Fretless practice in 30 minutes: suggestions please

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Rockin John, Nov 3, 2005.

  1. I wonder if someone would be kind enough to suggest an effective fretless practice routine that could be completed in about 30 minutes. That's about the amount of time I can spare most days.

    The details are...
    That I'm effectively new to fretless: I've recently aquired an 1970s, unlined Precision.

    I've done all the extra deep vib's and slides, got that out of my system and now want to play the thing properly. :eek: I think, therefore, that I need help with increasing accuracy, dexterity and (ultimately) speed on the note stopping hand (L/H in my case).

    I've figured out the positions of the notes with my chromatic tuner and tried to hear the notes as a result. I occasionally play scales and things.

    Somehow, though, my practice routine doesn't seem structured. That means it's a touch boring which, in turn, means I'm not really learning / improving.

    Help gratefully accepted.


  2. Tom Crofts

    Tom Crofts

    Mar 15, 2001
    I've just got a fretless myself, as well as some scales etc I've been playing along with tunes I already know, to improve my intonation. You can hear really clearly when you're off. Hope that helps.
  3. pointbass

    pointbass Semi-Retired Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    Rockin John,

    If you can read music and have the ability to play the melody lines of songs, this will help tremendously with your intonation. Even if the songs are very easy, it helps to have a easily recognizable melody to practice with. That way you'll be able to immediately hear if your intonation is off.

    If you practice with pre-recorded music, use a set of headphones to listen to the bass and let the pre-recorded music bleed through your headphones. The headphones will let you hear your intonation more precisely.

    Also, try playing your fretless exactly the same way you play your fretted. There seems to be a common misconception that fretless basses can only be used for certain songs or styles of music ... I know a large number of bassists that use fretless nearly exclusively (including me ;) ) regardles of music styles.

    As you get more comfortable with the intonation your technique should settle into its own comfort level. You've gotten past the initial slide-&-mwah thrill, so now its time to get serious ....... :cool: :D
  4. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    Ack, this always gets me. You can practice for 3 hours a day... Play all the scales and shizzle you want. The only way to really get better at fretless, or even bass in general is to get out there and play. Routines waste time, experience is the key getting good at something. Call some buddies over and just test the thing out. Your intonation will get 1000% better instantly.
  5. pointbass

    pointbass Semi-Retired Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    And, of course what Whafro said ^^^^^^ :D
  6. stype


    Oct 7, 2005
    I haven't tried this myself but I heard a good tip once for improving intonation on a fretless. I think it was kai eckhardt's web site I heard it from. Anyways, he suggested setting up a keyboard or computer or however you can to play a drone chord forever. If you play over this chord (obviously in the same key) it should be pretty easy to hear if you are playing in tune or not. You'll definitely develop a better ear and better intonation just fooling around like this.
  7. OK. Thanks.

    Whilst I always try to have respect for others' points of view, I am honestly surprised to read Whafrodamus' comments. So, sir, with respect, surley there is a place for private practice away from an ensamble? Is this not the time where the individual iron's out flaws and learns new things, perhaps under the guidance of a mentor like a tutor or TB before playing with others?

    Put it another way... Jaco reputedly spent 18 hours per day on private practice. If he'd been at the pub instead, would he still have been the bass player?

    Do structured routines / sessions / practices have no place?

    Or am I completely misguided about Whafrodamus' intentions...?


  8. Tired_Thumb

    Tired_Thumb Guest

    I think you may have misinterpreted him. To your credit, I don't think you can just show up to a gig with a fretless with the intent of honing your skills, as that'll lead to personal frustration amongst other things, but I agree with 'Damus here to an extent. There really is no secret to mastering the nuances of the fretless bass. I know these are the two emptiest words you're looking for, but it's practice and experience which'll make you a great fretless player. In terms of what to practice and experience? That's completely up to you, it all depends on where you wish to apply it. Playing along with recordings, playing with a keyboard with infinite sustain, jamming with guitar players, the whole gamut, none of it is going to hurt your progress. It's all going to help you as long as you put in the personal effort to fine tune your ear (that part I should just take for granted, eh?).

    I think the only secret to mastering fretless is overcoming the mental block that there exists some secret to mastering it. Intellectual insult, but those mental blocks are often what stands between us and our goals anyways as you probably know.
  9. Practicing scales etc is very important, especially for keeping your left hand spread out while maintaining intonation. But playing in a band setting is just as important. Finding your weaknesses is a lot easier when you're not looking for them. Just play with other people and see how it comes out. Work on the stuff that's not so good.
  10. OK.

    I don't want to start a row when people have been genuinely trying to help. But I just don't get this at all. I just can't agree with the idea that it's all solved by jamming. Yes, I accept it helps ... it just seems not the best and most efficient way. If it were, why would players buy instructional books, videos, CDs and the like: why would players hire a teacher?

