Fretless: Just picked one up and started playing

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by westland, Dec 4, 2005.

  1. westland


    Oct 8, 2004
    Hong Kong
    I just picked up my first fretless bass. They tend to be rare in Hong Kong, so when I saw a Dean Edge 4 at Eddy Piano, I grabbed it (about US$305 which seems to be a decent price). The obligatory pic is attached.

    I've played it all afternoon, and am really surprised at how easy it is to make the switch. I've been tracking my intonation with my Peterson Strobostomp tuner (it's fast enough to pick up the notes on walking bass) and see no significant problems ... it probably helps that I have stuck to playing 34" scale fretted basses (my 35" Modulus is up for sale).

    The only change I've made so far is to dump the stock strings (I was having problems with uneven tone, and the G string was just wimpy) and replace them with D'Addario nickle mediums. Perhaps I should have gone with lights, as my hand is sore, but the tone is nice.

    I'm actually impressed with the overall quality of the instrument. Both wood and woodwork look great, the electronics sound good ... and it's fretless.

    I've still got to fiddle with setup ... but that means deciding what I want from the bass. I'll probably try to lower the string height (which is medium high right now), and maybe play with the trussrod. Do any of the TBers who play fretless have any suggestions for someone just starting out.

    Attached Files:

  2. I hope to see a fretless ritter in the future :)

    Your fretted ritter is awesome!

    Dean's are good value.
  3. good choice with the dean
  4. I'm totally with you- I've been getting into fretless a lot in the past months, and amongst other fretless basses, I picked that same model up at Bass Northwest. It was quite fun, and I didn't have much trouble with intonation either. Neck felt great, and the growl was wonderful.

    I guess I'd be more in the market for buying a fretless if I wasn't planning on building my own custom one...... :) :hyper:
  5. My best advice is to enjoy your instrument. I'm hoping to get my hands on a Cort Curbow Fretless in the future.
  6. Does the Dean Edge 4 come with an option of passive electronics? I can only find active.
  7. westland


    Oct 8, 2004
    Hong Kong
    I don't think so. But the pups are standard soapbars and could easily be swapped. I think the Dean is really very good value, but there is clearly a big difference in the tone, sustain and clarity of my Ritter (for 15 times the price of the Dean).

    Thanks ... I love my Ritter, and will probably be on the lookout for a fretless. I like Jens' new designs [​IMG]
  8. westland


    Oct 8, 2004
    Hong Kong
    One place where they saved money on the Dean Edge was setup. My problem with sore hands wasn't the guage of strings, it was neck bow. I checked the truss bolt, and it was hardley even seated .. there was no pressure on the truss at all. So I added about one turn (probably a bit much all at once, but the neck seems to have settled overnight) an d dropped the strings a bit. The Dean is now easier to play than my Ritter, with no fret buzz (well there was a tiny bit, but I added some bow with about 1/4 turn loosened, and that got rid of it). Incredibly low action, which indicates the precision of machining of the neck.

    Excellent bass. I should even be able to improve it more with a little care. Tuning is not quite stable, but I think the bass still needs to settle in a bit.
  9. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT
    A few tips:

    1) Make that action as low as you possibly can. The lower the better...remember, that distinctive "mwah" comes from the strings vibrating against the fretboard, therefore the lower the action, the more the string will do that. This makes a HUGE difference in tone.

    2) EQ it to favor the mids and highs. I have a Carvin fretless with a piezo bridge, MM and J magnetic pickups. I don't use the neck pickup at all, and I have the bass EQ flat or even cut some, while the treble is boosted way up. Gives it a much more chorusy, pleasing tone, not muddy at all.

    3) Pluck close to the bridge.

    4) Four words:

  10. westland


    Oct 8, 2004
    Hong Kong

    Thanks for the great advice ... I'm going to have to look for the TI Jazz Flats ... I've heard good things about them, but I haven't seen them in Hong Kong (though I'm in Tempe AZ now, so maybe I'll check the Bass Place)
  11. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    I can't believe this thread passed me by.......

