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Bobthedog

Fretless question

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Having played Hey You, Pink Floyd not very flatteringly  on a fretted bass, I now have severe gas for a fretless and am looking at a Sire V7 Fretless 5 - Alder / Maple. No side dots but lined. I love the fretless Roscoe on here, but also do not want to throw a lot of coin at what may be a short lived whim

Never having picked up a fretless, how difficult is it to get it right and realistically how often does anyone here play fretless? I am sort of trying to talk my way out of it but GAS is burning right now.

I did search but all I found was fretless basses for sale

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How often do people on here play fretless?

I'm quite sure some do nothing but.

I think there's a place for a fretless in most players' collection. I've just never found one I've gelled with yet. I went for the upright electric 5 with "modern" strings on it route instead.

How hard is it? As with fretted, it's all about practice. Most of the skills are readily transferable; they are variants of the same basic instrument, after all.

I understand your reticence when it comes to shelling out big money on one. I'd go and try a few out when the shops re-open.

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26 minutes ago, Lfalex v1.1 said:

How often do people on here play fretless?

I'm quite sure some do nothing but.

I think there's a place for a fretless in most players' collection. I've just never found one I've gelled with yet. I went for the upright electric 5 with "modern" strings on it route instead.

How hard is it? As with fretted, it's all about practice. Most of the skills are readily transferable; they are variants of the same basic instrument, after all.

I understand your reticence when it comes to shelling out big money on one. I'd go and try a few out when the shops re-open.

I would love to go upright but have a weird mental block with it. I am left handed but play right handed bass and a few sports too, however, I can for some reason only play upright as a left hander.

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16 minutes ago, Bobthedog said:

I would love to go upright but have a weird mental block with it. I am left handed but play right handed bass and a few sports too, however, I can for some reason only play upright as a left hander.

LH upright- Is it as "simple" as re-cutting the nut (and perhaps the bridge) and stringing it the other way around?

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Since pulling the frets out of 2nd ever bass, I never been too far away from having one in my collection and these days I have 2. I don’t normally do New Year’s resolutions, but this year I decided that unless the project or song  absolutely called for frets, then it was going to be fretless all the time. I’ve loved it. Rather than having to think where I would use the ‘bump-less beast’, I just pick it up for everything and it’s rare that I have to change.

In terms of ease of transition, I’ve always played close to the fret so playing fretless has never been overly difficult and it has improved my ear. I’d also love an upright, but the practicality, not to mention the cost, of owning one gives me pause. I have played one and I like it, although it is a very different animal.

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While I don't play, gig or record much fretless bass but those occasions do come up so I tend to keep one in my arsenal as when I need / have to / want to use it is very handy to have one which is suitable and set up for my preferences. How much you would use it is up to you - you might end up liking it a lot and trying to play everything on it for months in the end - I did it and was a lot of fun and great learning. Or you won't use it much. 

Mine is a lined 5 string fretless and depending on how much and how often I use it I can get around it pretty easily, sometimes I look at my fretting hand for positioning exactly where it should be, sometimes its muscle memory. 

If you can afford I think it is good to have one and the Sire is certainly not a huge invesment but a great value ( so I heard)

Alternatively you can order online, use the return period for deciding what you think of all the above so you have a safety net. 

Have fun!

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26 minutes ago, Lfalex v1.1 said:

LH upright- Is it as "simple" as re-cutting the nut (and perhaps the bridge) and stringing it the other way around?

Definitely would have to have a new bridge cut. You can't just turn the existing one around either, as they only fit one way.  Unfortunately there are no off-the-shelf bridges - they are custom carved by a luthier to fit the individual bass. 

You'd probably need a new fingerboard too; some are bevelled on the E-string side.

Photo from google images.

 

nr5ndrI.jpg

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Lfalex v1.1 said:

LH upright- Is it as "simple" as re-cutting the nut (and perhaps the bridge) and stringing it the other way around?

