fretless intonation issue

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Larry Kaye, May 31, 2001.

  1. Larry Kaye

    Larry Kaye Retailer: Schroeder Cabinets

    Mar 23, 2000
    Cleveland, OH
    Very strange thing happened at practice last night. I was using my Lakland 55 fretless with an unlined neck, for the first time at band practice and was in tune with the keyboards and guitar player on two fast tunes. I was using the more mwah sound with the mids cranked up, bridge pickup, and the selector switch towards the bridge.

    Everything seemed fine except for the unbelievable reach needed to play the songs in first position!! Then all of a sudden, we played a slower tune I was constantly flat, and my finger position, based on the fret dots. had to be "sharped" by literally 1/4 of an inch to maintain intonation even though the song was in C and then modulated to D. I was using third and fifth position with my middle finger on the C and D on the A string.

    I have to believe that even on a fast tune, that a quarter inch above the dot difference had to be noticeable?

    Once I played the bass with a more normal, no cut or boost the active tone circuits and 50 50 balance between the pickups, the intonation seemed to improve and I didn't need to be as "sharp" based on the dots.

    Does having a Jaco like midrangy type of tone cause some sort of weird harmonic stuff that can make the bass's intonation "sound" flat but really isn't, or is it really flat. Is it just that it's so much more of a cutting through sound that it was just more noticeable by the other band members?

    The reason for my concern is that the other two songs, using the dots as guides had absolutely no one complaining, and the last few songs we did seemed a little better in tune. It was only this one ballad.

    It's also strange that playing with a piano trio on 2 four set gigs, the only really difficulty I had with being in tune was on the very high notes above the octave markers, mostly on the G string, but the rest of the bass seemed in tune on all songs, slow and fast with this same amp, same mwah, midrangy setting.

    Any comments.
  2. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    Yeah, I think the midrange helps define the note better. When the trebles and mids are turned down, the pitch isn't as clear and you could be "getting away with" being a bit out of tune.

    Was the piano a real PIANO or was it an electronic keyboard of some type? Some chorusy-type patches actually use a detune function to create the delay effect. This could explain why the phenomenon only occurred on one tune.

    Or maybe the dots are off.

    If you're having tuning problems above the 12th fret, check the intonation at the 19th "fret" also. Then recheck at the 12th. You may have to go back and forth to reach a compromise between the two positions, but the whole bass will sound better after you do. And make sure you intonate to the spot you're going to PLAY.
  3. That's it. Intonation on a fretless is best set to suit where you're gonna play, not setting it to be right on the lines, or buttons. If it's natural for you to play above or below the lines, set the intonation accordingly. Or try my upright bass, which has no lines and no buttons, hee hee!
  4. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I don't know if this applies, but since I hold my neck at an angle, sometimes when I look at the dot and place my finger according to the dot, I'm flat, because from my perspective it looks like I'm on the dot, but because of the angle I'm just behind it. This usually happens on the D and G strings. (Did that make sense!?) To tackle this problem I just make sure that my wrist is always parallel to the fretboard.

    You said it sounded good on the fast tunes but not on the ballad. Could that be because the notes were ringing for longer on the ballad and you have more of a chance to hear poor intonation? I can go crazy on Oleo or Salt Peanuts and not worry as much (although I should :) ) about my intonation because it's so fast, but as soon as it's time for a ballad, all my flaws become more obvious, (and trust me, I got lots of 'em).
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well the "dots" on all the basses I've seen don't correspond exactly to where the fret lines are and basically the dots are "inbetween" frets - so if you play on the dots you will be "out" on intonation.

    As Eli says the actual pitch is more noticable in a sound with more mids - intonation on Double Bass is less noticable becuse the sound lacks this and is more of a "thud".