Fretless Vibrato

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Dave Grossman, Nov 30, 2001.

  1. I've played fretless basses on and off for almost 10 years now. I just got a new fretless 7-string ( I'll add a pic below ). I remember doing vibrato by just rolling my fingertips in place.

    However, with my new bass, I find that I have to slide up and down the string to get the amount of vibrato that I like. On the upper frets, I can roll but anything below the 10th fret or so, I like the range I get with a slide.

    It's a lot less precise and it's easy to get some sour notes but when it's spot-on, it really sounds awesome.

    I'd like to know what other fretless players do for vibrato. Do you just roll or do you roll and slide? Or do you bend the string like on a fretted bass? ( probably not too good for your fretboard )

    - Dave

  2. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Wow, that is a BEAUTIFUL bass! Congratulations! That Walnut top is one of my favorite tops I've ever seen!

    As far as vibrato, when I use it it's just roll. I prefer very subtle vibrato, so it's actually harder for me to use vibrato in the upper positions (which is hard enough to play in as it is). Rolling the finger seems to be enough, and the distance (and for some, the speed, though it's not necessarily true) with which you roll your finger increases as you get closer to the nut.

    Just IME, lighter strings makes rolling vibrato a lot easier.

    I never bend the strings on fretless though. Seems to defeat the purpose of why the bass is fretless! But, there isn't anything wrong with it.
  3. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    I just roll, too. I haven't really experimented with the sliding thing.
  4. I roll for vibrato too. Then again, I don't use it much. Very subtle, my vibrato. Mostly I like it for adding texture to chords and double stops (and occasionally to annoy my guitarist).

    Is your new 7-stringer a longer scale length than your old bass? That would explain the more difficult vibrato.

  5. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I use a classical vibrato technique, on fretted, fretless and (probably incorrectly) on upright. the basic idea is to "push" the string to lessen the tension (push it towards the bridge) and drop the pitch and "pull" the string (away from the bridge) to increase tension and raise the pitch.

    I've explained this somewhere here before, and probably better than I just did. We drank beer after work today. :)
  6. I've figured out why I've taken up this technique more than in the past. There are several factors. First, my action is waaay lower than it was on my old basses. Second, I may be using a lighter gauge string. These two factors mean that it doesn't take as much pressure to hold the string down and it is much easier to slide it.

    This isn't necessarily a good thing. It is actually kinda difficult to get a good roll sometimes. I really like the effect I get by sliding though. It gives me a vibrato range that is closer to what I can get by bending which is something I have been doing a lot in my Bach stuff. It is going to take a lot of practice to get it just right. The key is making the median between low and high ranges be the note you want to play.

    The third factor is that I've gotten much better at the bass since the last time I played a fretless regularly. The fourth factor is that I have a taste for it now.

    - Dave
  7. What a beautiful bass. Definately one of the best pieces of walnut I've ever seen.

    As for vibrato: Let's roll.
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    There's not much to add to this, except to say that this is a good description of classical vibrato technique...and that you (Dave) may be unconsciously doing this when you are "rolling" your fingers.

    Remember though, whichever style of vibrato you use - roll; push/pull; slide; or bend - there are only two parameters going on with any vibrato: speed, and depth. I find that for a very DEEP vibrato, I'll use the sliding technique (a la Eddie Gomez), whereas I tend to use the push/pull or roll techniques for more subtle effects. For blues or rock, I'll sometimes use the bending technique, although this only applies to BG. If you get the speed and depth the way you want, there is precious little difference between the sound of the first three.

    And I'll be the first to second F5's comments - that's a gorgeous bass. What is it? A Smith?
  9. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Re speed and depth: I find that rolling in the lower positions is most effectie at a lower speed and greater depth than one would apply to the higher registers. If you do it too fast with the low notes, the string doesn't really "see" your vibrato.

    BTW, the bass is a Hanewinckel.
  10. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    When trying to learn Mick Karn bits, I started doing a lot of sliding. Fast back-and-forth around the note. Later on in an interview I read him say that he actually bendst the strings more than he slides. But I still do the "broawr" :) by sliding.
  11. werbo

    werbo Guest

    Sep 8, 2001
    kingston NY
    Hey...i'm pretty new to bass and from what i know frets are the metal things a long the neck. That "Fretless" bass has those. Whats the difference between a fretless and a fretted bass?
  12. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Those lines are (painted or sth.) fret lines, not frets.

    Fretted = bass with frets

    lined fretless = bass without frets, but with fret lines

    unlined fretless = bass without frets, unmarked fretboard