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Is playing fretless harder?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Davygravy3, Nov 17, 2001.

  1. Davygravy3


    Sep 21, 2000
    If I were to get a fretless with the marks ya know but no frets would it be harder to play. I mean I don't know if I naturally use the frets as a "guide" but since ur finger goves right behind it kinda well maybe u do b/c you can feel it. I think a fretless would be cool cuz it will give the stand up bass sound but is it hard to play?
  2. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    Oh, of course not. Just put your fingers where you want, and it'll all be the same. ;) :D

    Also, this should be in "technique," I believe.
    This really is more of a question on which is harder to grasp the technique of, and not a discussion of basses.
  3. bassy18


    Oct 30, 2001

    I play the upright bass, and I do think it would be a little harder. I don't play bass guitar, but your fingers may be a little lost at first. If it has markers, then maybe it won't be so bad. I know that when i started playing upright I used colored electrical tape so I could at least visualize where my fingers go.

    On the other hand, it would be easier when you were out of tune. You could just move your fingers and then you wouldn't think about the fact that it wasn't the right fret.
  4. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    I remember Christian McBride saying that he found fretless bass guitar more of a challenge than upright, as there are fewer physical cues to orient yourself on the neck. I woudn't say it's harder to play, but it does require that you spend a good deal of hours developing the necessary "muscle memory" to familiarize yourself with the positions. If you have lines, the positions are less of a problem, but you still have to deal with intonation issues, as a simple roll of the fingertip will move you off pitch.
  5. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    you see, though, that by the time you realize you're out, it's too late.

    fretless is substantially more difficult to gain proficiency with than fretted. it doesn't take too many out notes to totally ruin a song, and chances are, without a lot of woodshedding with a tuner, you're going to be out all the time, lines or no.
  6. melvin


    Apr 28, 2001
    If you play all the time without looking at the fretboard, and you have a good ear (can tell if your pitch is sharp/flat) then its not a whole heap harder.

    It really depends, if youre looking at your hands, it wont be super hard cause theres fret markers. But if your reading music and arent looking down much, if at all, it may take a bit to get used to. But fretless isnt really hard its just a new challenge, that is, its like when you started and all the notes you played farted, you had to move your finger a bit and it stopped, with fretless youre sharp or flat and you move your finger a bit to correct the pitch.
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I agree with John - the number of times I've heard fretless bass players who ruin the song/performance with bad intonation - people have asked me as they know I'm a bass player and say things like :"what was wrong with the bass player it sounded awful!!" A few times I've been diplomatic and said that fretless bass has a different aound and is very hard to play! :rolleyes:

    But there is a lot more discipline required - for example, if you are playing fretted then it is no harder to play up an octave - it's all the same fingering etc. But on fretless, you have to be so much more precise when playing higher notes where the pitch is all too evident!!
  8. progplayer


    Nov 7, 2001
    Yes you have to have discipline to play fretless, but the rewards are awesome! I just started playing it and for me its coming naturally, I'm not having a tough time adjusting to it. It varies from person to person. So far I'm practicing with this thing everyday and I get a lil better each day, granted I'll never be a master at fretless but hey, its fun and it sounds good for the most part!

    I actually was "forced" to play the fretless at band practice last night, and being on the spot, I did really good. Sometimes pressure is a good thing! :eek:
  9. Because I learned originally on a fretless bass, I find playing fretted much more difficult than fretless. I am, however, an unusual case. Most people switching from fretted to fretless quickly discover how sloppy their technique was on a fretted.

    The advantage is that if you switch between regularly, you will find your technique improving on fretted, though you may find you want to play the bass with the speedbumbs less.

