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Would learning violin help with fretless intonation?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Matthew_84, Jan 25, 2012.

  1. May be a dumb question, or a very smart one... I'm not too sure myself.

    Reason I ask is that in a couple of months, I'll be modding my bass into an unlined fretless. One thing worth noting is that I have a pretty horrendous ear. I've also read numerous times on the DB side, that bowing is the best thing for improving intonation.

    Since I see violins at $100 all the time on craigslist, I was thinking of picking one up and learning how to play it, maybe taking a lesson or two. I know after a while I'd improve and so would my ear, but would it help for when I play a fretless BG, and later on for when I can eventually afford a DB?

    I'm interested in some of your ideas,


    Edit to add: I want an unlined fretless because I want to depend on my ear, not the lines. Also, the fretlines aren't a perfect pitch anyway (though they're close).

    Also, I realize a violin is tuned differently and in fifths instead of forths (like C, G, D, A)
  2. It would help, but I think you'd be better off just getting a lined fretless bass. You'd have to put a lot of practice in with either instrument, and your ear will develop the more you challenge it.

    Once you have some kind of fretless instrument you could use a chromatic tuner to check your accuracy. Also search Spotify or Youtube for "Cello drones". 6 minutes of a single note. Spending a while playing different notes against the drones will help a lot.
  3. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    Arco and violin = cat being tortured ... it takes a lot of time to have a good arco tone and intonation is checked after. Also the violin isn't tune like a bass nor the cello.

    But it is fun and not that hard to get used to, I tune my NS NXT CGDA and it isn't that hard to go from that to standart tuning bass.

    but I'll say, go easy on you at first. and electric DB like the NS NXT aren't that expensive for a very nice instrument.
  4. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    The answer is no. As playing violin is about the bowing to new players, then any timbre you would get from fretting will never be realised. So save the money and use the time to play your bass and learn to fret on that. I think if you have never played a fretless, just how easy it is to learn if you have had good hand skills on a fretted bass and trust your ears.
  5. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    I love the look of unlined fretless' but mine is lined. Its hard enough for me to put on a good show and play well at a gig for me to play an unlined fretless. Unless you are dead set on having an unlined, dont worry about that.
  6. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Playing fretless bass makes your intonation on fretless bass better. A violin is held in a completely different manner and thus the hand/eye relationship is a completely different kettle of fish. Even double bass, which is much closer to fretless electric, has a much different set of parallax errors than does fretless electric.

    Regarding fretlines, you are correct - they can impart a false sense of pitch because they are not perfect. Fretlines are of no use to me because I cannot see the fingerboard when I play and would have to crane my neck to the point of injury to do so.

    Side dots are all you should need. At "frets" 5, 7, 9, 12, 15, 17, and 19.

    Start by using just your index and pinky using only side dots for scales, such as:

    E string: G A B
    A string: D E F#
    D string: A B
    E string: D E F#

    both up and down.

    Then move the whole pattern to Ab, noting that each note is a little more than half-way between each whole step.

    Next step will be to figure out how to play chromatic and whole/half-step scalar patterns (simple example: G Ab A) using fingers 1, 2, and 4. Neither the 2nd nor 3rd finger is really in the correct position to just drop on the note (the 2nd finger falls a bit flat and the 3rd a bit sharp), so you have to train your hand how to get the note. Use a chromatic tuner if you have to so you can train your ear to hear the correct pitch.
  7. Don't you think that if you spend the time you might dedicate to violin playing fretless bass instead, it might help you more towards your goal of playing fretless bass?

    Strange question to ask.
  8. Double bass has quite a few reference points naturally. For example on mine the back of the neck reaches the body right where the 7th fret would be, and the point where the fingerboard kinda leaves the neck is between the 9th and 10th.

