Fretless: should a beginner try to play it.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bassguy74, Sep 15, 2010.

  1. Should someone try to learn on a lined fretless, if they have the intention of playing fretless in the future? Or is it always highly suggestable to learn on fretted first?
  2. Spraeg


    May 13, 2010
    I learned on an unlined fretless, in fact I didn't know basses had frets until I was in high school. It may be a steeper learning curve, but it's doable as long as you have a halfway decent ear. For learning theory, a lined or fretted would be better, so that you can get your positioning exact, but playing a lined fretless is no more difficult than a fretted. It's a slightly different technique though, so it may take some getting used to switching back and forth.
  3. Twnty1inRF


    Sep 13, 2007
    DC Region
    People have been learning on unlined violins, cellos and basses for centuries. Go for it and train your ears...
  4. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Yes to the first question, no to the second... :smug:

    Actually, it isn't even necessary to learn on a lined fretless bass - unless that is your preference. Would lines make it easier? Possibly, at least at first. But bear in mind that with the fretless especially, you must develop and use your ears to a very high degree - so any kind of "training wheels" that inhibits or delays your ability to develop your ear might actually be counterproductive in the long run... :meh:

  5. It'll be more difficult to learn on an unlined fretless bass.

    I double on electric bass and upright bass, and while yes, people have been learning to play on upright basses without lines for centuries, its a misleading comparison. Due to the size and length of the neck on an upright bass, there are many 'landmarks' along the length to help give you a visual sense of where you are along the neck (like most necks meet the body at '10th position).

    An electric bass doesn't have the same types of landmarks. Personally, I would not want to start playing elec. on an unlined fretless. But if you're especially committed, then yeah, it can be done.
  6. Note that in my post I said *lined* fretless. LOL But yeah your point is still taken. :)
  7. For me, it depended on my budget. I was able to pick up a used fretless "no-name" P Bass for about $150. It was unlined but it still had side dots.
  8. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Inactive Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    Some folks (like me) don't like lines. Some do.

    Here's the thing: Learning to play fretless is a *feel* thing - you have to play, and play, and PLAY the thing before you get the hang of it. Frets were put on basses to make them easier to play with precise intonation (Hence the name "Precision Bass"). The implication is that it is more difficult - and that is correct. But if you learn on a fretless, fretted will be a cakewalk.
  9. Bryan R. Tyler

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

    May 3, 2002
    Reviewer: Bass Player Magazine
    Always start with what you want to finish with if you already know what that is. It will negate any transition time you'd have to make in the future.
  10. Baird6869

    Baird6869 RIP Gord Downey. A True Canadian Icon.

    Learning on a lined fretless IMO will be no different that a fretted. You fret on the line instead of just behind the fret. Easy.

    Unlined? Different story. I have a lineds fretless Jazz that is as easy as a fretted to play. My unlined P? MUCH harder to intonate properly.
  11. buffalobillh


    Jul 20, 2005
    Endorsing Artist: Samuel Shen Basses, NS Design, D'Addario Strings
    Students (kids and adults) all over the world are learning upright bass on a big slab of unlined ebony and are not experiencing any more stress than the generations that have done the same thing before. They aren't experiencing any more stress than a fretless bass player experiences. Not with the fretting hand anyway. Fretless bassists ought to be glad they only have to learn the easy technique - left hand placement/intonation. They don't have to learn the hard part of double bass - bowing/arco skills. So... Why should bass guitarists sweat over fretted/fretless or lined/unlined? They have it easy by comparison. I play both professionally, so I'm comfortable with the comparison.

    To directly answer the OP's question, there is no reason to not consider a fretless for learning. Fretted basses are...well... fretted basses. It might be easier to learn on a fretted, but not necessarily better. If your intention is to play fretless bass, then simply play fretless bass. As you learn bass basics, you'll be learning to control intonation. Just like upright bass players do.

    Lined or unlined fretless? Some double bass students (children) often have their basses marked when they first start, but those markings are removed soon, or they grow into larger basses sans markings. I don't think an adult student needs those markers, although they do act as a guide/target until technique and muscle memory (from lots of practice) take over. There is no harm in starting with a lined fretless, but at some point, unless you are a casual player/hobbyist, the lines should become completely unnecessary. They should be a learning tool, not a crutch.

    Learning fretless bass does not require learning on a fretted bass. A good teacher, however, goes a long way toward success no matter what bass you start on.

    My $.02

  12. Hopper


    Sep 24, 2008
    Lines helped me.
  13. I learned on a lined fretless. Although It's probably not any different from learning on a normal fretted bass; I think it helped my general sense of intonation.
  14. Yay, another lined vs. unlined debate. Blechk.

    I'm an unlined player and I assure you that it's not as impossible as most claim.
  15. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    I began on an upright, which was obviously unlined. But when I got serious about fretless bass guitar I bought my first fretless lined with a view to speeding my progress. I think it helped some but not a lot. Lots of inexpensive beginner-priced fretless basses are lined anyway as makers just leave the frets out of their standard fretted models to get quick and dirty fretless models.

    But very quickly you will discover that you can't be looking at your hands all the time anyway so the lines soon make no difference.

    If I were to start over I'd no longer value the lines on the neck as much as I THOUGHT I did originally. They can help but not as much as you think they will.

    And I very much support the idea of a good teacher, especially until you get going. If you want to learn how to do something, the fastest way is always to find someone who already knows how and have them show you. They can tell is a second what you are doing right and wrong and save you "unlearning" a lot of bad habits later.
  16. tmw

    tmw Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 17, 2006
    Delmar, NY
    +1. It takes some work on your part, but the benefits, for me at least, are immeasurable. Plus it pisses the guitar players off when they can't figure out what key you're in because there are no visible fret lines or markers...Always big fun fo me!
  17. MatticusMania

    MatticusMania LANA! HE REMEMBERS ME!

    Sep 10, 2008
    Pomona, SoCal
    I'd say this is only partially true. A lined fretless has some advantage over a fretted bass. Yes, you have lines so you can still look and see where your fingers go. This will help develop good intonation. The one thing youre overlooking is that once you start to get the feel of it, you stop looking at your fingers.

    Once you stop looking at your fingers your lined fretless will be just as hard to play as your unlined.

    I started on a fretted before I went fretless and the lines werent really necessary for me, but the model bass I wanted didnt come unlined. If youre new to bass in general, a lined fretless will certainly help you develop good muscle memory and intonation, though it isnt impossible to do so on an unlined.
  18. I consider the fact that unlined fretless intimidates people into not touching my basses a significant advantage. Every guitarist thinks they can play bass until they see an unlined 6 string.
  19. I learned on an unlined fretless and I can't recommend it enough. 20 yrs. later with 40+ basses come and gone, it's still here. I think it really helps with understanding the whole "sound is in my hands" bit. It's true.

    Most unlined fretless basses have dots on the side where the fret would be so...

    Just waiting for someone to chime in with "Jaco used lines" blah
  20. I picked-up lined fretless after I had been playing fretted for some time. On hindsight, I wish I had learned to play bass the other way around. With a fretless how you fret is very important while you could get away with sloppy fretting on a fretted bass since the frets get to clean up your fretting (at least from my experience). I've noticed that after playing a lined fretless for long periods of time, when I return to a fretted bass my playing/fretting seems to be cleaner. Either that or your hearing improves as the sharps and flats seem to be more pronounced than before.

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