How hard is a fretless bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Guss, Oct 11, 2002.

  1. I'm considering getting a fretless bass, are there any TBers out there who play fretless who could tell me how long it usually takes to get good?
  2. temp5897

    temp5897 Guest

    Personally I do not think they are that much "harder" than a fretted. I have only been playing a few months and Ive played maybe 1-2 fretlesses in a store. I was thinking I would sound terrible but I would say I was about 80% right on my first try after only playing fretted for a couple months. My next bass is definitely going to be fretless.

    If you want one go for it.
  3. A great tool for jamming. If you have any ear at all, and you aren't sure about the chord changes, take a fretless along! Most people will tell you that you have to be more precise on a fretless, but you can slide up to the notes you need, apply a little vibrato, and people think you are great. You can easily develop the technique, and sound like you've been playing one all your life. I use both fretted and fretless in the Studio and for live work, and the word soon gets around that you're VERSATILE, when you're just enjoying yourself! Buy it, practise with them both, and watch the work roll in.
  4. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    What ad agency do you work for? ;)
  5. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    I got my fretless in 97. I would advise you to get a good fretless player as a teacher, even if it's for a couple of lessons. I got into some bad habits and it takes longer to get out of them.
  6. rickreyn

    rickreyn Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2000
    Lutz, Florida
    Not hard. I thought it would blow me away, but I still have mine after a few weeks. The longest I've kept a fretless. The key is getting a really nice one.
  7. arcopizz

    arcopizz Supporting Member

    Sep 3, 2002
    I have had a fretless Bass in my repertoire for about 20 years now and thought I was good until I sat down with Gary Willis a couple seperate times when he was in town. He showed me just how bad my intonation really was. It does make a difference if you have a good bass, but the key, he taught me, is to have an excellent ear. You don't have to have perfect pitch, but if your ear is at A 442, or 438, etc. play along with a midi keyboard patch when you practice, or some other correctly pitched tone tool to help you dial your ear in. REALLY listen and learn to tell within the quartertones if your intonation is there, or not. Next is muscle memory that will only come with repetition and practice. If you're looking to get gigs as a fretless player, getting close to the note and sliding in with vibrato isn't the way to do it. Good players and producers will hear you coming from a mile away and hire the next guy in line. I'm still not an expert but I am much better after listening to what Gary had to say (and practicing my arse off! :-}). I'm just taking the chance to pass it on here, in this forum. It's an awesome instrument and adds a new dimension to what we can put in our bag of tricks. Go for it and have a blast!
  8. jaybo

    jaybo Guest

    Sep 5, 2001
    Richmond, KY
    The only flaw with that is you'll be a very lucky bassist if the musicians you play with are always perfectly intonated. :)

    Just practice slowly and with a tuner. From time to time check your pitch with the tuner to make sure you're "on".
  9. kirbywrx

    kirbywrx formerly James Hetfield

    Jul 27, 2000
    Melbourne, Australia.
    This hard



    OK im done. The only thing harder about a fretless, is that you have to put your finger in the exact spot, or the note sounds muted, dull and jut plain bad. :D
  10. Chris, would you care to elaborate on some of the bad fretless habits you developed? Is it stuff like "playing right where the lines would be, rather than just before them"? I'm rather curious. I haven't spent a whole lot of time on fretless basses, but I have good intonation when I do play them, thanks in part to my technique on a fretted bass. I never had a bass teacher, but all those scales I made myself do (for reasons unbeknownst to me at the time other than pure wankery) seem to have paid off when it comes to playing fretless!

    Thanks for any insight,
  11. depends what kind of wood it's made of.
  12. when I first started playing my fretless, I thought it wasn't that tough. but the more I play it, the more I realize how hard it really is.
    Practice, practice, practice. you really have to develope your ear, and you just need to sit down and practice.
    I had mine set up so that it's intonated right behind the line (as if it were fretted). I think that helps me visually and also with muscle memory and hand/eye coordination.
    try playing along with some of your favorite tunes, and record it. listen to it later and hear how bad you are. ;) it may push you to practice more.
  13. I think that the degree of difficulty of going to fretless is directly proportional to where you are on a fretted bass as far as technique. If you fret you're instrument properly ( JUST behind the fretwire ) , It should be very easy to make the jump , especially if you get the lines on the fingerboard , which I would highly recommend . If your habit is to hit your note anywhere between the fretwires , it's gonna take a fair amount of practice to get your intonation right. Jaco said that his approach to fretted and fretless was identical -- I'll take him at his word .....
    Best of Luck !!!
  14. rickreyn

    rickreyn Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2000
    Lutz, Florida
    Practicing hard is a given. Don't want to minimize this. I also agree that a great ear gives you a great jump. Since I play by ear, checking where I am on the lines helps a great deal. I wanted to get a fretless and immediately enjoy it, so that's why I got the lines. I also loved the Willis Sig model.
  15. CS


    Dec 11, 1999

    Sorry RE the delay in replying. My PC went down.

    THe 'bad habits' were basically to slide the note in and apply vibrato. This is not bad in itself, but I was doing it all the time. I still do it but it's a choice.

    I have been playing fretted exclusively for a while and I got the fretless out last night. I hooked up the tuner and reaquainted myself with the neck by hitting every note (flats as well) right (or until I got it right). I then played my overthetop slides and wobbles chops.

    I also gave my son a lesson on it sado masochist that I am (it was his second lesson).

    Steve Lawson has some very strong ideas on how to play a fretless which is relavent as he is my teacher.
  16. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Ahh, you beat me to it!!!
    Unless it's made of non-wood materials...

    Anyway, playing fretless is less difficult than ignorant people will tell you (ignorant=never really gave it a shot)
    I started on fretless, and have never gotten as good with bumps as I was without!
    Need a new fretless!
  17. It all depends on what else you have to do while you are playing bass. In the previous band I had which was a 3 piece oldies type of deal, I had to sing about 50% of the stuff and sing backup on everything else. Fretless just didn't work for me in that situation. I just couldn't concentrate on my playing enough to stay in tune. But, with the band I'm in now, I don't have to sing lead but on about 5 songs and backup on maybe 10. I played my fretless on the last 2 gigs and everything went just fine. Or at least no one threw anything at me!:D
  18. No problem about the delay, Chris - I went out of town to visit family for Thanksgiving. Hope your PC is alive and well...

    A fretless axe is not in my near future as I have a few more fretted basses I'd like to acquire first. I am but a yonug lad of 18, so I have a bit of time :)

    When I have messed around on fretless, I wanted to see how well I could intonate so I'd try scale exercises and such. The slide/vibrato thing sure is fun though... mwaaaaaaaaaah!

    And hey, it isn't sado-masochism if your son is enjoying it! (unless ie is a masochist! *grin*)

  19. pd_5string

    pd_5string Admin: Accnt Disabled

    Jan 23, 2002
    Playing a fretless in the store vs playing with a band are two totally different things.
  20. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    If you have a very good ear and very good technique, the transition is pretty quick. If you have only one, or neither, it will take a lot of time and practice.