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Going fretless - how hard is it?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Bocete, Feb 18, 2008.

  1. Bocete

    Bocete My E string is 36 1/4" long

    Sep 30, 2006
    I've been playing bass for 2 years or so, and fell in love with the fretless sound. I also tried some fretless basses and loved the feel :) I would really love to go fretless, but am fairly busy and couldn't practice fretless precision for hours every day, in fact I doubt I could practice every day at all.

    So, would going fretless be a smart move? I guess I could practice for two hours every other day, but note I'm still a rookie in fretted..

    And yes, if I bought a fretless, it would be a fanned fret one so there would be even more trouble..

    What do you think?
    Thx, Bocete
  2. I've never used a fretless so ignore me if I'm talking rubbish... but could you go for one that has the fretlines marked out? Surely that would help the transition?
  3. SoLongJake

    SoLongJake Supporting Member

    Jul 1, 2007
    Des Moines, Iowa
    A fanned fretless would be nearly impossible to have accurate intonation on. Out of curiosity, what would be the reason for wanting a fanned fretless? Just go unlined, nothing looks cooler imo than a nice unlined fingerboard.
  4. kevteop


    Feb 12, 2008
    York, UK
    I switched to fretless after about two years of playing bass guitar, my first fretless was unlined, and I played it at a show the same week I bought it.

    Whether my intonation sucked awfully or not I don't know... ;)

    You don't need hours of dedicated practice every day, but you might need to break some left-hand habits to finger notes more accurately.
  5. Bocete

    Bocete My E string is 36 1/4" long

    Sep 30, 2006
    Because I love high tension, and a 37" B string would give me one. I have a really hard time playing even the 35" 5-stringers.

    Though unlined fretlesses are HAWT :)

    I haven't seen an unlined fanned fretless... Though I'm sure they exist, only a true master can play that.

    So my fretless would be lined.
  6. Hawkeye

    Hawkeye Canuck Amateur

    Like SoLongJake, I think you're asking for trouble with a fanned fret fretless. You would need to have it lined then, not unlined My MIJ Fender Jazz fretless has side marker dots only, no lines. It's actually easier to play than you think.

    I find the unlined boards with side markers the easiest to play for me. The side marker dots are in approximately the same position that you would place your finger on a fretted instrument anyway. In my mind, this requires the least amount of "transitioning" from a fretted instrument. The unfretted bass "looks" the same to me as the fretted bass and I need to make less adjustments in fretting the notes. Just me, but lined boards confuse me.
  7. BillyRay

    BillyRay Supporting Member

    Jan 20, 2008
    I have tried many times of switching to fretless and the hardest thing for me was to multitask (sing and play, for example). But it's not that hard if all you do is play songs for wich you already have a simple bassline. You can also start off practicing fretless on a fretted instrument by only fretting with the tip of your finger very near to the fret. It'll make the transitions way easier than if you have sloppy left hand technique.

    And please, pick up a non-fanned fretless. There are lots and lots of 35" low-B's that are not floppy.
  8. UncleBalsamic


    Jul 8, 2007
    I reckon you could probably adjust to a fanned fret fretless relatively easily. It will be hard but I don't think it would be impossible. Also if the bass is a Dingwall it will be amazing anyway.
  9. rezin


    Sep 26, 2006
    Madison, WI
    i've been playing bass for just over a year now and i'm far from great. i got my first fretless about 9 months in and never had any problems.

    i haven't even done any fretless specific practicing or excercises, it just automatically felt more natural to me and now when i grab a bass i grab the fretless first every time.

    mine is lined but i don't look at the neck when i play. i think that's the best way to go if you can stop yourself from staring at the lines because it's nice to know you can bail yourself out with them if you need to.
  10. FenderGuy2112


    Feb 17, 2008
    Why don't you buy an old bass and make it fretless yourself; it will have marks on it where the frets used to be. The marks are pretty accurate (intonation-wise) on my custom fretless.

  11. DrewBud


    Jun 8, 2005
    The HUGE thing about playing and transitioning to fretless is intonation. The big question should be...how is your ear?

    I started playing fretless about 13 years ago and did nothing but fretless for about 5 years. I LOVE fretles.

    IMHO your goal should be that your intonation should be so good that no one knows your playing fretless until you decide you want them too (by unleashing a well placed muawwwww on them). 90% of the fretless players I hear (non-pro) don't have their intonation together enough and spend all gig sliding up to and down every note because they can't hit it dead on every time. This will drive your bandmates and the audience nuts.

    By all means get a fretless (as your 2nd bass for now), play on it as much as you can...and when you can't tell the difference between notes played fretted or fretless you're ready to make the switch.

