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fretmarkers on upright???? huh

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Matt Ides, Jun 18, 2004.

  1. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    Now I will say that I have far from perfect ears. But I was just going through some old threads and was amazed by the numerber of DB's that have some sort of markings (yes I know Meyer has them, but do you really think he needs them).

    I learned the hardway I guess...Making sure you are tuned right, harmonic checks, Muscle memory, correct hand position, and for crying our loud, using my ears.

    I do realize that you don't want to start slightly sharp or flat and then listen to your line be all sharp or flat.

    And yes it takes years and a life time to constantly be fine tuning the intonation...but I can't imagine playing and having to look at the bass to make sure I am in tune.

    Maybe it was my first DB instructor that ingrained in me the using my ears approach.

    For those who use them, why??? and if you don't, why not???


  2. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I do not have them on my bass nor I have I played a bass that had them permanently installed, but it seems VERY common to pick up a house bass or someone else's bass at a festival and see the neck marked with a pencil line or a piece of tape or sticker. In fact, I found myself recently very ticked off when my loaned out bass came back to me with pencil marks on the neck. Fortunately, they came off easily enough.

    Personally, I think that they hinder much more than they help. First of all, if they are there, I tend to look at them for some reason. Whereas, if not, I have a much easier time following the chart or if I know the song, just generally having a much more enjoyable time playing.

    Secondly, even when I do look at them, I think they mess me up more than anything. I don't know why exactly, but if I actually play through something even as simple as a major scale, it never sounds as in tune as I think it should if I stop every string perfectly on the markers.

    I guess they might be nice to offer a starting place in a piece that might otherwise be difficult. But, how long does it really take to find the note with harmonic reference?

    The only real advantage I see to them would be for someone who is very much a beginner. I mean like the first couple of months. Especially if they are new to musicianship completely. When beginning Simandl, the finger span in the 1/2, 1st and 2nd position is awkwardly wide. Having some reference that will force you to make that span might be helpful until the ligaments and tendons are stretched out enough that you are comfortable with it.

    When I started playing db I had been playing music for 15 years, I stretched because I could hear I was flat. If you can't hear it, a marker might help. But absolutely take them off at first opportunity.

    I have heard of some teachers taping the fb with the idea that by the time the tape wears off, you don't need it any more.

    Of course, if you are accustomed to performing the Vulcan mind meld, you may find it very comfortable.
  3. larry


    Apr 11, 2004
    I had refused to do anything like that for years. Then I had a recording session where I wanted to make sure I really nailed it, so I put a thin piece of clear tape on the side of the finger board at the fifth position and at the octave to help, and it worked great. My improv playing improved becuase I gained confidence to attempt things I otherwise may not have out of fear of missing it. It also helps in gig situations where you can't hear yourself very well. Unfortunately, it quickly becomes a crutch that you depend on. I remain on the fence today. I think it has made me a better "sounding" player, but not necessarily a "better" player. Ultimately, we want to sound good. I don't think this is like an pro athelete taking steroids, but I don't feel 100% right about it either.
  4. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I can see where they'd be a great help when you have to hit a big, loud note cold somewhere in the middle of the neck. Particularly when you're on a more classical thing or something similar when too much 'character' on the note (i.e. a slide with wide vibrato) is in appropriate.
  5. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    I don't use any markers on the upright. What did help me though is when I double I strictly play a Fretless BG...of course not looking and using ears to guide me.

  6. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    I find it interesting that this topic keeps surfacing. No one seems to question playing a guitar that has fret markers, or looks with distain on an artist who uses one. Even pianos have two colors of keys. Everyone understands that players of those instruments learn to play by sound and feel, and generally don't focus their vision on the markers. Yet, in the bass world, we seem to think it's a matter of pride to be able to play without the "crutch" of markers. My bass is marked with three very small white dots on the side of the fingerboard. I almost forget they are there, but every once in a while...
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    This happened to me a couple of weeks ago when recording the new Java Men rekkid. We had two tunes that invloved several instances of "cold notes" right in the middle of the neck which are always a crapshoot live. Rather than worry about clamming them, I marked lightly on the fingerboard with a pencil, nailed them on the recording, then wiped them off an went about my life.

