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How Do You Learn on an Unlined Fretless?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by tycobb73, Mar 16, 2010.

  1. tycobb73


    Jul 23, 2006
    Grand Rapids MI
    My ears are pretty good, but not that good. How do you do it? I'm looking at fretless basses but buying one without lines scares me as I've never done it before.
  2. I know this is prolly what you would think you would hear... but I would just say really listen you should able to hear if your intune or not. And maybe just use the side markers as a reference point.
  3. gre107


    Dec 25, 2005
    Listen to what you are playing. Play along with open strings for a sanity check. Play along with CD's etc... to get the muscle memory and your ears in tune. Play without looking at the neck so you mentally know / feel where the notes are. Play in front of a mirror. As well play in the dark. Overall, just practice, pay attention to what you are doing and it will come quickly.
  4. Intenzity


    Oct 15, 2006
    Seattle, WA
    You already know the answer, you said it - with your ears.

    Every single upright player/cellist/violist/violinist has had to do it from day 1.

    It will sound like a sitar for a while ... but you will hear when you are in tune or not and figure it out. Lines are not always where the notes are anyway.
  5. Stradavus


    Oct 21, 2005
    Get some fingerboard tape. It's what's used in orchestras. I would probably mark the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 12th "frets."

    Once you've got the locations down without looking, remove the tape. That's how I learned on the cello.
  6. foderaman77


    Oct 23, 2007
    Metro NYC
    Practice practice. Do you always look at your fretboard when you play a fretted bass? Of course not (in the long run). In the long run your ears will tell if your off. Now how do get from newbe playing to precision playing is practice practice practice. Train your ear. Know your metronome. Start slow then gain speed. Same old some old advice. No ways around it.
  7. jnuts1


    Nov 13, 2007
    yeah i agree with the above. listen & practice is all you can really do. i spent 6 straight months with mine to get the feel before i played it with anyone. & when you are live you can tell if you are off a lot better than at home alone. at least to me it is easier anyways.
  8. leehoop


    Jan 21, 2006
    Chicago, Ill.
    remember the position of your hand and fingers when you play a note while practicing and listen to the tone of the note.
  9. Billnc


    Aug 6, 2009
    Charlotte NC
    Practice scales slowly up and down each individual string, then groups of two strings then in full positions. When going up and down each string I use one finger only, then move into different positions on that string, one finger per note.

    I practice arppeggios, scales in various patterns ( 1 2 3 4, 2 3 4 5, 3 4 5 6, 4 5 6 7 and other digital scaler patterns) up and down each string. the shifts are where things can get wierd, this type practice should cure those problems.

    Play like you play fretted, if you play close to the frets. If you've got any facility at all on fretted you should have no trouble with fretless, but you must know all the notes cold. I found the transitiion to fretless to be no big deal.

    I personally would never do any sort of intonation training with a metronome.
  10. swsmusic


    Sep 23, 2010
    Newnan, GA
    Thanks for all of the great tips/suggestions. I just purchased an unlined fretless pbass from a member on the forum. Looking forward to this new adventure!
  11. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    I put a little pencil mark at where the fifth and twelfth frets would be on my upright. No one could see them, but me, heh, heh. Welcome to the club. You'll get better at it day by day.
  12. I use the side markers as a reference point .... on my fretless neck the markers are centered with where the fret should be, so you finger should be parallel with the side dot.

    Also, despite playing an unlined fretless for many years, I still play slightly out-of-tune if I can't hear myself really well.
  13. ryco


    Apr 24, 2005
    like has been said - listen very closely and play very slowly checking against open strings and harmonics. Also record yourself and playback right after playing the exercise - rinse, repeat.

    I also like playing along to this Major & Minor slowly. Has every key, some with V7-I & ii-V7-I (i) progressions. Take out the bass track and slowly play scales, intervals, and runs against piano & drums.
  14. guroove


    Oct 13, 2009
    Buffalo, NY
    Practice with a piano player, and with recordings that you know are in tune. Don't try to figure out songs on the fretless, do that on your fretted bass.
  15. NWB


    Apr 30, 2008
    Kirkland, WA
    I'm not going to add to the advice already presented except to say that it's likely easier than you may think.

    I was very worried about playing my first unlined fretless, but it really wasn't nearly as difficult as I imagined. I also found the required ear training to be very helpful in nearly all areas of my playing.
  16. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    Upright bassists learn specific fingering techniques that requires both muscle memory and ear training. Memorize your intervals and finger placement - if you use four fingers on your fretting hand know where whole/half steps, fifths, fourths, thirds, minor/major across all strings. You can think in four finger blocks which will give you access to a whole key. Practice scales in these blocks then work up to another octave via other strings.
  17. I'm very curious... Why you wouldn't do intonation training with a metronome?

    What I've been doing is playing intervals (like just octaves for example) up and down the entire fingerboard playing against a keyboard recording and intonating myself off of that. But there is a metronome as part of the recording to keep the keyboard and myself in time. I think it's helping, but I'm open for new ideas.
  18. Let us separate two tasks combined in one questions:

    1. you need to obtain very good earto initonate well. For fretless unlined bass you have to (my view) hear clearly difference of a quarter of a step (half of sharp or flat) At least. Better if you hear difference around 1/8 (though sometimes difficult on last 2 lowest strings).

    Provided a very good ear is what you can obtain (this is scientific physiological fact and practical evidence, just google for "ear training" and dig into the subject deeply) - in some time you will get it.

    2. You need to know how and be able to intonate precisely. This breaks into several tasks:

    - understand that on fretless your finger have to be as precise as 1-3 millimeters (not more) up or down the neck to catch the precise pitch.

    - using your ear excercise your fingers along the fretboard to get the muscles precisely (!!!) remember the strecth for the interval. this will take say 100 (200 or 300 or more) repeats per phrase to get it mastered (see the good definition of what mastery is in "Effortless Mastery" book). Remember that only mindfull very focused excercise will improve your skill. Being very concentrated on what pitch and where your fingers produce is a must. All 200-300 repetitions. I am serious.

    - as Steve Bailey adviced in his tutorial video each time you take a next note you have to immediately use you ear to check if the intonation is right on 100% of the note's pitch. If not - immediately adjust intonation to 100% pitch just swinging your finger up or down 1-2 millimeters. So this happens in split seconds.

    That is all.

    In practice to get intonation blindly nailed for a short difficult phrase (involving jump over 5 or more frets) takes me (I am a beginner) around 2-3 hours of constant repetition. As your phrases baggage grows it should take less and less.

    I would also suggest not to look at fingerboard at all after you got the line roughly remembered.
    Waaavy Rosegold and SherpaKahn like this.
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