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Old 01-30-2011, 09:04 PM   #1
sun_of_nothing
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Fretless bass

My friend is thinking about picking up a fretless 5 string bass, the only problem is that he is reluctant to buy one because he's not sure that he'll be any good on the fretless.

So I ask of you, forum,

how different is the fretless compared to the fretted?
is it easy to transition to?
and what are some easy ways to adapt to the fretless?

any input is appreciated.

'Ted Nudjent would be a funny name for a djent band."
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Old 01-30-2011, 09:16 PM   #2
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I actually prefer fretless. It's a lot easier to play, imo. Instead of worrying about hitting the right frets, you pretty much to play based on feel, which will make you better overall.

I've only played a few fretless basses, but everytime I do I just slam right into it. Super fun.

As for "easy ways" to adapt... well... Primus songs aren't that hard.
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Old 01-30-2011, 10:15 PM   #3
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I want one badly, have played several and it's smooth and wonderful. You adapt pretty quickly, and it's not long before it feels natural.
In terms of adaptation, I'd probably recommend a lined fingerboard if he's concerned about not knowing the fingering etc., I've been mulling what the hell I should buy over myself haha.

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Old 01-31-2011, 12:11 AM   #4
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thanks guys. as for lined fretboards, I'm not sure that the ones that he's looking at have them, but I'm sure they have dots on the side of the neck, right?
either way, He is one of the most talented musicians I know, I'm sure he could pick up on it right away.

'Ted Nudjent would be a funny name for a djent band."
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Old 01-31-2011, 12:31 AM   #5
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I like unlined, with dots on the side, but that's just a personal preference.
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Old 01-31-2011, 02:08 AM   #6
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Unlined might be a taste preference, since I like to have that visual, plus it might fool spectators into believing it is a normal bass from a distance.

But if he is good at a regular bass, then it wouldn't matter much if it's fretted or fretless. Just requires a tad bit more precision.

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Old 01-31-2011, 03:32 AM   #7
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fretless is a lot harder to play than fretted. Fretless players who are considered great, in metal, guys like Sean Malone, pride themselves on their intonation, and experienced bass players will hear when someone's intonation is not good while playing a fretless bass, even though it might sound good to people who don't really have trained ears.

You have to be really familiar with the fretboard and know exactly where to slide your finger to in order to achieve perfect intonation, whereas on a fretted bass, you can't really go wrong with your finger anywhere inside the fret.

So, if you really want to excel as a fretless player, it will take a lot of work and a lot of experimentation with your technique and the way you manuever around the fretboard. Especially when you are playing up on the high notes, at which point you will have to really rely on your ears more than on your hands and eyes to make sure that you are in tune.
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Old 01-31-2011, 04:04 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DLG View Post
fretless is a lot harder to play than fretted. Fretless players who are considered great, in metal, guys like Sean Malone, pride themselves on their intonation, and experienced bass players will hear when someone's intonation is not good while playing a fretless bass, even though it might sound good to people who don't really have trained ears.

You have to be really familiar with the fretboard and know exactly where to slide your finger to in order to achieve perfect intonation, whereas on a fretted bass, you can't really go wrong with your finger anywhere inside the fret.

So, if you really want to excel as a fretless player, it will take a lot of work and a lot of experimentation with your technique and the way you manuever around the fretboard. Especially when you are playing up on the high notes, at which point you will have to really rely on your ears more than on your hands and eyes to make sure that you are in tune.
Perfect answer.

I have a fretless 4 string and I had to work my ass off to really get my intonation together. Don't even bother recording with it until you've executed that. Live it wont sound too bad if you're a little off, but recording will sound like pure anus if you're not on top of it.

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Old 01-31-2011, 08:52 AM   #9
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Indeed! Fretless is great, but really different from fretted bass IMO. For good intonation it's essential to make a whole lot of hours playing! Personally I find it more difficult to play than fretted bass.

Apart from the intonation (with good ears, wich your friend has apparently, that won't be a problem with enough practice) a good, natural sounding vibrato is something he will have to spend a lot of attention to. A lot of players, especially starting fretless players, tend to exaggerate on vibrato.

I personally really like the look of unlined fretboards, but I play lined because I really feel it helps me a lot in my intonation and my overall view on the neck.
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Old 01-31-2011, 11:38 AM   #10
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hmm, looks like mixed reviews...

