Should I go fretless???

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by FunkSlapper, Mar 2, 2002.

  1. I have a fretted bass right now, and my friend has a fretless 4-string Fender Jazz Bass. I really like the feel of it and I love the sound. I am planning on getting a 5-string Jazz Bass in the very near future but now I am faced with an extremely tough question (in my mind, anyways...). Should I go fretless or stay with the frets? I like to play SOME slap but that's not what I'm worrying about here, I can always slap on my fretted bass. Any input is greatly appreciated... Thanks a lot!!!
  2. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    You can slap on a fretless, if it has roundwounds, which also means that the strings will tear up the fingerboard if you don't have it coated. You really have to develope your ear for fretless instruments. You should be really prepared to work had on getting notes in tune if you've never played a fretless instrument. Do you like your tone on a fretless bass?
  3. yeah im getting a good tone whenever i play his fretless but it has the painted-in fretlines...
  4. plbassman


    Mar 2, 2002
    Milwaukee WI
    I am in the same predicament!! I love the sound of my fretted, but would like to augment and enhance several tunes with the fretless.

    Problem I ran into was volume and keeping in tune. My band is fairly loud on stage and staying in tune is an issue.

    Have you tried one in rehearsal or even on a fun-type gig?
  5. FractalUniverse

    FractalUniverse Guest

    Jan 26, 2002
    Valparaíso, Chile
    hey, if you really really want to play fretless, go for it and then.... Practice a lot.
  6. warwickbass


    Dec 8, 2001
    rip the frets out of your 4 and play it for a few monts then decide wether you want a fretted or fretless 5
  7. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    I disagree with Portrait, if you developed good technique on a fretted bass, switching to fretless is a pretty easy and natural progression. (At least it was for me, not saying I have the greatest technique or I'm a totally awesome player or anything, but I was playing fairly well after the first couple minutes of having my fretless) Though playing past the 12th fret (or 12th, non-fret I should say :D ) will take a little work.

    As was stated before, you can slap on a fretless. It's a more percussive sound. I like it, but I don't really care for the sound of popping on a fretless. I guess it doesn't have that "snap" because there are no frets to hit off of. But that's just me.

    I actually pulled out my fretless earlier today after not playing it for a while and forgot how much I loved playing it.
  8. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    I forgot to mention, fretless is a great tool for expression. You will notice that you'll start approaching your fretless bass differently than you do your fretted. Playing melodic just seems to come more easily on a fretless.
  9. jokerjkny


    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PHL

    as many already said, i too, was in this predicament. so, i opted to go fretless with my Roscoe 5 string. great thing is, Keith uses diamondwood that allows the use of roundwound strings, so i'll be able to sneak in some slap lines with my smooth fretless lines, ala Gary Willis.

    here's a pick of the body for it... it'll be natural with a birdseye maple, diamondwood board... scrumptuous!

  10. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Get both.

    One potential problem with fretless basses is that they don't cut through a loud rock band all that well. If you want to play pretty fuzak, though, they smoove.
  11. I disagree. I have no problem cutting through on a Fretless Fender J bass. Maybe you've played or heard fretless basses that wouldn't have cut through well even if they were fretted? I dunno. I have never had trouble cutting through.

  12. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    So here's what you ask yourself: What do I want to sound like? IMHO, there are two reasons to get a fretless: tone and expression.

    If you plan to play bottomheavy rock with pointed, angular lines, then a fretless is just a little harder to play in tune with nothing you can't get out of your fretted bass.

    If, OTOH, you want to play expressive, vocal-like sliding lines, or you really dig the sounds a fretless can get (there ARE more than one, BION), then, by all means go for it! I can also attest that while there are challenges to playing a fretless, they are NOT insurmountable, and for the sound and expressiveness they are WAY worth the effort.

    Consider this analogy: Say you're a parcel delivery guy in a big city. What you do is drive a block, stop at the light, drive two blocks, get out and deliver, and do it all over again, all day. You're good and you're effective and you do a good business. You have a front-wheel-drive automatic Toyota Corolla that is GREAT for your business.

