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How should I approach playing fretless bass? Do I play it like a fretted bass?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by SixStrings4Ever, May 7, 2010.

  1. SixStrings4Ever


    Jan 25, 2010
    I know my fringer makes the "fret" when I press down on the string, but as far as making music and grooving, how should I play my fretless?

    Are there different tricks on fretless that you can't do on a fretted bass? What are some cool stuff I can do with this thing I spent my hard earned cash on after it's been sitting in the box for a few weeks!

    Now my fretless fever has kicked in and I'm ready to go!
  2. Remember you have to put your finger where the fret would be, not in between like on a fretted bass!
  3. SixStrings4Ever


    Jan 25, 2010
    Right. Now I want the "fretless-ness" of the bass to jump out when I play. How do I do that?
  4. VinceS


    Jul 25, 2007
    SF Bay Area, CA
    Lots of vibrato and glissando.
  5. Search under *mwah* and *fretless*
    This gets asked almost as much as which bass/amp/stompbox is best for metal. :)
  6. standupright


    Jul 7, 2006
    Phoenix, AZ
    Brownchicken Browncow
    i play my fretless just like i play my fretted. except i can warm up a note with a little vibrato. i'm not a big fan of sliding around and into the notes or lots of glissando.
  7. Baird6869

    Baird6869 RIP Gord Downey. A True Canadian Icon.

    Easy! I play my fretless exactly like my fretted except I finger on the line (when I am using a lined fretless) , vs between them.
  8. kreider204


    Nov 29, 2008
    Mostly, play it just like a fretted. Use vibrato and glissando only when appropriate (which of course varies depending on the song, style, etc.).
  9. perfektspace6


    May 9, 2006
    I'm the opposite. Love sliding into the note. Can't do it all day but it's great on the right track. I don't play fretless exclusively.
  10. ffutterman

    ffutterman Talentless Bass Enthusiast

    May 7, 2010
    I like the underwater sound of sliding back and forth from a half-step below to a half-step above it. Just something fun to goof around with.
  11. Fretless bass for me is the perfect bridge between electric and acoustic so i apply both techniques. Where you pluck the string has more resonance on fretless than on fretted, closer to the neck is warmer and has more of the mwah sound, by the bridge has more definition and punch.
  12. How should you approach it?
    Make it sound beautiful.

    (There is another thread just below this with some useful discussions on the subject.)
  13. queevil


    Aug 6, 2009
    Play a natural harmonic. Then slide up or down a few frets and see what happens. You can add vibrato to the notes you play by playing a note and slightly moving your finger back and forth along the length of the string much like a cellist does. You can slide from note to note to get the mwah sound.

    I think the key is to do all of this tastefully. I try to make my fretless sound as if I'm playing a fretted bass so that whenever I execute the techniques above they have more impact.

    You might hate to hear this but I can't help saying it. No one will want you to play in their band if you can't play in tune despite the bag of cool sounding fretless tricks at at your disposal. Playing in tune is the most important thing and those lines that we have on our fingerboards shouldn't be relied upon for correct intonation as much as our ears.

    Fretless is awesome. Enjoy!
  14. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    It depends. If you are wanting an "upright" kind of thing, you need to approach it like an upright. That's far different than approaching it like Jaco.
  15. For what it's worth (little), I always enjoyed the fretless playing on both "The Firm" albums. Tasty stuff there, if you like that style of music.
  16. Shakin-Slim


    Jul 23, 2009
    Tokyo, Japan
    Play fretless just as you would play fretted. You have to master the intonation before you can do all the flashy stuff. Patience young Jedi. All that stuff sounds useless unless you have the intonation down as well as muting strings not being played etc. Or, go crazy on the glissando, vibrato thing until you don't want to do it anymore. That's what I did. Remember, it is a completely different instrument. A different tool for a different job but you gotta use it right, with restraint and sensibility.
  17. AltGrendel

    AltGrendel Squire Jag SS fan.

    May 21, 2009
    Mid-Atlantic USA.

    Try an play so they don't realize you're playing fretless. It's good practice.
  18. Shakin-Slim


    Jul 23, 2009
    Tokyo, Japan
    +1 to the above post. And then when you DO let them realise you're playing fretless, it'll knock them to the floor.
  19. JPrinos


    May 16, 2008
    Toronto, Canada
    A good setup is very important. Mwah is increased with low action and a flat fingerboard. String choice is also very important.
  20. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's Supporting Member

    I tend to play closer to the bottom of the fingerboard rather than over the pickup.

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