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I'm going fretless... What should I do?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by YCBass, Sep 13, 2008.

  1. YCBass

    YCBass Supporting Member

    Aug 29, 2007
    Hey Fellaz,
    I'm just about 100% that a fretless is my next instrument, a 5 string to be specific. For the last couple weeks I've been playing any fretless I find at stores and it has really supported my feelings on it. And to eventually play fretless as my main thing is a nice thought too.

    Now my dilemma, my main bass is a fretted Mike Lull M5V (J5) and the dream is to get a matching fretless to compliment it, but I'm not there financially... And a used Lull seems out of the question cause there hasn't been too many made, the shop estimates about 5 or 6.

    So, should I pick up a used good, mid-priced bass (i.e. Yamaha TRB, Lakland 5501/02 or JO5) and get started on this journey or start off with something cheaper (i.e. Squier VM)??? I'm leaning towards a mid-priced because it'll be good for a while and something I can gig with. There's nothing like a good instrument to get you inspired to practice. The Squier VM is nice but I can't help but look at it as a practice bass, IMO.

    I always believed in holding out for the bass you want cause a cheaper one will only put you that much in the hole towards your dream bass... But to hold out for a custom Lull seems really far away.

    So what's my next move?
  2. MoEllis


    Sep 11, 2008
    Los Angeles
    i feel you on the matching fretless.. although i cant really do that because i have a vic bailey 5 and fender wont do a fretless 5.
  3. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Big Dogs Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    First - get a fretless and start having fun.
    As far as suggestions - match the Lull in terms of general playability as best you can. Find something with the same scale length and string spacing, and general neck profile, if you can. At that point you should be a reasonably happy camper.
  4. Mojo-Man


    Feb 11, 2003

    What should you do?


    Tell playing fretless, becomes second nature.
  5. YCBass

    YCBass Supporting Member

    Aug 29, 2007
    Thanks man, but that's pretty much a given... I was looking for advice bass-wise.
  6. Take a peek at the famous/infamous GWB-35 perhaps?
  7. Keep in mind that fretless technique for many differs a bit(or a lot)from fretted. For this reason 100% matchup bass-to-bass may not be all that necessary or ideal. I have a pair of Stambaugh 6s; the fretted is active, semi-hollow, single-cut & neck through where the f/less is passive, bolt-on, double-cut & solid. Same scale & string spacing, different woods- vive l'difference. :cool:
  8. basspraiser

    basspraiser Jammin for the Lamb! Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2006
    Chicago - NW Burbs
    I would say get a nice fretless 55-02 - I got a 44-02 recently (last 6 months) and LOVE it to death! I was looking at a fretless JO but Brian and Dan at Lakland both recommended looking for a -02 series since it is more versatile in their opinion....after getting mine, I think they were right......

    as for the Squire VM series....I like those for beginners and was even considering one myself before the 44-02 came around. Since you have a LULL, I will assume you are at least a somewhat experienced player and like quality...

    A Squire VM is nice, but Laklands etc are better.....maybe it is just me but I can play "better" and have more fun playing a "really nice bass" over a "nice bass".

    also - the resale will be better on a Lakland than a Sqsuire....

    go for it!

  9. DAcat

    DAcat Supporting Member

    Jun 14, 2005
    The MTD Z4 Fretless can be purchased at The Perfect Bass at a nice price for a Phenom Bass...Peace...DAcat :cool:
  10. I wouldn't invest a lot of money in a fretless off the bat. Most folks either can't stand them or really love them, so I wouldn't put a lot of money in one unless I decided that is the route I want to go for sure. Try the Squire MV fretless (or perhaps one from rondomusic.com) on for size first, and if you really like it save up your money for a really nice one. On second thought, you might just like the Squire or the rondo enough just to use it. They sound very good.
  11. I also know very much what the feeling is like: my main player is a Mike Lull Modern 5, and I would *LOVE* to have a fretless "Sister" as highly as my M5 feels/sounds to me, and just how awesome a fretless M5 sounds period! :scowl:

    I would normally say to go for the mid-price instrument for all the reasons your listed and because you could normally sell it off to help fund your higher-end fretless, but in this case where it's highly unlikely that you'll find a Lull Modern 5 fretless on the used market and will have to pay for a brand new one (which isn't a total negative being able to match it exactly to your fretted) my first instinct would be to spend as little as possible to put as much money as possible away for your Lull.