  10. progplayer


    Nov 7, 2001
    i AGREE. my fretted bass playin is slowing changing for the better! try fretless u'll enjoy it and learn more.
  11. Planet Boulder

    Planet Boulder Hey, this is a private residence...man

    Nov 10, 2001
    6,482 feet above sea level
    I once had impure thoughts. Oh, and I pluck my ear hair.
    If you do get a fretless, make sure you DON'T get one on which the frets have been ground down. I have a Warwick fretless Fortress which sounds great now, but I can see the frets ultimately outliving the neck, resulting in fretbuzz. In fact, I already have a tiny bit of fretbuzz toward the top of the neck, but it's only noticeable to me.

    The main problem I see with fretless is the mindset:

    1) It's very easy to be intimidated by it and to try to "overthink" your playing. If you worry too much about finger placement, your fingers will be stiff and the playing will suck. Just relax and play, basically. If you've played a fretted long enough, you're fingers are pretty much already trained to proper spreads, placement, etc. The trick is to alter it so that your fingers are placed where the frets would be instead of between the frets.

    2) One common problem is that some people who play fretless play it as if it were fretted from a style standpoint. In other words, instead of sliding from one note to the next, they merely place their fingers on the neck as if it were fretted. If you want that fretless effect, let your fingers move around the neck more freely. Stiff fingers definitely need not apply.
  12. Samie


    Dec 13, 2000
    Madrid, Spain
    You better not get a budget-o-frettless bass. Intonation can become a nightmare. You want to make sure it sounds good and in tune before you start playing.

    Going back to fretted will be a breeze
  13. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    There are at least three very nice sub-$500 fretlesses available here.

    IMO playing fretless like a fretted is a good thing. An overuse of slides can get old. Strive for precision. Then, when you do use the occasional slide it's that much more special.
  14. I'm looking into getting a fretless bass, but it scares the heck outta me. I know for a fact my technique is sloppy. What I don't know is whether or not a fretless will help improve my technique or just anger me to the point of insanity.
  15. You should be able to improve your fretted technique without using a fretless. I think you'll find that any work you do on technique will make you a better bass player, fretted or fretless.

    Work on the fretted technique, it'll help when you shift to fretless.

  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
  17. BassicRob


    Mar 28, 2001
    Massapequa, NY
    How about those that are free. I recently acquired a Yamaha BB200F, needs a bit of work, but I can't wait to get a chance to plug it in to hear it. Plays fairly well and is rather comfortable. This is something I've wanted to try for a while. Having played only fretted basses, and a little dabbling on upright when I could get my hands on one, it steel feels as "natural" as a fretted, but with a new twist.
  18. Samie


    Dec 13, 2000
    Madrid, Spain
    I am not sure about that, I play frettless exclusively and I find that even the easiest tune can be a challenge! A simple C, g, G, C country bass line will be a nightmare on a frettless if your chops are not up to par. I am forced to practice at least everyday just to keep up, I am talking simple major and minor scales here! There is little room for error specially if you like to get fancy once in a while (like I do :D ).

    This has made me a better player and musician. The secret is to make it sound like a fretted (ie no slides etc) so that you can play all type of songs.

    Whenever I play a fretted now I feel like I am cheating, it is like going on a picknic on a weekday.

    Sure, this can be achived with a fretted bass but you are going to find very few bad bassist that play a frettless ;)
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Actually as I mentioned on my previous post in this thread - there are quite a few fretless players whose "intonationally-challenged" playing has ruined performances I've heard. Bad intonation stands out like a sore thumb on fretless and it's much easier to make mistakes that will get you noticed!! ;)

    Fretted players have it much easier as you say and you can "get away" with more sloppy playing - but if you are a less than dedicated player on fretless, you will get noticed for the wrong reasons!! But there are plenty of lazy players with bad ears for intonation!! :rolleyes:
  20. I totally agree. I have been told that my intonation is excellent (though I can occasionally hit a sour note too!) Alot of people who think they can effortlessly play my fretless because it "has lines to show me where to put my fingers" are corrected quickly.

    I do consider myself a dedicated fretless player, and so far there is nothing I can't play fretless that I can fretted. I find frets annoying, frankly.



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