Except I would also have to train my right hand as a fretting hand which will take some time.

Okay, so have pressed the button on the Sire V7 mk2 5 Fretless Alder body with free gig bag. Hopefully will ahve it for Thursday. 

Edited by Bobthedog
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Take it easy, I think fretless is a different beast. I have done gigs with the fretless only, but still feel she is best when playing less. I like that singing sound. Quick stuff is doable. Slides, use sparingly.

It took maybe nearly a year, before I felt at home with her. Yes, something can be done nearly right away, but just play so much, that you are comfortable with her. It just takes some time. At least for an old fart like me.

A flanger, a fuzz, and a comp are my favorite effects with her. I put the fuzz and the flanger through a x-over (IE Divaricator), and Cog built me a small sized octaver which works well after the comp.

I use SS roundwounds only (40-95). Pretty same feel with every bass.

"Play til your fingers bleed, and then play some more" (do not remember who said that).

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Good luck @Bobthedog

I got my first fretless in 1978 and have never been without one since. Usually comes to gigs for a few songs. Take your time - it's a whole new tone/ expression pallet.

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5 minutes ago, EMG456 said:

Good luck @Bobthedog

I got my first fretless in 1978 and have never been without one since. Usually comes to gigs for a few songs. Take your time - it's a whole new tone/ expression pallet.

I am looking forward to it, however, it will be a long term plan. I am in no rush for now.

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Posted (edited)

 I keep my fretless as my 'noodling bass' in a corner of the living room.

Most of the time if I get the urge to pick up a bass and work something out or just have a noodle I reach for the fretless just because it's the closest.

Mostly I'm not even using it for particularly fretlessy stuff, I'm just playing 'normal' lines on it, but everything you play is good intonation practice.

In terms of difficulty it's theoretically just a slight shift in left hand technique, my biggest problem is that if I don't really concentrate my left hand tends to creep up the fretboard so that everything gets gradually sharper as I'm playing.

Edited by Cato
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You’ll love it I reckon. 
You’ll find lower fretboard lines - below say 9th fret - easier to play than you thought, and such a satisfying sound. 

It’s the higher register / higher & faster / or chords where life gets trickier. 


Try and record your practice as much as possible. Personally found there was often a painful gap between what I thought was in tune at the time, vs the reality. Can recall a few recorded jazz gigs and solos that still curl my toes. 

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Posted (edited)

I only play fretless now.  It offers you a great deal more creative freedom and is easier to play fluently, IMHO.  If I go back to fretted for any reason (usually chordal playing) I find they get in the way. 

A critical variable is 'mwah', that singing sound you get as the strings vibrate against the fingerboard.  Don't make the mistake of thinking 'mwah' is what fretless is all about.  It isn't, necessarily. Mwah  will fascinate for all of  a day before it starts annoying the t*ts off you and all around you.

Whether you get mwah is determined mainly by how low the action is set and the nut is cut.  A very low action and low cut nut slots will give you mwah.  If you lower the nut slots to no lower than around half a mil off the fingerboard and stick to a conventional action height your bass will sound just like a normal fretted bass, but with more freedom to be creative.

Another factor is lined or unlined.  Major name educators like Scott Devine and Steve Lawson insist that lined is sensible because it gives you precise finger placing control, which can be tricky, especially high on the fingerboard as Drax says.  Others like me just find lines distracting.  I only own unlined fretlesses simply because they're what came up when I was looking, but I very rarely wish I had lines to guide me.  Perfectly happy with unlined.  I quickly learned to play by ear and look at the fingerboard far less than I used to with fretted. 

Finally you will find fretless a little more difficult if the side dots are between and not on the notes, as is often case with a conversion.

Even more finally, just go for it.  It may not be your cup of tea but you may love it.  More people on here than you might think play fretless. 

