Fretless Troll

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by eJake, Oct 5, 2017.

  1. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    I've always kind of trolled fretless basses as being unnecessary. The other day on a gig I met a dude who says he pretty much only plays upright and frets feel weird to him. It was the first time in my life I actually considered a response to "why do you play fretless EB?" logical.

    I get it, they're more lyrical than a fretted bass. So I guess reason number 2 could be if you take a bunch of bass solos (why no fretless guitar?)(why are you taking so many bass solos?). Guys have told me they think they sound like an upright which sounds like idiocy to me.

    Are there actual musical, bass focused reasons for playing fretless? Please don't say it's more challenging. Manual transmission is more challenging than automatic but there are so many benefits to driving standard that it makes sense. Same with upright vs EB. IMO not the case between fretted and fretless. I'm sure there are many reasons out there that I'm not considering so here's your chance to change my mind.
  2. I like smooth slides and quarter tones.
  3. ahadl2500

    ahadl2500 Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2003
    Greenwood, IN
    Guessing you have never played a fretless bass?

    Tobias Growler in my profile photo is fretless. Feel and tone of the bass are dramatically different than a fretted Growler. Kind of similar to the do you prefer P or J question. They both have their place depending on what you are doing and one is not a perfect substitute for the other. Not trying to sound elitist with the following comment, but many do not see the use of fretless because they find it difficult to play reliably. Transitioning to fretless was not particularly difficult for me. Different people will have different reactions to the transition though.

    The only other fretless bass I own is my Kala U-Bass. If you want upright tone on a non-upright, U-Bass is the way to go.
  4. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism

    I'm primarily a fretless player these days. Before I get into why I prefer fretless, I have a question for you: Are there actual musical, bass-focused reasons to play fretted? I am just not sure why you feel fretless does not have a place in music while fretted does. I feel they both have the potential to fill the same role. Well, them or a tuba.
  5. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    It gives you another "voice" in your toolbox. I used to have a really nice one. I talked myself out of "needing" it. Wish I had one laying around, just in case.
    gebass6, maxmaroon, Ikkir and 4 others like this.
  6. mdogs

    mdogs Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2010
    Constant state of flux
    Anyone asking these questions has clearly never listened to Jaco.
  7. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    I have maybe 50 hours of rehearsal and 2 gigs on my buddy's fretless J.

    Leo Fender thought so?
  8. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    I was trying to avoid the Jaco thing. I'm not a big fan of his but please that's for another thread.
    RickyT, bobba66, bobyoung53 and 5 others like this.
  9. Bryan R. Tyler

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

    May 3, 2002
    If so and you didn’t notice the massive tonal differences between it and a fretted bass, you probably forgot to plug it in.
  10. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    There's more to fretless than Jaco.
  11. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    Maybe I haven't been paying attention to that as much. I've been playing salsa with that crew and have to sing a bunch and focus on the groove being stupid tight. I'll start messing with the eq a lil more and check it out.
  12. Chad T

    Chad T

    Feb 10, 2013
    I don't own, nor have I played fretless before. But they clearly have a different sound. Listen to Metallica "Until It Sleeps" or "Every Time You Go Away" by Paul Young. Or some of Don Henley's 80s hits. The fretless sound just jumps out and sounds different/great to my ears. My take is that it's just a different tool for a different sound. I might get a fretless at some point.
    bobba66, jfh2112, mindwell and 2 others like this.
  13. Bryan R. Tyler

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

    May 3, 2002
    You shouldn’t need to touch the EQ to hear the large difference. Perhaps your friend’s fretless was set up to have very little mwah, the signature sound of most fretless basses. It’s a very noticeable difference on basses set up for it.
    jfh2112 likes this.
  14. Marial

    Marial weapons-grade plum

    Apr 8, 2011
    I like it. No other reason is necessary, musical or otherwise.
    FretsAreFor, Deak, Evert and 27 others like this.
  15. JJR58

    JJR58 Dirty Bird

    Dec 2, 2010
    Brooklyn, NY.
    Patrick O'hearn. This is not a troll reply. :)
  16. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Didn't say it was. Just saying that there's more to fretless than Jaco, who always comes up in fretless and 4 string threads. Pino Palladino, Jimmy Haslip, etc. Lots of great fretless players and examples out there.
    Quantized Harmonic, Tbone76 and JJR58 like this.
  17. Rickter


    Nov 30, 2006
    Nashville, TN
    I don't own a fretless, but I'm really wanting one. Sticking to the sound differences only, as said previously, the sound is more "vocal". I don't get an string on fretwire clank to help you cut through a mix. There is a lot less top end to a fretless sound due to the lack of frets/fret wire. @Chad T hit the nail on the head and presented the very examples that I was going to suggest, Metallica's "Until It Sleeps", "Every Time You Go Away" by Paul Young and Don Henley's solo albums from the 80's (Pino Palladino). All great examples of songs where a fretless can stand out, but in the wrong song (in my opinion) fretless can get buried. If you're into the metal side of the world, look into Steve DiGiorgio who favors fretless in heavier contexts such as Testament.
    Quantized Harmonic, Ellery and eJake like this.
  18. el jeffe bass

    el jeffe bass

    Nov 22, 2013
    New Mexico
    came in for the click bait, sticking around for the trolling.
  19. JJR58

    JJR58 Dirty Bird

    Dec 2, 2010
    Brooklyn, NY.
    All good, i just wanted to throw that out there though. lot's of great fretless players out there.
    SteveC likes this.
  20. tfer


    Jan 1, 2014
    Play this on a fretted.

    If you can’t hear the value of fretless, you’re legally deaf.

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    Primary TB Assistant

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    Sep 27, 2021

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