Fretless Noob...would appreciate some advice

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by CTC564, May 4, 2012.

  1. CTC564

    CTC564 Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 7, 2011
    Toms River,NJ
    Happy Friday TB!!!

    I've been playing bass on and off since the early '80s and have always love the fretless sound...

    I even purchased a beautiful G&L L2000 unlined fretless but was quickly discouraged and wound up selling it in a few years...

    I'd love to try this again and am considering getting a cheap (<$500) fretless with fretlines on the board...but I've heard many say that that's "counter-productive" as you SHOULD learn how to play fretless with your EARS...

    So...I'm looking for some advice regarding that last comment as well as advice regarding a decent starter fretless and whether or not there are any "special techniques" I could start looking into to develop my ability to play fretless bass

    Thanks and enjoy your weekend...
  2. mattj1stc

    mattj1stc Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2009
    Dallas, TX USA
    Almost all fretless instruments (except maybe for double bass) have some sort of position markers on the side of the neck, even if the front of the neck is unlined. Your ears do have to step up in terms of being more precise, but so do your fingers. Initially, you also need to rely on your eyes (for the position dots as well as a tuner). Over time, it's more ears, with less eyes as the fingers learn where to go. However, I do still regularly glance down once in a while to make sure I'm on target. Sometimes, if you're not playing open strings too often, you can drift out of tune a little - you'll sound OK relative to the notes you most recently played, but you may be off overall. Looking at the neck or a tuner (or playing an open string) can help reset you.
  3. Slowgypsy

    Slowgypsy 4 Fretless Strings

    Dec 12, 2006
    NY & MA
    Squire VM Fretless Jazz is a decent starter instrument. Get it properly set up by a real tech person from the start and the experience will be better.

    As far as suggestions for technique and such... countless books and online lessons on the subject. Maybe the first question to ask yourself is... what method works best for you? Do you work best on your own via books and online tutorials? Or would a teacher have more value for you?

    But there's simply no short cut to becoming proficient on fretless... it takes time, effort and desire.
  4. sawzalot

    sawzalot Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2007
    I play a lined neck. My thinking is this: Jaco's bass had been a fretted Fender Jazz before he tore the frets out and filled the slots in with epoxy, which basically gave him a lined fretless. If it was good enough for him it ought to be good enough for anybody.

    If you love the fretless sound and unlined necks discourage you but lined necks help you play, then by all means go with lines.

    The most important thing with fretless, in my mind anyway, is to get a bass that really "sings". You might have to hunt around in that price range to find one that sounds good, but when you do don't worry about whether it's got lines or not.

  5. Gaius46


    Dec 15, 2010
    Fret lines or not you have to develop your ears unless you plan to spend all your time starting at the fretboard.

    And that's a good thing. I never really LISTENED to what I was doing until I starting playing a fretless and the benefits that come from really listening is worth the price of admission all on it's own.

    I don't know if fret lines are counter productive or not. I don't have them simply because I don't like them asthetically. I do have side dots and identifiable little sworls and patterns in the wood on the neck that I use to help navigate large position shifts. I find that to be more than enough for me.
  6. I had the same apprehension when I decided I wanted a fretless. A good deal on an unlined G&L made the decision for me.

    It really doesn't matter. Unlined are just as easy to catch on to, even for the mentally challenged like myself.

    Plus, it makes me look smarter. :p
  7. the wako kid

    the wako kid

    May 11, 2011
    I want to get a fretless myself one of these days. to make it easier on yourself until you kick sufficient ass at it,you could get the squier VM jazz fretless,which has lines,and as an added bonus,looks just like jaco's bass.
  8. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    It doesn't matter, as long as you play in tune. I think the big technical secret is the same as with violin, viola, cello, double bass, oud, sarod or trombone: practice, LOTS of it&#8212;and use a tonal reference such as backing tracks, a recording, or a drone.
  9. I have been playing fretless for less than two months on a lined Squier VM Jazz and the lines help when I'm playing quick passages, big transfers, and chords and double stops. I treat them only as guidlelines however and try to play as much as I can without looking at them.

    I will play a keyboard recording of me playing only say Perfect 5ths for one example, being played up from the low E to the highest D# I can hit on that bass and then come back down. I play my fretless along to it and try to match the pitch with my ears, and thus either looking away from the bass or closing my eyes together. I may also jam along to songs I know in the dark.

    I really don't think fretlines would be counter-productive to me because I don't rely on them. I use them merely has a guideline to help me get in the area when I need to. I even sometimes look at the board as I move my hands into position, but look away before placing my fingers down. Which again, gets them close, but my ears must do the rest.
  10. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY

    There's absolutely nothing wrong with fret lines of you are more comfortable with them.

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