    Oh, the shame! :D
  8. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Well I don't feel the same about the piano, simply because you got waaaay too many fingers to pound on them 'teeth'. I don't even need the black keys, but they sure as heck better be positioned how they are today. Guitars are sorta same thing... too many strings. Plus you got that weird shift with the 1st two strings since the guitar isn't completely tuned in 4ths. Frets them come in handy, but as you get better (liek on piano) you tend not to pay attention to the fretmarkers.
    At least with both, where you strike (whether on a key or between frets), you have alot more room for error than on DB.

    DB I think it's very much a 'feel' instrument. A slight milimeter off and your intonation is whack. And then with other factors with the bass that can cause tuning to go off, the markers just distract you from the correct sound - what you're hearing. Already, I feel like I want to remove the fretmarkers from my fretless BG because they're distracting!
  9. larry


    Apr 11, 2004
    Yeah, funny you mention that. I posted that I keep a thin piece of tape at the 5th pos. and the octave on my db, but I hate any kind of marker on a fretless electric.
  10. dvmweb


    Apr 20, 2002
    Atlanta MI 49709
    Fretmarkers? Fretmarkers, you ask. You gonna learn to play the damn thing or not? Fretmarkers, soooo uncool. Use your fingers, use your friggin' ears! It only takes a little while, months, to get the feel and to hear what you play. If you have fretmarkers, you will watch your fingers, you will not read the music, you will be a wannabe. You will not get in the groove. It will slow you down. My URB did not come with fretmarkers. Oooooh! Pardon me.
    Walt MI/US
  11. larry


    Apr 11, 2004
    Yeah, after 20 years of playing, I'm a wannabe.
  12. McBass


    Mar 31, 2004
    Brooklyn, NY
    I'd say months is optimistic. I don't know anyone who's satisfied with their ability to play in tune. For most it's a constant battle.
  13. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    You go ahead and be cool. Chris and I will be in tune.
  14. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    The keyboard on your computer is likely marked with the letters each key represents. Did you watch your fingers while you entered that post, or did you do it the "cool" way?
  15. Yeah, Edgar is sooo uncool. Try playing with a bow sometime. You might find that you "wannabe" in tune. Close is for horseshoes, hand grenades and some pizz players who never practice with the bow.
    I've never used markers...but I don't look down on those who do. They're probably smarter than my pride has let me be.
  16. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I don't use them, and when I play arco, I'm always perfectly in tune. I can tell by the audience; they're often covering their mouths in amazement, sometimes they begin to cry (especially conductors). Many times, they leave the room, they're so overcome by how in tune I am.

    Golly, I'm cool.
  17. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    I did not intend to start a good vs bad. Just wonder why some people use them and other don't. Everyone has a reference points on their bass to stay in tune, visual or not.

    Thanks though...many of you gave me your answers.

  18. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I've watched Edgar Meyer play on the Appalacian Waltz DVD quite a bit, and it's often that he does look at the fingerboard. Check him out and see what you think. If you've seen him or are able to see him perform on his 5 stringer with the Lincoln Chamber players on the Bach stuff, I think you may be able to see him watch the fingerboard quite often there too.

    If you have little trouble playing in tune without any sort of visual aid to help your fingers reach the right spot, great. Myself, I don't look at my hands as I practice either, and I get to experience much grief trying to play with solid intonation right now. I don't hear a whole lot of bassists who sound like they've got it together with intonation the way I want to hear it either (and I hope what I hear is worth striving for, but luckily that's not what this thread's about), so maybe Edgar Meyer has something worth considering for the visual folks and Red Mitchell has something worth considering for tactile folks with his little buttons on the back of the neck, especially in these days where the big bass is having it's day perhaps like never before.
  19. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    Thinking about my first six months on the bass, my lack of looking at my fingers was more from playing in an orchestra for the first time (constantly reading and watching the conductor) than anything else.

    The big bass is making a nice come back.

  20. spark500


    May 7, 2004
    The pencil marks work fine and if you need a little help why not use what works for you. You dont get paid more for not using marks or closing your eyes while you play. If it helps, just do it.

    I think one reason marks help is that many basses have a longer or shorter scale and as you switch instruments it helps one adjust.

    Bass players spend millions to tweak tailpieces, soundpost, fingerboards, every pickup imaginable to gain an edge. Maybe if someone developed a special "bass" pencil for $100 each pencil marks would become "cool".