    For instance, if I want along to play with others but coudn't intonate properly I may not be very welcome! So I would need advice on how best to do that BEFORE I went along to play. That advice might come from an experienced fretless player who'd been in my position before, for eaxmple. Then, with that basic skill (that doesn't apply to fretted basses) under my belt, I would be better placed to learn (say) songs to play with these others.

    'Thumb, I accept there might not be any secrets, but I'm sure there are prefered methods of progressing.

    I just want to find out what those methods are, and devise a way of shoe-horning them into a half hours slot.

    Sorry, folks, but still somewhat confused. :confused:

  11. Planet Boulder

    Planet Boulder Hey, this is a private Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2001
    6,482 feet above sea level
    I once had impure thoughts. Oh, and I pluck my ear hair.
    Rockin John - you are right in that you need to work on technique and intonation outside the band environment. I think a balance needs to be struck between private routines and real world practice, however.

    Some great suggestions have been made on this thread regarding private practice - as another poster suggested, you are basically going to have to find what works best for you.

    When you learned fretted, you probably developed your own practice methodology based upon what worked best for you. The same should apply in this case. If you mainly practiced using a metronome or recorded music, try doing so with fretless as well.
  12. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    If all you have is a half hour all your going to get is a half hours worth of results. :D I would work on scales with a constant drone paying attention to the sound of each note in relationship to the drone and I would either do it with my eyes closed or in the dark. This all assumes you have the proper technique and already "know" where the notes are on the bass.

    None of this is really going to get you performance ready because in a performance situation you won't be playing scales, you'll be playing music and nothing really prepares you for that more than actually playing music with other people. So, if you really want to get up to speed with that fretless take and play it everywhere you have an opportunity to, you'll be forced to make it work musically. Now, if it's not about performance, and that's okay, just work on the scales.
  13. I practice with two different kinds of drones. I have the Boss 505 drum machine programed to run II V I progressions in all keys. First I play the scales slowly and then start edging the tempo up to play eighth note lines. The other drone I use is the Jamey Abersold, volume 24 "major and minor". This CD has each key played for a few minutes and it really lets you practice one key at a time. It also costs about 15 bucks if you don't own a drum machine. As for the half hour time slot. I have no doubt that 1/2 hour of focused time is worth more than many peoples 6 hour practice session, so you shouldn't have anything to worry about. Good Luck. Peace. ASG
  14. Or, right before bed, brush your teeth, and then go into your chosen music room and PLAY WITH THE LIGHTS OFF!! You'll see...... ;)

  15. The thing about lights off / blindfold / eyes closed worries me a bit. I've tried it, and all that happens is that my pitch drifts slowly - or quickly :eek: - away from the starting pitch.

    For instance, assume I start correctly on pitch: say C on the E string. I know it's right because I'm connected to my chromatic tuner and my eyes (and ears) are open. I close my eyes and slowly play C Maj, listening to each tone to try to get the pitch as accurate as I can. When at C on the D string I come back down the scale to get to where I started. The pitches sound pretty OK, but my tuner says not.

    Somewhere along the way, little by little, I've shifted in pitch. Normally, at the nut end of the board I've compressed the scale because my hand isn't used to stretching by the correct amount. Mid board and around 12th 'fret' I'm better.

    Therefore, playing by ear alone doesn't seem to work. Perhaps it just doesn't work, yet. But I sort-of feel the need for some kind of intermediate means of getting help: not full blown eyes closed, not full blown eyes open... if that makes sense?

    I can correct pitch mistakes with eyes closed as I go along, but only, it seems, in relation to the last pitch played, not the first note of the scale.

    And, as to the half hour, it's all I've got. I have to make the best of it. It's just how it works in our house :(


  16. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Play with a drone that is the root of the scale that you're playing and play the scales slow so that you hear every note in relationship to the drone. Additionally you should be able to hear what the scale sounds like before you play it and so when your hand engages the string, your going for the note that you're hearing. It take a lot of concentration and time. Use your 30 minutes wisely.
  17. OK. And thanks.

    Sorry to be naive, but some intervals of a scale are dischordant with the root: how do I overcome that?

    Yes, the whole point of the thread is to seek advice as to how make the wisest use of the small time slot I have available. That's what it's all about.


  18. Well, the easiest and hardest way is to just do it. It gets easier after a short time. In a short time you'll start to hear how the intervals sound, and then you'll be able to disconnect the tuner and use your ears. In fact, once you have a drone, I'd put the tuner away.......Good Luck. ASG
  19. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    You still need to know and be aware of what your note sounds like and reproduce whether it's discordant or not. It's not something to overcome.
  20. quallabone


    Aug 2, 2003
    Those are the intervals that make up chords. Being able to hear them and get used to them is a huge asset in ear development. For even more fun play a chromatic scale in wholenotes while the root is droning.