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Fretless Players - Lines/No Lines

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Andy Brown, Aug 22, 2005.

Fretless Line or No Lines?

Poll closed Sep 5, 2005.
  1. No Lines - Never needed them.

    71 vote(s)
  2. No Lines - Wish I had them.

    8 vote(s)
  3. Lines - Helped a great deal

    78 vote(s)
  4. Lines - Doesn't matter either way.

    25 vote(s)
  1. Andy Brown

    Andy Brown Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 23, 2004
    Rhode Island
    Founder/Owner: Wing Instruments
    I'm wondering out loud here how many of you fretless guys went for lines versus no lines, and how it might have effected your playing...

  2. JAL


    Dec 15, 2004
    Cleveland, Ohio
    I was lucky; I played cello for a decade before I went to bass, so my fretless intonation is prettymuch flawless. I never needed lines. Aesthetically, ive never minded them; but ive seen many players who need them/swear by them. I guess its a personal choice.
  3. The three fretless basses I've owned were all unlined, which I prefer aesthetically, but I'm having a custom 7 built soon, & it will have bubinga lines on a maccassar ebony fingerboard. I think that's what I would like on any fretless, so they're visible to me but not so obvious from a distance. I hate the looks of bright white lines :cool: *<---safety glasses*on an otherwise unmarked board. On the practical side, I don't know if lines will help w/my intonation or not. I play a bit of upright, & I'm often guilty of very bad pitch. We'll see when the ERB gets here.
  4. adrian garcia

    adrian garcia

    Apr 9, 2001
    las vegas. nevada
    Endorsing Artist: Nordy Basses, Schroeder Cabs, Gallien Krueger Amps
    AJ, i need lines. It's sometimes hard for me to accept, but while i could possible get by without them, i have a story to tell about this...
    a couple of years ago, i was called in to audition for the Vegas production of the musical " Mamma Mia " this gig pays about $85,000 a year, so i really wanted to land it. It required fretted and fretless bass. I had a Lakland Skyline with lines and an F bass BNf5 without lines. I took the F bass figuring it is one of the finest fretless basses on the planet so i chose tone over the one with lines... well, i would have that gig right now if my intonation had been a little better. The gentlemen doing the auditioning told me that exactly " Adrian, this gig would be yours, but we had to give it to a player with better intonation " the guy that got it is a fine bassist, his forte is playing upright in the Vegas Philarmonic and i have heard him, his intonation is dead on. Moral of the story? i should have played it safe with the lines, it most definitely makes a huge difference to me, since i don't constantly play fretless. It doesn't look as cool, but the notes are in tune...
    i fear that since you are asking this question, you are not a bonafide "unlined" player like say, Basso Gruvitas, who knows he definitely does not want lines. I would tend to suggest lines, but then, at my age, i want to make things as easy as possible and i choose my challenges a little diffetently - if i had gotten that gig , i would have been making great $ for 2 years now, all those guys have bought houses, cars and are living very comfortably playing a hit show. I lost a lot by not playig a lined fretless... just my .02 -
    peace, bro!- A
  5. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    I need lines just because. I can hear when I'm a bit out, but when I'm jumping around between positions I prefer to have them.
  6. TheEmptyCell

    TheEmptyCell Bearded Dingwall Enthusiast

    Jul 16, 2005
    Belfast, UK
    The only fretless basses I've played both were defrets, so I'm a player with lines. More so than lines, I'd rather have small dot inlays in the middle of the fingerboard, or under the D string just so I could peak when I needed to. Kind of like the Michael Kelly Acoustics, with dots at the edge of the fingerboard. I far prefer the look of unlined however.
  7. I dont own A fretless, But every time I go to GC I pick up the warwick corvette FL unlined and I like it way more, Looks wise against this Used Pudulla fretless lined they have in there(GC on 14th street Manhattan). I dont have much problems playing the unlined, I may mess up once in a while, But I like the challenge and, I just like the looks of a fretless fingerboard, No matter what the would is(except maybe maple :bag: ).
  8. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    Aesthetically I much prefer unlined. Love my little side dots though!
  9. Bassic83


