Fretless: Lined or Unlined?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by d8g3jdh, Jan 14, 2006.

  1. Lined, fret markers on top and front of FB

    45 vote(s)
  2. Unlined, fret markers on top and front of FB

    8 vote(s)
  3. Unlined, fret markers on top of FB only

    61 vote(s)
  4. Unlined, fret markers on front of FB only

    6 vote(s)
  5. No markings whatsoever

    6 vote(s)
  6. Other (Please state)

    9 vote(s)
  1. d8g3jdh

    d8g3jdh Guest

    Aug 9, 2005
    Well, i think my next bass will be a fretless, partly because ive heard good things and partly because i think it will help my ear. ive never played one, so obviously nothing is concrete, but i was wondering about whether i should go for lines/markings. asthetics aside, which will be more helpful to my development as a bassist? i would think no markings, but maybe that would just be creating more work than i need?

    And to make this more basses related, what are some good fretless basses to look at? i play mostly rock, metal, and was wondering what some good ones would be. my budget is unclear as this is pretty far in the future, but im thinking 400-600?

  2. JHL


    Apr 8, 2005
    London, England
    To me, this is all about visual vs essential. Either you go with lines and play in tune (hopefully), or you go without and play out of tune. You can still get your intonation up to a pretty high standard without lines, but that is if you've played fretless for a long time, and you will still miss now and then. Just look at willis or jaco, no one playing unlined comes close to their intonation... imho of course ;]
  3. Well, the most impressive fretless I've played was a Warwick Corvette, and that bass is becoming and has been almost a staple as the hard rock/metal bass in the past few years. You may be able to snatch one up on the 'bay from anywhere between $400 and $800. Sure, the budget is a stretch to you, but these basses are amazing, and sound phenominal!

    I am looking into my first fretless bass too. However, I am going with fret lines, subtle ones though, hopefully ones that won't be to visable from 10 feet away. I'm doing it just in case I do need them, I don't want to blow a few hundred and just have it sit in the corner because I get frustrated with it. Playing is supposed to be fun, not competitive or a burden. So, I say go lined for your first, and when you get the hang of it, go unlined!

    Yes, I'm aware I contradicted myself there... As the 'Wick 'Vettes only come unlined (TTBoMK) So, I guess it's up to you man.

  4. im going w/ lines, to me its about the music, not showing off, if i wanted to show off, i would go unlined. Now im not saying Unlined players are show offs, im just saying for me, at this point playing on an unline fretless would be showing off.

    you'll need to do some soul searching on this one... its not about aesthetics... its about functionality. Ive heard people saying Lined Fretless basses are cheating... which is BS, but i wouldnt be worried about that.
  5. The Carvin LB76F I have is unlined, but I bought it used on ebay. If I were to order myself a new one... and I will eventually... I will order one with lines.
  6. One thing that might help is to take car graphics masking tape (the really really skinny kind) or you can take standard masking tape and cut it. After getting thin strips put them on the fretboard lightly and figure out exactly where you're in tune and then stick it down. This is how we were taught on violin, viola, cello, and DB way back in 4th grade. You'll know you know where the notes are once the masking tape starts coming off due to hitting the notes and eventually you'll get down to no tape or lines.

    The only backfire I can think of is that bass guitarists tend to use a lot more of the fretboard at once it might get kind of tedious doing all 22 frets. But you could always do a little at a time.
  7. i think lined is great for learning fretless but i think a fretless basses should have no indication of frets.
  8. I have seen them where the filler has been stained so you can't really see them from the audience side, but looking down at the fingerboard you see the lines clearly. Or perhaps you could put a little pigment in an epoxy coating... regardless, the one I saw looked really cool. :D
  9. bmc


    Nov 15, 2003
    Or you can learn to play fretless in tune. Go see a symphony some time and listen to the violins, cello's, viola's, etc all playing out of tune because they don't have fretlines.
  10. Bass2x


    Jul 25, 2005
    I've had both lined and unlined. The blank board looks cool, but I have more confidence playing with lines. In the end, I think it's what you get used to.
  11. RSalvador


    Nov 19, 2005
    Springfield, MO
    I just got a new SX fretless and unlined was not an option but what I would have preferred. But I think it's a good starting bass for fretless. I'm trying to learn without looking. Then when I am off I get immediate feedback by looking at the markers.

