1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Fretless Intonation Question

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by ProbablyTooLoud, Dec 21, 2020.


  1. ProbablyTooLoud

    ProbablyTooLoud

    Aug 1, 2020
    Atlanta
    Thanks for all this valuable input from both of you. For clarification, what tree do you see me barking up that's the wrong tree?
     
  2. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    The tree of tying your intonation to a small electronic device rather than the musicians around you. The tree of relying on something other than foundational ear training to aid your desire to play in tune. In the real world, if what you're concentrating on is any thing other than listening to what's going on in your aural environment and responding with playing what you're hearing on your instrument, then using a tuner in the way you describe is not a Good Thing. Trying to relate a flashing or steady light to a geographical spot on the fingerboard is not going to do as much for you as being able to accurately hear and sing the line of notes you want to play and, through scale work and arpeggio work, understand where those pitches are on the instrument.
    But, hey, what do I know? Do what you want.
     
  3. ProbablyTooLoud

    ProbablyTooLoud

    Aug 1, 2020
    Atlanta
    Thanks for the clarification.
    That makes sense.
    And thanks again for taking the time to reply in a thoughtful, information-rich way.
    I'm not a slave to the tuner. It's a gadget, that's all.
    I read your post on ear training - great how you laid it out for everyone; thanks.
     
  4. ProbablyTooLoud

    ProbablyTooLoud

    Aug 1, 2020
    Atlanta
    I missed this reply earlier. Thanks again for taking the time to reply. I've resisted this type of ear training - and the method you link to in a layer reply - but it seems I need to get at it. Do you think it would be counterproductive to use a fretted bass for ear training (my piano needs tuning) and then switch to the fretless to apply the ear training? I currently have two of the same model bass, one fretless and one fretted.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2020
  5. 1958Bassman

    1958Bassman

    Oct 20, 2007
    But what you're referring to is the technique of hitting the notes accurately- without good setup, that's not easy because the dots and fret lines would be at the wrong places. You know where the notes should be, but it's a matter of chance whether the fingers are going to hit the correct spot and there are times when sliding/vibrato are just not needed or wanted. Ear is necessary and if the player's technique is good, it's not such hard work but hitting the right spots is all in the hand, eyes and muscle memory. However, being a bit less accurate is a big part of what makes fretless so similar to the human voice- there's no physical limitation to the variances.

    I play without looking too, and am improving, but if I'm above the 12th position, I'm peeking.

    One of the reasons I started playing bass is because of people like Jack Bruce, Jack Cassidy, the (at the time) unknown bass players from Motown, Wrecking Crew, Muscle Shoals and then, becoming aware of who was playing what and listening to them intentionally because I liked the sound, not as much because it's possible to slide into and around the notes. If it's not overused, I like it but not if it's done constantly- even the great upright bass players haven't done it on every note. As much as Jaco is the icon for so many, even he didn't slide constantly and one of the things about his playing that impresses me is in his accuracy when hitting the notes as he would go from the lower frets/positions to the upper end of the neck and nail it. I have been drawn to the sound of the bass since I was a kid, for some reason.

    If you play with your eyes closed, do you visualize the neck?
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2020
    ProbablyTooLoud likes this.
  6. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    Hi, Of course a good setup is extremely important. Again, I was just clarifying what OP meant by intonation. Intonation as in the players ability to play in tune on a fretless....

    I do visualize the fingerboard when I play but I am also using my ears. I can hear when I have shifted and it's usually up the neck ever so slightly.
     
    ProbablyTooLoud likes this.
  7. 1958Bassman

    1958Bassman

    Oct 20, 2007
    I think my replies were really a response to some people (not necessarily here) saying that on a fretless, the instrument's intonation doesn't matter.

    It might be interesting to check the ability of bass players to hear small variations in pitch- I suspect that people who play fretless instruments successfully are able to detect smaller differences.
     
    ProbablyTooLoud likes this.
  8. WillyWonka

    WillyWonka I "heart" pointy headstocks Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2019
    I make sure to intonate the guitar as I would a fretted. I measure or use the side dot/line to intonate the low E/B, at the 12 or halfway point, and then intonate all other strings to that same point/line.

    My first "real" fretless (not a conversion) has side dots that look like they were placed by a drunk 3 year-old on a Friday afternoon. (too bad they sucked because they were brass)

    I intonated the guitar, then used sparkle nail polish to leave a raised dot at 1,2,3,5,7,9,12 etc...

    I put the dots exactly where I would place my finger.

    Later I got a few better fretless g-tars with "proper" side dots. They intonate better with my fingers slightly ahead of the dot, kind of like fretting just barely behind the fret.

    at first it threw me switching between them but I'm using my ears instead of my eyes more now.
     
    ProbablyTooLoud likes this.
  9. 1958Bassman

    1958Bassman

    Oct 20, 2007
    WRT expectation and detection of pitch errors- I think it can be learned, but I also think some people disagree because they can't do it after many years, whether as a listener or performer. I have known many who didn't notice out of tune singing or instruments and they would ask what was wrong if I cringed after hearing something that didn't sound right. I have heard people play instruments that weren't tuned and just carry on as if they were, although it may be that they didn't care as much about pitch as they did about the performance.

    I think that being able to hit the notes accurately provides a level of freedom for the fretless player- with a fretted instrument, they only have to be within one fret and while vibrato and bending allow pitch variations, it's not an endless variation. For fretless players, they can play on pitch when they want but they can wander, if it works with the music.

