Lines & Dots...fretless 5

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by peatea, Oct 26, 2003.

  1. peatea


    Sep 26, 2003
    I have been playing both bass and guitar for well over 30 years but I never played a 5 string or a fretless bass before. I love the sound of a fretless but I have been hesitant because I just was not ready to learn a new instrument. Not long ago I made the plunge and picked up a 5 string fretless. I figured that it would be best to have one with both dots and fret lines so I have some idea of where I am on the neck.
    At first my intonation was terrible, even with the dots and lines. I was constantly looking at the neck to be sure I had my fingers right on the lines. In the last couple months I have put in 4-6 hours a day practicing and have played 3 gigs with it. This is indeed a new instrument to learn. If you are considering going fretless be prepared to put in some hard work learning it.

    My first gig was hit or miss. I got by but my intonation was more off than on.

    My second gig was better mostly because I quit looking at the lines and dots and used my ear and harmonics to know just where I was playing.

    My third gig opened my eyes to something I never considered. I found that often I seemed to be playing either flat or sharp with the guitars. But I was constantly checking my intonation using harmonics and double checking with an elec tuner. "What the hell is going on here"? "Are both guitars out of tune or am I out of tune"? Well, the answer was: I am right and the guitars are wrong. Seems odd that both guitars which are tuned and set up properly would be out of intonation. To make a long story longer....Guitars can not be tuned in perfect pitch. Everytime a string is pushed down on a fret the intonation is off. The higher up the neck the more they are off. Since I am using harmonics as a reference I am in close to perfect pitch. So this all makes my original theory of using fret markers and dots to keep my intonation incorrect. To play a fretless bass properly with a group I have to listen carefully to what is going on and adjust my sound accordingly. I find that using harmonics as a reference point is absolutely essential. But after that forget about fret markers and dots. For those who are interested in going fretless either lined or unlined necks should be considered. The lines helped me get started but after that I found them to be a hinderance. I no longer look at the lines or dots.

    I hope this is helpful to those who are new to the fretless bass or considering getting in to them. "Once you go fretless there's no turning back".

  2. Im personally not interested in a fretless at this time. But there is some good info here. :)

    By the way, i dig that Retro 80's Zebra look. Its kinda crazy :D
  3. peatea


    Sep 26, 2003
    That is not my fretless.

    It is a Carvin Zebra bass. I thought it was interesting.

  4. Noobai


    Aug 25, 2002
    Stanford, CA
  5. peatea


    Sep 26, 2003

    "Live to win, dare to fail."

  6. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    i just bought my first fretless (an Essex P) and it came Friday. I have been playing it basicaly nonstop. I am surprised at how good my intonation is, considering the time ive been playing. It is a different feel, and when i go back and play on a fretted, the occasional fret squeak is kinda annoying :p but i would never give up fretteed entirely because i like to slap.
  7. Mike


    Sep 7, 2000
    I just picked up a fretless Sterling with lines after playing for about 20 yrs. It's a completely different animal which requires much more attention to technique and tone. It's fun and I LOVE the tone but it will take some practice before I'm 100% comfortable. i've just decided to take it slow, play in the pocket and become efficent in the fundamentals first and worry about any flashy licks later.

    My intonation is better than I'd thought it would be. I do hit a flat note on occasion, however, and while initially I didn't notice it immediately, they now stand out and make me cringe. I guess this is a sign that my ear is developing with it.
  8. mgood


    Sep 29, 2001
    Levelland, Texas
    After about 18 years of playing fretted, I'm going to order my first fretless this week. (I'm getting a Carvin B4F.) I'm going with fretlines, training wheels for my first fretless if you will. After talking about it with many fretless players, both online and in person, I've decided that the lines will at least help me to know where to start that first note of the song or give me a reference for a large postion shift. I like the look of an unlined fingerboard, and maybe I'll get the next one unlined if I take to this fretless thing.

    As far as intonation, no instrument with frets or buttons or keys or whatever will be perfectly intonated all the time. Instruments like fretless bass, violin, trombone, et cetera, have nothing but the ears of the player to blame for intonation problems. My ears are not great, but I played trombone for years and didn't have problems playing in tune. (But trombones have seven positions rather than twenty-something.)

    I find this statement to be true in so many areas. :p
  9. peatea


    Sep 26, 2003
  10. peatea


    Sep 26, 2003
    I lied to myself.
    I thought the 5 string fretless bass would be just the thing for me but it is not.
    In 3 months I have not been able to get perfect (or even close) intonation and the bass lacks the punch I need.
    It can be a beautiful sounding instrument when played slowly with jazz and blues but for upbeat music it leaves much to be desired.
    I gave it a try.
    But I have gone back to a 4 string passive MM bass.

  11. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    Jaco had lines and dots on his bass.

    I agree with the TBer who said intonation is basically up to you. Mick Karn doesn't even tune up his bass and people he's played with always comment on his good intonation.
  12. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    I've been playing my 5 string fretless for close to 4 years now and I'm still unsatisfied with my intonation. :oops: :p