Fretless technique for a beginner (on a fretless).

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Rockin John, Mar 8, 2002.

  1. Here's the senario, boys and girls.......

    I'm working on having a few £ saved up to get another bass: my one and only is a Bass Collection 4, fretted.

    Having very briefly played a fretless many moons ago I figured it might make a good choice. If I buy it'll only be an entry level bass, used if possible, to reduce the spend in case I don't get on with it.

    So, is there any advice available, please, to help me have a good stab at making the transition from fretted. I play finger style and adopt what seems to be called the "classical" L/H technique: I play in a 3 piece covers band doing classic rock.


  2. Hi John,

    I don't know if I can translate this to text, but the first fretless technique my teacher gave me was for working on intonation. Play the harmonic at the 12th fret, then while the note is still ringing, actually fret the note. You then make really small adjustments, by rolling your fretting finger (just a little movement) until the tones match. Does this make sense?

    I also went the Lined route. Even if they're barely discernable, you'll still be able to see where the bass should be fretted.

  3. Oysterman


    Mar 30, 2000
    The main thing with lined fretlesses is that you can't trust the lines completely... you need to learn how to use them. Read the second Q&A from this issue of "Ask Willis":
  4. Cool article! Yeah...but it does give you a a starting place. I'd be compeltely unable to play an unlined at this point. Mine actually frets just above the fret line, and adjusts slightly toward the "middle" of the fret the higher up the neck I go.

  5. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Using LH classical guitar technique is a good start. My only advice is that if you're having trouble intonating the lower positions, you might want to move to three-finger index-middle-pinky fingering patterns, a la bass violin.

    Start working on your rolling-fingertip vibrato, as well. It's a great expressive tool that's lost on the fretted bass.
  6. I'm no expert by any means, but, since I started playing my MIM Jazz again lately, and have been experimenting with techniques, let me suggest what I've started doing. For the right hand, pluck the strings between the 17th "fret" (or where it should be) and the end of the neck. Try different spots to see what you like. Don't dig in too much. I used to solo the bridge pickup, but, lately I'm getting to like the sound of just the neck pickup. It's weird, but, I love the sound of a Jazz bass with both pups on full, but, not on a fretless; it's either one or the other. My left hand is getting a little better at intonation, but, I still have a long way to go. And this is on a lined fretboard. If you're hesitating to go fretless, don't. It will feel and sound a little odd at first, but, after a short while you'll wonder why you waited so long.

    Go for it!
    Mike J.
  7. I don't own a fretless, but I've played around on enough of them. Intonation will come if you've got good ears. Apart from the awesomely sweet tone, the thing I like best is the low action you can get, and the ability to do decreasing pitch slides. Practice your scales, cause it's so liberating to play them on a fretless. If I had the money I'd definitely get one. I say don't get one that's too cheap... go for it and make a good investment. You won't be disappointed.
  8. steve 1

    steve 1 Guest

    Feb 18, 2002
    utica, ny
    i dont only play EB, but i also play DB, which, as you know, is not fretted. it does take some getting used to, but it also helps you on your intonation. on a fretless you are forced to use your ears, and soon enough you will be able to hit notes 90 % of the time, which isn't bad at all. it has do to which muscle memory. your muscles actually "memorize" where the notes are, making you able to hit them without actually looking. so again, your intonation is helped.
  9. Look, hear, remember.

    1-Look. Using your eyes, look where the note is. Play it. Chances are it will be out of tune.

    2-Hear. Using your hearing and by rolling your finger, adjust to make the note in tune.

    3-Remember. Be concious of where the note is. How your body is positioned when you play a given note. That's muscle memory.

    Soon enough, the eyes will play a lesser role in the process.

    The technique of playing the notes is the same as on a fretted bass. It should be, anyway. (Some fretted players could learn a few things, if you ask me...)
  10. OK. There's not the time right now for detailed responses but let me ask a couple of specifics.

    On a lined f/board (a la Jazz), would you aim to put the middle of your finger dead on the line, or just a fraction behind it? And, if you've no lines, what then:eek: :eek:

  11. truthfully you put your fingers where the note sings true...


    *cough*try reading the Willis link *cough*
  12. ...the fret lines only help you if the instrument is intonated exactly perfectly. Trust your ears. Actually, after enough practice it all comes down to feeling it without thinking. Use the force John!
  13. John,

    It varies from bass to bass. On mine, it's just behind the line.

  14. Well, I had a couple of hours to spare this am so popped into my dealer for a try-out. They had an Aria (model??) and a Yamaha RBX 270: the former with plain f/board, the latter had lines. Both are new basses and both @ £200.

    I found both quite difficult to play. At this stage it was easier to thrust my finger towards the lines so the Yam seemed better. But I'm kinda turned off by the idea of having lines; it's as though it's not a "proper" fretless!!

    Funnily enough, though, that bass had quite a pronounced dead spot on G between about 2nd and 7th "fret". I was really put off by this, the string sounding like a rubber band. As much as I like Yamaha basses I definitely wouldn't buy a '270 (unless that particular one happens to be a rogue).

    One thing that bothers me about learning fretless is the time I'd have to put in to get anywhere decent on it. Practice at home is all but out of the question as it is so learning this instrument might well be impossible. Nothing you folks can do about that but thought I'd mention it, nevertheless.

    Whilst at the dealer I tried a Yamaha 5, fretted. After a 4, a 5 seems harder still and, in a way, more difficult than the fretless 4s I tried. It was bl**dy heavy, too. I'm quite a big bloke and I reckon I'd struggle wearing that for too long.

    So, thoughts on fretless hang in the balance. Thoughts on a 5 coming up on the inside;) I guess the jury's still out on what to get next.

  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I have noticed that a lot of the fretless basses you see in shops have horrible strings with a sort of dark coating - I think they do it to make it sound more like Double Bass - less sustain and a duller "thump" type of sound.

    Whereas a lot of the fretless players with the best tone have tended to use round wound strings - although they have a tendency to wear down the smooth fretboard.

    What you may be reacting to, is this type of string - I know I hate the tone they create! ;)

    PS - "I guess the jury's still out on what to get next."

    Why do you have to get anything - why not just try to be a better player? I often wonder ( and often out loud ;) ) about the attitude around here and other internet forums - any "alien" visiting them would think that making music is all about buying gear and that the way to get to be a better player or to have any fun is all about this! :rolleyes:

    My view would be - is there anything wrong with your current gear? If there is, then identify the shortcoming and try to find something that overcomes that. If not - then spend the time on playing, practising, going to gigs, jams, workshops,classes; listen to CDs, reading music theory books, play-alongs etc. etc. I can't understand why buying more gear is always top of the list!

    Anyway - can't stop, I'm off to the Bass Centre to buy an Electric Upright! :D
  16. Hi Bruce.

    Well, buying gear certainly isn't a priority with me. Personal finances dictate the exact opposite. :( And as I'm not earning from the band.......

    But, I've been lucky enough to get rid of some unwanted stuff and have got £150ish. Thought I'd perhaps get a second bass. And when we begin playing, another bass might be useful at gigs for obvious reasons.

    What / if I get will clearly be nothing great, you understand, but just another bass. As my one and only is a 4, I thought I wouldn't try another 4, but something different hence trying a fretless and then a 5.

    But now I think I'll stick to fretted. Don't know now :rolleyes:

    Enjoy your upright:D :D

  17. Good point. To be honest one of the main reasons for thinking about a #2 is so I can improve. Because domestic situations all but prohibit home practice I'd thought about keeping a bass @ work to knock about on during lunch times. Naturally I'm reluctant to keep my Bass Collection @ work so a cheapie #2 might be the answer.

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