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What do you think of this fretless fingerboard that is always in tune?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by PauFerro, Mar 20, 2013.


  1. PauFerro

    PauFerro

    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    I was dreaming up ways of making my fretless intonation more accurate, and came up with this idea. Then found someone had already patented it.

    So, since the word is out, what do you think of this concept? The grooves before the intonation edge give you a wider tolerance for your finger placement; you can be out a 1/4" or so and still be in tune. It's a bit like scalloping a fingerboard like those lightening fast 6-string guitar players do.

    I actually tested the idea quick and dirty, on one of my fretless basses by adhering pieces of formica to the fingerboard, which gave the same ridged effect, but allowed the string to vibrate up against the formica for that fretless mwah sound. It worked.

    Comments?

    You can hear it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_hn0K4oT1I

    GoovedFretlessFingerboard_zps5746e382.
     
  2. madrob

    madrob

    Aug 22, 2006
    Ottawa, ON, Canada
    imho, it defeats the whole point of a fretless and having a sharp point for the string to rest on will make it sound like a fretted instrument.
     
  3. thiocyclist

    thiocyclist

    Sep 19, 2012
    Georgia
    Part of fretless tone is the player's ear bringing it in and out of perfect intonation as needed, unlike the sharp, on-off tone of a fretted. Seems like this would kill a lot of that. Certainly many fretless fingering techniques would be impossible.
     
  4. tmntfan

    tmntfan

    Oct 6, 2011
    Edmonton canada
    could you slide on a fretboard like that?
     
  5. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    When you develop the requisite skill a fretless will have better intonation than any fretted bass. Grooving the fingerboard gives you only the same intonation accuracy as a fretted bass. But it has indeed been done before. Truth be told a fretted or grooved instrument is never in tune but billions of human ears have grown accustomed to that and don't complain. But many of them will notice when you play a fretless in tune....

    Ken
     
  6. PauFerro

    PauFerro

    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    To Madrob's comment (which I appreciated), it still sounds fretless in spite of the edge. The fretless tone occurs when the string vibrates against the fingerboard on the body side of the bassist's finger. There is enough fingerboard in position 13 in the diagram for this to happen.

    Regarding thiocyclist - I found I could still bring it flat by REALLY putting my finger behind the leading edge of the groove. So, you lose a bit of wavelength, but not much. I think it might make it hard to do vibrato, however. but you could still preserve the out of tune-sharpness by placing your finger right on the ridge or slightly ahead of it.

    Slides -- I didn't test that because I only put a couple pieces of formica on the fingerboard when I tested it.
     
  7. Wagz

    Wagz

    May 2, 2012
    Milwaukee, WI
    Wearing out the edges of the grooves on the bridge side of each groove would be an issue. Unless you made the fretboard out of something really hard and durable.
    If you think about it, frets are metal so they can stand up to the beating of vibrating strings (and they still wear out over time) - each groove would probably see close to the same amount of abuse over time and, once they start wearing out, there goes your intonation.
    Still, kind of an interesting concept. I"d be really interested to hear a slide on that type of fretboard and see how long it would last.
     
  8. unclejane

    unclejane Guest

    Jul 23, 2008
    Looks like a really neat idea to me. One of the reasons I play FL is the reduced thickness of a neck without the height of frets (because of injuries mostly), this would be a way to achieve a thinner neck, but still have fixed intonation like an ordinary fretted bass.

    Cool!

    LS
     
  9. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    khutch... Save it.

    The "Only fretless players are REALLY in tune" argument is old, tired, and in 99% of the cases, just FALSE.

    Put your science kit away and get real.
     
  10. PauFerro

    PauFerro

    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    Appreciated Ken's response. I think I mentioned someone already has a patent on the concept, so I know it's not original (I was disappointed when I learned about the patent, for sure).

    Here is a YouTube video of the fretgroove in action:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_hn0K4oT1I

    Now that you've heard it, what do you think?
     
  11. But doesn't that then defeat the whole purpose? You'd be playing slightly out of tune on a bass designed to always be in tune in order to make it sound like a bass that often gets played slightly out of tune.
     
  12. PauFerro

    PauFerro

    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    No, it doesn't defeat the purpose because the primary purpose it to play in tune and sound fretless reliably. Not to play out of tune.

