Fretless Bass for Metal?

Discussion in 'Bass Guitar Discussion' started by transyldavianhunger, Apr 3, 2020.

  1. transyldavianhunger

    transyldavianhunger SS.org Regular

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    Of the bass players I’ve met and played with, all of them have been really into the aggressive clicky style of playing, at least for metal. I don’t mean the Seinfeld-segue-music style bass slapping either. Maybe they have had poorly set up basses, or poor technique, OR maybe I just have tastes that are very unpopular when it comes to bass guitar, but I really don’t like the way it sounds. I’m fairly certain that they weren’t intentionally trying to have a percussive element to their, but it was just a side effect of their playing.

    Being forthright, I own a couple of basses (doesn’t just about every guitarist?) and I get similar clacking if I play aggressively or too fast, but admittedly I don’t practice bass much. I feel like the looser nature of bass strings, and their larger mass, gives them a propensity to move a lot more during play, so they are wont to slap the frets further down the neck. Is a more tender touch with a rolled up volume the answer for this, or would a fretless bass also be a good option?

    I understand that no amount of gear can expiate poor form, but would a fretless bass be what I’m after if I wanted an instrument that won’t give that (in my opinion) annoying slap against the higher frets? I definitely recognize that playing a fretless requires a LOT of practice and a well trained ear, and not everyone works on that.

    TL;DR but has anyone had experience with playing a fretless, especially in a metal context? The bassist in one of my favorite death metal bands for a the last several years, Blood Incantation, plays a fretless Mockingbird, and his smooth tone still sounds tight, and fits perfectly, so why don’t more metal bands utilize a fretless if it fits their respective goals? Is there a larger history of metal bassists that use fretless’s that I’m unaware of?
     
  2. Valdra

    Valdra SS.org Regular

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    Lots of tech death bands use fretless basses it seems like. If you like what the bass sounds like with bands like Obscura & Beyond Creation a fretless bass might be for you I guess. It's going to have a learning curve though mind you.

    Before you try that though you could try flat-wound strings or some nylon strings.
     
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  3. beerandbeards

    beerandbeards Majestic Shoveler

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    Steve DiGiorgio
     
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  4. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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    Indeed it's almost the norm in tech death, at least the bands I follow!
     
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  5. Adieu

    Adieu SS.org Regular

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    Are you using obnoxiously light strings?

    105 or 110 EADG / 135ish BEAD might be the answer.

    Unless you have an el cheapo bass... stuff like Soundgear Gios seem to lack the neck stability to wear heavier strings.

    Also, are you using fingers? Pick?
     
  6. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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    ^ Good point, I overlooked setup as a lot of bassists DO intentionally go for a clicky percussive sound. But certainly it's common for strings to be quite light, not changed out for downtuning etc. For B standard I find D'addarios 45-107 balanced set and single tapered 145 just right and perfectly balanced as a correction to the typical 45-100+130. Still, there is generally some click to aggressive fretted playing indeed. Tune your bass up a semitone or two - are you happy with the tone now?
     
  7. Cynicanal

    Cynicanal SS.org Regular

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    No answer to the main question here (I don't play bass), but to answer the partially-stated one of why bouncing strings off the fret is so popular -- it has nothing to do with lack of technique. In a metal mix that would be typical for the late '80s through the '90s, the guitar has shitloads of gain (thus, has its attack squished a lot), and the EQ is scooped to fuck. With the guitar occupying more of the low end and having its transients compromised, the bass can fit well in the sound by providing a lot of the transients that the guitars are missing. Most modern tech-death bands are using much less gain on the guitars, and aren't scooping the mids or using near as much low-end in their guitar tone, so the overall role of the bass in the mix is different, and they aren't as well suited with a big "clank" on the attack.

    Remember, in a traditional rock or metal production, the bass is a part of the rhythm section. Attack is critical.
     
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  8. transyldavianhunger

    transyldavianhunger SS.org Regular

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    Yes, always fingers.
    I personally have a Japanese Fender Aerodyne Jazz Bass set up with heavier strings and tuned to C# standard. I couldn’t tell you what gauges, as it’s been over a year since I put those strings on there. I wanted heavier, tight-feeling strings to assuage the fretboard slapping.
    It does feel tighter, of course, and therefore slightly easier to avoid the slapping against the lower frets. Is it just a matter of compromising between playability of each hand (ie: effort of the fretting hand and action with the plucking hand)?
     