'Ted Nudjent would be a funny name for a djent band."
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Old 01-31-2011, 11:52 AM   #11
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If your friend is a good fretted player he probably won't have much problems starting fretless. It's just harder to master than fretted bass, IMO, and most of the times takes a little different approach than fretted bass. A big part of that will work itself out on the way.

Oh, and it's a lot of fun too.
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Old 01-31-2011, 12:26 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by deevit View Post
If your friend is a good fretted player he probably won't have much problems starting fretless. It's just harder to master than fretted bass, IMO, and most of the times takes a little different approach than fretted bass. A big part of that will work itself out on the way.

Oh, and it's a lot of fun too.
yeah, he's a pretty good fretted player. his main choice of instrument is the electric guitar, but he's one of those guys who is good on any instrument he touches... bass, drums, keyboard; you name it, he can play it.

I was also thinking about picking up a 5 or 6 string myself, but fretted. I told him that if I got the fretted and he got the fretless, we could trade for a while if he would prefer to use the fretted to record, until his fretless skills are better.
Would this be a good idea?

'Ted Nudjent would be a funny name for a djent band."
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Old 01-31-2011, 12:31 PM   #13
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If you both like the idea, why not?
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Old 01-31-2011, 12:39 PM   #14
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I for sure like the idea, because its like having access to two basses and only paying for one, and it allows me to fool around on the fretless too

When I proposed the idea, he said "Woah, now we're talking!" so I'm sure he would like the idea, but he said he would have to talk to his dad about it first, and it hasn't come up in conversation since then.

'Ted Nudjent would be a funny name for a djent band."
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Old 01-31-2011, 02:37 PM   #15
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Sounds good!
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Old 01-31-2011, 03:51 PM   #16
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Fretless bass is great, but it's not something you dabble with or do for fun. Tell him to get a lined bass, that way he can have a visual reference to match to the tones. Noodling around on a fretless bass is easy and fun, but getting good intonation takes practice. Most non-musicians will not notice unless it's really bad, but musicians will pick up on it straight away. I have only ever dabbled on unlined fretless basses that my brother has owned and my intonation is terrible. My brother practised long enough to have excellent intonation, as I only ever play bass for 5 minutes here and there for a laugh, it's not something I aspire to.

Your friend should not be afraid of fretless bass, but I think it will be easier to learn on a lined fretted. If he cannot get the kind of bass he wants with a lined fretboard, then he will just have to learn without lines, which is not impossible. If he is hoping to do it as a quick and easy side-piece to his regular bass playing, he should not expect to be much good at it. It takes time and practice, but like most other things in music, the journy of learning it is as much fun as the destination of being good at it.

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Old 01-31-2011, 05:23 PM   #17
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Quote:
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Fretless bass is great, but it's not something you dabble with or do for fun. Tell him to get a lined bass, that way he can have a visual reference to match to the tones. Noodling around on a fretless bass is easy and fun, but getting good intonation takes practice. Most non-musicians will not notice unless it's really bad, but musicians will pick up on it straight away. I have only ever dabbled on unlined fretless basses that my brother has owned and my intonation is terrible. My brother practised long enough to have excellent intonation, as I only ever play bass for 5 minutes here and there for a laugh, it's not something I aspire to.

Your friend should not be afraid of fretless bass, but I think it will be easier to learn on a lined fretted. If he cannot get the kind of bass he wants with a lined fretboard, then he will just have to learn without lines, which is not impossible. If he is hoping to do it as a quick and easy side-piece to his regular bass playing, he should not expect to be much good at it. It takes time and practice, but like most other things in music, the journy of learning it is as much fun as the destination of being good at it.
He is buying one later tonight he says, and he found one he likes, but it is unlined. It has position markers on the side though, so it probably wont be that bad without the lined fretboard.

But anyways, he bought a Brice Fretless 5 string from Rondo Music seen here:
Brice HXB-405 Nat Spalted Fretless at RondoMusic.com
Any idea if these are any good?

'Ted Nudjent would be a funny name for a djent band."
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Old 01-31-2011, 05:27 PM   #18
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Brice basses are pretty good, but for my money the best 5-string fretless entry level bass is the Ibanez SR 35. It is based on the SR 305 but with a lined and dotted ebonol fingerboard. It's $399.99 at MF and GC.

