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Transition to fretlesssssssssssss... want your input

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Selta, Sep 3, 2005.

  1. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    OK, well, in about two weeks I'm going to have a local luthier start building me a custom 6 string fretless bass. Since it's my first "real" fretless, I'm going to opt to have lines on the fretboard. This topic is mostly useless, but I have some minor questions...
    Firstly, how long does it take you to get used to playing fretless? The few times I've picked them up and tried them I noticed my intonation was off, especially on unlined ones. This is something that I'll overcome with practice obviously, but how long does it normally take?
    What are some common bad techniques that occur when playing fretless basses? Like I said, I never got a chance to really sit down and play one for more than 45 minutes, but I don't want to be developing bad habits or anything from the start.
    Fretless is something that's always intrigued me a lot. I play mostly metal and rock, but also lately I've been giving jazz and country types a swing, and I just think a fretless would suit better. And I want a 6 string. So, I'm in a sense killing two birds with one stone. The fact that the price is ridiculously cheap helps too.
    So, what suggestions do you have for a fretless newbie? Thanks everybody.

  2. In my short experience, fretless is a thing that gets quickly adjusted to (like playing a 6 string or something you aren't used to playing). Within a few hours you'll begin to adjust your intonation and technique. However, it may take a long time to get it down very well, and could take years to be able to intonate without looking at the fretboard. It definitely takes a lot of patience. Just make sure you're intonating properly and try to adjust your technique to accomodate that change (fretting individual notes, play with open positions to compare tuning, etc). In the end it takes time and it's not something you can acquire overnight. However, within a few hours, you should get the hang of it and with practice you should feel comfortable with it.
  3. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    My biggest peeve is forgetting that you're playing a bass. You don't have to slide between every single note! The biggest compliment I ever got about fretless playing was when a trumpet player looked over at me (while I was playing my fretted) and asked when I was going to be playing the fretless. I had already been playing it for over half the night!
  4. Kelly Coyle

    Kelly Coyle

    Nov 16, 2004
    Mankato, MN
    No time at all; a few days, a week or two.

    It's a mistake to get so you're depending on the lines, but they're handy when you're in the middle of a tune and can't find your footing. I'd be sure and discipline myself to practice without looking. Using the ability to microtune notes (C#is higher in this tune than Db is in that one) is one of the joys of fretless.

    Your LH technique does change. Even within one of your normal scale patterns, you shift more and your hand moves (for me) more abruptly between notes. So as not to gliss every single note.

    Vibrato is along the string.

    You want to slide between notes intentionally -- when you want to -- rather than as a reflex.

    Use more open strings.

    That's all I can think of right now.
  5. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    Plug into a tuner and check yourself constantly...even with lines they all have anomalies, so practice, practice practice.
  6. Audiophage


    Jan 9, 2005
    Just don't forget to check your intonation against open strings. Maybe playing with a piano or something like that would help you too.
  7. Murf


    Mar 28, 2001
    When playing Fretless remember the tone is all in your hands...ie work the neck ..to get the "Mwah" sound play over the neck, (or over the neck pup).....with fretless your right hand positioning is the key to getting the tones you want (if your right handed of course)......oh yeah and listen to lots of early Pino Palladino
  8. Jim Dombrowski

    Jim Dombrowski Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2002
    Colorado Springs, CO
    One of the most important things is developing your hearing, so you can tell when your intonation is bad. Not everyone can do this well.