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Fretless Transition worries

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by lostcausebass, Feb 11, 2003.

  1. lostcausebass


    Oct 29, 2002
    I've been playing fretted for years now...I really want to explore other "schools" of bass playing, and aside from the multiple string transitions, I want to go fretless. I'm worried. I don't know if I should start out with fret lines or just go for the gusto with a blank neck...Anybody out there willing to give insight on the transition from frets to no frets...help.
  2. Brooks


    Apr 4, 2000
    Middle East
    I have never tried a fretless with no lines, so keep that in mind. After playing for years (just like you), I decided to try a fretless. It took me one month of intensive practice (few hours a day on my own, plus three times a week of 3-4 hour band practices) to be able to play fretless live on 3 hour gigs without any major problems. Live, I play a Warmoth lined fretless that I put together myself. When practicing, I also use my Rick Turner Electroline which has lines only under the E-String - part which you can see whan you play standing up.

    For me, transition was not too hard. I read all I could on the subject, and then just plunged in. I doubt I would've been able to do that on an unlined fretless.
  3. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    I'd been playing 4 string for 10 years and then I bought a lined fretless 5. It was too much to take on at once, and the bass itself didn't inspire me, so I went back to 4. A year later, I bought a fretted 5 string and started to learn the B, but it was a crappy bass so I spent more time w/ my 4s so I traded it away. 2 years after that I found a cool 5 that I really like and play a lot so I now feel pretty confident on the B. My next bass will be a fretless, probably an unlined 4. I hope lack of lines won't put me off too much, but I'm going to be sure to buy one I really like so I'll spend time w/ it.
  4. After 10 years of playing guitar, I bought a bass (Fender Hot Rod P) in June 2002... I got my first unlined fretless a month after - of course, I'm still learning, but it wasn't all that hard to get the intonation right in the lower register. I still can't play constantly in tune beyond the 10th non-fret :p but the learning curve was much less steep than I thought.

    On my secondhand Stingray, there are side dots at every non-fret position (used to have only dots at the 3-5-7-9-12-15-17-19-21 - the previous owner inlaid the other ones). They help a lot, obviously.
  5. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    after playing fretted and lined fretless 4 pretty heavily for ~8 years, i went to unlined fretless 7, about 9 years ago. the shock was intense and jarring, but i don't regret it at all. i practiced a lot, with a tuner so that i could hear what "in tune" sounded like, and got very comfortable with it over the course of a couple of years (i spend about 1/2 my time on fretless 7 and the other half on fretted 7).
  6. jasonbraatz


    Oct 18, 2000
    Oakland, CA
    after playing electric and upright for 8 years i had my musicman converted into a lined fretless, and either i had the muscle memory really ingrained or i couldn't hear when i was out of tune (probably a little of both ;) ) but i seemed to do ok right out of the box. sure i required a little time to get used to it, but a lot less time than, say, going to my first 5 string.
  7. Jim Ingraham

    Jim Ingraham Supporting Member

    Nov 14, 2002
    I picked up my first fretless a week and a half ago now. I fretted for weeks about lined or unlined.. i tried a couple of lined ones and it seemed real easy but on the other hand ive been playing upright for 18 years and theres no lines on that sucker..not even a dot. So i went for unlined but with side position markers at 1,3,5 etc and.. its great. Those dots are all you need. they move them up to where the fretline would be and you just either hit on a dot or in between them, at least till you get back up to the octave, then it gets a little dicey.

    At any rate tonite at a jam i tried somebodies lined fretless and it just seemed confusing( it was an Ashbury, maybe that had something to do with it, awesome sounding little toy though).
  8. Noobai


    Aug 25, 2002
    Stanford, CA
    I agree, I think the side dots at 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 15, 17, 19, etc are all you need.

    WHen I played, my fingers knew the rest, but then again, I didnt go above 15 :p
  9. 1964


    Mar 26, 2002
    Too Close To Hell
    > "and aside from the multiple string transitions"

    I've just got a lined fretless and AFAICS this is the only issue you need to work out...other than mwah inducing technique.
  10. Brooks


    Apr 4, 2000
    Middle East
    For me, not getting MWAH when I didn't want it proved to be a bigger challenge. I had to raise action and add some relief to help me deal with it.
  11. I suggest you start out with lines.

