Intonation…fretless vs fretted

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by g-dude, Nov 26, 2021.

  1. Ekulati

    Ekulati Supporting Member

    Jan 2, 2016
    Richmond, VA
    So true. If ANY other instruments you're playing with are in ET, you must also play in ET, even on fretless. Well, theoreretically. ;)
    OldShark and g-dude like this.
  2. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    Indeed it is. I think he just wants to imply that fretted players don't care about intonation. It'd be more accurate to say that we don't worry so much about it because, duh, the frets are there to take care of it for us. That doesn't mean we don't care.

    If I change strings, I always double check tuning at the 12th fret to make sure I haven't messed anything up. I rarely have need for any adjustment. It's kind of a non-issue in the grand scheme of things and if it becomes an issue, your ears will let you know.
    scott sinner and Mushroo like this.

  3. Let me break it down for you:

    - fretless players fret about their intonation, and work on getting each note to the best of their ability
    - the average fretted player checks their intonation rarely…maybe 1 or 2 times a year, but in many cases not even that.

    That is the point.

    It’s ironic that fretless players focus so much on intonation, while you definitely have fretted players on here and elsewhere who are probably plucking away at an instrument that could be out in terms of intonation.

    Do this: go check the intonation of each of your instruments, each string. How is it? Is it really spot on? When is the last time you even checked - and how often do you check? Check each note between open and the 12th fret. Everything still spot on?
  4. So you check it when you change strings, and you rely on your ears the rest of the time.

    Is it possible that your ears are not spot on at any point during the year, especially as temperature and humidity patterns shift?
  5. If memory serves me, he also had a floating bridge. Floating bridge, plus potentially not having neck relief set perfectly is a recipe for fun times.
  6. Koshchei


    Mar 17, 2019
    Peterborough, ON
    It is. It’s even worse if they anchor their picking hand.
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  7. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    If that were the case, I would only be able to sing properly during certain times of year. And if it were the case for all of us, no one would be able to play any fretless instrument well during those times.
  8. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    You're selling a whole lot of us very short here.

    There are lots of people who need more ear training. Those are the people banging away on out-of-tune instruments of all varieties, including (and perhaps most egregiously) fretless and other non-tempered instruments. Go visit any second grade band recital and listen to the string section :)

    This problem isn't exclusive to fretted players. This whole conversation baffles me and it's starting to sound like fretless elitism or something.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2021
    Guitalia likes this.
  9. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    I always run a few scales and arpeggios end to end (E0 to E2) after tuning up, and any intonation errors will be come apparent there. I need to do this as in at least four tunes I use the top positions on all strings (not at the same time!).
    g-dude and LBS-bass like this.
  10. OldShark


    Apr 18, 2021
    That is not what I meant, I related to the (true) statement that a fretless bass allows to use different temperaments, whereas a fretted one is (at least in almost all cases) intonated to equal temperament.

    My point is that playing with many typical other instruments limits that general freedom to adapt to their equal temperament.
  11. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    There is a level of musicianship at which the player worries about the intonation of every single note they play, all night long.

    And yes, that includes fretted bass players.

    Your refusal to acknowledge this fact is bizarre.
  12. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    I get it; thanks for the explanation. It never occurred to me that a player would not want to match the temperament of the others in the ensemble or that playing in tune with, say, a piano would be seen as a limitation.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2021
    OldShark likes this.
  13. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    I don't think he understands the actual meaning of "intonation." Either that or he's suggesting that only fretless players are capable of hearing well. In either case, it's a bit mixed up.

    Here's all I know:

    People with lousy ears might also play fretless instruments or other instruments that are not tempered. Those people will be less likely to notice intonation problems on any instrument.

    People with good ears can play all sorts of instruments. Those people will be more likely to notice (and address) intonation problems with any instrument.

    I don't see anything here worth arguing over, so I'll just be moving on now :)
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  14. You’re not necessarily a representative sample.

    It’s actually the opposite of fretless elitism. It’s actually that there is a middle ground where the average fretted player should probably take the extra minute or two on a more regular basis to worry about intonation, and that people worried about making the jump to fretless should fret less about whether they will have perfect intonation.
  15. This is what I’m getting at - as in, a good practice that people should be doing, or if not, at least just checking regularly.
  16. I don’t refuse to acknowledge it. I just would suggest that it is a LOT less common than you are suggesting.
  17. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    The thing is, fretted instruments don't really need a lot of frequent adjusting in my experience, which is why people are saying twice a year. Even with that, it's unlikely anything is out.

    So checking now and then is pretty much adequate. Ear training is probably still the most important piece of this so that rather than relying on random checking you hear whenever you're not intonating well and fix it.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2021
  18. Hounddog409


    Oct 27, 2015
    Have to disagree. I just checked one of my basses. If i fret right behind the 12th fret, it is in tune. Roll my finger back or fret in middle, it is no longer in tune.

    You most definetly have some control on a fretted bass.
    g-dude likes this.
  19. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    There's something we can agree on: Beginner musicians vastly outnumber advanced musicians. :)
    g-dude and LBS-bass like this.
  20. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    Yes of course you have that. That's a matter of poor technique. You can also bend notes to go sharp deliberately. But you cannot flatten a note to match another player's instrument. In other words, there are limitations that make a fretted instrument inadequate for playing in any desired tuning.
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