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Fretted v. fretless for a beginner

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by M_J_P, Mar 28, 2009.

  1. M_J_P


    Mar 27, 2009
    I am just starting out with bass and lookng to buy my first. While I have been surfing around I have found various fretted and fretless basses. As a complete noob to bass what would be the best to go for, fretless or fretted?

    I've looked at some youtube videos of fretless basses and I love the sound you can get from them, but would it be more sensible to go for a fretted base first and then switch later?
  2. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    In my view, you should decide based on the music you want to play, and the sounds you want. If you really dig fretless tone and it would fit your style, then go for it. Sure, fretted is a little easier, but plenty of kids start out on violin, cello, etc., so I really don't think it matters.
  3. ghostjs


    Aug 14, 2008
    Unofficially Endorsing: D'Addario, Lakland
    well i guess i'd go for fretted. its good to learn all the basics before going for a fretless
  4. HogieWan


    Feb 4, 2008
    Lafayette, LA
    a fretless probably limits what you can play. Not that rules can't be broken, but a lot of music just sounds better on a fretted bass.

    Make sure you try both in a local store. Pick up a lined fretless (so you know where to put your fingers) and see if you dig the feel of it. Whether you buy a lined or unlined is up to you, but I think you should use the lines to see if you want to go that route
  5. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    MJP, I think starting off on fretless is fine, but it will be a challange. Playing fretless by yourself, you may think you are doing fine, but when you play along with some music or another musician, you will likely see that you are not in tune with them. Playing in tune is a real challenge, but it is something you can overcome if you are determined.
  6. I'm a fretless guy, but I'd think it would the learning curve won't be as steep on a fretted bass. I'd think spending time on the fretted will help you develop your ear when you go fretless.
  7. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    I think that's because a lot of fretless players want to slide to every note and make all their parts sound really fretless-y, it's as bad as dudes who think that every song needs slap parts. You can play a fretless so it does sound more like a fretted.
  8. I think the squire fretless modifies jazz is a good beginner fretless,... pretty forgiving for the most part! When I first picked it up I was pretty much intonating properly, still have trouble sliding sometimes though as I tend to over extend and stop halfway between notes etc...

    just be a ware that fretless sound can sound vastly different to fretted,... although quite a few have used it sucsessfuly in rock etc and made it fit the bill quite nicely (look up even flow by pearl jam

    if you want an idea, and he even does a nice sliding harmonic hehehehe)
  9. von buck

    von buck

    Feb 22, 2008
    wolcott ct.
    Get a fretted first. Your going to need to develop muscle memory and an ear in order to play a fretless, unless you just want to slide around playing out of tune.
    Before anyone starts complaining, I play both.

  10. Rock-Bassman


    Dec 25, 2008
    I'd say fretless first.
    Reason 1: If you're gonna want to learn to play fretless eventually, why not do it now?
    Reason 2: You said you love how they sound.

    True you will probably need to use a tuner so you stay in tune (DEFINATELY get lines on the fingerboard tho) but if you get lines it'll be like playing a fretted bass, just it will sound fretless....
    Well there's my $.02 but hey, whatever floats your boat bro!
  11. ggunn


    Aug 30, 2006
    Austin, TX
    My $0.02...

    If you are going to play by yourself while you get your intonation under control, then sure, start out fretless if that's where you will ultimately go. If you are going to start playing in some sort of ensemble from the git-go, however, then give your bandmates a break and start out on a fretted bass.
  12. If you like the fretless sound get a fretless. Since you are a beginner (btw, have you played any other instruments before?), maybe one with lines.
  13. Lines for a beginner aren't exactly going to help. The ear will not be developed enough to be able to adjust or tell how accurate the lines aren't. Having to constantly look at the lines might not develop the ear as much as one would hope and having to constantly look will get in the way of playing while reading music.
  14. Well, obviously they should only serve as an orientation. Personally, I don't like lines (they look ugly...), but many violin and cello teachers put small stickers onto the fingerboards of their beginner student's instruments as a guide. They seem to think it's helpful. (IIRC my violin and cello teachers never did this, but many do)
  15. +1 Fretless is a beautiful instrument, but like learning any fretless stringed instrument, be prepared to devote a LOT of serious practice time to just hitting the right spot on the neck to be in tune, much less learning everything else. Double bassists jump right into it, but they jump in when they're 10. Re: l0calh05t: Yes! Do you already have an ear for intonation? If so that's a big help.
    Maybe get a less costly fretted bass to learn music on (if you need to) and to be in the band and get a cheapo fretless to learn intonation??? I picked a nice one up for $150 on eBay several years ago. The neck scale is the same as on a $10K dreamboat.
    I love the fretless -- no speed bumps! :)


  16. To a disciplined fretless player, the lined or unlined nature of the bass will not affect how they play or sound. Without a developed ear, I can see a lot of detrimental habits potentially.

    I wouldn't say that playing fretless was my ultimate goal, but it became just that. I think I had played bass for about 4-5 years before picking up the fretless and had another 5 years of guitar before picking up the bass. Even though I had a pretty good ear and a good amount of experience, it still took me a year to get the fretless to sound passable in a band setting. Given the challenges of learning bass, I simply think starting out on a fretless would be pretty frustrating. The goal is to keep learning easy enough that you don't want to give up.
  17. Wrong, it's all about the player. I play fretless 90% of the time, and a lot of my chop building I did a fretless. Just do it your way, and don't let anyone else try and tell you how it should be done!
  18. Not all double bassist start when they're 10... I took up DB at 17 (but already had 2 years of recorder, 1 year of violin, 6 years of cello and 1 year of electric bass under my belt). Anyways, I was asking the OP if he had any other music instrument (or singing for that matter) experience, because that really helps with getting an ear for intonation.
  19. But it seems to be the OPs goal, so I think starting out on fretless would be the right choice in this case.
  20. Again, it took me a year to be passable in the band setting after about 9 years of playing. It won't be impossible, but it's going to be a long and steep climb.

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