Intonation…fretless vs fretted

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

  1. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i'm sure that a lot of fretted players do the "set it and forget it" routine..and they don't have the ability to adjust on the fly when things "shift."
    i'm sure it isn't for a lot of players: they do a ballpark setup and then fuggedaboutit.

    so i think i'm agreeing with your premise. i didn't take anything you said to be biased for or against fretted/fretless players...just an observation about possible differences re: taking things for granted! ;)

    on fretted: you intonate the best you can (say, perfect at the 12th) and then you live with what's left. :wideyed:
    on fretless: you intonate the best you can (say, perfect at the 12th) and then you adjust according to your ears --- all night long! :D

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  2. I 100% agree ear training is huge.

    There’s a pretty huge variation in climates around the US. Currently, I keep our indoor temp pretty constant, but even with a whole house humidifier, our humidity ranges from 35% to 55%…except when it gets so cold that the humidification shuts off due to excessive cold. Having to scrape the ice off the windows inside, or trying to stay a step ahead of condensation in the winter is a pain.

    I generally keep most of my instruments in the basement to keep things more or less constant - anything that’s upstairs I try to watch like a hawk.
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  3. WillyW

    WillyW l’art pour l’art, fonction de baise

    Dec 10, 2019
    checking the oil filling gas and changing a tire have gotten more complicated?
  4. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    I read the whole thread and the takeaway is that the OP thinks that the intonation of fretted instruments changes significantly with temp and humidity, so intonation needs to be checked very often. In my experience, this just isn't true if the relief hasn't changed enough to be noticeable. If it has, then of course it gets a complete setup, including intonation. On a day-to-day basis, no, unless your bridge is a poor design that can't properly lock in the saddles. I have one bass, a Mustang, that has a neck so stable I haven't touched the truss rod in years and intonation is still spot on.
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  5. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    Same with my #1. I fixed the intonation on it once, after I changed string gauges immediately after I bought it in 2017. I check it when I change strings, but I've never needed to change anything. Most recent string change was about two weeks ago.

    I think what's bugging the OP is that there are, in fact, a lot of poorly intonated fretted instruments out there and players who don't know they're playing out of tune due to this. But checking frequently doesn't fix this problem. Checking occasionally and developing the ear are what's needed.

    It's like my husband when he first started playing drums. He would play his drums and wonder why they didn't sound very good when others with that same kit sounded great. Then one day someone told him that drums need to be tuned. Doh! Once you know, you know. By and large, these are beginner's problems.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2021
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  6. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    Yeah, of course, that's the exact interpretation. I was trying to make the point that if nothing's changed, there's no need to check all that other stuff.
    LBS-bass likes this.
  7. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    Well, of course the open-string pitch will vary with fluctuations in temperature. However, the frets don't move up and down the neck, hopefully the neck relief isn't changing with temperature (not that much) and the strings don't get stiffer or less stiff. So you twist the tuning keys, and you're good. Needing to adjust the saddles would be the response to long term changes in the instrument (neck relief and action height) or strings (wearing in and wearing out).
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  8. Koshchei


    Mar 17, 2019
    Peterborough, ON
    It's hard to keep track of who's arguing what in this thread, except @LBS-bass, who I'm 100% in agreement with.
    LBS-bass likes this.
  9. nonohmic

    nonohmic Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 2005
    ABQ, NM.
    Hard to believe intonation can be an argument.
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  10. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    I am really more just trying to understand the point the OP was making and its relevance, not argue.

    I think I know what he's saying now, and we're sort of in agreement with some of it, particularly as it relates to the need for ear training.

    I agree with gln1955 that fretted instruments don't usually need the intonation re-set as often as the OP thinks they do. It's more probable there are a lot of beginners or less experienced people playing instruments that were never properly set up to begin with, because they don't really know any better.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2021
  11. Tim Skaggs

    Tim Skaggs

    Sep 28, 2002
    ^^^^These are two different things. ^^^

    Fretless player - Fretting about their intonation and working on getting each note correct to the best of their ability would be defined as the player’s intonation based on how precisely the player places their finger on the string to push it against the fretless fingerboard so the note being played is on pitch.