    It took me about a month of practice with a lined fretless 4 before I felt confident playing a couple of songs on it with my band, looking at the lines when shifting position.

    A year later I feel confident between touch and tone, to the point where I could play a blank plank below the 12th fret. Up top, I need the lines.

    Duiring this time I also transitioned to 5 strings, and I find that the B string is especially handy on a fretless.

    An unlined board is indeed beautiful, but I don't understand the logic of giving up a useful tool that I can use or ignore as appropriate.


  12. ive played a lined fretless, and I had no problems. just follow the lines!

    Then i played an unlined, quite a few problems, but a friend showed me how!

    My own Gibson, I think the previous guy must've filed the frets - 'like they did in 'dem days ;)' - my bass teacher - so it's bassically like a lined fretless :D, it feels so wierd playing the '1/2 fretless' then too my other bass still with jumbo frets

  13. I picked up my first fretless last year - a MIM Jazz. This was lined, and sadly due to other commitments and issues I've had, I haven't really mastered it! It's still at the cool to play around with stage, but I can't do anything that strikes me as remotley fretless (I still use the lines as 'frets' and haven't really figured much MWAH into it)

    Anyway, I jumped on an opportunity on ebay when I saw a Guild Fretless B-301 (fretless version of my first bass - which I stil have!). This arrived and I found it was unlined - great I thought, I'll learn between the 2!

    Sadly I haven't really had a chance to use them in anger, and I'm at the stage of wondering if I will at this particular moment in time!

    I reckon if I perceveired (sp?) I'd get there - but right now I'm maybe gonna have to focus on other aspects of my playing and leave the fretless skills 'til I can focus better on them!
  14. My 0.2 cents

    I would recommend a lined fretboard.

    My first fretless was a 5 string with maple lines on an ebony board. This was great to learn on and the lines helped me which is the whole point of them!

    My new bass which I hope to pick up this week will be a 7 string fretless. It will also have lines but this time I specified black wood lines on an ebony board. I will be able to see them but no one else will. I will also have LEDS on the top of the board to help me when it is too dark on stage to see the lines.

    That said, a good playing style, lots of practice and a good rig to hear yourself on stage with, will get you over most things.

    When all is said and done, if you really want unlined go for it. After all it is your bass and you will be the one playing it, just practice longer and harder and you will be fine. The best bit is once you try a fretless you will be smitten for life!

    Have fun and keep us posted on your decision and progress.
  15. temp5897

    temp5897 Guest

    I don't think going to fretless is all that hard, especially if you practice proper fretting technique when playing a fretted bass. Sure you have to practice more in the upper registers to play on but with the combination of a good ear and some solid practice I don't think it's hard. Good luck with it! :)
  16. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    My first and only fretless was unlined, after about 22 years of playing as a hobbyist and sometimes semipro. No problems, intonation takes some time, but I prefer no lines. The side markers on the neck are sufficient for figuring out where you are.
  17. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    If anyone cares that your fretless neck is lined...ask him why it matters.

    If it helps you play better, it shouldn't matter.

    I can tell you, playing a lined fretless is still a challenge for transitioning from a fretted. The lines will help you focus on technique.

    You may not enjoy or feel the need to play fretless after you've given it a go. If you do, and you still feel you need to go without lines, you can always get a new bass or change the neck or whatever.
  18. 1964


    Mar 26, 2002
    Too Close To Hell
    Personally, I don’t like the look of blank planks.
  19. I've been going through some changes lately in regards to my intonation. I'm wondering whether others have been through this.

    I've been playing and practicing mostly fretless lately, and I was feeling like my intonation was getting pretty good. But in the past few weeks I started to hear a lot of "sourness" on notes that are only off by a trifle (I use a Korg rackmount tuner, which is a great fretless tool, and one led off is pretty minor) and it sounds disturbing.

    I assume that it's an increased sensitivity. Still, it's driving me a bit crazy, hearing my imperfection, where for a long time I thought I had it down and received compliments and not complaints from others.


  20. Jim Ingraham

    Jim Ingraham Supporting Member

    Nov 14, 2002
    i think that when you're practicing solo by yourself you're much more inclined to hear every nuance of the note, however in a live situation you have a little more leeway . This is not to say you shouldn't strive for perfect intonation but may explain your compliments.