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Should I drop the fretless?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by chris1125, Jan 15, 2013.

  1. chris1125


    May 14, 2007
    So I've been playing electric for several years and use it for my jazz gigs along with my upright. I have a couple regular gigs with a big band and a combo. I recently purchased a custom, expensive fretless bass which is my go to. I've used it for every gig since I got it because it's such a great bass but I thought by now my playing would be more solid. I've had it for a few months and I'm still having trouble with intonation, especially in the big band where it's not solely improvised.

    I have a fretted j bass that I used for those gigs until I got this bass but it's not the greatest bass. I'm thinking about moving the fretless to somebody who's better with it and getting a fretted but I'd feel bad, I got a great deal from the maker and it's still an incredible bass, I just wish I could play it more reliably.

    Thoughts? Suggestions on how to improve fretless playing? I'm mainly an upright player and don't practice electric daily which is part of the problem but I just don't have the time unfortunately.
  2. Are you hurting for cash? If not, keep the bass you love, and make some more time for it.

    I'd sell the fretted you don't like, ( why hang on to a bass that doesn't work for you?) and shop for a better fretted, maybe with different options from the fretless, like more or less strings.

    A few months with a new bass doesn't seem like much time, and you did say you really like it, got a great deal, ect. It'll get better with practice.
  3. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    I think it takes most people more than a few months to get really good with a fretless so I would not give up on it so soon, I would take the advice to upgrade the fretted bass so you have something you are confident on in the mean time. You are probably thinking that with your double bass experience you would take right to it and you probably are miles ahead of most beginning fretless electric players. I think the two instruments are more dissimilar than you give them credit though so I would not be discouraged by the slower than expected progress. Also, if you are a trained double bass player I suspect your concept of what proper intonation is would be significantly more stringent that many here have, based on the comments that are routinely made on TB about fretless intonation. In other words you may play with much better intonation that most here who claim to have mastered the instrument in the same amount of time that you have devoted to it. More practice always helps though so I would do all my practicing on the fretless even though you play the gigs with the fretted. I'm kinda doing that now myself except that I am split three ways. I am learning fretless and five string fretted so I alternate practice sessions on those and then I play my church "gig" on a four string fretted.

  4. FrenchBassQC

    FrenchBassQC Supporting Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    Gatineau QC CA
    Give yourself some times with it, practice with soundtracks that you know are in tune, that should help you with getting used to the positioning on the neck that are the closest to the proper intonations.
  5. +1 Even at that, nobody will play perfectly in pitch 100% of the time. I may be missing a few words in the following, but Steve Bailey, himself said in his instructional video, "No fretless bass players play in tune 100% of the time. We just try to keep our average up. We're always making minor adjustments."
  6. jamiroquaisub


    Dec 28, 2012
    Put a K&K bass max on your upright and play that. People will be psyched to see the URB. If you have feedback problems or want to sound more electric, get a krivo or a modern p-bass pickup and mount it on there with 3m Dual Lock (so you can pull it off for the straight jazz gigs). I am going to mount a krivo and I may also mount a p-bass pickup on to the end of the krivo to switch back and forth or blend. These aren't expensive solutions especially if you grab them used here. You could keep the fretless until you were satisfied with your ability to sight read with good intonation. Some of what it takes is just pure time (anchoring helps too, as does positioning yourself so you look past the neck of the bass when you're looking at the music). If you eventually decide to bail, there are also some wildly expensive URB pickups you could fund with the sale of your fretless.
  7. Mojo-Man

    Mojo-Man Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2003
    Big +1.
    I wood-sheaded for six months before i ever gig with my fretless.
    Keep practicing, and you will get better.
  8. ojo

    ojo Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2006
    Round Lake
    I'm kind of struggling with this now. I'm not a full time musician, so my time on the instrument is limited.

    That being expressed, I am a long time fretless player that recently took up the double bass. I found that my fretless intonation went to hell after spending so much time with the larger scale of the upright. Since I had electric gigs to play, and limited time to prep, I went back to using my fretted basses.

    I think I'm going to keep my fretless basses around because I really like playing fretless at a personal level, but my gigging time on them will have to be very intentional.

    So, what's the point of this?

    Like anything else when it comes to gear. Keep what you're emotionally attached to (if you can afford it), for whatever personal reasons (no matter how silly), and get rid of what you hate playing for something that works for you.
  9. It really comes down to practice time with each bass, doesn't it? There's my good intentions: play the double bass, six string, fretless, and then there's life.

    Reality looks more like this: I play one of the basses almost exclusively for months depending on what projects are happening. Things change, and I switch to what ever catches my fancy and fits into the time available. There's no way I can keep them all up to speed at all times.

    I wouldn't sell any of them unless there was a financial crisis. I viewed them as good values when I bought them, and they all work for me on some level. (except the DB which was a generous loan from a buddy, it's going back home.)

    OP, if you need to amp your DB, I'm selling a Fishman BP 100 and platinum pro bass preamp in the classifieds.