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Fretless Side-dot discovery ...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by IotaNet, May 2, 2005.

  1. To the Group -

    I wasn't sure where to post this so I've opted for the general section -- if I've mis-posted, I'm sure the mods will straighten me out.

    A lot of folks here have talked about the merits of lines vs. no lines on a Fretless. There has also been some discussion of side dots ... how to add them, where to add them, whether to add them.

    I just learned (and implemented) something that has made all the diff in the world.

    Learning fretless can be pretty scary, especially with a no-line bass. As I fiddled around with fretless, I found that the hardest thing was the "no-man's land" between the nut and the 3rd fret (which is usually dotted on a fretless bass.) It's pretty scary in there!

    I was visiting my local GC and happened to pick up a Warwick fretless and noticed something -- in addition to having dots starting at the third fret and proceeding downward, the Warwicks also have a dot at the FIRST fret! Believe me, that makes a HUGE difference because it gives you a place to visually "split the difference!"

    I realize that over time, muscle memory kicks in and it's not necessary but as a fretless newbie, I found it to be a GREAT visual reference point.

    Now - if your fretless (or potential fretless) doesn't have that first dot, I found a solution to that also!

    Many have recommended white out, nail polish, or something else. Well, I found an EXCELLENT something else.
    A paint-marker. (Click here to see it)

    The paint doesn't run, its not messy, and because it's a fine-point pen, the dot is almost perfect. Check it out ...


    This solution may not work for everybody but it certainly worked for me.

    Just thought I'd share!
  2. not a bad idea
  3. Jimmy P.

    Jimmy P.

    Apr 5, 2005
    Tokyo, Japan
    IotaNet: an excellent idea! Think I'll try it on my fretted long-scale!
  4. Bryan R. Tyler

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

    May 3, 2002
    That first fret dot is an important one. I have side dots directly under my lines on my fretlesses so I'll see the place to intonate on the side AND top of the bass.

    That depends on if you believe in muscle memory or not. If you do, using your eyes in addition to your ears will train your hand where to go far more quickly than using your ears alone. And as we all know, it's your hands that make the proper intonation-not your ears. They only tell you you've messed up AFTER you've messed up. If you don't, then you must believe your hand will only go where you choose to put it. Lines help you know where to put your hand to get proper intonation. I don't practice fretted in the dark, and don't avoid using my eyes to play fretted-I feel no need to force a handicap on myself that will purposelessly lengthen my learning curve. If I thought lines were any sort of a crutch, then I wouldn't play fretted at all, because every fretted bass is lined.

    People put a stigma on lines as if when using them you stop listening to yourself when playing. While I'm sure this applies to the "can't walk and chew gum at the same time" crowd, most people can handle using two senses at the same time. And as I've said before, I really don't see too many people walking up to Jaco, Gary Willis, Marcus Miller, or Steve Lawson and saying they use crutches. But using your eyes isn't using crutches-it's using all of your available tools to make you a better player. If you plan on walking, learn to walk with your legs instead of learning to walk on your hands.
  5. I just recently put dots at every fret position on my unlined fretless. I learned on an unlined but after the looooong layoff, lost a bit of my intonation skills. So when I was playing around with trying different types of dot fillers for sidedots, I decided to put a dot at every fret. Well, it worked great, I left the older primary dots and made them larger to keep the 3,5,7..references. But it feels and plays more naturally than a lined fretless. All the guys that have tried it like it too.
  6. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    The dot at the first note location is not uncommon on unlined fretlesses.
  7. toytech


    Mar 22, 2004
    San Leandro
    use fine pensil marks on the edge of the board myself, the dots on my neck are where they would be on a fretted neck, instead of lining up with a fret. I have a few pencil lines on my upright neck too. After playing fretless and upright for a year of two now I find I look at the marks less and less, but still being a 40year old novice I look at the board once in a while even with frets ;)
  8. Bryan R. Tyler