    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    No lines for me. Use the ears, Luke! I mostly play fretted, but took my fretless to the gig the day I finished it, and used it exclusively. Within two songs, it felt comfortable, by the end of the first set I wasn't looking much anymore. Even the slap songs went swimmingly well...
  10. sargebaker

    sargebaker Commercial User

    May 2, 2004
    Montreal QC CA
    owner/builder, ISLAND Instrument Mfg.
    I don't have lines and don't THINK I need them, except when I switch over from the 35" then I wish I had lines. but I find lines confusing sometimes because I have a tendency to play behind them rather than on them.
  11. pointbass

    pointbass Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    I have a 6 with 'em and a 4 without ..... doesn't really matter to me one way or another, but I'm an old double bass guy ... lines weren't an option. I've always felt that the debate over fretless lines/no-lines shouldn't be a debate at all, play what you're comfortable with and with whatever gives you the best chance of proper intonation ... :cool:
  12. It doesn't matter. The question is, how's your intonation? If it's good, it doesn't matter how you get there; if it's not, it doesn't matter either.

    I like lines myself. I have absolutely no problem with those who prefer unlined. Whatever works for you. Music is about results, and if your results are good, your method can't be worthless.

    MAJOR METAL The Beagle Father Staff Member Supporting Member

    Side Dots a must!
  14. couldn't of said it better. I learned on an upright and played one is jazz band in high school after I graduated I bought a fretless unlined fender jazz and after about a week of using the top markers I no longer needed to look down. Those things were a life saver.
  15. Pickebass

    Pickebass Supporting Member

    Jul 12, 2004
    San Antonio, TX
    Get lines fro two reasons....1. INTONATION. You may really be that good, but it definitely doesn't hurt. 2. Resale value... I know we hate to say those words, but if you decide the fretless is not your thing, it will be easier to sell if it has lines.. Especially if it is a high end bass
  16. Pickebass is right...

    I have a fretless sans lines and while I shed my ears for years really hard, moving around positions can often be the difference between getting a gig and losing it to the next guy who actually can visualize where he should be.
  17. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings

    I have a Fretless Jazz with lines and coming from a fretted, they've helped alot. If you're in a band and want to try out fretless for the first time, i'd buy a bass with lines. It makes it easier to know where you're playing.
  18. It's all relative, some people spend their life trying to intonate on a fretless, lines or no lines. Others just seem to play just fine without much effort. As for myself, I never had to struggle much, my first fretless was a custom made 6 string that had 'cheat' markers for every fret position on the side of the fingerboard, this was just for reference, as there was no marker for the high strings, so the marker was irrelevant. I now play a 5 string fretless with side dots where a fretted bass has them. No problems at all, even when reading music.
  19. chimp


    Dec 4, 2004
    South Africa
    Playing the upright means i dont need them and it also keeps me listening harder just incase i am out and when i listen harder i get into the music easier.
  20. Aerolithe


    Jan 23, 2005
    Columbia, MO
    I don't own a fretless, but I've played them enough in music stores that I feel I can vote on this. Unlined looks way better in my opinion. I tried an unlined Warwick Corvette last week, and I loved it. If I had $1000 I'd have bought it instantly (but I came home with a great deal on a used Schecter, so it wasn't a total loss). After playing on a lined fretless a few times, all I really needed was the side marker at every other position and I could figure the rest out. My playing sounded fine, and the bass sounded wonderful. If you prefer the looks of an unlined fretboard and it has the position markers for every other fret I think you'll do fine with it.

    Edit: Lined fretboards without dots like they have on fretted basses will often confuse me when moving around, I thought that'd be worth mentioning to beginners deciding on their boards. Both unlined with markers like they have on normal basses but at the actual fret position and a lined with position dots fixes this problem for me, but unlined may not be for every beginner.