How long did it take you to learn Fretless?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by DriveThruEmoKid, Apr 16, 2003.

  1. I am thinking about switching overe to Fretless, as no one around here where i live plays or can play one. I am pretty good at Fretted Bass, but am thinking about taking up a challenge. Now how should i practice fretless? Should i just play my fretted with my eyes closed or what? And how long did it take for you to learn to play a fretless well? I'm not sure if i am ready for the switch yet.
  2. Brooks


    Apr 4, 2000
    Middle East
    I took me 3 months of intensive, daily practice (alone and with the band) to be able to play live and sound OK, that is, good enough that people and bandmates didn't look at me in a funny way. Still miss a spot here and there, but I learned to listen and slide up/down real fast.

    Some fast numbers (especially with slap) are still a challenge, and controlling the MWAH is also from time to time, but I am now comfortable gigging on a fretless. I don't even take a backup fretted with me.
  3. heh, we have the same birthday, emokid.
  4. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
  6. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Brad nailed it.
  7. The 29th of August is Quite Popular, no? :D Anyway, should i be super awesome at Fretted before i should switch to Fretless, or should i start early and practice on Fretless to get the Hang of it?
  8. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    To play the fretless you'll need to actually play it. They're similar to fretted and very different animals at the same time. Practice. You need to be able to hear yourself. Practice. Play the same songs on fretless you would on fretted. Practice nailing notes as opposed to sliding into them. Work open strings into your lines as an intonation guage. If you like chords fretless can be amazingly beautiful... or horribly wrong. Listen...

    And then practice some more.

    The same is true of fretted and other instruments. Fretless can be tons of fun or frustrating as heck. Sometimes both.
  9. I posted this on another thread about Intonation: Here's what I wrote. And I am still learning as well. Always will be:

    (Simandl refers to the Simandl method - It is the main book for learning how to play the contra bass -- upright bass. IMHO - this is very applicable to playing the fretless. Read the first few pages and adapt the different postion lessons to your fretless or fretted and if you read -- do the exercises. It helps a lot)

    Yeah the Simandl is the way to go. I played upright first before bass guitar and my first electric bass was converted to a fretless by removing the frets and then putting an ebony fingerboard. I can still see the places where the frets where and they usually are out of intonation if you use them as guides. In fact I found it was harder to play in tune with the fretless bass guitar first, the way your hands are positioned. If you follow simandl and adapt it a bit and use the postions he recommends it will improved your intonation a lot. Also making sure your thumb is opposite your middle finger in most of the position helps a lot. Other tips - Play in the dark, keep the bass high (unlike some metal bassists who play bass low), play in front of a piano (tune the open strings to the paino first) and depress the piano's sustain pedal and play your scales. The piano should harmonize with the bass. if you are in tune (although some people don't lke tempered tuning) . Another trick - use a tuner - visualize a note and attemp to get the note in tune according to the tuner. This is more like a focus exercise. Lastly. play double stops and then chords. And from the man Jaco himself recommends in his video with Jamerson, to actually practice using a fretted bass but play with the fingers on the frets or slighly behind it and then play the fretless.
  10. junglebike

    junglebike Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2003
    San Diego, CA
    I picked it up pretty quick, but that's mostly 'cause I played violin for 10 (long) years. It's still harder than fretted, but I play fretless most of the time. It's just more musical (to me).

    There's some music I just can't seem to get it to sound right to -- fretless gives you a real character on each note, with the MWAH bloom and all that. Sometimes you just want a straight dull note ('specially for old soul and stuff) and the fretless doesn't work as well.

    Make *sure* you can hear yourself well! I never used a tuner, but some people do. Take it real slow. And buy a real fretless. You can get one for under $150 from rondo music.
  11. Skorzen


    Mar 15, 2002
    Springfield MA
    It took me ~ a month. That was to feel reasonably comfertable on it. I have in no way mastered the frettless(or the fretted for that matter) At this point I feel that I can get by on frettless if a song calls for it. I would not say that I play the fretless at the same level as the fretted, but not really a lower level eith just a different place. It is a different animal.
  12. It took me three long months to figure out the intonation. One thing to consider is a common problem that occurs for many players when you spend the time to learn fretless and then switch back to fretted. Fretted basses don't require the precision needed for fretless. So you might have to relearn fretless all over again, albeit from a more experienced starting point. Switching between the two is tough for a lot of people, in essence, unless you use the skills and precision on a regular basis you can quickly lose it. There are advantages to specialization, which is one of the reasons I only play fretless.
  13. I agree with everything that's been posted here-- for me, *intonation* is the key. The first time you pick up a fretless you're apt to do a few riffs and runs and think, "Hey, this is easy!" But unless you've got dead-perfect pitch, DON'T trust your ears-- practice along with recorded music (or better yet, your band!) as much as possible. The one saving grace in that regard is that with a fretless, you can always adjust the note (a *little* bit) up or down subtley, if you find your finger has landed a tiny bit off. I find myself semi-consciously erring slightly on the flat side, just to be able to gliss up a semi-tone and help trigger the "mwahh". Have fun with it...
  14. Even though I played upright already ( and started on playing on my frets-yanked-out kramer precision type electric bass), when Jacos' video with Jamerson came out, I really took to heart of the different things he told about playing fretless. Jaco rehearsed on a fretted bass even when he was already doing all that incredible stuff on the fretless (after Dona Lee). The main trick he did was actually adjusting his fretted playing style. Finger the fretted in a way that you fingers ar almost on top of the fret. Not only does it help you easily translate the fingering into a close to perfect intonation when you play the fretless. I don't know if it make a difference, but Jaco's fretted jazz bass had a precision neck. Maybe that extra neck thickness of the fretted was the key to also playing the fretless in an almost perfect intonation. The point is I think it is possible to play fretted and fretless equally well.
  15. Brooks


    Apr 4, 2000
    Middle East
    That's exactly what I did. Once I made a decision to get a fretless, I spent few months adjusting my technique on the fretted before I found a fretless that I liked. I still do this, even though 90% of my playing/practicing is on a fretless now.
  16. Sorry folks!

    I've posted this saying -video of "Jaco with Jamey Jamerson", I mean with "Jerry Jemmott" - and more specifically the "Modern Electric Bass" video from DCI. Again Sorry for that mis-information.
  17. A followup... the other night we worked up a 70's medley, consisting of Locomotive Breath, Bang a Gong, and Waitin' for the Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago. And on this Bass World Cup Grand Championship Challenge material :rolleyes: I'm playing... fretless.

    May seem screwy but it actually sounds remarkably good (in fact you've got to play fretless to make Locomotive Breath sound right) and makes for some fun slidey-fill type riffage.