    The main problem I see is finding a cheap-to-midrange five-string fretless period - they're not the easiest thing to find in that pricerange. You might want to look at some varying from cheap such as Squier's Deluxe Jazz Bass Active V which has gotten some amazing reviews as a bass that absolutely transcends it's cost by both magazine reviews as well as many here, or Fender's more expensive Fender Standard Jazz Bass ($549.99), Deluxe Active Jazz Bass V ($699.99), or Jazz Bass 24 V ($799.99) and have them defretted professionally or do it yourself: if you read up on the "how-to's" and take your time doing the actual work you can do a great job yourself... I did so and it came out spectacular. None of the above is perfect: none have 35" scale, 21 frets (either 20 or 24) and on all the neck radius is a tighter 9.5". The great thing about Fender is that they're relatively easy to find on the used market if you don't feel like yanking the frets out of a brand new bass, and that once you've got your Lull fretless, they're as relatively easy to sell on the used market.

    As Kesslari very aptly put it, I'd also look around and try and find one with neck measurements and string-spacing as close to a Lull M5V - picking up something like an Ibanez Gary Willis with it's 16.5mm spacing or a MTD Z5 with it's 19mm doesn't help much if your goal is to get your Lull with it's 35" scale, 21 "frets", 12" radius, and 1 7/8th nut width and have to retrain your muscle memory when you can pick one up.
  12. If you're looking for a guarantee on what will work for you, there isn't one. Having a "sister" fretless is an interesting idea, although I don't know if it's necessarily an advantage to have the first fretless be similar to your usual fretted bass. I think it's more about scale length.
  13. ehque


    Jan 8, 2006
    Something from Rondo, then defret your Lull if you find it's your thing.
  14. bh2


    Jun 16, 2008
    Oxford, UK
    You will love playing fretless... I guarantee it. Go for the best you can afford. Really.
  15. BluesWalker

    BluesWalker Supporting Member

    Jun 17, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    I would recommend the Ibanez Gary Willis 5-string fretless; it has a 35 inch scale. There are two different ones, the entry level is a very high quality instrument. I do not remember the model numbers, but it is the black model. I think the street price is about $600 for a new one.

    I owned the original 34 inch fretless model for several years and it was one of the best basses I ever owned.
  16. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Hillsdale, Portland
    Its hard to measure the differences between the two instruments. Fretless takes ear training. Its very hard at first and then gets easier as you go along.

    For that reason, find an instrument that fits you hand(s) well. A comfortable neck will help in the transition.
  17. markkoelsch


    Sep 6, 2008
    First, congrats on deciding to go fretless...it is a lot of fun. I agree that finding one that has similar spacing oand feel to your main fretted bass is a good idea. My main bass is a Carvin LB76, and when I went fretless I went with a Carvin LB76F, and I feel it was a really good choice. Having an instrument with the same physical specs made the transition much easier.

    I can also say the Carvins are pretty nice...my 6 has a really nice, warm tone, and can cut fairly well.

    Anyway you go, enjoy it.

  18. richnota

    richnota Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 11, 2005
    Santa Cruz
    Going fretless is wonderful. I second those posters who say scale and overall feel is a nice starting place. Maybe not necessary but it certainly helps speed things up.

    I was very impressed by the Lakland skyline 5 fretless. Quite a few of them used.
  19. Just as important, perhaps more, then ear training is patience and humility. The only people I know who "failed" fretless simply could not accept that fretless takes more practice, discipline, and they weren't going to be great from the get go. It will take time and lots of practice AND one must keep up on practice as it's very easy to lose chops on a fretless.

    Hal Leonard's Fretless Bass might be a good place to start.
  20. YCBass

    YCBass Supporting Member

    Aug 29, 2007
    Thanks for the excellent responses, great points and advice guys. I am more excited than ever to get this going.

    And as far as a matching bass, I initially intended it as "I love Mike Lull basses and I want a fretless from him" type thing, not really so much as having a matching bass to ease the transition but I see the value to that - cut down on some of the adjustments. As much as I'd love to get one right now, it's a nice goal to reward myself if I am successful and decide that fretless will be my main thing from then on.

    The hunt for the bass is frustrating sometimes but it's an exciting as well so I look forward to it.

    Thanks again!

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