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So can you explain to me how fretless work?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by morf, Mar 3, 2006.

  1. morf

    morf Banned

    Feb 17, 2006
    I dont see what the difference is between say a "marked lines" fretless and a fretted bass... Is it more difficult to play? What are the differences, why do people go fretless?
  2. The tone is totally different for one, the feel is different, and it takes different skills to play, such as a great ear (intonation-wise), and fluent technique. Fretless bass is a totally different beast that can be both challenging and fun to master. Go ahead and try one, they're great fun!
  3. morf

    morf Banned

    Feb 17, 2006
    Maybe I will when I get some dough or if my Zon Legacy deals falls through, I think if the frets are actually marked on the neck I'll be able to play one without too much trouble...
  4. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    I got one with lines. Now, I can do it without lines. Infact, i really want a new one without lines :(

  5. Hi everyone, i have the same quesiton about the differenece on a fretless (lined) and a fretted bass, but mine it's about some people that i've read on forums saying that it's harder to play a fretless than a fretted bass, so my question is, on technique, what's harder???
    I have only played once a fretless bass in my life (corvette unlined) and didn't reallyt felt it harder, but who knows, i only played it for 10 minutes.
  6. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    Well, it's a different technique. Fretless basses have "Mwah" where the note swells up to pitch and sounds amazing. The Technique, you HAVE to play exactly on the fret as your finger technically is the fret. And Vibrato is very important.

  7. Diego


    Dec 9, 2005
    San Francisco, CA
    Believe me...proper intonation CAN BE really hard (of course is not a big issue if you play alone), but playing with other musicians is a whole different story.
  8. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    The "harder" part doesn't mean that it's physically more difficult to play, it means you need better technique to play in tune and to play accurately when moving from one note to the next.

    Try playing fretless along with another instrument, or to the radio and listen to yourself very closely...you will learn!!!
  9. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    Fretted instruments essentially shorten the string every time you depress a string. The fret a placed in precision spots to give exact or near exact half steps between each fret. Whether you place your finger directly over the fret or inbetween the string is still shorted to the point of the fret.

    With a fretless instrument exact finger placement is required to play in tune. If your finger in not exactly where the fret would be, your note is either flat or sharp. You must depent upon your ears for intonation. The plus side... a lot more expressive playing as the bass takes on a singing quality. As is often described a mwah quality to the notes. A much larger variation on depth and choices of types of vibrato allows for a more expressive tone. Harmonic slides are much easier to play on fretless. It more closely emulates an upright bass in it's character.

    Fretless basses with fret lines gives the player some guidelines as to where the proper place to finger the note is on the neck.

    Hope this answers your question. Required listening would be anything by Jaco Pastorius. If you haven't already done so, the pod cast available on TB is outstanding. I suggest you check it out. There is a Weather Report tribute cast with lots of fretless bass on it.
  10. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    Fretless basses are a completely different animal. I have one that i noodle around on, although i dont consider myself a great fretless player.
  11. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    Someone else mentioned it, and I agree - while playing fretless, play along to songs. Then you'll understand the *harder* part. :)
  12. Not in the hands of a ham-fisted rank amateur, or someone who doesn't want 'mwah'(some prefer DB-esque thumpy tone). And not ALL f/less basses have it at all, IME.
  13. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    My fault. I ment to say Fretless basses are easily capable of having that sought after tone we call "mwah".

  14. west*coast*bass

    west*coast*bass Supporting Member

    Dec 6, 2003
    Agoura Hills, CA
    My feeling is that an unlined fretless is easier because you rely on your ears, not your fingers.

    What I mean is, with fret lines you will play where you normally would with a fretted bass, the only probelm is that you may not play in tune. Line positions are not always accurate. Fretless without lines makes you rely on your ears more than finger placement. You will get better faster on a non-lined fretless.
  15. Lexx Wylde

    Lexx Wylde

    Jan 27, 2006
    Well what I did is I just bought a cheap fretless Ibanez, unlined, for not all that much money off some guy and I decided I want a real one, a custom warmoth p-bass special. If you want to buy one to try to see if you like it let me know.
  16. morf

    morf Banned

    Feb 17, 2006
    Thanks for all the details, if im getting this right the challenge is precision. I always shoot for the middle instead of the fret on my fretted basses, maybe I should practice playing closer to the fret.
  17. And it's important to remember-- when playing an unlined fretless (or even a lined one, but it's easier on unlined), you shouldn't think about where the FRET is, but where the note is. From there you must use your ear to properly intonate the note. As we all know, fretted basses aren't perfectly intonated, so playing a fretless bass like it's a fretted one will give you bad intonation, and it's a bad habit to get into. Fretless is a totally different beast that one must work hard to master. Bad intonation is much more noticeable on a fretless than a fretted bass, also.
  18. frederic b. hodshon

    frederic b. hodshon

    May 10, 2000
    Redmond, WA
    Microsoft Product Designer
    fretless is a gimmick.

    like too many effects.

    just get a fender fretted 4 and call it a day.


  19. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Here we go again....:D

    You play bass with your fingers, not your ears. Your ears will only tell you when you've hit it right or wrong AFTER the note is played. The most important thing to getting proper intonation is getting your fingers in the right spots. To do this, you need to develop muscle memory- memorized hand and finger positions that keep your hands in the relative areas they need to be in to play in tune. Developing muscle memory is far quicker when using hand-eye coordination, which is put to good use when you play a bass with fretlines. When you go out of tune, not only do you have your ears to reference from, you have the fretlines to reference from to get you back in the right spot, and the use of fretlines is a more immediate and preventative way of doing it again. The amount of attention you give to your ears is completely up to the player, and has nothing to do with whether you bass has lines or not. The idea that people who use fretlines use their ears less is a total fallacy, and while everyone is different in reality, if all things were equal playing a freltess with lines would improve your ability to play in tune far quicker than playing an unlined fretless because of the additional reference source. That said, there is nothing wrong with putting in the extra work if you'd like to play an unlined fretless.

    In the end is all a matter of personal preference, and there is no "right" way.
  20. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Tell you what- I'll buy you a Fender Jazz if you send me your Rob Allen ;)