    Unless there's lines or dots there wont be any obvious reference points on bass guitar - you'd only have your ear and muscle memory to guide you.
  9. Thanks everyone. McNach, not a strange question to ask at all... I forgot the unlined fretless would have dot markers at the fretlines, which would help me out. And fretlelessmainly, thank you for the ecercises. I do have a chromatic tuner and I'll be using it a lot. Thanks everyone... I guess it was a stupid question, LOL
  10. I've just got my first unlined fretless (although it has fret markers at each 'fret' position). I think my ability to play it largely in tune comes from years of learning on an lined fretless. Muscle memory is a vital part of playing these instruments and as such I would imagine getting as much time on the fretless will be best to improve your intonation.

    Have fun and as a great local bass player said. When playing live try not to worry/think about intonation too much


  11. I picked up a $100 fiddle - if it cost $100 its not a violin LOL - and did enjoy learning how to play. Every new instrument helps the over all understanding of music. IMO.

    Never could get all the cats out of my fiddle. Sold it to a friend for $50. He had trouble with those cats and gave it away......... My fiddle venture cost me $50, but, that was money well spent. I did decide it was going to cost me years of study and practice to master that fiddle, and felt I should get back to learning how to play what I have now.

    So, its only $100 go for it. See for yourself if it will help. And you can always sell it for something.
  12. To the OP: don't worry about it. Just dive in and play the fretless. You'll be surprised how quickly you'll adapt.
  13. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    You might be better off playing the trombone. You'll improve your reading skills and you'll develop your ear.
  14. fcleff


    Apr 22, 2005
    Austin, Texas
    Don't forget that Edgar Meyer has dots on his fingerboard. Nothing wrong with that at all.

  15. snyderz


    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    Two completely different instruments. Strings are reversed for one thing (GDAE). Play your bass. Or go to TalkViolin.
  16. Skitch it!

    Skitch it!

    Sep 6, 2010
    Due to the scale length and the close fingering required to intonate on violin, it could be hindrance rather than a help. Much wider intervalic stretches on a fretless, especiallly below the fifth plus the frequency difference, can be a little more difficult for the ear to intonate lower frequencies.

    I personally like lines, I've tried it both ways.
  17. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    There is a lot of people who started on violin that when to DB when they where teens. But since you fear of your intonation, maybe placing dot sticker to find your notes or you can learn Tuba ... you know before DB was use in Jazz, it was tuba all the way !

  18. I sat in on rehersals with The Dallas Banjo Band. Way back in my younger days...... I played a lot of air banjo during the time I sat in with them, i.e I got lost a lot. Those guys were/are really good.

    Probably 40 four string banjos and one tuba. All playing by rote from sheet music and staying together, give that a try.......

    Great fun.
  19. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    There are a number of reasons why bowing helps with intonation on DB, but I think it mainly has to do with developing solid left hand technique necessary for good bowed tone.

    I play upright and fretless electric. In my view, intonation doesn't come from playing a lot and hearing when notes are out of tune. It comes from developing solid left hand technique. To play consistently in tune, you have to play consistently. I think that you have to choose a "system" or "school" of fingering and shifting, and learn to apply it accurately and consistently. Fingering includes planning ahead in the music so that you are making minimal use of "risky" shifts, and then having this become something that you do without thinking. This is what upright players do. Also, relatively few of us attempt 1-2-3-4 fingering below the octave except under unusual circumstances.

    I use intonation as a gauge of my technique. If I am playing notes out of tune, I figure out what I am doing wrong, and work on correcting it.

    Personally, I prefer a lined fretless board for electric, and 1-2-4 fingering on both electric and upright.
  20. Thanks FDeck. I am certain that that info you just provided will become vital when I start on the fretless.

    It makes sense to use a 1-2-4 technique on a fretless, but this poses a question that I was thinking about earlier today; I've seen DB players keep the lower left hand fingers on the board (all four when the highest note is done with the pinky, the index and middle down when using the middle, and just the index down for the index). is this a recommended technique for a fretless BG? I would think it would help with intonation and keeping everything steady, lined up, and consistent.

    Also, would working through a DB technique book, like the Simandl, be beneficial to developing a proper technique?

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