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Starting fretless. Lined or Unlined?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by alx564, Oct 8, 2002.

  1. alx564


    Jul 31, 2000
    Emmaus, PA
    Hello Everyone,

    Well I have been bitten by the fretless bug. And now I need some help. I would like to get a Fender Jazz fretless, but I'm debating between a lined or unlined board. I have been playing bass for three years and I have an OK ear. Not very good but I can tell whether a note is in tune or not. I've been a violinist for a long time now so that has helped my ear quite a bit.

    I'm just worried that I may not be able to handle an unlined fretless right away. Maybe I should just stop being a baby and go for it but I still have doubts. I was wondering if I could get some advice from people out there who took the dive into the fretless world. Thanks
  2. BassAxe


    Jul 22, 2002
    Culpeper, VA
    It's just like playing a fretted bass. You just have to pay closer attention to where you put your fingers.
  3. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    After messing for a few months with a lined fretless I did myself, I finally took the plunge and put an unlined fretless neck on my Jazz. It's actually easier for me to play - the lines were just distracting me!

    Go for it, and trust your ears...
  4. xush


    Jul 4, 2001
    mobile AL
    I'm w/ fred H on this one...
  5. snyderz


    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    American and Mexican=lined
  6. sizz


    Sep 23, 2002
    Bella Vista, AR
    I would have to agree with HeavyDuty on this one. Since you already have experience with violin, you might be better suited for unlined IMO. I started with an unlined fretless (Fender MIJ Jazz that I still own) & I'm glad that I did... a lined fretless would just mess me up now. Trust your ears... mine have never let me down!:)
  7. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego

  8. rickreyn


    Jun 16, 2000
    Lutz, Florida
    Why must you make it hard on yourself, unless lines could be confusing. But how could they? There are normally 24 lines on a fretted. I basically started playing fretless right away with my new lined bass. No huge learning curve. The thing you have going for you is the violin experience. You might spend a little more time trying each at your local store.
  9. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    I used to be certain that unlined would be impossible. But then I saw an unlined fretless for really cheap so I went for it, not as hard as I had feared. If you already play violin then it should be a snap.
  10. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    There's another related thread right now here

    I also have a very good ear, but probably not as good as yours (as a violinist). My personal experience is that I got my first fretless almost three years ago. Not only was it unlined, but it was also 35" scale, my first this size. I personally had not as much trouble as I expected to have with intonation. Almost three years later my intonation is actually decent.

    As a reference, click here to go to my brother Andrew's mp3.com web space and select the song "Calling Me Back".. I recorded this song when I was less than a year into playing the new bass. What do you think about the intonation? Not the best, I'll admit, but not too bad.

    Hey if I can do it you can!
  11. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Go on, be hardcore, go for unlined! Just kidding, I'd say try both and go for whichever you prefer. I play unlined, it's not as hard as it sounds. I played a lined one once and it really messed with my head because I was used to playing fretted, and the lines look like frets so I was thinking of them as frets and playing in between the lines not on them, I found it really confusing. From that point of view I've found it easier to get used to unlined. But, each to his own - apparently Jaco played a lined one.
  12. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    My first "pro" level bass was an unlined fretless. I had no problems at all playing it. (and I had only been playing a little over a year when I got it) I highly dislike lined fretless basses and would never own one no matter how nice of a bass it was. (I know, I'm a stubborn bastard :rolleyes: ;) ) To me, it's like seeing a pro BMX racer with training wheels on his bike. (No offense to any lined fretless players) Unforuntatley, most production line companies, except Ibanez, Cort, and Japanese Fenders aren't offering unlined fretless basses.

    As long as you have good techinque on a fretted bass, the only thing you will have to any difficult on an unlined fretless and will have to work on might be the area past the octave.
  13. Tapp


    Aug 29, 2001
    USA, Mississippi
    I think tone and playability of the bass are much more important factors than if it's lined or unlined. For instance, my first "real" fretless was a lined 4-string Musicman Stingray. I couldn't get the tone I wanted out of it (albeit I didn't know as much as I do now about setup, etc), kept it a few years and sold it in pristine condition since I didn't play it that much.

    Years later I find a very nice Pedulla Pentabuzz (always wanted one) used and a good price. Big issue: It's unlined! I'm thinking that it would be really hard to learn, but it hasn't (I've still got to work though to get my intonation as I would with a lined model). The SIDE DOTS have been the most help for me.

    Make sure that the fretless bass you're looking at lines the dots up with where the frets would be instead of in-between (like a Fender).

  14. Basso Gruvitas

    Basso Gruvitas Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2000
    Dallas/Ft. Worth TX
    "How's my ear?"

    If your ear is not that great (can't tell if you're on pitch, sharp, or flat) then get lines. If your sense of pitch is good, then get the unlined.

    There is somewhat of a learning curve with no lines. How steep depends on your inate sense of pitch (or absence thereof)

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