question for Fretless players

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Fire-Starter, Jan 16, 2006.

  1. Fire-Starter

    Fire-Starter Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2002
    I have just started playing Fretless, I have read about the nightmares of adjusting, I am actually doing better than I thought as far as intonation, but you either are "in tune or you are not" so I still have a ways to go. My question to you fretless players....

    1: I have read one way to improve on this instrument is to play in the dark.

    I have no problem with that, but I am curious if anyone here actually does this, and is this a proven method, or just some persons idea of what works for them. it seems to me if this is a proven method, why even have Fretless basses with lines or side dots? please advise......

    btw, now I am loving the fretless so much, I am actually thinking about getting another one,
    I have a Warwick standard 6er.
  2. Well, let me first say that you are, in a way, bring up the lined versus unlined debate, which - IMHO - shouldn't really be a debate to begin with. Every player who has played or does play fretless probably has his or her own preference over lined or unlined - and as such, every preference is just as valid as the next. It's what works *for you*, not what you think everyone else should do. For me, I'm a unlined player. I had a lined fretless, it didn't work out for me, and so I want an unlined fretless now. A lot of it has to do with the fact I'm also an orchestral upright bass player. Unlined "feels like home" to me. So, when you ask, why do basses even have lines or dots - it's because some people like them, though they may not necessarily be right for you.

    Now, I have a few reasons that I prefer unlined. When I had a lined bass, I was drawn to look at the lines because I felt it would help me play in tune. This was much in the way that I *cannot* NOT read subtitles in movies, even when it's the film, not some words, that I actually want to see. I also think that when I play an unlined fretless, it forces my ears, not my eyes, to make the decisions of how I finger the notes. And like I said before, I play double bass in an orchestra - unlined just feels "right" to me.

    As for your question, yes, in my opinion, playing the dark will probably help improve your intonation. BUT, I think that it will improve your intonation because it will improve your "listening intonation," not because it'll magically make your fingers fall right on the semi-tones.

    I say try it. If you're not happy with how you're currently progress (I'm also assuming you have a lined fretless) or you just think you could try progressing more quickly, give it a shot. It can't hurt, right? Alternatively, you can get one of those sleep eye covers and practice with that on.

    Recently, I played a Fender Custom Shop Jaco Pastorius Signature Jazz Bass. With the epoxy fingerboard and roundwound strings, this thing just SANG. BIG, full, yet singing tone - I loved it. But, while I was playing, I had to forcibly close my eyes so as to not look at the lined fingerboard. Really, it's *my* problem, not the bass's, but for me, the next fretless I buy will be an unlined fretless bass. I also prefer the look. ;)
  3. I think practicing very slowly your scales going up and down one string will help, now doing that in the dark or not is not relevant to me... Isolate all the shifts, and practice them slowly. And try to work on your left hand technique even on the fretted, to keep a steady, 1 finger per fret, on the fret, clean technique.

    And having started music on cello and playing mostly upright nowadays, I have to say I find lines usefull nonetheless. I find them more useful as a means to map the instrument then for intonation though. I mean, with the upright, you have positions which help you know where you are, whereas the long neck on an electric has nothing. I find that the lines and dots make up for that...
  4. Just practice, in the dark or not, all the time. At first, look at your hands and get to know the neck of the bass. Then practice playing without looking at the fretboard. Then practice in the dark if you want. Just keep practicing and always be paying attention to your position on the neck.
  5. TL5


    Jun 27, 2005
    My current fretless is lined.
    Back in the 80s I played an unlined Spector that I grew to adore. It belonged to a friend who allowed me to use whenever (all the time) but I returned it when I moved.

    When i bought my current bass (Schecter btw) I went for a 5string with the same feel as that old Spector. This one is great. I think the lines helped me get back in the swing of playing fretless much quicker (it'd been 20 years).

    However, If I buy another bass it will be the unlined Fender Tony Franklin sig P bass.
  6. Because it helps. You can have the best ear in the world, if you don't know where to put your finger, the note will be out of tune, if you even hit the right note to begin with. The other thing that will make you hit the right note beside sight is muscle memory. Practicing in the dark helps developing that.

    My advice is to:
    1- Look where you're playing
    2- Listen if it's correct
    3- Make necessary adjustment while maintaining a comfortable position
    3- Look again
    4- Get a "feel" of your position (muscle memory)
    5- Repeat

    I find a good way to practice intonation is to play intervals along with a piano. Start with 3rd and 5th, then 4th, eventually 7th and 9th.
  7. thephilosopher


    Dec 22, 2004
    playing with lots of drones helps me a whole lot. play an open G string, and find the other 6 G's on the neck, while letting the open G ring out.