    But you hear that there are guys who drive snazzy stick shift rear-wheel-drive sports cars, and they REALLY love 'em. Should you get one? Well, if you're going to keep on delivering packages in the big city, the sports car is tricky in the snow, and you have to kick the clutch and shift very 12 seconds, over and over. Did you get anything YOU CAN ACTUALLY USE that the Corolla didn't have? Maybe not. Maybe the Corolla is BETTER for city package delivery.

    But if you are considering making a switch to intercity deivery on the interstate, and you may have to dodge big 18-wheelers on the highway, well, maybe the sporty number starts to make a little more sense.

    See? It's all about picking the right tool for the job. Neither is better than the other, they're just different.

    I have a fretted and a fretless bass. I take both to every gig, but in the folk-rock trio with the acoustic guitarist/singer, I play frets 90% of the time. In the smooth-jazz quartet, I play fretless maybe 75% of the time, because that's what I feel is called for -- and doggone it, I love playin' the thing! :cool: :)
  13. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    Really? I know a couple bassists that hard a really hard time developing their ear, and learning intonation. They couldn't look at a chart and be in tune at the same time :eek: . They are the kind of bassists that practice (i guess that'd be the real kind of bassist :) .) Were they tone deaf? Maybe.
  14. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    It's rare, but I did hear a story in college about a music major who was the school whiz kid on piano and sax in high school. But when she got to college, they expect you to learn, at least through the beginning stages, how to play ALL of the instuments. Sax and piano are pretty much push the right buttons in tempo and the right notes come out. But for trumpet and other brass instruments, you have to buzz with your lips the pitch you want; and this girl, considering herself a good enough musician to plan on a career in music, was shocked and frustrated to discover that she was having a really hard time hearing pitch!

    I guess anyone considering fretless should try singing along with a fretted bass (or guitar or piano, for that matter). Ask a musician you trust to tell you if you're singing in tune (doesn't have to be PRETTY, just in tune). If you do OK, you're probably a good candidate for fretless.
  15. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    And play fretless along with a piano, synth, or some other tool to help you check your intonation. Open strings help, but it's nice to know that all your notes are in tune!

    Fretless is great, and I definitely prefer the tone of fretless to fretted, but it's a lot more work. If you don't plan on spending the time, don't get it.
  16. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Well, my expierence was a pretty easy transistion. It wasn't perfect, and I still get out of tune sometimes. It could be very well that the guys were tone deaf. I think it's pretty easy to hear if you are in tune with the other instruments you are playing with, but maybe it isn't and I'm just taking it for granted. :confused:

    As a said though, it's good to develop good technique on a fretted first. Doing things such as using fingers as pivit points when playing runs/riffs so you don't have to change hand position. Playing without staring down at your fretboard all the time is very important too. Also, try playing in the middle of the note instead of up against the frets.

    I also think a very important think when playing a fretless bass is how you are holding the bass. It's good to not wear it to low. Looking down at the bass from to high will trick your eyes into thinking the dots on top of the neck are in one position but when you lay your finger on the fretboard, you will find you're a little bit off.

    These are just the expierences/ideas I've had. I guess with everyone, it's going to be different. :)
  17. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    You know what is the best thing about fretless? vibrato.
  18. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    ... and any fretless player at any level who says anything different is just plain fibbin'.
  19. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    :confused: :confused: I thought that fretting right on the note/fret was good technique. At least that's what I was taught. And I think that helped me a great deal with my fretless transition.:confused:

    FunkSlapper, I would recommend starting out with a low budget fretless, perhaps used. That way if you decide it's not for you you won't have lost a whole lot of $$$. I have a Dean and I love it.
  20. Thumper

    Thumper Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2000
    Syracuse Ut
    I've been playing fretted basses 33 years and fretless only recently. Last week, at practice for the 1st time I played the fretless Pedulla Rapture 5 for all 4 sets and it went real well. So well, in fact, I'm going to play it the 1st set at our next gig (9 Mar). We are a 3 piece, classic Rock cover band and play a great variety of hard to soft Rock, so I would say there is no reason a fretless can't work or "cut through."
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