Just got my first fretless and I have some questions.

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by ThunderStik, May 27, 2003.

  1. ThunderStik

    ThunderStik Guest

    Jun 25, 2001
    Claremore OK.
    I have been playing bass for 17 years and this weekend I just picked up my first fretless. I am not having near the trouble I thought I was going to have with playing it but I was wondering what are some good cd's to pick up to highlight the use of the fretless? Im not talking about Jaco or Steve Bailey, Im talking about in the context of a song. I need some stuff that would highlight the all the differences and the use of the tones and technique and subtleties that make the fretless unique. I dont want to sound like im playing fretted bass just on a fretless. I hope you guys can understand what im trying to get across. Thanks for any help. (This may need to be moved but not sure though)
  2. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    One thing to do is to practise playing in tune, otherwise not all your 'subtlteties' will be intentional ;)

    As highlighted at my recent lesson with Steve Lawson, that doesn't just mean playing in tune when concentrating on a scale but also making sure your fingers don't start to miss the mark as you hold down the groove over the length of a song!

    Once you've mastered playing in tune, then one of the things you can listen out for is ways in which you can nudge certain notes slightly sharp or flat for effect... but it will be much more musical if you're doing this on purpose instead of by accident!

  3. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    A better fit in Technique, I think...
  4. Good advice by Wulf.

    As for Cds, two that have helped me are "Fingerboard Harmony," and "Jazz Bass." They're both available at Carvin's site.

    For a CD to listen to some good, tasty fretless work, try to get a hold of Chris de Burgh's CD with the song, "The Lady in Red" on it. Also, if you can find it, Phoebe Snow's CD, "Second Childhood" has some excellent fretless work on it by Will Lee, bass player on David Leterman's show. http://www.vdebolt.com/phoebehome/phoebetext/sndchild.html

    Tracks #4 No regrets and, #10 - There's a boat that's leaving soon for New York are the fretless tracks.

    Good luck.

  5. Pearl Jam's 10 has some nice fretless work which highlights the way slides and the way you approach a note can help a song work.

    I also think it's important to get the vibrato thing out of your system early. Vibrato is nice, it's wonderful to have such an expressive device at your command after so much rigid-pitch bass playing over the years (I picked up fretless recently). It's also incredibly easy to overdo and sound cheesy, tasteless or worse.

    Particularly if the bass is not the lead voice, choose when to use vibrato or glissandi carefully. Playing on your own it can really add interest - playing in a group context it may not.
  6. CDuff


    Sep 14, 2002
    I'm sure you'll get loads of other replies, but here are my favourites:

    Pearl Jam - Ten, Vs.
    Paul Simon - Graceland, Rhythm of the saints
    Richard Bona
    Moving Hearts (Celtic Trad Fusion)
  7. GrooveSlave


    Mar 20, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    Pete Townshend - White City with Pino on it. Very cool lines and they don't sound too difficult.
  8. Tritone

    Tritone Supporting Member

    Jan 24, 2002
    Santee, America
    Try finding anything by Gary Willis. Either his solo stuff or with tribal Tech. Great player
  9. DeadPoet


    Jun 4, 2003
    Get a good upright/double bass technique book and work from there - slow and with a tuner or piano at hand. A nice exercice is laying down a synth pad (eg. Cmaj7) and hold the hold pedal. Now play, solo, pracitce over that sound. Good for intonation AND technique AND soloing.

    Hope this helps,
  10. Tony Levin makes pretty good use of his fretless 5 on his album "Waters Of Eden". Also, Mick Karn does some wacked-out fretless work on his album "Bestial Cluster".
  11. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    Mark Egan's fretless on Joan Osborne's "Relish" is way cool, especially on "St. Theresa" during the refrains. Nice sliding, but not so much that it takes over the song. He's also on Sophie B. Hawkins' first CD (can't remember the name). The Osborne disc is basically small group, but the Hawkins disc is hugely orchestrated, so the two contexts are very different. It's fascinatng to hear how Egan handles this and the decisions he makes.

    I myself am a "busy" fretless player (none of this "less is more" school of thought for me) who doesn't mind letting the audience know I'm there, but you need to choose moments to shine that don't steal the limelight from the singer/soloist.
  12. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    I think you should play it with the band before saying so. :)
  13. elbass


    Aug 6, 2001
    San Antonio TX
    It's interesting that you want to avoid Jaco, because it was his ability to exploit all of those tones and subtleties that made him the pioneer of the fretless bass, not just his blazing chops. To hear him in the context of a song, check him out with Joni Mitchell on her albums "Hejira," "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter," and "Mingus." Also, I'd recommend listening to Jimmy Haslip with The Yellowjackets and also with Bruce Hornsby on his album "Harbor Lights." Christian McBride demonstrates some pretty formidable fretless skills on is most recent albums, "Sci-Fi" and "Vertical Vision."