Edited by lownote12
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49 minutes ago, lownote12 said:

Another factor is lined or unlined.  Major name educators like Scott Devine and Steve Lawson insist that lined is sensible because it gives you precise finger placing control, which can be tricky, especially high on the fingerboard as Drax says.  Others like me just find lines distracting.  I only own unlined fretlesses simply because they're what came up when I was looking, but I very rarely wish I had lines to guide me.  Perfectly happy with unlined.  I quickly learned to play by ear and look at the fingerboard far less than I used to with fretted. 

Finally you will find fretless difficult if the side dots aren't on notes, as is often case with a conversion.

Even more finally, just go for it.  It may not be your cup of tea but you may love it.  More people on here than you might think play fretless. 

Thanks for this. Having done some more research, it seems that the Sire has side dots but they appear to be as if for a fretted guitar. That could be interesting especially as my daily player at the moment is a fan fret. This is going to fun, if nothing else whilst learning on this.

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15 minutes ago, Bobthedog said:

Thanks for this. Having done some more research, it seems that the Sire has side dots but they appear to be as if for a fretted guitar. That could be interesting especially as my daily player at the moment is a fan fret. This is going to fun, if nothing else whilst learning on this.

If it’s lined, the side dots will be like on a fretted bass, just to get you in the area of where you should be, the lines are your target points (will come to rely on them less and less as time goes on - FWIW other lined players include Gary Willis and, of course, Jaco).

As has been said above, once you’ve done the initial obligatory slipping, sliding and OTT mwah (plus the  Pino ‘Hat’ line),  just play the songs you normally would as if you’re playing fretted. You probably already slide into a few notes and add vibrato on fretted anyway, it will now just sound more organic. Soon, you’ll just instinctively know where those little fretless touches sound best.

Enjoy the ride, it’s a lot less bumpy.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Bobthedog said:

Having done some more research, it seems that the Sire has side dots but they appear to be as if for a fretted guitar.

I've got a first generatuon Sire V7 fretless 4 string  and the dots are where they would be for a fretted.

I'm almost certain it's because Sire use the same necks for fretless and fretted.

 

Edited by Cato
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2 hours ago, Bobthedog said:

Thanks for this. Having done some more research, it seems that the Sire has side dots but they appear to be as if for a fretted guitar. That could be interesting especially as my daily player at the moment is a fan fret. This is going to fun, if nothing else whilst learning on this.

I have a maple board 4 string V7 fretless, on mine the dots are near-invisible, being sandwiched between the binding and the timber. Never gigged with it but under stage lighting they'd offer no reference point at all.

You get used to not relying on them surprisingly quickly.

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That’s disappointing if Sire leave the side dots in the central position. I have a Spectorcore which has them at the “line” position. It definitely helps as you do need to finger the note on the “ line”. However your ear will become accustomed to listening for the note and looking for it. 
as to how often do I use it,  it goes in spurts, sometimes it’s all I use, other times it sits unused for weeks. I do find you can use fretless on songs you wouldn’t associate with fretless, just avoid slides and finger the note as accurately as possible then lift off cleanly, then just sounds like bass.

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I've had two fretless basses in my life and my current fretless is a Status Graphite S2 5 string.  You can get sounds from a fretless that you cannot produce from a fretted bass, e.g. the bass on Paul Simon's Gracelands.  You can also make it sound "normal". I recommend a lined fretboard to help you transition and I suggest practising with the fretless on songs you know well from using your fretted bass.  I hope you enjoy this experience.

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4 hours ago, lownote12 said:

I only play fretless now.  It offers you a great deal more creative freedom and is easier to play fluently, IMHO.  If I go back to fretted for any reason (usually chordal playing) I find they get in the way. 

A critical variable is 'mwah', that singing sound you get as the strings vibrate against the fingerboard.  Don't make the mistake of thinking 'mwah' is what fretless is all about.  It isn't, necessarily. Mwah  will fascinate for all of  a day before it starts annoying the t**ts off you and all around you.