  9. transyldavianhunger

    transyldavianhunger SS.org Regular

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    This is pretty insightful, I can see how a bassist might find their place in this context.
     
  10. Scordare

    Scordare SS.org Regular

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    Like Valdra said..try some flat or tapewound strings on your fretted basses. You typically find them on fretless basses anyway and they are smoother sounding & playing. The clicky sound is another reason I don’t usually like 24 fret basses..the extra frets closer to the right hand doesn’t help. If you’re curious about playing fretless though, I would say go for it! I am mainly a guitarist too, but have played and gigged as a bass player for a long time and fell in love with fretless bass.
     
  11. transyldavianhunger

    transyldavianhunger SS.org Regular

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    Are there any easily swappable fretless Jazz Bass necks I should look at or avoid? I like the idea of bolt on mods rather than yanking frets out of a perfectly good neck, and squandering the value of it.
     
  12. A-Branger

    A-Branger SS.org Regular

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    thats your answer


    it doesnt take much going from a clean sound to a clanky one, specially with a well settup low action bass. Something you need to learn how to control. Same as learning to play with dynamics and learning to play different styles of palm muting on a guitar

    playing with a pick would sound different than playing with fingers. And playing with fingers is going to sound different depending on how you play the string, the angle you pluck the string, the position of your finger on the bass closer to the bridge or to the neck, and also how hard you play or not. All that can be controled so you have a vast sound arsenal to pull out when you need it. You can play with the softess touch for the slow a beutiful sections with a more rounded sound and then swap to an agresive percusive almsot slappy sound for a mroe angrier section.

    Metal muic might put you "in the mood" to play more agressive, so its a matter to lern how to control yourself and play "softer"..... but having to battle a loud environment and a bass burried in the mix, is pretty comon you try to hit the strings harder to 1- make yourself sound "louder" (even when you are not), and 2- give yourself a clankier sound so you cut trough the mix a bit better

    you can brush the strings toward you and keep a more "bass" sound to them and control the sound even with a more agressive pluck, or you can brush the strings down towards the body so they "bounce" and hit the fretbaotd more so you get your clanky slap-ish tone to exagerate your attack

    doesnt help that majority of bass players in metal bands started and/or still are "guitar players", so their approach to the instrument would always be as one.... Bass requires a different technique, its not just "same notes with less strings and longer scale"
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2020
  13. Señor Voorhees

    Señor Voorhees SS.org Regular

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    Man, tech death (more often than not at least) is just obnoxious noise to me but god damn if I don't just enjoy watching people play it. That's some crazy sick bass playing, as is a lot of tech death bass playing. I wish I could play half as clean as that. I might not like the genre, but I sure do respect the hell out of the instrumentation and the effort/skill that goes into playing it.
     
  14. ixlramp

    ixlramp SS.org Regular

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    A fretless is not necessary at all, there are many bass guitar players who can play very fast without lots of fret contact (for example jazz bassists). However, it will not be easy.

    Fret contact being common in metal is probably because:
    Playing hard and aggressively is more likely.
    Using a pick is more likely, and picks seem to cause more string excursion.
    It is more difficult to keep string excursion under control when playing fast.
    Metal bassists often detune a lot but do not sufficiently compensate with increased gauges, resulting in low string tension.
    Metal bass parts are challenging to play, so a low action helps.
    They like the sound.
     
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  15. transyldavianhunger

    transyldavianhunger SS.org Regular

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    I definitely noticed in the past that I was not employing this technique, and it’s a habit I still need to work to break

    I am not an avid jazz listener, but I do know what you’re talking about. When I heard those quick bass line runs in jazz I always thought “Why don’t all bassists play like this?!” For some reason it didn’t instantly occur to me how much talent, mastery, and practice that requires, hah.
     
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  16. TheEmptyCell

    TheEmptyCell Dingwall Player

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    You’ll just get more of a “clack” than a “clank” using a fretless bass. Learn to pluck lightly, crank your amp, and play closer to the bridge.
     

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