    My 2 cents...
  12. What is involved in doing this?
  13. willg95


    Jul 7, 2007
    Spring Lake, MI
    i play fretless every now and then in jazz band... i don't have much of a problem switching off. but i'd advise have the fret markers on it yet so you can keep in track of where you are... and you have to nail the fret mark on a fretless opposed to being directly behind the fret on a regular bass or you'll be a semitone off
  14. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Go for it. A couple of suggestions.

    1.) Start being very careful about your hand postition. When you are playing fretted, keep your fingers as close to the frets as you can... this will help with the transition, and make you a better fretted player.

    2.) Get a cheapo bass and yank the frets to see if you can deal with playing fretless. You can get a toss off bass on ebay for under a $100.

    3.) Really think through this idea of a fanned fretless. You'll probably have to have it custom made... think big bucks. If you really want that 37" scale, go for all the strings on that scale.... it will be a better sounding bass and the longer the scale the bigger the 'forgiveness' factor on finger placement there will be.

    Good luck with this. I played 33 years before going fretless and I love it. I wish I had done it years ago. Half my gigs for for fretless. All my practice is on fretless. I can't get enough of it.
  15. nipperooney


    Jul 5, 2007
    I'm far from being the worlds reatest bass player and I've just bought myself a very nice Yamaha TRB1005f, 5 string lined fretless. It's a doddle to play. At first I found it nigh on impossible as I'd not gotten over the fact that you have to finger the note bang on the fret mark, rather than just behind it as on a fretted. After a bit of practice it's now second nature. I think an unlined bass would be nice as it would look more like a fretless (mine still has the look of a fretted), but it's a great help having the lines there and nailing the intonation without too much trouble.
  16. nsmar4211


    Nov 11, 2007
    I loved the fretless sound so I did the ebay route and bought a washburn for 70 bucks..... it's unlined but has dots on the fingerboard. And it has side markers. Problem is, the dots on the fingerboard are where the frets are.......the side markers are where the side markers are on a normal bass (between the frets!)....ahhh... I can't do it.

    My bass teacher (who plays fretless) tried it and it drove him buggy too... he suggested I take it in and have fret lines put on it. I played his lined fretless while sitting in at a gig, and had no problems with the intonation... It's a dark neck with dark filled lines (was defretted) but it was just enough refence to make it doable :). Could you maybe borrow a fretless from someone for a while? See if your ear can handle it? Or find a cheaper version to practice on before getting a fancy one ? Lot easier to defret a bass than the other way around LOL...... beware though if you buy a bass on ebay and make sure the sidemarkers are in the logical place :)
  17. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Big Dogs Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    Something to think about:
    A fanned fretless will set you back big bucks, and will be very difficult to sell (note how few people on this thread have said "yeah, I want one of those!").
    You haven't played fretless at all yet.
    Do you really want to make that big an investment to see if you like it, and risk it not working out?
    Might be worth checking out a more standard fretless, lined or unlined, 35" scale if that's your preference. If you love it, then you're ready to think about plunking down the Big Bucks for the fanned. If you really love it, then you already have what you like... :D
    Just my .02
  18. WesW

    WesW <>< Supporting Member

    Jul 25, 2002
    Lynn Haven, FL
    You may want to consider getting a fretless to match whatever fretted bass your playing. That way you have something that will have the same neck profile, feel, etc - so muscle memory can aid you in the transition.

    Best of luck! :)
  19. tswd


    Jun 20, 2007
    If you try to turn a fretted bass into a fretless, remember that the wood on the fingerboard might not be hard enough for it. Jaco mentioned in MEB that he always practiced on a fretted bass and only used fretless on stage because the strings tore up the fretboard.

    Fretless basses are pretty common now, so just buy one that's designed from the get-go to be fretless.
  20. +1 to TSWD.

    I ripped out the frets of a bass that was GIVEN to me and I still wish I had just bought one. If you're asking what is involved, likelyhood is you won't do it well.

    The hardest thing for me to do in making the jump was to know if my brand new really cheap bass was in tune or if I was just butchering my positioning. Turned out I was both right. When you get it keep a tuner handy so you can be certain whether the butchering is you or the bass being out of tune (it will likely be you, but no use adjusting your positioning to a bad spot if you're not the problem).

    I loves me some fretless!!! Every time I pick up a fretted anymore it leaves me empty. Sad really, I had a Stiletto Elite that I really liked and sold it because all I ever wanted to play was my SX Jazz. SX neck is hard to play, the bass is heavy, access to any fret above 17 requires great care, and it has some serious neck dive, but I still wanted to play it over the Schecter because there were no frets to interfere in my delivery of music.

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