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Top dots on a fretless


Magpel

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I'm extremely interested in acquiring a Wendler ectroCoustic fretless bass down the line sometime--for the the type of stuff I'm playing, it looks like the perfect axe.

 

Now here's the thing: I'm a guitarist who's been transitioning to bass for the past year or so (having played quite a bit of bass in the past) but I have never spent any real time on a fretless.

 

I know there will be a learning curve, or, more precisely, an intonation curve. I'm prepared to keep the fretless at home till I can be sure of myself in a gigging situation.

 

I feel like I really need top dots on the neck, not to ensure intonation, of course, but just to guide me toward the approximate pitch.

 

Recall, for a moment, your own transition to fretless: did you have top dots or any other "frets were here" indicators? If yes, do you think they were essential? What was your experience?

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I use both side dots (4 and 5 strings) and fret lines (6 strings) and besides helping your hand placement it DOES help in setting you own intonation. The strings I use primarily on fretlesses (D'Addario Chromes) are soft gauge and thend to stretch over time, so I do intonation adjustments every few months to compensate for the slight variance in intonation I find as the string ages. This is true of other brands as well, im my experience.

 

As for positioning, it helps a lot, especially when you're on a dimly-lit stage. But I find with the lined basses most people still think I'm playing a fretted bass and want to know why I go out of tune every now and then. Hence, practice is essential.

:wave:

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My fretless has neither lines nor dots, but that was a bit much for me, considering that it's my first attempt at going fretless :D So I added side-dots, yeah.

 

Intonation is indeed a bit tricky here and there, but all in all it's well worth the effort. Playing fretless is fun :thu:

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

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I've got side dots on blank boards and I think they're essential. The dots are where the frets would be at G, A, B, etc.

 

Then again, I learned on and played a de-fretted bass for years that had dark red lines on a ebony board. I certainly used to look at them when I started and thought they were essential as well. I was anxious when I got a bass with no lines.

 

Now, I think the lines are annoying, especially when the side dots are in between notes as on a fretted instrument. Too many dots & lines!

 

There are fretless electrics (and obviously uprights) with no dots or lines. I guess I might get used to that, but I'd probably add my own, even if it was with white tape or nail polish.

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Side dots are essential.

 

Top dots or lines are not.

 

But of course there are many top fretless players who have lined fretless basses, we are not going to start that war again, I hope.

 

Somewhere someone is playing a fretless with no position markers of any kind but my small mind cannot imagine it. :freak:

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My old guitar instructors insisted we not look at the fretboard EVER, at least while practicing. Either look at the sheetmusic or lead sheet or the conductor, or simply close your eyes - and hook your touch to your ears. A trombonist has no markers, yet is expected to play on-pitch. Same with a violinist, cellist, or double-bassist.

 

If you really want to become a good player, divorce your eyes from the fingerboard. Music is about SOUND, not about a marker on a fingerboard.

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

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I'm with coyote on this one. But I learned on an unlined fretless with no dots.

 

My current fretless has lines where the frets used to be. Useful live, as the side dots have faded.

 

Peace,

 

wraub

 

I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Keep in mind that violins, etc. do not have any markers. Maybe some student models do these days. Neither do trombones. So, they aren't essential as players have learned without them. It's just a matter of preference.
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Yeah and they sound shit for at least the first 10 years of playing. Most never get out of the "sound shit phase". Why don't violins etc have fret lines? Honestly this is pure snobbery and elitism.

 

Have fret lines. It always helps no matter how good you are. Also it confuses the hell out of anyone watching. I've had the "but it's got frets" comment several times.

 

Apologies to Jeremy C if I have started the next 100 year war. But classical players generally drive me nuts, after all I was one once ... er Davo

"We will make you bob your head whether you want to or not". - David Sisk
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actually, the "sound shit phase" has a lot to do with the bowing and left hand dynamics also. playing the right frequencies is just a small part of it...

 

i don't care if there are fret lines or not, if you look at your fingerboard or not, if you move on stage or not, if you look at the audience or not, whatever!