Brice is basically like SX in that you may get a turd, and you may get something great. At the very least, the preamp will probably need replacing, and the fingerboard may need to be leveled. If you or your friend can do it, great. If not, you may want to go another direction.

ALSO, keep in mind that the side-dots on many fretless necks are placed just as they are on fretted necks. That is, between notes. If you get an unlined fretless, this can lead to intonation problems if your bass player is dependent on his eyes to tell him where the note is. I would rather get a completely unmarked fingerboard than one with the side dots in the wrong place. If the fingerboard has lines, the offset dots won't be a big deal.

I also concur that fretless can be easier to play once you get your intonation down. It will take a lot of practice though. I started in music with the Cello, and I had to make a big adjustment to learn to play with frets. I bought a fretless and it was like visiting an old friend.
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Old 01-31-2011, 05:43 PM   #19
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Fretlines kind of go against the basic idea of fretless - to intonate the notes where they truly should be, as opposed to frets/fret lines, which are a matter of compromise for the sake of convenience.

You certainly get a different tone and feel playing fretless. It opens up a lot more options, but with more options comes more responsibility to know what you're doing.
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Old 01-31-2011, 05:50 PM   #20
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Fretlines kind of go against the basic idea of fretless - to intonate the notes where they truly should be, as opposed to frets/fret lines, which are a matter of compromise for the sake of convenience.
Perhaps, but they are good for learning.
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Old 01-31-2011, 07:16 PM   #21
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thank you all of you guys, you've been a big help

'Ted Nudjent would be a funny name for a djent band."
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Old 02-01-2011, 02:21 AM   #22
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Fretlines kind of go against the basic idea of fretless - to intonate the notes where they truly should be, as opposed to frets/fret lines, which are a matter of compromise for the sake of convenience.
I can see why you think this, but it isn't right I'm afraid.. The lines are just a little help to find the place the right note is at but you still have to intonate it yourself. If you play fretless and just play dead on the lines you didn't get the idea of fretless bass. Also, it helps a lot to keep overall view on the 'fret'board IME.

A lot of the biggest fretless players out there use fretlines, and that's not cause they have bad ears.. For example; here's a quote from Gary Willis, who is the best fretless player out there IMO.

Quote:
I think a "lined" fretless is a must. To me, intonation is initially "hand-eye" coordination. Then eventually it becomes muscle memory.
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Old 02-01-2011, 03:09 PM   #23
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when I was starting out on cello, I drew thin lines with a pnecil to get a small idea of where each note was. Then again those dont have side dots. After a bit you dont even look at all. You just get the idea of where your hand is.

Then again, I probably wouldnt do that on rosewood. Small strips of tape can help too.
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Old 02-01-2011, 03:11 PM   #24
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when I was starting out on cello, I drew thin lines with a pnecil to get a small idea of where each note was. Then again those dont have side dots. After a bit you dont even look at all. You just get the idea of where your hand is.

Then again, I probably wouldnt do that on rosewood. Small strips of tape can help too.
My cello teacher put strips of different colored plastic tape on my fingerboard when I was starting out. It helped a lot and after about a year she took them off, and nothing really changed.
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Old 02-02-2011, 01:51 AM   #25
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I can see why you think this, but it isn't right I'm afraid.. The lines are just a little help to find the place the right note is at but you still have to intonate it yourself. If you play fretless and just play dead on the lines you didn't get the idea of fretless bass. Also, it helps a lot to keep overall view on the 'fret'board IME.

A lot of the biggest fretless players out there use fretlines, and that's not cause they have bad ears.. For example; here's a quote from Gary Willis, who is the best fretless player out there IMO.
There's nothing "not right" about what he said- frankly, having seen and taught lots of bass players, guys who play with lines tend to use them as a crutch for way too long and have far less developed sense of intonation than unlined players. Of course you have to adapt and intonate, but I've found that lined players don't do this very well because most have ears so bad that they don't even realize that X line is actually not very in tune.

Either one is fine, but the learning curve on an unlined is much smaller than you think (with exception to in the higher registers, but all fretless players suck there for a long time) and they tend to pay significantly more attention to developing their ear than lined players.

Quoting Willis isn't a good strategy either- he is ABSOLUTELY resolute that his opinions on fretless are the gospel. I don't mind, because I love his playing and have taken lessons from him in the past, but I wouldn't call him an objective party.
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