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Why play a fretless?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Terrance, Jul 6, 2001.

  1. Terrance


    Jul 6, 2001
    What's your reason for playing a fretless bass? Is it the sound, the feel, what?
  2. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Welcome to Talkbass, Terrance.:)

    Mine is both. The sound and the feel.

    Sounds better than a fretted to my ears, and much smoother action and feel.
  3. Dave Castelo

    Dave Castelo

    Apr 19, 2000
    cuz there´s no fretbuzz :)
  4. Scott Cutrer

    Scott Cutrer Guest

    Aug 21, 2000
    Richmond, VA
    Man, go check out some Jaco with Joni Mitchel or Pino Palidino with Paul Young (my 2 main fretless influences) and if that doesn't make you want a fretless, then don't worry about it. It is not for every one. It is really just taste man, what sounds good to your ears.

  5. A big lazy Ditto!:D
  6. Larry Kaye

    Larry Kaye Retailer: Schroeder Cabinets

    Mar 23, 2000
    Cleveland, OH
    I bought a Lakland fretless after thinking I really wanted to give this a serious try for several years. I've been playing bass guitar since 1964 and for the last 12 years have been playing 5 string exclusively.

    You gotta have ears, ears, ears, and intonation, intonation, intonation. So do the people you play with!!! I'm in a band with 2 trumpets, a sax, and guitar + 3 and 4 part vocals, sometimes going at the same time. Let me tell you, it's an absolute bitch to play with people who are all trying to "tune Up" on the fly like that.

    When I play with a piano trio with only one singer, my intonation is simple and pretty darn accurate most of the time, and getting better week to week. Take the fretless, play along with some recordings where you know the key for sure, tune up the bass to the recording, turn out the lights, close the door and use your ears, not your eyes to play in tune.

    Just having that more distinctive mwah sound makes both ballads and standards, be them done in a straight or more jazzed up version really sounds nice. Walking parts flow more together. Swing works well, but I personally like the percussiveness that my fretted bass has for almost all other applications, and really doesn't sound bad for the same stuff I play fretless gigs on.

    I frankly don't want the pressure of changing basses quickly, resetting tone controls, etc. etc. on a gig so I don't take the fretless to my main, 8 piece band job. I will take either the fretless or the fretted to the piano trio, depending on how much work/challenge I'm up to that night. Like I said, it is getting easier and better and I'm woodshedding at least 3 or 4 hours a week with the fretless (I work day gig full time....don't have 40 hours a week for practicing bass like 30 years ago!!).

    I want to add "challenge" to the tone and feel reasons to play fretless. It is very challenging and yet rewarding. I just can't see playing fretless on Motown and 70's tunes we often do with a group of band members that are challenged to play in tune sectionally and vocally together, let alone now tune up to a bassist that has to tune up to something too.

    You gotta have an excellent sense for intonation. It is extremely easy to get out of tune if you rely on fret markers or dots. Turn off the lights and use your ears.

    Sorry to be so blabby. Have fun.

  7. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    Add Catch 22 to that list, they exclusively use fretlesses.
  8. CamMcIntyre


    Jun 6, 2000
    The reason why i do now & plan on adding another fretless to my arsenal is because some songs & situations call for it.
  9. xush


    Jul 4, 2001
    mobile AL
    can't slide harmonics with frets...

    mick karn made me do it.
    and tony franklin , curse him.
  10. you can, i do it all the time, perhaps if your playing a bass with ugly high unfinished frets, but a good fret job and there's no reason why you can't
  11. I'm an addict. I can't stand them little metal bars on my fingerboard anymore, they get all in my way!

    I'm so sick that I was playing in an 8 piece horn band doing stuff like Tower Of Power on a fretless 6.

    It's all a matter of what you prefer, and learning to HEAR yourself well in any situation. I do lean on position markers at times though, just a bad habit I've got. I'll agree with Larry, and say you MUST develop your ears, but also there is the fact of muscle memory. The more you play on a particular fretless, the better you "feel" the in-tune spots.
  12. bertbassplayer

    bertbassplayer Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2000
    DFW, TX
    Its the little something extra (haha actually missing), it gives it its own style, feel, tone, everything.
  13. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    This could get ugly. Some will tell you that you will never find your own voice cos of the phenomenon known as Jaco, others will tell you that there is no difference and that they play the same on either fretted or fretless basses.

    Personally I just took to it. I now regard myself as a fretless player. Ironically the fretless is broken and I am having trouble getting it fixed (another thread) and I find that my fretted 5 whilst awesome is not as versatile and I am pining for the slinkiness, the fluid sounds that I don’t get from my fretted. Yes you can play a fretted like a fretless and even get mwah if you are clever but it's not the same. Yes I should have two fretless basses but I am too much of a pragmatist and I didn’t plan on having a bass out of action for 6 weeks.
  14. downstairs


    May 13, 2001
    Pasadena, MD
    when i started playing bass in the 5th grade (upright) i needed something to practice on, so, my mom asked around and this guy gave me a bass, it was a fender bass, fretless. come to find out its a 1970, worth about 800....it has a custom color. So i play(ed) it because it was free.
  15. ARA punk

    ARA punk

    Jul 11, 2001
    USA, Shelby, NC
    Do they make fretless basses with lines where the fret bars normally are??? I was just wondering.
  16. I have an AmDlx Jazz Fretless. It's a wonderful instrument and I simply love its sound and feel.

    I've got it for sale. WHY? Because I have found, as many people have, that to play a fretless well takes a whole different set of skills than playing a fretted well.

    All of the points about fretless made here are valid. However, I've discovered that when I sing, both solo and harmony, I just don't have the time or the ability to listen carefully to my voice, the other voices, and my bass to ensure that all are in tune together. I have tried. I can either play the fretless well and sing like crap. Or I can sing well and play the fretless like crap.

    Hence, I keep the fretless at home and have fun practicing on it, and it never leaves my house. I've decided that as much as I would like to play it live, I can't, so I'm selling it.

    If I wasn't a vocalist and a bassist, I would probably keep it and use it a lot. The sound is so much better to my ears than any of my fretted basses.

    Good luck on your foray into the world of fretless.
  17. You mean there are basses with frets???
  18. notduane


    Nov 24, 2000
  19. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    ...because I can't figure out an answer to the question, "why play fretted?"
  20. bertbassplayer

    bertbassplayer Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2000
    DFW, TX
    My answer to why play fretted is .... I don't own a fretless...

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