One finger per fret on fretless

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by NeroJazz, Feb 17, 2014.

  1. NeroJazz

    NeroJazz Supporting Member

    May 2, 2011
    I recently got myself a fretless bass and so far I'm loving every minute of it, but I've run into a dilemma.

    I've been following Steve Baileys fretless lessons on proper intonation and doing the exercises found on Youtube. In the first part of the video he shows an octave exercise where you 'fret' a low F with the first finger followed by the octave with the third finger. This is to check your intonation and to build muscle memory. The problem is that I have servere problems fretting the octave with my third finger, that stretch is just too big below the fifth 'fret'. On my fretted basses I always use a 1-2-4 fingering pattern when playing below the fifth fret.

    So my question is; do I just suck it up and keep on practicing one finger per fret even though I can't actually do it and it hurts after a while? Or do I continue my fingering from fretted basses and go from there?

    Any inputs are greatly appreciated.
  2. mrmills


    Jun 22, 2009
    Kent, UK
    Being able to do octaves with first and third finger is a useful technique so I suggest you work on it. Practice the stretch and use it on both fretted and fretless.
  3. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    Do whatever your used to - in this case 1-2-4.

    Before going fretless, I always did one finger per fret on my fretted, and I pivoted my hand to make the stretches so they weren't so bad.

    When I got my fretless, I then wanted to introduce 1-2-4, and it was so hard to get used to it, and it also made it weird when I switched back to fretted, because I then wanted to introduce 1-2-4 to it, and it didn't feel right to me. Since I used to pivoting with one finger per fret on fretted, I switched to that on fretless, not only was it more natural to me, but because I was already good at it, my intonation was way better.

    I highly recommend to keep your fretting system the same on whatever bass you use.
  4. Gries Amps

    Gries Amps Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 14, 2008
    Mattapoisett, MA
    Owner, Gries Amplification
    Jaco Pastorius playing "The Chicken".

    He uses 1-2-4 in the first position.
  5. bkbirge


    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    If the stretch hurts then don't do it. If it's just that you haven't gotten the hang of it then keep practicing. I played one finger per fret for a long time and then I took a couple lessons from a jazz guy and he had me switch to the Simandl, then at some point after that I started upright. I play both ways freely depending on what the bass, song, or how my hands feel at any particular moment. Some of the greatest players in the world can be found using either method.
  6. I would use the 1st finger, not the 3rd, personally. Been playing fretless over 20 years. If you stretch too far that it is not comfortable, your intonation will suffer due to the tension in your hand. Practice trains muscle memory, but if your muscles are stiff/tense/sore when you practice, that is a bad kind of muscle memory training. The best intonation is achieved through relaxation IMHO.
  7. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006

  8. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    + 1 million
  9. Baird6869

    Baird6869 LET'S GO BLUE JAYS...(in 2016)...LET'S GO!!

    There are Jaco basslines that I physically can't play no matter how much I practiced. He had huge hands and super long fingers and I don't. The physical reach is just not always possible for me.

    Personally, if I was the OP and wanted to learn Bailey's proper technique, I would work my ass off to try to do it but do my own thing if I isn't possible.
  10. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    When playing fretless, I don't adhere to any dogmatic approach - play whatever is most comfortable and yields proper intonation.
    Mr. Lovejoy likes this.
  11. davidhilton

    davidhilton Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 13, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    No need to suck it up and tax ur hand dawg- just use ur 4th finger for the octave. Thats what I use when playing low.
    Mr. Lovejoy likes this.
  12. Marial

    Marial weapons-grade plum

    Apr 8, 2011
    Yep, I shift from 1-2-4 to one-per-'fret' depending on where I am on the fingerboard.
  13. lowfreqgeek


    Mar 15, 2010
    Albuquerque, NM
    Endorsing Artist: Regenerate Guitar Works, Honey Badger Pickups, Westone Audio
    Stick to 1-2-4. It's perfectly valid. I play fretless (fretted too) and upright that way and have no (well less) problems with intonation doing that.
  14. I think you missed the point of the post. Jaco Pastorius, one of the greatest fretless players ever, who had giant hands and could play parts you or I physically cannot dream of playing, prefered using 1-2-4 fingering in the lower positions, **not** the stretched-out 1-2-3-4 Steve Bailey fingering that is harming the OP's hands.
  15. NeroJazz

    NeroJazz Supporting Member

    May 2, 2011
    Thanks for the feedback guys. I think I'm gonna stick to 1-2-4 as I am already used to. I've been trying both methods since yesterday and my intonation is much better when I play the way I'm used to and not forcing myself.
  16. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    Sounds good... And welcome to fretless territory.
  17. Kragnorak


    Sep 20, 2008
    There's also two more things to consider which prove this the correct choice:

    1) The important part is to build muscle memory and your ear. So if you fret index and pinky all over the neck the exercise would be the same.

    2) Notes are farther apart near the nut and closer together as you move towards the bridge. Using a specific finger to check your intonation does not accomplish much since your fingers would be a different distance apart in each position.
  18. bswag

    bswag Guest

    Dec 21, 2013
    Yeah, there's a big difference between "getting accustomed to something different" pain, and "I can't freakin' do this!" pain. Avoid the latter, I'd say...

    I actually wind up using 1-3-4 fingering on my fretless most of the time, because my 3rd finger, when bent, points severely towards the 1st & 2nd (result of healing from having the middle bone of 3rd & 4th fingers broken lengthwise); practically, it's easier for me, and better for my intonation, to use the 3rd instead of the 2nd in many cases, especially down near the nut. In the middle and above, I can use 2nd or 3rd, whatever's clever for what I'm playing. If I tried to use "one finger per 'fret'" technique, I'd be in a world of hurt. So I say- "Break rules, not fingers!"

  19. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    And his hands were huge!
  20. zontar


    Feb 19, 2014
    I'm just starting fretless bass on a long scale after years of playing a shortscale bass--so the finger positions and muscle memory is similar but also new.
    I have good reach though, but I like to slide around so I use my fist and second fingers most of the time and my third & fourth when I have to.
    Unlike guitar where I use my third & fourth a lot--probably more than my second.

    but some good pointers in this thread I will take into consideration as I learn.