    Personally, I think someone would buy this because they are having trouble playing in tune. They want a bass that plays in tune, and they want to keep the fretless mwah that you lose if you go with a fretted instrument. They DON'T want to play out of tune at all.

    If someone wanted the full range of expression on a fretless bass (including playing out of tune if they want) then yes, stick with a regular fretted bass and skip the fretgroove system entirely.

    But personally, I've never had anyone say to me in 10 years of playing fretless bass "Gee man, you play WAY too in tune on that fretless. Could you play out of tune more?". They do make comments if the intonation is off, and often complement me on my in-tune playing, but I never hear them demanding more out-of-tune playing. I've also encountered a lot of bass players who indicate they tried fretless but felt it was too hard to play in tune. This happens when I use my fretless in music lessons or in live performance, and people ask about it after the show.

    Also, Pat Metheny experimented with fretless 6-string guitars, and he commented that he didn't develop that part of his repertoire very much because he could never play the instrument in tune well enough.

    I mentioned you could play out of tune if you wanted only because someone above had concerns about losing that ability with this system.

    In spite of the concerns here, I still think this is viable. So many bass players always ask my how you play the instrument in tune. And many resort to lined fretless instruments (even Marcus Miller) because playing in tune is so much more important than have a bit of flexibility to play out of tune.

    My only concern is potential loss of vibrato and maybe loss of fretless sliding sound -- so far; I'd like to hear other perceptions about this system though.
     
  13. FourBanger

    FourBanger

    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    All cred gone, sorry Ken.

    The tuning of a modern fretted bass, or guitar, is proper for any of the music written and played on it. The tuning of a classical guitar is proper for the music written for it. You might get somewhere in the arguement when talking about music written for fretless instruments like cellos, etc when transposed to fretted instruments, but that opens up a whole new can of worms as to why you choose to play that music on the wrong instrument.
     
  14. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    Let’s be honest.

    The amount of “requisite practice” required to approach the intonation of a normal “lowly” fretted bassist is a heck of a lot more time and effort than the great majority of players will want to expend. “Oh, my how will I ever be able to tolerate this FRETTED instrument’s not-exactly perfect intonation?” I will now go get the vapors and retire to my fainting couch, LOL

    Yes, you are correct in THEORY, we all know about the inherent intonation problems with fretted instruments. But it just annoys me to no end whenever somebody trots this old argument out as to how fretless is somehow “superior.” If the vast majority of bassists are able to play 99% in-tune with a fretted instrument, that, to me, is a SUPERIOR instrument design.

    You know, due to inherent lag of mechanical or electromechanical components, ONLY a broken clock tells the exact right time… twice a day.
     
  15. thiocyclist

    thiocyclist

    Sep 19, 2012
    Georgia
    Fretless is not superior or harder, it just is what it is. Don't get your knickers in a twist over it guys.
     
  16. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Equal-tempered tuning is not "out of tune" guys---it is "in tune" to a different standard is all.
     
  17. FourBanger

    FourBanger

    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    That's what I said. A fretted bass is in tune because that is how we choose to tune it and it works for the music written for it. Just as bagpipes are out of tune compared to western concert scales they still work just fine for bagpipe music.
     
  18. PauFerro

    PauFerro

    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    I tend to agree with the camp that understands it is tough to play a fretless in tune. But I'd like to hear more about what people think about the design above. I'm fascinated by it. I thought people would say that it's a crutch -- and consider the grooves like training wheels on a bicycle...and that any self-respecting bass player would learn to play the instrument properly rather than relying on those grooves, maybe even comparing it to vocalists who use Autotune or something. I was surprised I didn't hear that one.
     
  19. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    I think you simply have some misconceptions about what bass players believe. For example your statement that lines on a fretless are an undesirable last resort.

    The pro who taught me fretless (a very well known player) always said, "use your ears, use your eyes, use a tuner, whatever you need to do: PLAY IN TUNE." If you're a bandleader, are you going to hire the unlined fretless player who plays out of tune, or the guy who plays the grooved/scalloped neck in tune? :)
     
  20. JAUQO III-X

    JAUQO III-X Banned

    Jan 4, 2002
    CHICAGO,IL.
    Endorsing artist:see profile.
    I've played fretless bass on recordings and some people commented that they thought I was playing a fretted bass..
     

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