Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by olps, Dec 30, 2001.

  1. olps


    Nov 12, 2001
    I played a fretless in the store the other day, and liked it. I'm somewhat thinking about getting one. What are the pros and cons of a fretless? What are some good and not too expensive brands that make good fretless'? And would you have to get flat wounds, so the round wounds don't chew up the finger board? Thank you.
  2. SRSiegel

    SRSiegel Guest

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    *easier to play once you get teh hang of it (no frets to get in the way!)
    *can actually play in tune vs. a non buzz feiten fretted bass
    *more natural, woody sound. bigger tone IMO
    *great for glissandos, vibrato, and other techniques

    *can be easy to play out of tune (have to be very precise)
    *fretboard wear (need to get it resurfaced sometimes)
    *can slap on it, but its not the same "metallic thunk" as on a fretted

    you can use roundwounds, though i prefer flat. you can also get halfrounds, which are brighter, but are ground flat so as to preserve the fingerboard longer. rounds will tear up the board, but a good board will still last a while.i would reccomend that you avoid fretless boards made or rosewood, it wears more quickly than ebony.

    go for it!
  3. snyderz


    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    Hi olps,
    You can run the whole gamut on fretless basses, as just about every company makes them. If you are looking for a decent fretless at a low cost, a MIM Fender is a good start. They are lined (you can find MIJ unlined) and are fine if they are set up correctly. They are on ebay all the time. Just type in fretless in search and about 60 fretless basses will pop up. A Fender will have a little bit better resale value if you decide you really don't like it, plus, if you DO stick with it, later you can upgrade the pickups when money allows. If the fretless you played at the store feels good, sounds good, and the price is right, grab it.
  4. I'm currently defretting my p-clone, and it has rosewood fingerboard. Should I look into a protective layering like epoxy or poly urethane?
  5. frederic b. hodshon

    frederic b. hodshon Supporting Member

    May 10, 2000
    Lake Forest, CA
    i had a local luthier lay a mylar sheet on top of my rosewood fretless Jazz board.

    but, then....all this is junk after i got my Zon Lightwave Sonus.

    NO wear, and i can slap until the penguins come home!

    i'm fretless only...willing to sell my Jazz...will be getting a Bart Zon fretless this year!

  6. Yeah get a MIM fretless jazz. That's what I have and now that I have money I just ordered new pickups and a j-retro.
  7. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    How do you play? have you played a fretless before? Do you bend strings or use a fretless vibrato technique.

    Personally I've never seen the need for any fretboard protection... in some cases it changes the sound.
  8. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    fretless is fun, check it out. Don't worry about Rosewood and roundwound strings. It sounds great and works great. Unless it's your main bass and you play as much as a pro it won't be a problem. I have a Dean Edge 5 fretless that I got for around $450 and it is fantastic, highly recommended. I don't like the MIM Jazz fretless or "conversions" because the neck side markers are between the frets. On most fretless basses the standard is for the side markers to be at the "fret" locations. My Dean is unlined and was my first fretless. However, since the side markers are correctly positioned I don't have a problem with intonation. (well, it's not that bad anyway... ;)) If I had to asjust to having the markers between the note locations I think that would be hard. BTW Unlined fretless basses look MUCH better than lined ones IMO. :)
  9. Saint


    Mar 2, 2000
    DC - USA
    I really like fretless and highly recommend starting with a MIM J-bass fretless. They can often be found on eBay for under $200.00. They're generally a good deal for a starter bass. While I've made some alterations to mine, I think the only thing I'd strongly recommend spending additional money on is replacing the stock bridge with a Leo Quan Bad Ass II which really improves the sustain, IMHO.

    I think the only important issue with flat vs. roundwound on a fretless is tone. Flatwound on rosewood will give you a thumping sound that is closer to a double bass, while roundwounds will give you a more Jaco-like "mwahh" tone --which is what I like. I actually use Smith Taper Cores on mine b/c I think they bring out the "growl" more than normal roundwounds.