    It seems to me there are two parts to learning fretless EB. Hearing of course, but also technique. I usually find when I look down at the markers because I'm off, my hand has relaxed into a different grip as I go to different parts of the neck causing me to miss where I think the markers are. I think having the markers really helps in the beginning. Eventually I'll be able to play without the markers, but I think having them is a quicker way to learn fretless.
  12. PB+J


    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    no lines--you're never completeley in tune on ANY fretted instrument. It's just the laws of physics, a fretless instrument let's you play genuinely in tune if you use your ears. Why use lines that are (always) a compromise? Fretlesss instruments can be played in tune--violin, cello and double bass players do it all the time
  13. I think lines are a great help to learn, and to make big skips, they don't give you the perfect intonation though, you still need ears, but they help map the fingerboard with more precision. I think Gary Willis has a short article about that on his site, in the "ask willis" section... a great read from one of the greatest living fretless players.
  14. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    IMHO, too many players are too oriented to what they see, to the detriment of being oriented to what they hear - kind of ironic, since you can't really see music...

    To an extent, one can get away with that on a fretted instrument, since what you can see (the fret) correlates so closely with what you can hear (the correct pitch). Once that correlation is disrupted, as with playing a fretless instrument, a lot of people still want to cling to the tried-and-true visual reference points (fret lines), rather than making the leap to being more purely guided by their ears...

    If using fretlines truly helps one make this transition, well and good. But in my observation, for far too many players it tends to inhibit the development of good listening skills - precisely because the instrument was designed to allow the player to avoid making this very transition in the first place...

    If you get a fretless bass that doesn't have fretlines, sure you're going to have a longer learning curve. So what? In the long run, isn't it worth it to learn it right?

  15. amper


    Dec 4, 2002
    No lines. I'll live with a few dots on the side, but that's where I draw the line ;)
  16. klharper


    Oct 16, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Being brought up a violinist myself, I can tell you this observation isn't necessarily true/applicable (or at least how I see it from both worlds). The scale on the violin is so much smaller that the fingerings are much more logical and fluid (i.e. I can play any 2 octave scale without having to change hand position one bit). The shorter scale also makes it much easier to "feel" being in tune with very few problems. On the bass, the scale is much larger and much more room for error on a longer scale (obviously). On a violin or viola, it is easy to make a small error but cover it up with little notice from others, but a bit harder on cello, and even moreso on an upright. That's why I have much respect for upright bassists that always are in tune. A fretless electric bass will obviously be a little easier than upright, but I don't see it as "cheating" if you have a lined fretless - especially if its your first. However, unlined will obviously be more of a challenege and will take more work, but reap more benefits.
    Personally though, I would probably prefer an unlined fretless with fretmarkers on top, and thats it - it's much easier to get lost on a longer fingerboard with fewer "landmarks".
    It's just personal preference and being comfortable with your fingerboard geography.
  17. Bass2x


    Jul 25, 2005
    Why do you say that?
    Bottom line, it's the musician, not the instrument.
    IMO, of course.
  18. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    I voted other for Carrots. :)

    I have both lined and unlined. I don't think either is meaninfully easier to play. But I cut my teeth on unlined so that just may be my particular experience talking.

    All other things being equal, unlined looks a hell of a lot cooler.
  19. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    I think unlined boards look nicer, and I think lines can be a crutch in developing your ear to playing fretless. Side markers are standard though, and its even nice when they put in a 1st postion marker, which most fretted basses do not have. Also of note is the markers on the side should be AT the fretted postion, not between like on fretted basses.
  20. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    They oughtta just make this a sticky because it never seems to go away....:p