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Fretting over fretless!


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I play in a folk-rock band which has two iterations; an acoustic trio and an electric quintet with drums and fiddle.

I have been playing fretless with the trio to add a point of difference. Also, as the drummer is heavy-handed, I prefer not to use it in the quintet as I can’t always hear myself!

I taped a recent trio mini-gig and found that, of the seven songs played, four hit the mark but the other three had dodgy intonation. There was no real excuse except for one song we hadn’t intended to play which I rushed.

It’s hit my confidence rather. My pal @bumnotewho was there thinks I’m being too critical but I haven’t dared send him the tape! Question is, do I persevere and try to improve the sub-standard songs, or just play fretted?

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2 hours ago, Mickeyboro said:

Question is, do I persevere and try to improve the sub-standard songs, or just play fretted?

 

Persevere Sir, I listen back to tracks and watch videos of my fretless playing and some of it needs huge improvement, but on others I can see/hear that I have improved since starting and playing fretless has definitely improved my fretted playing and my ear for intonation. I say keep going.

Edited by Frank Blank
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Persevere, no question. When I listen to videos of name players on fretless, I am often surprised at their sometimes dodgy intonation and famous double bass players are very often even worse, which means that it’s difficult and us mere mortals shouldn’t beat ourselves up too much. This is not an excuse for letting your technique slide (pun unintended, but I’m quite amused by it), we should strive to be better. However, it’s certainly not a case of thinking maybe fretless isn’t for you and jacking it in. I’m on a bit of a fretted binge at the moment but, up until now, fretless has always been my preferred modus operandi. As you say, it’s a point of difference, which is another reason to keep at it.

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Perseverance.

 

Stick with the fretless.

Concentrated practice and mindful playing will reap rewards.

 

For my own playing, when I'm working on something new and my intonation is out I'm aware I'm too conscious of the note I'm trying to play and not what has surrounded it, ie the shift to get there and what my left hand was doing to play the previous note

Edited by Woodwind
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...also, I think finding the right fretless is very important, perhaps even more so than with a fretted bass. I was all over the place with full scale fretless basses but as soon as I tried a Rob Allen I was much better almost straight away. Try a few out.

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25 minutes ago, Frank Blank said:

...also, I think finding the right fretless is very important, perhaps even more so than with a fretted bass. I was all over the place with full scale fretless basses but as soon as I tried a Rob Allen I was much better almost straight away. Try a few out.

Frank speaks the truth here. I have a Rob Allen 35” scale and intonation on that is very forgiving, which breeds confidence when playing my 33” scale fretless. I also had good experiences with the Ibanez GWB35. String choice can also make a difference.

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Persevere! I went through a phase recently of improving my intonation. As part of my practice routine, put my clip on strobe tuner on the headstock to check my intonation during warm up exercises, but not using it the rest of the time so I didn't become reliant on it. Obviously you have to use your ears but I found using the clip on helped to fine tune my left hand finger technique. 

BTW... are you using lined or unlined fingerboard?

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13 minutes ago, Steve Browning said:

Persevere. I would presume you are using the 'side to side' method of vibrato, as string players do on their instruments? That is how string players (and vocalists) manage their intonation.

Like sliding on fretless, vibrato should ideally be used stylistically rather than to cover up intonation issues as it can become tiresome quite quickly if used all the time. I say ideally as it's inevitable that at certain times you'll use these techniques to get through a passage especially during live playing. There are times though where I think that a slide or vibrato is definitely not what the song needs and I've cocked up the intonation but under those circumstances I'll just brazen it out. As a player you can be overly critical but I think a fretless where the intonation is not spot on can sound ok and more organic (if that's the right phrase) where a slightly out of tune fretted doesn't. 

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48 minutes ago, Happy Jack said:

What's the line-up for the trio?

 

Vocals, vocal/guitar, vocal/bass

 

Unlined. And yes, I attempt vibrato. 
 

There’s only one song we do that lets me ‘show off’ by sliding into notes, tho. A Graceland-style ditty. 
 

Ta for comments so far!

Edited by Mickeyboro
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If there's no other dodgy-intonation instrument in the outfit (no fiddle or slide guitar or mouth organ or Gawdelpus a trombone) then you should be fine ... intonation on a fretless only gets better with practice and playing live gigs in front of hecklers. 😂

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3 hours ago, Steve Browning said:

That is how vocalists manage their intonation.

 

The vibrato in a voice is a naturally occurring feature, not one created by the singer consciously altering the pitch.

 

The information going from the brain to the voice is in tune; how it comes out depends on faults in vocal technique. 

 

The vibrato is totally separate, and can also have faults of its own. 

 

A singer deliberately adding a fault to the vibrato to try to mask intonation problems is nothing but someone in a terrible pickle.

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I find having a lined board helps tremendously when I have to hit notes spot on fretted style, especially higher up the register. Of course I can play without them but it’s never going to be quite as accurate.

Edited by Musicman666
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14 minutes ago, EssentialTension said:

Definitely persevere.

 

And realise that lots of things that happen at gigs, including bumnotes, missing the bridge, etc, and weak intonation, sound much worse when you listen back to a recording than they did in the live situation.

This!

 

Not on bass guitar, but there are many times I have left the stage deflated due to fluff ups etc, but am accosted in the bar after by many new fans.

 

A performance full of conviction and life is worth a great deal more than a technically perfect show which may happen to be devoid of feeling.

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With a fretless, you have the opportunity to always be in tune with the others, which is not the case with a fretted or fixed notes instrument.

 

So, it's a kind of perfect instrument on its own, but you have to listen to the others and not rely on a perfectly pitched note on a strobe tuner.

 

That said, paradoxically, practising alone and playing perfectly pitched notes will improve your intonation a lot.

 

As Alain Caron always says, and he is a terrific fretless player exactly knowing why and what he's playing, music is 10% gift and 90% sweat.

 

Fretless as you might know it is my main instrument since more than 30 years, and yes I play a lot in the dusty end, and yes I play chords, but I've been practising a lot and persevered...

 

So, yes, persevere !

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