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Still struggling with unlined fretless

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by CaptainWally, Jan 17, 2002.

  1. Lined

    51 vote(s)
  2. Unlined

    65 vote(s)
  1. Well, I've had the fretless for a few months
    now and I'm really enjoying it. My intonation
    is still pretty sketchy in the upper portion
    of the neck. Are there any techniques
    (adding little pieces of tape, etc.) you would
    recommend I use to help in the process or
    do I just need to keep at it?

    It sure would be easier to have lines, but the
    advice of many has been that I won't need
    them after a while and I would wish they would
    go away.

    By the way, of the fretless players, do most
    play unlined?
  2. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    I have one of each. The one that I play most is lined. Of course, that has more to with the fact that it is a Zon than the fact that it has lines.;)

    Lines are nice to have, for me at least. They are a big help above the 12th fret. Below the 12th, I don't really need them as much as I once did, but it doesn't bother me that they are there.

    On my unlined, back when I was first starting on fretless, I put stickers on the side corresponding to where the inlays are on a neck with inlays. It also helped that the bass had a side dot for each fret position. Between the stickers and the side dots, I didn't get lost too often. At least I tell myself that.;)
  3. beermonkey


    Sep 26, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    Lined. I like having the silly lines on there because it makes sight reading a lot easier; one less thing to think about man.
  4. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    I don't know how it breaks down between lined and unlined. I use unlined, doesn't mean I think anyone else should (of course that would make me look even cooler;)).

    I have days when my intonation is "interesting", maybe if I stuck to fretless exclusively it wouldn't be a problem but I like doing lots of thing.

    The answer: as far as I can tell, keep at it. It gets better. It's all about practice. Hang in there;)
  5. boogiebass


    Aug 16, 2000
    Totally agree with Brad. Practice is where it's at. I use both lined and unlined. It really all boils down to your ear and subsequent ability to "hear the notes with your fingers."
  6. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    I prefer unlined, but since my best fretlesses have lines, I'm not opposed to using them.

    If you have a problem playing unlined, make sure you use your ears to guide you, not your eyes.
  7. Start practicing more with open strings.

    I.e. Pluck an open G and then play a C major scale slowly on the A string. Listen to how each note sounds. My teacher has me doing this and it is helping. It makes it easier to tell if you are a little sharp of flat having a ringing note to play against.

    You might also try recording scales with a keyboard and playing against the keyboards notes.
  8. I guess I haven't been practicing specifically
    to improve intonation - only praticing regularly
    and cringing when i play a stinker. this has
    gotten better, but it's a good idea to work
    at practicing intonation specifically.

  9. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    A lot of good suggestions here.

    Try what I do. Play live 3 times a week with a piano player and vocalists. My intonation has improved dramatically because it had to. Of course, like Brad, I still have days where my intonation is interesting.:p I like that terminology, Brad!:D
  10. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Lines are for old people. :D
  11. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    I resemble that remark!:p
  12. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Not an issue for me. I like the lines if they're there, but I don't suffer too badly if they're not.
  13. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Here you go giving him an actual tip. Trying to make us look bad?:(

    Good advice
  14. Jeff in TX

    Jeff in TX Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2000
    Lone Star State
    I like lines... darker lines. They're there when I need/want 'em, and out of the way when I don't. I ordered both my Zons with darker lines.


  15. Brad I am just as shocked as you.
  16. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Jeff, have you gotten used to the black ones on the Lightwave? Is the Sadowsky gonna be lined?
  17. Try playing along with your favorite cd or radio station in the dark (just give yourself lots of room so you don't go bump in the night).

    Also, when you practice, constantly check your intonation by using open strings and harmonics as points of reference. For example: When you play a "D" on the "G" string, stop and compare it to the open "D" string. (~Steve Bailey~)

    Do you try and sing or hum your Bass lines? Do you think about how you want your tone/timber to be? (ex; Merroummmb, Wabbaaa, Badoube) Try to here the feeling in your head.

    Now here's a great one: Go out to dinner at a place you've never been to, with a cuisine that you've never tried. Order something that you've never had, preferably something you can't understand and have never heard of, and eat every bite. I guarantee your playing will improve.
  18. Kelvin


    Apr 30, 2000
    here's a suggestion.

    I have a lined and an unlined fretless. I've recorded only on the lined fretless, but play the unlined a lot when I'm woodshedding.

    Your problem is far from unique. I don't know of too many bassists who're spot-on after the 12th fret. Practice will only get you much closer to where you're supposed to be on the fretboard, but listening enables you to make that minor intonation adjustment.

    I suspect most good fretless players make the slight adjustment before the note develops fully into that classic "mwah" sound.

    Hope this helps.
  19. Everyone has intonation "bad hair" days.

    Paradoxically, I find intonation easier on my unlined fretless than my lined. I think this is to do with the extra inch and a half of scale; it doesn't matter quite so much if you a millimetre off. It may also be to do with the fact that the lined bass (a Yamaha) is much middier than my Fender style unlined. So slight creativity in intonation gets suitably lost on the Fender style. But it is also to do with the fact that lines can distract as much as they help. Jack Bruce said somewhere that he plays fretless because fretted basses are inherently not in perfect tune. If they are in tune in one key, they will be minimally out of tune in others. So with a fretted bass, as with a guitar, you have to bend and compensate while you play. With lines guiding you to a fixed point on the bass, it is actually more difficult to do this on fretless than fretted, until you forget about the lines.

    Playing above the octave is, of course, much more difficult. For a number of reasons. Most people don't play above the octave mark anywhere near as much as they play below it, so you just don't get the same amount of practice. Secondly, the intervals are shorter and smaller changes have a larger effect.

    I find it easier to hit the required intonation whenn playing along with CDs, or with other musicians than when playing alone. You have a concrete reference.

    The only time I have had serious problems is when I was playing with two guitarists who were out of tune with each other. That leads to dreadful intonation schizophrenia.
  20. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    Try telling the pianist that the piano is out (it was, it had a fault).

    When paranoia sets in I

    play into a chromatic tuner
    do GP's open string thing (double stops using open E and A as the root
    add a little vibrato

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