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Lines on my fretless - am I uncool?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by chimp_spanner, Oct 9, 2002.

  1. Is the debate over lined or unlined fretless bass guitars purely an 'image' thing, or does it have anything to do with the way it makes you play? I mean, is it one of those things like "I dont need no stinkin lines - lines are for the weak". Or would someone with lines get the exact same results as someone without? Just curious is all. Cos the mere mention of a lined fretless seems to illicit looks of disgust around here. Plus if I get one i dont want other bass players to think im uncool :D hehe

    l8rz all
  2. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
  3. Let's ask Steve Lawson...

    a) Would you do without the lines on your fretless bass?
    b) Does having lines make any difference to the feel of the bass?
    c) Are you "weak" because you have lines on your fretless or are you just more "in tune"?
    d) Does having lines make you uncool?

    My guess is that Steve will have a very strong opinion on everything but point d). However you could also ask exactly the same questions of Michael Manring whose intonation is superb even though he has no lines. He will also probably not have a strong opinion about point d). Lines / no lines. Your choice. But who cares if it's cool or not? :)

  4. Being a double bass player, I think that there is a bonus in haveing an instrument without frets. When playing in ensembles where the instruments are not 'tempered', - for example the piano is tempered you cannot make slight adjustments in pitch - the harmonies sound better when the notes are slightly "out of tune". I think that when playing in such ensembles (with string player, or wind/brass players) a minor third of a chord should be slightly higher and the major third slightly lower. Therefore, with a fretless bass, these slight asjustments can be made, and I would be mildly opposed to the idea of lines because the player may rely more on the lines for assurance of 'perfect' tuning. However, it can be argued that the fretless bass player with lines on the instrument can still adjust the pitch, and I realise that this is a valid point. Really I think that it is up to the player to fine tune the ear and the pitch, and I would imagine that lines would be a bit off-putting for me. Edgar Meyer does, however, have marks on his fingerboard on his upright, and he's amazing. It's a personal decision I think.
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

  6. rickreyn


    Jun 16, 2000
    Lutz, Florida
    Where i play, there are few to even notice. It's good to have the reference points. Many have aborted their attempts to play fretless because "the band" couldn't stand the poor intonation. At least with lines, you have a fighting chance.
  7. Brooks


    Apr 4, 2000
    Middle East
    If the fretless bass that I like has lines...great. If it doesn't, great too. I am not going to pass up on a good bass because of such a minor issue.
  8. DaveB


    Mar 29, 2000
    Toronto Ontario
    I think most people would judge you by the music that comes out of your lined/unlined bass rather than whether or not you have lines. There are some anal purists out there....but who cares. When I first made the jump from electric to URB I sure wished the upright came with lines.
  9. xush


    Jul 4, 2001
    mobile AL
    I like the look of unlined, but that won't stop me from jumping on a good deal, lined or not.
  10. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    For me, I found the lines were distracting. I do much better (and smoother) using the side dots for guidance.

    I think that in most cases unlined LOOKS better, but there's no difference in the "coolness" factor. ALL bass is cool!
  11. pd_5string

    pd_5string Admin: Accnt Disabled

    Jan 23, 2002
    Some bass companies will let you have the best of both worlds...they make the lines very dark so that from afar, you can't see them, only you as a player can...

    I find the lines distracting, as intonation actually DOES change as you go up the neck. I.e., if you were to play in the same spot behind the line in every part of the neck, you would be out of tune about 2/3rds the time, as you need to play more (relatively) ahead of the line down low, and more behind the line up top, and right behind the line in the middle of the neck.

    Side dots though are indespensible for me.
  12. FunkySpoo

    FunkySpoo Supporting Member

    Feb 6, 2002
  13. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Look, the lines really don't help at all with intonation. At best they provide some indication of where you are on the neck, but side dots serve that function as well. If you're a millimeter off of the line, it'll sound freaky.

    Bottom line: there's no shame in having lines on your fingerboard. They don't really make fretless "easier," if that's what you're worried about.
  14. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    I think unlined fretless basses are much more attractive and elegant instruments than lined ones. And appearance does have some value. The only fretless I've ever owned has no lines and a 35" scale and I've had little problems with it. Of course, as a hobbyist I don't put in the time that the the pros do here, and of course am not as exacting.

    Whether it is lined or unlined, setting the bass's intonation at the bridge saddles so that the note locations are correct and even across the fretboard is the key factor in fretless playing intonation.

    In making purchasing descisions I would favor an unlined board for cosmetic reasons. But if I played "that special bass" and it was lined I'd buy it. It would really have to be special though, given two similar quality instruments the lines, or lack thereof, would be the determining factor.
  15. rickreyn


    Jun 16, 2000
    Lutz, Florida
    I appreciate the elegance of the unlined instrument, but had to get a working bass that would allow me to hit the ground running, if I was going to plunge into the fretless world. Having it now, I am most effective when I glance at the lines occassionally to double check where I am. To have eyes glued on the lines makes for pretty uninspiring play.
  16. I've owned 2 fretless basses in my life time. A Fender P fretless and the SR5 I have now. Both of them are unlined but they have dots on the side. I would probably play just as badly out of tune if they had lines. ( it's those high notes that getcha ) It's all in what you get use to.:p
  17. leanne


    May 29, 2002
    Rochester, NY
    well, how cool will they think you are if you can't play in tune? if you think it'll help, go with the lines. it certainly can't hurt.

    good luck
  18. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    I think the point (apart from the cool factor) is can you hit the note right without sliding it in regardless of having lines, no lines, half lines or pencil marks?

    My ear was developed to a point where I won an argument with a keyboard player (her keyboard was 0.5 out) but I still played out of tune and slid it in.

    On an unlined but figured board there are reference points (apart from the dots) that allow you to hit the note, it's just a bit harder.

    I bought an unlined because it was cheap. If I had to play a different fretless at short notice (rental, jam session etc) I would go for lines every time.
  19. Cool, nah I just really wondered what the general concencus is out there, ya kno, out of interest. Personally - well im *very* new to the world of fretless. I went into my local music shop to try one out for the first time, and i thought "bugger it doesnt have lines". As it happens, after sounding god awful for the first few minutes of fumbling around, it all just suddenly clicked and before I knew it I was knocking out a semi intelligible version of Teen Town - ok not perfect, but i proved to myself that i could do it without lines. which was surprising. thinking on it, lines would probably trap me into playing it too much like a fretted bass. but its something ill have to experiment with and get a feel for.
  20. My fretless at the moment is lined only because it was defretted. I would much rather prefer unlined simply because it would make me a better player by developing my ears and intonation (with practice of course). I will say this though, I am very happy that my first fretless is lined because it made the transition to playing fretless much easier and when i finally do get enough money to buy my hanewickel fretless four (with a lacewood top and ebony fingerboard :D) I will be able to play it properly.

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