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Tips for unlined fretless

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by DanGouge, Jul 18, 2002.

  1. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    I'm about to pick a unlined fretless MIJ Fender Jazz. To someone who's pretty much always played fretted instruments exclusively, this is a little daunting. I was just wondering if any of you had any tips for getting acquainted with an unlined fretless. No need to mention practice, I'm prepared to do a lot of that! Anything else to help the transition would helpful. Techniques, approaches, exercises, all would be appreciated.
  2. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    1 store your fretted somewhere so you cannot access it
    2 use a tuner to get aquainted with the neck and the little dots, dont get hooked on it
    3 use open strings as reference
    4 set a date for the fretless debut, there nothing like a deadline
    5 don't be scared of it
    6 never grimace when you hit a bum note
    7 dont listen to music by Michael Manring
  3. melvin


    Apr 28, 2001
    When I started on DB, I thought it was helpful to know where the harmonics were (like the ones on the 5th and 7th fret on BG, as well as the octave one (12th fret)
  4. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Exercise #1: We're starting with open E. Play the open string with your tuner on and handy. Make sure you're in tune. (Play all notes as whole notes at a very slow tempo, say 70bpm). Move up a half step to F. Make sure you're in tune. Move up a half step to F#. Make sure you're in tune. Move up a half step to G. Make sure you're in tune.

    Play open A. Make sure you're in tune. Play A#. Make sure you're in tune. Up a half step to B. Make sure you're in tune. Up a half step to C. Make sure you're in tune. :))). Repeat this pattern for all strings. Play this drill slowly and always making sure you're in tune with the tuner. Keep doing it.

    Turn the tuner off. Now play the same pattern. Slowly. Do it again. Again. Again.

    Turn the tuner back on. How far off track were you? Use the tuner to see how far you got from the right pitch when the tuner was off.

    This drill should take 4-5 minutes to complete.

    Exercise #2. Using tuner for this exercise, play open E. Then, on E string, play F, E, F#, E, G, E, G#, E, A, E, A#, E, B, E, C.... Use the open string as a quide to keep you in tune. Repeat this exercise for all strings.
  5. Oysterman


    Mar 30, 2000
    Good advice. I fell into that trap myself - I thought I was actually making some progress on fretless when I listened to "Thonk". I didn't want to touch my fretless again, ever.
  6. How come Jazzbo has a lesson for just about EVERYTHING? If not a lesson, then some major theory explaination ...

    I would love to have a fretless but my fretted is giving me enough trouble!

    Later -
  7. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Some excellent advice here, esp. the MM bit :D

    It's also (always) very, very helpful to record while you're playing/practising and listen to it - maybe even let it run through a tuner (if you record to digital or your tape recorder doesn't change the pitch).
  8. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    I can agree with all of these except 1 and 3. 3, mostly because the characteristic sound of a fretless is the sound of the FINGERED notes; when I'm playing fretless, I tend to AVOID open strings so I can ALWAYS get the fretless sound!

    But I'm way against #1, and here's why: You practice something on fretless, and you think you have it in tune. But really, you can never be sure unless you have a really reliable reference, especially when you're new to fretless. My best intonation learning came when I would practice a song/passage/phrase on fretless, then go play the same passage on FRETS. NOW, you find out where that thing SHOULD have been, and you'll be amazed how much cleaner you can get it on fretless AFTER you hear it on frets. Perhaps what CS meant was: don't let yourself be tempted into bailing out and going back to frets. And with that, I agree. Stay on it -- the results are WAY worth the not-enormous effort!
  9. Oysterman


    Mar 30, 2000
    Such as the open string, maybe?
  10. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    ok expansion time and some points arising...

    1 If you want to learn something then the best way is to 'live it' (IMHO). So if you want to learn fretless lock up your fretted so you dont keep going to the comfort zone.

    3 Play say an A on the D string at the seventh (edit not fifth) fret (ha ha) Now play and A on the G string at the 14th fret (not). Now repeat whilst playing an open A-oooh! that hurts. Repeat until one gets fed up.

