
    reddog and MVE like this.
  12. I noticed the “lines being off” issue when I was starting with a fretless and working off a tuner to compare.

    I noticed this with Chromes, GHS Tapes, and Ken Smith Compressors.
    reddog likes this.
  13. devnulljp

    devnulljp Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2009
    BC, Canada
    Admin on the D*A*M Forum
    That's how I started out on upright. (at one point I had three tuners going ... a clip on on the bridge, a strobe for actually tuning, and my old Boss TU12 so I could keep an eye on where I was at). Didn't take long to get the hang of it.
    reddog likes this.
  14. MVE


    Aug 8, 2010
    No, I wasn’t trying to sound pissed off. Lol. I’m just chatting. Seriously, I meant “maybe my ears aren’t that good”
    I get what you’re saying about fretting a note sharp. My bass has pretty low action so that’s probably less pronounced than on instruments with higher action.
    reddog and bench like this.
  15. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    You guys are way over thinking this.
    bench, bkbirge, SteveCS and 1 other person like this.
  16. thmsjordan


    Jan 10, 2010
    Eschew Obfuscation
    Lol. I am thinking maybe this poster is new to talkbass. Here we overthink everything. Go ahead and post about whether anyone thinks sparkle paint helps you play faster. Pretty soon I or someone else will be linking it to alien abductions and recent research on the beneficial uses of coffee enemas in cancer treatment. Overthinking is what we do here! And yes, I'm just having fun. After all those alien abductions and coffee enemas, I need a laugh.
  17. Whippet


    Aug 30, 2014
    I have to thank you for the great advice. These last few days, I have been practicing without looking at the fretboard all the time.

    Not only is it natural, I am using my ears more and my intonation has improved on the fretless! I am actually listening to the notes I am playing and on top of that, I am making fewer mistakes.

    I now realize how debilitating trying to shift glances between the fret/finger board and the sheet music. The constant head shifting between the two was making me lose so much concentration on the sheet music itself, since I was always trying to track the notes on the sheet music right after looking at the neck. It's not possible. I was literally losing the notes and where I was playing. And I was attributing this to my lack of ability to hit the notes correctly, despite knowing the fretboard.

    Obviously to do this correctly, you have to be able to mentally visualize the fret/fingerboard and know where the keys are, such as c is above f or g is above c. Thankfully studying walking basslines is helping me do this.

    Anyway thank you for the advice. It has literally made me a better player in 3 days. Talk about evolution. I feel like the fish that grew leg!!
  18. Tom Bomb

    Tom Bomb Hypocognitive Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2014
    There's also the math, just quietly. With the right focus, your brain, believe it or not, is a peerless computational engine. Beyond the machines, we alone can learn to understand all that is human. No matter the scale, no matter the nature, the computations — the ratios and intervals — are always the same, when the numbers add up. Whatever you're playing, from the violin to the grand piano, the numbers always follow the same pattern. The equation, beyond the varying scales, always correlates. Most of us take it for granted but the brain of a journeyman musician knows this math, innately. Doing trumps thinking or music, and many other things, wouldn't even be possible.

    With this in mind, we can get a grasp on what's really going on when music's played, at the highest level. Without going into the idiosyncrasies of all the different instruments, suffice it to say these proportional elements ring out across the entire spectrum. When it comes to strings, the geometry is universal. Whenever we play, we should keep it in mind — the math, having become well and truly embedded in our hearts, steers the ship despite our best efforts sometimes to complicate things unnecessarily.

    You already have a knowledge that towers above theory, whenever you get it right, in music. Get the practice in. It's fundamental. Learn to learn. Learn to relax and learn to be confident. The numbers really do add up :)
  19. xnewyorka

    xnewyorka Owner, John Fox Bass Inactive Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 26, 2006
    NYC Area
    Dealer for Adamovic, Alleva-Coppolo, Bergantino, Dingwall, Richter, Skjold
    That is SO completely awesome to hear! Thank you for sharing the story, and especially for having the courage to step outside your comfort zone for a moment and give it a try. I think that what you have discovered/confirmed is that you can trust your muscle memory. Of course, one has to build up that muscle memory through lots of playing. But once you have done so, then yeah - as my dad would have said, "You don't need to look at the neck. Those notes are right where you left them last time you used them." If you can get yourself to take the leap of faith and just play the note with gusto and commitment, it will almost always be the right note. And for those times when you are off by a bit, you rely on your ear to notice and you make the microadjustment while the note is sounding, and it will be fine. To make the microadjustments, just pull your elbow gently inward toward your ribcage if you were sharp, and push your elbow outward if you were flat. This will cause you to "roll your fingertip" up or down the neck, thus achieving the desired adjustment.

    I'm delighted to have been able to help you improve your playing. Thanks for letting me know. Hopefully your story will encourage others as well. Congratulations, and keep up the great work!
    Matthew_84, mmon77 and Whippet like this.
  20. Whippet


    Aug 30, 2014
    The best part is that playing music the last few days has become more relaxing. It's easier to get into the zone and find the groove. Till now playing the notes correctly and following sheet music was such a priority I couldn't get beyond playing the correct notes. Never mind feel or groove.

    When I played back the recording on my looper, it sounds like a cheap Casio alarm clock beep and not anything music. Literally everything I played sounded like a horrible version of Super Mario. Just dots and beeps. It's really awful. My wife noticed that I was playing much better today and asked what I was doing.

    The key was that I literally don't sweat as much trying to play it right because I am relying on my muscle memory (as you wrote) and not on my constant head turning check ups. I now see that I wasn't losing concentration. I was running out of concentration because it's way too unnatural and too much overload for my brain. There is only a certain amount of concentration we have and I ran out of it literally after a minute.

    As of yesterday, I have started to concentrate more on muscle memory and sounding correct instead of just playing correct. Let's just say, it's more music than Super Mario on a Casio alarm clock. What a relief. After years of practice, finally I got to the entrance of music! Only if someone had given me this advice long ago.....

    Anyway thank you once again. Your advice has evolved my playing!
    reddog, Matthew_84, mmon77 and 3 others like this.
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