    Fretted player - checking the intonation one or two times a year in the example given would be defined as checking / setting the instrument’s intonation so notes played against any fret on any string by any player will be (relatively) on pitch.
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  12. ficelles

    ficelles Inactive

    Feb 28, 2010
    Devon, England
    I don't think you can check the oil yourself in a modern car, but you can get an app to do it. Although it may advise you that your vehicle is now obsolete and will no longer function.
  13. ficelles

    ficelles Inactive

    Feb 28, 2010
    Devon, England
    On my basses - 8 fretless and 1 fretted - I only check the instruments' intonation on a change of strings. Or if it sounds out meaning I didn't get it right first time.
    LBS-bass likes this.
  14. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    Right, and the reason this isn't an issue is that the frets are there for exactly this reason - can we all agree that frets are an intonation device? So if the instrument's overall (12th fret) intonation is relatively stable, the frets are doing most of the heavy lifting, as long as you're not bending strings due to poor technique.

    The converse of this is that a fretless can be intonated well by ear on the fly, even if it's not precisely in tune with itself or the other instruments. This adds versatility.

    I should mention here that I started out on violin, so even though I don't play fretless bass I have some level of familiarity with how fretless instruments work. I have a fretless 5 string here but I don't play it. I probably need a shorter scale to really get into it. My smaller hands find the fretted full scale instruments a little easier to play.

    One thing I should mention is that when I was starting out in the late 70's and early 80's, there were many instruments out there that were cheaply made and wouldn't set up well. So poor intonation was a pretty common thing in beginner's circles and garage bands. You can still hear that a lot on some early recordings.
  15. Thank you for the insightful reply. I believe we have a misunderstanding due to my failure to clarify the notes play increasingly sharp the farther they travel, not the correct intonation setting at the bridge (which you accurately described as being flat). It's like your right is my left and vice versa. Sorry I wasn't better at explaining it. Have a great day.
  16. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Admittedly, I've only played fretless instruments, except for a couple of brief and failed attempts at playing fretted basses. My first instrument was cello. Naturally, intonation is a huge part of playing stringed instruments. Of course we learn to tune our instruments. We're taught about temperament, but it's really not something that anybody's thinking about while playing.

    My main focus when working on intonation, which is all the time, is consistency. The reason is that if I can play the same thing wrong consistently, I can use my ears and technique to correct. But if I can't land on the same pitch every time, then there's nothing to correct. The next note won't resemble the previous one. I suspect most of us are far enough away from consistency, that things like temperaments are a moot point. When I'm playing with a band, I'm not thinking about what the precise pitches should be (they're wind instruments, none of them have precise scales) but trying not to screw up.

    Being precise enough that you can make musical use of small deliberate changes in pitch is probably something for the virtuosi. Maybe I'll get there in another 40 years.
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  17. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    I have a lot of instruments. I only check intonation when I'm playing instruments regularly. Some of them have no way to change intonation. That was set when the instrument was made and it's not adjustable.

    Again, fretless players don't adjust their saddles or truss rods any more than than fretted players do. When fretless players talk about getting intonation correct, it is a different process more similar to a fretted player making sure they fret on the fret without bending the strings.

    Your overall point is just confusing. Are you concerned that fretted players don't set their intonation often enough? Or are you concerned that fretless players want to play the correct notes?
  18. As I mentioned, it’s that a lot of fretted players don’t really check their intonation, in contrast to the hyper focus on intonation on the fretless…I’m not “concerned”, but it does seem strange that a lot of people who live in variable climates don’t give much thought to regularly checking the intonation of their instruments. Takes like three seconds, and you can catch issues early when it’s just a small tweak.

    My favorite recent example was that the intonation was so bad on the bass guitar used at my church by everyone except me (an EBMM Stingray no less), that I finally bought strings out of my own funds and brought the thing home to do a restring and setup.

    It was bad…so bad. Like, even with the bass buried in the mix you could hear it bad. Everyone tuned it up, but nobody, not even the WL who micromanages everything, bothered to ever check the intonation.

    Think about how bad this had to be that someone just playing roots on two strings and maybe only going up to the 7th or 8th fret would have sounded horrible. I couldn’t tell you what the bass was playing if I closed my eyes, but I could tell you that something obviously was wrong.
  19. Tim Skaggs

    Tim Skaggs

    Sep 28, 2002
    Too bad the Stingray wasn’t a fretless; the previous player surely would have checked the intonation.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2021
  20. I was reading this with increasing paranoia…, I really havent checked some of my older basses in years. I would notice wouldn't I?

    Checked them by ear. Seem great. Checked with strobe tuner. All as good as it gets with ET. One same as it was set 10 years ago.

    Ya, OP….smh
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