    My first fretless bass was a Dean Edge 5 that I bought New Year's Eve 1999. I played that as one of my primary basses for 4 years before replacing it with a Brice 6 string fretless (which is not as good a bass as the Dean was, but is adequate; good enough for me).

    Here's a picture of my Dean Edge 5:

    Here's a picture of me playing it in a friend's home studio, you probably will remember this from one of my avatars:

    This bass was wonderful, the neck, once set up, rarely needed tweaking. The EMG-HZ pickups and passive EQ on the older "Edge" basses gave a full, warm tone that I really loved. The newer Dean branded pickups and active EQ are nice, too, I've played those in a music store.

    I recommend Dean basses without hesitation based on my experience with the one I owned. It looked classy and sounded and played like a much more expensive instrument. It consistently impressed me. A very good instrument for the money. And very attractive looking as well, which counts for something!

    The 5 and 6 string Edges were 35" scale, I don't know about the 4 string. You should check that. I used Labella Deep Talkin' Bass flatwound strings on mine and I really loved them, they felt and sounded fabulous. I see the one you found is unlined, nice! Dean makes these in lined and unlined versions depending on what year they are. They know people like both so they switch off.

    The Edge was my first fretless bass and now I can't imagine being without one. It is such a nice voice to have in your bass arsenal.

    I sold my Edge to my nephew. Last i heard he likes it!
  12. Phil Mastro

    Phil Mastro

    Nov 18, 2004
    Setup wise, I personnaly don't like it when the action is too low. Maybe it's cuz when they're so low, you have to play softer, and then all the notes kinda sound the same. I prefer to have it a bit higher than the lowest possible, so I can get a bit more "feel" into it.

    And you don't have to pluck at the bridge, if you want that "Hejira" singing tone, it's easier to do near the neck.

    As for a Ritter fretless... I don't feel as if a fancy fretless bass is as important as a fretted. I dunno why. IME, you don't need active electronics or whatever on a fretless. The sound is really in your hands, much more than on a fretted I feel. But, then again, I'm building myself a fancy fretless (soon) just cuz I like nice looking basses :D
  13. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I have dabbled in and out of fretless basses for about 10 years. I love them, but I have just never found one that spoke to me tonally. My favorite was a Warwick Streamer LX 6. I just bought a Modulus Genesis fretless 5. We'll see how that works out.

    My only advice about playing fretless bass is to add some element to your practice routine that focuses on developing a reasonably standardized approach to fingering, shifting and position playing. Fretless bass is rather easy to play when you are comfortable with where you are going. But, when you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation and need to think ahead (sight reading, improv or simply unfamiliar with the tune) you don't want to be in a position of hunting for notes. you can really get hung out to dry.

    Ideally you have already approached playing the fretted bass in this way, but if not, now is a great time to start.
  14. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    I feel the same way. Also, lower action on a fretless seems to accentuate the "bloom" of the note and more sustain. Don't get me wrong, I love the "bloom" of the notes on a fretless, that's where your "mwahh" comes from. And I like sustain, too. However, I still like a fast decay "plunky" kind of sound from a fretless, that kind of lends itself to the kind of uprightish or ABG type of sound more than the fretted electric sound.
  15. rdnzl@comcast.n


    Oct 30, 2005
    I find fretless to be easier to play. I am a releative beginner, and as long as I look down at the markers on the edge of the neck ocassionally, my intonation is good. No fret buzz is a plus in my book, and I love the tone. Here is mine:

  16. d8g3jdh

    d8g3jdh Guest

    Aug 9, 2005
    ooh, what kind of bass is that?
  17. rdnzl@comcast.n


    Oct 30, 2005
    It's made with parts from Warmoth
  18. naja


    Oct 14, 2005
    East TN
    If you want "mwah" then you'll need to adjust your setup some probably. Instead of typing out the process, just check out

    It's pretty basic, but he explains it better than I can. You want your neck mostly flat on a frettless to get it to sing...