Multiscale Fretless ”left-hand” technique?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by DBMcCully, Aug 28, 2019.

  1. DBMcCully


    Mar 26, 2019
    South Carolina
    Hello everyone,

    I’ve just acquired an Emerald Balor Multiscale fretless Bass. I’m super stoked about it. It’s also my first fretless. So I want to start out with the right habits.

    I’ve been able to find a ton of information on proper technique for standard scale fretless: thumb placement on the neck, and keeping fretting fingers parallel with frets, etc.

    How does that proper technique translate to a multiscale (fanned frets) instrument? Is it basically the same, or does it become completely irrelevant? Does anyone have any tips or tricks they could share?

    Thanks a ton for any/all information!
  2. Malcolm35


    Aug 7, 2018
    I had to Google to find out what a multiscale (fanned frets) instrument was. Seems it gives better intonation which would help a fretless.

    I'd have to play one to see any difference. Good luck.
  3. DBMcCully


    Mar 26, 2019
    South Carolina
    It’s becoming more popular with the success of the Dingwall basses I think. I specifically wanted multiscale to improve the resonance of the B-string on an acoustic bass. I just happened to stumble on a used multiscale bass that was fretless. This seems to be a super niche instrument and I’m up for the challenge, but if anybody has any tips to help me get started that’d be awesome.
  4. Thorny1


    Jun 16, 2019
    I would try playing typical scales or patterns at a moderate speed, using fanned fret and fretless techniques. Use your ear, go slowly, and see what sounds best.
    IamGroot and DBMcCully like this.
  5. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    That's not how it works.
    DBMcCully likes this.
  6. BassChuck

    BassChuck Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    All the pics I've seen on Google show the neck of the Emerald Bass as unmarked (beautiful bass BTW).
    I'd suggest taking the time to mark (with tape or white-out) the chromatic notes on the E and G strings, play some scales slowly with a tuner and see how that goes. Mark the others if you need to.
    After a while you'll get the feel under your fingers and you can start removing the marks and eventually get your eyes off the fingerboard.
    Best of luck to you. And remember, learning fretless is an ongoing process, not an event. It will take some time to get things together, and steady practice to keep them going. It's a commitment, but a worthy one.
    DBMcCully likes this.
  7. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Can someone explain what it is? If it is anything like fanned frets I think it will be harder to intonate on fretless than a normal fretless. especially an unlined one.
    DBMcCully likes this.
  8. DBMcCully


    Mar 26, 2019
    South Carolina
    Thank you! Assuming we’re looking at the same bass, if you look closely it has “near invisible” lines. So that has helped a ton. And thank you for the words of encouragement.

    I’ve seen it explained this way: fanned frets are a symptom of multi-scale. Meaning the goal is to make the strings different lengths for more consistent tension, which leads to the notes falling in slightly different positions along the fretboard, thus the angled frets.
  9. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music. Supporting Member

    I've seen Emerald Balor acoustic bass guitars,but did not know they made a multiscale fretless.
    Got pics?
    DBMcCully likes this.
  10. DBMcCully


    Mar 26, 2019
    South Carolina

    This is the bass. If you look closely you can see the lines. It’s not nearly as dramatic of a fanned effect as the Dingwall basses (having a 35” B string as opposed to the 37” on the Dingwalls) so I’ve found the angled frets to be hardly noticeable when playing between the 4th and 12th frets. In that range I’d assume it isn’t much different than a standard scale fretless. Playing near the nut does get a little dicey if I’m not looking, but I hope that will come easier with practice.

    I’ll share what I’ve been working on so far: I’ve been practicing scales, as suggested, and some easier songs that include a lot of octaves. Pink Floyd’s “Money” and Cake’s cover of “I Will Survive” have helped me get used to the stretches. I’ve also been practicing the habit of hitting open strings where I can to check my intonation. “Church” by Galactic has been a good one for that purpose.
    kesslari, BurningSkies and gebass6 like this.
  11. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    You’re a braver man than I.
    gebass6 and DBMcCully like this.
  12. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    Paging @BurningSkies
  13. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    So the fretless variant of the fanned frets like I said. I think it will be harder to intonate than normal fretless. So from an intonation perspective I don't see the point in having it. It won't make it easier.
  14. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    Pretty bass!

    You shouldn't have to change your left hand technique in comparison to a standard single-scale fretless. If you haven't played a fretted multi-scale you might have some work to get used to your fingering positions and some of the woodshed woodshed woodshed. When I got mine, I spent a whole bunch of time looking at general fretless technique and found that most of the players I really trusted were in the mold of 'act like it's a frettted and then the fretless stuff will come along on its own' which has worked well. Work those octaves and 5ths to make sure your intonation is dead on. The fan on that one looks fairly mild, so I think your transition shouldn't be terrible.

    Mine from the unveiling of a pile of work I had done on it:
  15. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music. Supporting Member

    That's what I see.
    The fan isn't that extreme.So the adjustment shouldn't be that hard.
    In fact,it might make some extensions easier in some places.

    Example:A C minor with a 10th extension at the first fret(fretless position)would be like a C Major tenth extention on a regular fretless in form.
    At the 24th,it would be like a root 9th extention in form.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
  16. Not sure I get the gag with this bass, since it's fretless. You get the intonation from your ear, not from the lines, right? I mean, if this bass is "multi-scale", what do you call an unlined fretless? Infinite scale?

    It's a very nice looking bass though, no doubt.
  17. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    LINED FRETLESS! Ignore the aesthetic distaste a lot of TB’ers have for lines, oddly they have no issue with frets, isn’t that a “crutch” for accurate intonation? Lines give you a set of “targets” that will get you very close right off the bat, eventually you won’t have to look at the lines, but you’ll sound in tune as you acquire the muscle memory. With lines in place, I’m thinking fanned could be easier since it follows a more natural finger splay, but I’ve never seen one in a store to play. I have a lined fretless Jazz, fretting just behind the lines gets me accurate intonation without a lot of fudging.
  18. Lowend65

    Lowend65 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2006
    San Jose, CA
    I've played a multiscale for a few years. A couple of thoughts:
    1) I don't recommend trying to play on top of the frets unless you are going multiscale 100% of the time. Get close, but not on top.

    2) Your hands will naturally rotate around the multi-scale, these are very natural to play. 90% of the time, if you don't look, the multiscale plays just like a conventional bass. With the long scale and wide fret-spacing, the fingering patterns line up just fine.

    3) The other 10% of the time, you are above the 12th fret, that's where things start to misalign. Higher strings notes do move "up" the neck (towards the bridge) compared to the lower strings. The higher you go, the bigger the misalignment. You no longer have the wide fret-spacing to fudge this. Pay attention, you'll need to watch what you're doing a little more than usual.

    4) Multiscale with unlined Fretless... in a word "no", at least not for me. Too much of a moving target. When I play fretless, I use a conventional fretboard instrument.

    Don't fear Multi-scale basses, they really aren't that different and don't really require different technique unless your are in the upper register.
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