1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Help! Fretless scares me!

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by teej, Dec 8, 2004.

  1. teej


    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    I've been playing for a while now, and I think I'd like to have a go with fretless basses. I'd like some honest feedback here. Is the transition from fretted to fretless an easy one? You see, I'm working on a bass project, so I don't want to make the neck fretless, only to find out that I can't play my bass. I've thought about lined fretless, but to me, that seems like training wheels or something. Also, I don't think it looks particularly good. I would go to a sound shop to try a fretless out, but the only sound shop here never has them in stock. Is there any way I can test myself with a fretted bass??

    (I hope this is the proper category for this thread. If not, mods, feel free to move it. Thanks!)
  2. I wouldn't worry about having lines on the fretless. Just as long as they're not TOO visible. A few of the fretless fender jazz basses I've seen still had little lines left from the frets.
  3. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    Let go of your preconceptions about the fretlines. They are a HUGE help for a fretted player. Jaco Pastorius left them on his bass, and he sure didn't need them. When you start out, you are almost guaranteed to need them, and then when you develop the skill not to, don't look at the fretboard. As far as the looks, well, that's your perogative.
  4. When I bought my wishbass, I had never even picked up a fretless before. Being a wishbass there were no fretlines and the nail side dots were all close to the 12th fret but not exact.

    I slid the bridge (easy to do on a wish) to get it to where the intonation was reasonable to the dots and then I just WENT for it.

    I was actually quite amazed at just how easy it was. I simply imagined where the positions were and since I always played my fretted basses right behind (nearly on top even) the frets, I simply let my fingers and my ears do the work.

    Tips: To start off, getting your finger placement right play stuff that you are really comfortable with, and don't do any sliding. Just play it as you would on a fretted. Play with a recording or even better, record your fretted bass first and then play with that.

    Secondly, relax enjoy and if you hit wrong notes move your fingers and play LOUDER...hehe (not really) But you'll get it, I'm sure.

  5. About 11 years ago, I got my first fretless, a MIJ unlined Fender Jazz, on a Tuesday and played it on a gig that Friday. I had very few problems. I think the fact that I also had a fretted Jazz at the time was a big help because the neck profiles were similar and both had the same scale length. I have owned a lined fretless and I struggled on it because I was worried about finger placement (presumably because of the lines). With the unlined bass, I listened to notes rather than looking for them. It is a matter of preference and a lot of players like lined fretless instruments better; I'm just not one of them.
  6. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    Fretlines are OK for Jimmy Haslip, so they are OK for me. I used to be a "purist" about a blank board, but I got over it. I've "gotten over" a lot of stuff as I get older. Funny how that works.

    In the end, you need to do what you want and like. I really like playing my fretless 6. I actually prefer it unless I need a certain sound from my fretted 5.

    It's nice having the option of frets or fretless. Go for it and enjoy!
  7. Don't worry about some imagined stigma regarding fretlines. They're not training wheels, they're just one approach to the instrument. Jimmy Haslip, Gary Willis, and Jaco don't mind them, so why should you if you want them? It really should be a nonissue. Whatever works *for you*, you know?

    As SteveC said, the bottom line is, do whatever you want and like. And have fun with it! Fretless is a blast.
  8. jeff schmidt

    jeff schmidt no longer red carded, but my butt is still sore.

    Aug 27, 2004
    Novato, CA
    I can't remember ever hearing fret lines on a fretless. Can you?
  9. teej


    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    Hmmm.... I can play without looking at the FB.... and those are some good points.... and I like Mr. Pasotrius. Who doesn't?! :smug: It's going to be an ebony neck, and the lines would bearound 1mm thick. I wonder how well ebony or rosewood lines would show?
  10. No offense, but if you're thinking of ebony or dark rosewood lines on an ebony FB, why bother having them at all? In a lot of situations you'd find them hard or impossible to see, and thus they might as well not be there at those times.

    I had a fretless with maple lines once. It was a less constrast-y look than the usual white plastic but was as visible as it needed to be. Also, the lightness of the maple got a little mellowed out by finger oils over a year or three, so the lines didn't stick out visually as much as you might think. You might consider something like that. Just a thought.
  11. teej


    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    they blend, huh? thats definitely reassuring.

    you guys may laugh at this, but just a few minutes ago, i got some thin cardboard and electrical tape and taped the cardboard over the fingerboard. it's not as hard as i thought.
  12. teej


    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    Hey Rich... I was just looking at your TB profile (thought there might be a big pic of your avatar) and noticed you like XTC? They're one of my all-time favorite bands! I think "That Wave" or "Making Plans..." has my favorite basslines.
  13. hey... i think that you're onto something...a fretless/fretted convertable bass! have cardboard and duct tape (design improvement?) will travel :D
  14. teej


    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    actually, i think its been thought of before. get some magnetic tape and line both the FB and top of the neck. then you can just snap different fingerboards on!!
  15. Oh yeah, I like XTC a lot. I think Colin Moulding, in particular, is highly underrated.
  16. _Unregistered_


    Nov 3, 2004

    I think they called it "switchboards". They were magnetic and swappable between fretted and fretless.
  17. nahhhh...it's just not as sexy as the duct tape method

    there's nothing like the feel of duct tape residue on the back of the neck....schweeeeeeeeeeet!
  18. teej


    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    Hey, if you're into the grunge/punk look, the cardboard and duct tape method are right up your alley. Just be sure to raise your saddles up pretty high, otherwise the strings buzz like you won't believe.
  19. I remember those. Never got to play one, but the word I heard, which I can't verify, was that because the FBs weren't part of the neck full-time, the necks tended to be relatively weak and unstable and couldn't be set up to play really well. FWIW, which may be little.
  20. teej


    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    've scoured the internet for info on those, but have come up empty.