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Fretless Lines or Unlined: A New Twist...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bassmanbob, Nov 14, 2004.

  1. Bassmanbob

    Bassmanbob Supporting Member

    A new twist... I think
    Excuse me if this particular question has been mentioned, but here's my situation:

    I've read a number of threads about fretlines vs. unlined fretless fingerboards. I agree with those who say that fretlines will ease proper intonation while playing, but I love the look of a bald neck. I'm not trying to prove that I can play an unlined neck, but I just love the look.

    What if I order a fretless bass with lines on the underside of the fretboard so that the lines can only be seen on the sides of the neck but not the face. I mention it rather than dots on the side for each note placement so that I don't get confused with the position markers on the side of the neck. I also thought that it would be easier for the builder rather than placing the partial fretlines like an F bass. (For those of you who don't know, he has a partial marker at every fret position at the upper end of the face of the fingerboard. In order to do that, you have to make sure every cut is the same length on the board and fretline, put the fretline in precisely and then sand it down.) All the builder would have to do is cut the fretlines like he already does, put the filler for the lines in and then turn it over face down.

    Have I stumbled on to something here or have I just reinvented the wheel?
  2. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    Well, that sounds more difficult than F basses' method. All you have to do is make a proper depth cut to the side of the fingerboard, and inlay the marker line. But what you suggest is making the fretlines inlaid on the glued side of the fretboard. I don't know what implications this would have on stability, though. I am sure there is a way to use a downcut bit like when doing inlay work to just inlay a small line type thing where fretlines would normally be, but on the sides.
  3. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Personally I've found marker LED's to be extremely useful on a fretless bass. Great for playing on dark stages. :)
  4. bmc


    Nov 15, 2003
    Just save the cash and by an unlined neck. Remember...7 year olds learn to play violin and there aren't many frets on violins.

    Besides, my 16 year old daughter is learning bass on a fretless and is doing just fine.

    Kick the training wheels and live dangerously. :D
  5. FireAarro


    Aug 8, 2004
    Some get little sticker markers when they start off, and then they still sound kinda meh. Coming from personal experience learning violin :oops:.
  6. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    I believe Zon has the option of the half-lines you're talking about-I'll see if I can find a pic.

    And as far as lines being training wheels-well, since Jaco and Gary Willis use them, the two players who I believe have the best intonation on fretless bass, then you're in good company-looks like the best 'bicyclists' in the business use them. Better to have 'training wheels' and ride well than think your better than those who use them and fall on your face.
  7. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Maybe similar to this?
  8. bluemonk


    Dec 17, 2002
    The half-lines (Zon) seem like a fantastic idea. Do you know what model that is or haw to find pricing on one?
  9. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    This can easily be done.
    Defret a bass, fill with appropriate light colored materials (such as maple) and glue a wood laminate on top of it.
  10. very cool looking and good compromise between good looks and good intonation. I do think lines on a fretless are an eyesore.
  11. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    The one pictured is priced at $2300, although Zons often are much cheaper used. They call it a "half and half".
  12. Steve Clark

    Steve Clark

    Jan 9, 2004
    London ON
    I used a sharpie marker on the maple strips that were put in to mark the frets. Hides them a bit but still visible to play.

  13. I saw a hollow body electric with just about the same layout. It had fretline "ticks" just at the top of the fingerboard. They were just about 1/8" to 1/4" long, just enough that you'd see them fine as the player, but the audience wouldn't see them. It looked like a great compromise.

    I also saw a Carvin bass with fretlines that were just a shade lighter than the ebony fingerboard. You could see the lines from the side or at a high angle (players position), but from the front it looked like a straight ebony fingerboard.
  14. Ian Perge

    Ian Perge Supporting Member

    May 11, 2001
    Evansville, Indiana
    That sounds like the Godin A-series; as you said, just enough of a training wheel to help those of us that are absolutely lost on a blank board:


    It also doesn't hurt that they sound amazing - great value for the money where the next "jump" is up several thousand to a Rick Turner or Rob Allen.
  15. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    I've thought time and time again about going unlined or half-lined, but it seems every time I try one, my intonation falls to junk. If you can do unlined, hey -- more power to you. I'd rather sound good with training wheels than sound like garbage for the sake of a blank board. Maybe if I had one of those automatic pitch correction boxes...
  16. tomd03


    Oct 8, 2004
    Alberta Canada
    All I did was take a chormatic tuner and mark off the fretlines with a pencil till i got used to the spacing, and now my muscle memory lets me know where all the frets are, no looking :) great for sightreading and playing a fretless at the same time.
  17. bmc


    Nov 15, 2003
    Well I haven't fallen on my face yet. Nor has Alain Caron and Ray Brown and the plethora of players that play unlined. I don't see the relevance of your comments.

    I think some players are unnecessarily intimidated by unlined fretless basses. The point was to encourage him to take the dive. It's not that hard. If you have a good command of your left hand, it just takes practice. It's good ear training. It's challenging, and it's very rewarding.
  18. If you really think you need them the option of having the lines only at the side of the board is nice, but it's better to learn intonation by using your ears. (That's how i learned it with violin, cello and db so i bought my first fretless yesterday without any lines. besides, i don't look down while playing anyways)
  19. Timbo


    Jun 14, 2004
    You could always just tape your bass on a unlined neck. Just put some like masking tape, and after like 2 months take it off, and I bet you'd be able to play fine w/ out it.
  20. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    I won't take into question your perfect intonation, but I hope you'll forgive me when I say that, despite having never heard your playing, I'd rather have Gary Willis' intonation than yours.

    Of course you can learn to play an unlined board with great intonation-nearly all of the classical string players have done so. That doesn't mean that it's the "right" way or a "better" way. Lines are a learning and playing aid. They don't do anything to hinder playing expressively-only the player can do that. And they also don't keep you from having better ears-proper intonation comes from muscle memory, and hand-eye coordination builds muscle memory faster when there's a visual aid. "Playing with your ears" is a mishandle-you play with your hands. Your ears can judge when a note is good or bad, but your hands are what makes it that way. Playing with "your ears" will certainly succeed in telling you when you play a wrong note-but by then it's too late, isn't it? Better to get your hands to know where the right note is better, so you're ears will be saying "oops" a lot less.

    If you find it freeing or rewarding to play without lines, hey, more power to you. In the meantime, people can't hear if you're playing an unlined board on record. They can only hear your intonation, and how you go about having good intonation is up to you. Using lines as aids can only help in that goal for better intonation. You are no less of a musician or fretless player by playing without lines. There's no need to attach some dogmatic ideas about it to players who want to use them. My point was to help answer the poster's question, not tell him his want of lines was a poor choice. And hey, every fretted instrument has lines, right? Let's not get down on them too.