    On a side note, my brother was adopted and didn't learn to really read music/learn theory until after high school, even though he was in various musical programs. Both of us are very sensitive to pitch and, while Mom could sing well, she couldn't whistle in tune to save her life. When she would whistle and we were able to hear it, we cringed and squirmed because it was soooo close, but soooo far off, especially when she whistled along with a record or whatever was playing on the radio. Our pleas for her to stop went unanswered.........
     
    ProbablyTooLoud and WillyWonka like this.
  10. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    Some peoples ears are just more capable of distinguishing between different pitches. I don't think my ears have changed in 45 years of playing. I learned 99.9% of all the songs I know by ear.

    I am sure you've learned cover songs with your bass in perfect tune only to hear that you were "off" to the Recording. Rolling Stones songs were very often out of tune. "Layla" by Eric Clapton is out of tune. A high percentage of 60's and 70's tunes are just simply out of tune. If you are learning these songs by ear then you'll either hear them being out of tune or not. That depends on your ear.... If you need to learn them with Tabs or sheet music and can't tell that they are out of tune then you ear will need to be trained.

    One of the nice things about fretless is that you can play to all those older "out-of-tune" songs without having to re-tune your bass. At that time it's way better to just close your eyes because the Dots/Lines will just mess with you.
     
    WillyWonka likes this.
  11. 1958Bassman

    1958Bassman

    Oct 20, 2007
    I can't play along with something if my instruments aren't tuned to the song- I need to re-tune. I have ALWAYS needed to tune to the song and I started on guitar at 9 years of age. Playing on fretless with recordings that aren't at pitch is great, unless open strings are needed but there are ways to make it less noticeable by being creative.

    When I started in band, I was playing trombone, which was great if someone wants to wander from the pitch, but our instructor eventually went on to the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, so he didn't want us being inaccurate when we were playing light classical and the other music we did. However, recordings that aren't at A440 (or whatever they want) are usually =/- because they wanted to make the song fit the radio format or maybe, they just liked it a bit sharp or flat. In at least one case, I know of a pitch shift that may have been unintentional, but was left on Pink Floyd's 'Great Gig In The Sky'- it happens at 4:35.


     
  12. 1958Bassman

    1958Bassman

    Oct 20, 2007
    I mean, do you play with your eyes closed and visualize it as a way to reduce the need to see the neck in order to play accurately?
     
  13. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    Yes but it's almost on a subconscious level. As en example: when I play "Come together", I visualize my left pointer sliding up the A string to the 12th fret dot and the hitting the dot at the 15th fret of the D string with my pinky. Sometimes I'll then hit the 12th fret of the D string with my pointer or I'll grab the 17th Fret of the A string. It's a fun song to play on fret-less.
    Honestly, my neck can't take too much looking down at the fingerboard anymore.

    Another song that's out of tune: "Boys are Back in Town".
     
    ProbablyTooLoud likes this.
  14. WillyWonka

    WillyWonka I "heart" pointy headstocks Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2019
     
  15. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    Well... Nobody ever got accused of having "too perfect" intonation. But if you always have absolutely spot-on perfect [sic] intonation, you're missing out on some of the valuable, musically expressive devices available to the instrument, and your playing can come across as "sterile" or "clinical".
    However, imho it's best to strive for the former ("too perfect") and then -- and only then -- train your ears and muscle-memory to learn when it's appropriate to inject some imperfection.
     
    ProbablyTooLoud likes this.
  16. ProbablyTooLoud

    ProbablyTooLoud

    Aug 1, 2020
    Atlanta
    I missed seeing the continuation of this thread yesterday. It's all great information. For myself, I decided to dive into ear training. Cruised over to music theory.net and tested myself. My first tries gave me about 75% correct result over a hundred attempts at identifying the correct note or interval on three or four tests. So yeah i spent hours doing that. Then I went to my fretless and realized the wisdom of all the people who say "ear training is essential" because if my ear can't really even distinguish the difference between a 2nd and a 3rd consistently, then honestly - what am I doing? I played all my scales and arpeggios much more slowly, listening more carefully.
    It's a whole new world.
    Ed Fuqua and all you ear training/singing intervals advocates are as right as right can be.
    Finally, late last night I did a variation of the method Wd described at length in an old post from like 2006.
    I think I may be able to improve my C- ear to maybe a solid B+, and will work toward that A.
    Psyched y'all are all contributing on what for me is an essential and real interesting topic.
     
    12BitSlab and SteveCS like this.
  17. Lagado

    Lagado Inactive

    Jan 6, 2020
    The best thing you can do for your intonation if you haven't already, is to get lines.
     
  18. fokof

    fokof One day ,I'll be in the future

    Mar 16, 2007
    Here
    I have a good joke:
    " this guy died in the desert 'cause he went toward the upright bass player who was always playing in tune instead of gowing toward the other one'"

    Always in tune is a mirage.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2021
    Jhengsman likes this.
  19. fokof

    fokof One day ,I'll be in the future

    Mar 16, 2007
    Here
    I don't agree.
    Having an unlined fretless helped me listen with my ears instead of my eyes.

    and practice.....
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2021
  20. Lagado

    Lagado Inactive

    Jan 6, 2020
    You listen with your ears on a lined bass. And you have the added advantage of pitch reference points. I've already gone around the houses on pitch correction via ears, anything over a certain BPM and you simply do not have the time for that. From 1.15, pitch correction at that tempo? Don't make me laugh...

     
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
    May 18, 2021

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.