Whether you get mwah is determined mainly by how low the action is set and the nut is cut.  A very low action and low cut nut slots will give you mwah.  If you lower the nut slots to no lower than around half a mil off the fingerboard and stick to a conventional action height your bass will sound just like a normal fretted bass, but with more freedom to be creative.

Another factor is lined or unlined.  Major name educators like Scott Devine and Steve Lawson insist that lined is sensible because it gives you precise finger placing control, which can be tricky, especially high on the fingerboard as Drax says.  Others like me just find lines distracting.  I only own unlined fretlesses simply because they're what came up when I was looking, but I very rarely wish I had lines to guide me.  Perfectly happy with unlined.  I quickly learned to play by ear and look at the fingerboard far less than I used to with fretted. 

Finally you will find fretless difficult if the side dots aren't on notes, as is often case with a conversion.

Even more finally, just go for it.  It may not be your cup of tea but you may love it.  More people on here than you might think play fretless. 

This is an excellent post. My only addition would be that lined fretless is an abomination, and completely pointless at that ... when you're playing a bass, you can't actually see the frets!

What you need to see is the ENDS of the frets. Ibanez recognised this 50 years ago and produced this:

32889697668_237dae841d_k.thumb.jpg.7fe6f8dc03177c1c6e207dfafc5c4e11.jpg

It's a rubbish photo (sorry) but you get the idea. The bass (Ibanez 2366 FLB) was supplied with these fret end markers in place. I liked them so much that I later had a guitar tech do this:

46765526741_3ead930a10_k.thumb.jpg.324d55e885b4e7c9814c64125dc76d95.jpg

That's a Lakland Skyline Duck Dunn where I switched to a fretless neck.

The job of installing those fret ends was (apparently) very simple, and was not at all expensive.

 

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One thing i noticed when first playing a fretless , was that if you put your finger on the fret line,  it produced a sharp note.  This is because your fretting finger is much fatter than the fret line, and therefore, some of your finger is in front and some behind the line.  You need to place the edge of your finger  upto the line rather than on it. ( see pic )

In addition to that, the further up the neck you fret, you will find that you need to make tiny adjustments to finger position,  especially at the dusty end

fretting.jpg

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A well-played fretless is a joy to behold (e.g. Pino). However I owned a few over the years and hated the damn things. You can go on about muscle memory and they’re nothing wrong with my ears, but I do think you need to devote a lot of practice time. Problem is, with decent ears it becomes all too painfully obvious when you’re out of tune. Young kids learn the violin and (can) keep in tune on a much smaller fretboard with no lines at all, so it’s definitely possible (e.g. Simandl exercises for us bass players). However, nowadays as I don’t need to make a living from playing I steer clear of the abominations :)

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1 hour ago, fleabag said:

One thing i noticed when first playing a fretless , was that if you put your finger on the fret line,  it produced a sharp note.  This is because your fretting finger is much fatter than the fret line, and therefore, some of your finger is in front and some behind the line.  You need to place the edge of your finger  upto the line rather than on it. ( see pic )

In addition to that, the further up the neck you fret, you will find that you need to make tiny adjustments to finger position,  especially at the dusty end

fretting.jpg

I have just watched a couple of videos on this and there are two different views. Scott said the finger must be on the line and the other said behind. I guess I am going to just play and see what happens.

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1 hour ago, Happy Jack said:

This is an excellent post. My only addition would be that lined fretless is an abomination, and completely pointless at that ... when you're playing a bass, you can't actually see the frets!

The bass (Ibanez 2366 FLB) was supplied with these fret end markers in place. I liked them so much that I later had a guitar tech do this:

46765526741_3ead930a10_k.thumb.jpg.324d55e885b4e7c9814c64125dc76d95.jpg

That's a Lakland Skyline Duck Dunn where I switched to a fretless neck.

The job of installing those fret ends was (apparently) very simple, and was not at all expensive.

 

I am going to give it a go but agree entirely, I cannot see the frets so may end up going the route per your Lakland. 

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