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

    May 3, 2002
    I played an unlined fretless Thumb before where someone had put side dots at every position marker as well, but I found it a bit confusing even with the slightly different sizes. Have you tried building one with side dots of varying color-such as white (or maple) dots for 1,3,5,7 etc. and red (padauk or purpleheart) dots for 2,4,6,8 etc?
  9. That is a good idea. specially to someone that's starting out...
    My fretless was converted, and is lined thankfully, as if there were no lines I'd be lost... later, I might rely on muscle memory, but for now, I love the markers.
    my side dots are at the normal fretted place, but its still good enough to help me judge distances between frets.
  10. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Mine's cheap, all fretlines, but its great! After playing a few weeks, I hardly look at the fretboard, but I'll slowly notice myself getting a little bit flatter every few minutes. Not TOO bad, just look down every once in a while ;)
  11. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    Well said. I never listen to someone playing a fretless and think to myself "well, that sounds great, but he's probably got lines, so...". Results are all I care about. Whatever you gotta do to make it happen, make it happen. Lines/no lines...whatever, does it sound good? That's all I'm concerned with.
  12. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Lines and side dots are pretty much the same, they both show you where the positions are, in similar, but slightly different ways. Muscle memory is absolutely essential if you want to sight read. When I play my fretless in church I need to be able to read guitar chord music (often something I've never played or seen before) and play without looking at the neck. I'm getting pretty good at no-look intonation.
  13. I didn't have the 1st fret side dot when I learned fretless. Of course, when I went fretless it was with my only bass, so I had to learn and couldn't really slough off.

    The thing I notice with muscle memory though is that with EB it's a different story vs DB. DB there is a lot more neck variation in terms of width from one position to the other. And considering that as soon as you are at the octave, you have this large piece of wood called the body. I don't play DB, but I am pretty sure based on friends I've talked to.

    My muscle memory is still a bit off though, so I end up looking. I think for fretless BG, you really just need to focus on your ear ... so you know what flat and sharp sound like. I started practicing with a tuner, so I could see the slight flatness or sharpness. Then really it's like singing. If you hear the note, you are more likely to play the note ... and if you don't you can quickly adjust.

    The dots are a good start ... just keep the ears open.
  14. My fretless Thumb basses had the first fret dot but no lines. But my F Bass BNF5 (fretless) has small lines on the top side of the neck (where the dots are) that are damn near invisable from the front.
    Actually, take a look at this months Bass Player mag. It reviews the F Bass AC5. My bass is damn near the same (minus the pizos and chambered body, and mine has two pick-ups) neck wise.
    It also has dots between the D & G strings from the 12th fret up.

    At this point I play fretless about 70% of the time, and I still use the dots/lines for help.
    Like others have said, it's the end result that counts: either in tune or not.

  15. No, I haven't, because the white dots worked. No need for extra work. And making padauk or purpleheart toothpicks is extra work. :spit:

    Remember, I'm not a fretless beginner.
  16. Mike -

    That is the best siggy I've seen in a while. Guilty as charged. :meh:
  17. Bryan R. Tyler

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

    May 3, 2002
    One thing I've always admitted to was that unlined boards look MUCH better. I know of some guys who like them better because looking down at a blank, unlined fretboard is like looking at a completely blank canvas where nothing is restricting your playing.

    As you said, it's personal preference. If you work hard at it, you can play just as well on either unlined or lined-look at Michael Manring...it's hard enough tapping on fretted, and he's a master at doing it on unlined fretless.

  18. You think YOUR guilty!!
    Instead of coming up with a snappy sig, I should have been practicing!!!
    But, I'm at work now (getting paid to play on TB-Livin' the dream!! :D ) and I don't think practicing my bass would go over too well.
  19. My Karl Hoyt 5 is unlined and has dots at every fret position, with bigger dots at the 1, 3, 5... I haven't found it to be confusing.


    I don't have a better pic of the entire side of the neck, but you can see the dots at the end of the board near the body.

    On its way back to me from Karl as I type this!
  20. Now that is a pretty bass. Sorry to get off topic, but I'm relatively new here. What pickups are those? And the two concentric knobs ... what are they for? I'm guessing volume, bass, and treble.

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