    As to fretboards, I coated the rosewood fretboard on my J-bass, not for protection, but because it DOES alter the sound in a way that I like. Rosewood absorbs too much of the upper mid and upper range for my taste, so I coated mine with polyurethane to bring out that part of the range more.

    Hope this helps. The only thing I'd add is you may want to consider having a fretless in addition to, not in lieu of, a fretted bass because there are things each can do that the other can't. Maybe that's why even Jaco had both.
  10. such as????
  11. Hmmm...I hate it when the My TalkBass doesn't send me a notice when someone replies in a thread...

    But anyway. I've never played a fretless much longer than 20 minutes at a time over at guitar shops. Even though I have limited experiance with them, I like em.

    So I wouldn't know what a fretless vibrato technique is. But I don't use the vibrato technique very much on my fretted.
  12. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    Cool. Then you haven't had a chance to develop any "bad" fretless techniques:D

    On a fretless, if you want to get vibrato, move your fretting finger parallel with the string. You can bend or "push" the string but IME that's one of the key causes of wear.

    The harder you press or bend the string into the fingerboard, the more wear you'll usually cause. Sooo... if you keep the action low and your touch light (I do) chances are that you will experience negligible. Even with higher action, fast wear is not inevitable.
  13. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Let's see, the only thing that I can think of that you can do on a fretless bass that you can't on a fretted is play perfectly in tune everywhere on the neck(if your ears are good enough;)).

    But I can't think of anything that you can do on a fretted that you can't do on a fretless. Please enlighten me.
  14. [devils advocate on]
    Well for starters, you can't get the riniging off the frets on a fretless.

    [devils advocate off]
  15. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    Personally, I'd say slapping. Sure, I know some folks slap on a fretless, but frankly, it never sounds remotely as good to me as it does on a fretted. When Marcus or Victor wants to slap, he doesn't reach for the fretless first. Mileage varies, as always.

    Also, I have yet to hear the fretless player who truly plays in tune everywhere on the neck. (And I say this as someone who plays and listens to a lot of fretless.) :D

    Finally, it's far harder to play an even somewhat complex or difficult double-stop or chord in tune (or close to it) on a fretless. Granted, most of us don't chord all or even most of the time on the bass, but still, the need does arise on occasion. As every guitar player knows, when you chord, it's often difficult and sometimes impossible to get every LH finger in the absolute right position; however, the frets allow you to play more or less in tune anyway.

    None of this is meant as a knock on fretless or fretless players (as I said, I play a lot of fretless myself). But I'm convinced that there are some of things the fretless can't do that the fretted can, as well as some things the fretted can't do that the fretless can.
  16. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    Sounds more like you're saying that there are some things it can't do as well as a fretted... and vice versa.
  17. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC

    Yes, that's more or less what I'm saying. Though I'd also say that in some instances the gap between the two is pretty wide. Which means, in my mind, that neither type of bass can *fully* supplant the other, despite what I sometimes hear from what I like to call "fretless militants." [just teasing, you guys.:D ]
  18. frederic b. hodshon

    frederic b. hodshon Supporting Member

    May 10, 2000
    Lake Forest, CA
    fretless militants?


    i discourage fretless playing every chance i get!

    DON'T DO IT!!! its bad, like sitting too close to the TV SET!!!

    pat robertson says its bad...tis the devils fingerwork...EVIL EVIL i tell ya!!!!


    jimmy "just the tip" swaggart has written VOLUMES about the dark road of fretless playing.

  19. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member


    Richard, I play fretted about 50% of the time, so I don't think that I qualify as a fretless militant.;)

    On a poly finished or phenowood board with stainless steels, slapping sounds suprisingly good. Yes, a little different than slap on a fretted, but still good.
  20. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    I could tell you oh so much more about the fretless militant conspiracy, how they scheme to impose their perverse agenda on the happy-go-lucky, imperfectly intonated world of the fretted bass.

    But I dare not ... they would not hesitate to silence me ... and they are everywhere ...