    All of my points were meant as tips for starting on fretless not playing. Once you get confident, break out the fretted, bin the tuner etc.

    Matters arising-Hello Eli long time no see.

    7 was a joke and I'll add

    8 listen to Jazzbo
  11. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    Thanks to everyone for their advice and encouragement! In particular thanks to Jazzbo, for the exercises. I'm even more excited than before about getting this bass (I'm picking it up next Saturday)!
  12. Murf


    Mar 28, 2001
    Best of luck with the fretless,
    I must admit I started on an unlined fretless and its a different beast all together, I found the best way to play it was to LISTEN, you seriously need to get those ears working.

    Another thing is (and this will save you serious heartache in the long run...trust me) make sure the bass is set-up and intonated properly, Gary Willis has a wonderful on-line fretless set-up tutorial right here:


    (The intonation section is VITAL)

    After years on my unlined I went a bought a lined fretless and I gotta admit its a hell of a lot easier to get to grips with..you still have to pitch notes but the lines are a good guide. Now I admit I love my lined fretless but I'd rather an unlined neck any day it just looks so much COOLER.
  13. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Honestly, I think the reason is because I've been taking regular lessons for the last two years. There's a wealth of material there.
  14. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Lots of great info. Don't sweat it bro. My first pro level bass was an unlined fretless and I really never messed with one until I bought it. I think playing a fretless will really helps to develope your ears. The only other bit of info I'm going to say is make sure your fretless is properly intonated. If you are getting the bass used, you might want to take it to a shop and make sure the actions and intonation are set to your liking. Right now, I haven't been playing my fretless cause the intonation is to many cents off.
  15. Bryan R. Tyler

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

    May 3, 2002
    I was actually going to make a similar post to this one a while back, so thank you guys for all your tips; they help out a lot of us. I purchased a used Warwick Corvette fretless about a month ago (my first fretless) and the no-lines thing is a bit of a hassle, particularly in the upper register. My main problem seems to be that when I look away from the fretboard, my fretting hand tends to slide up the neck without me noticing until it gets towards the halfway point between notes. I think it's the lack of lines that does it, because it's a bit tough for me to see the side dot inlays. But as most everyone agrees, those unlined boards are just sooo beautiful.
  16. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Well, Diff, I'd disagree that it's the lack of lines that's doing it, since you say it happens when you look away from the fingerboard. :) Must b something else....
  17. Bryan R. Tyler

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

    May 3, 2002
    Hmmm...good point. It's, um, gravitational pull! That's it! I'm single-handedly fighting the most powerful magnetic force in the universe!

    Actually, what I so ineptly tried to say was that I look away from the fretboard, as in I am not hunched over it studying the side inlays. I still will be looking down the neck, but my ear won't catch whats going on until I'm about a half-tone off in either direction. I guess it doesn't matter though; either way, I'm screwing up :D
  18. craigers2


    Sep 26, 2001
    when i first started playing a lot on my fretless - i would just play scales up and down the neck. i'd start out really slow and gradually speed up.

    once i got pretty comfortable - i'd record myself playing just on tape recorder. i'd then listen to the tapes to see if it really sounded ok and in tune.
  19. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Bigtime. When I was first starting bass I took lessons for about 3 months, just learning technique basics. One thing I learned was to put my finger right behind the fret when playing. This helped a great deal when I got my first fretless (unlined 5 string) a couple years ago.

    I'm just a hack hobbyist who doesn't know music (well, I do know some music that's for sure. ;) - I never learned tablature!) and has no pretentions to "greatness", I just play by ear. While this is ususually a big disadvantage for me, with the fretless it was actually an advantage. My ear is so well tranined after all these years that I can play in relatively good tune after only two and a half years casual use.
  20. Bryan R. Tyler

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

    May 3, 2002
    I'm curious as to the practicing of scales to learn better intonation on fretless. Is main point of it tto learn and remember the visual location of the note on the fretboard, or is it to activate your muscle memory, so that after a while you just stop where your muscles seem to take you?

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