 

just deliver the music please

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My first/main/only fretless has lines; I don't feel like less of a man of musician for that (I have other reasons...). I've always been a little bit intimidated by unlined fretless basses that I've tried, but it's not as bad as I thought. Probably due to experience? The first unlined I played where I was really comfortable and knew I was in tune was a G&L L2500. If only I had $1300 cash on me that day. A good compromise that I found to be very helpful is the Godin A5. It has fret lines only on the edge of the fretboard that end under the B string. Just enough there for reference. This is what I would get on my next fretless (whenever and whatever that may be).

"Am I enough of a freak to be worth paying to see?"- Separated Out (Marillion)

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Originally posted by Davo-London:

Yeah and they sound shit for at least the first 10 years of playing. Most never get out of the "sound shit phase". Why don't violins etc have fret lines? Honestly this is pure snobbery and elitism.

 

Apologies to Jeremy C if I have started the next 100 year war. But classical players generally drive me nuts, after all I was one once ... er Davo

I will accept that there is a lot of snobbery and elitism in the classical music world. I've talked to dozens of people about this, who make these two points:

 

1. If you work as hard as they have to in acheiving greatness, you would develop a bit of elitism too. Remember, ONE MISTAKE in an orchestral season can put you on probation.

 

2. Many of those at the very top (YoYo Ma, et al) are not elitists. Something about the message they are given to tell the world.

 

However, the use of fret markings on the violin family is not elitist. For beginning players, taped fingerboards help establish a hand shape, but after that, they hinder:

 

1. Violin family instruments are not like guitar family instruments, whose fingerboards are right under your head. When you look at a violin fingerboard, out of the corner of your eye, seeing a position marker would be difficult. Turning your head away from the music and conductor would really cause problems.

 

2. Violin family instruments (and the fretless electric) play natural intonation rather than the tempered scale. This means that the fret lines are only suggestions of where the note might be. A C# does NOT equal a Db.

 

A nice thread on beginning violin technique.

 

In regards to the inital topic I agree with Jeremy; side markers, on the side of the fingerboard are very useful. Most manufacturers place them slightly different than on fretted necks, i.e., exactly where a fret would be rather than in the middle between frets.

 

I also agree that there is no success, especially on fretless, without practice. I played electric, changed to URB and studied that through college and beyond, and returned to electric several years after that.

 

There are 2 common approaches on the electric bass. One common approach is to treat it as a guitar, one finger per fret. The other is to borrow technique from the upright, where first and fourth finger play the octave. In general, many players combine both approaches on the electric depending on the musical situation.

 

On fretless, the upright method tunes better. If you try one finger per fret, you'll have to stretch more than you think you do.

Yep. I'm the other voice in the head of davebrownbass.
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WAR!!! :D

 

Seriously, snobbery ain't the reason most members of the viol family don't have frets or fretlines. Frets limit you to the equal-tempered system. Fine if you're playing with a piano, but useless for a string quartet which might strive for just intonation.

 

And what you consider snobbery actually has a very useful function: It separates the wheat from the chaff, the real musician from the pretender. An orchestra needs its musicians to do two things visually: read the music, and watch the conductor for cues. If you're busy looking at the fingerboard to guess what note you're playing, you certainly cannot do your job. You should be able to KNOW where you are on the instrument, based on what you HEAR.

 

If you ain't doing that, it means you ain't really listening. If you ain't listening, you ain't really making music.

Originally posted by Davo-London:

Yeah and they sound shit for at least the first 10 years of playing. Most never get out of the "sound shit phase". Why don't violins etc have fret lines? Honestly this is pure snobbery and elitism.

 

Have fret lines. It always helps no matter how good you are. Also it confuses the hell out of anyone watching. I've had the "but it's got frets" comment several times.

 

Apologies to Jeremy C if I have started the next 100 year war. But classical players generally drive me nuts, after all I was one once ... er Davo

EDIT: I see Dave posted right after I began replying. Glad to see others understand...

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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Since I've got to eat some humble pie here, I might as well understand something else with reference to the URB fingering:

 

"where first and fourth finger play the octave"

 

Can you explain this in a bit more detail. Davo

"We will make you bob your head whether you want to or not". - David Sisk
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Davo, "where first and fourth finger play the octave" means that using normal upright bass fingerings, a three fret stretch uses the first and fourth fingers, not the first and third as many electric players do. So an octave would be played with the first and fourth fingers on the left hand.
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I definitely know that only the most beginning violinists, cellists, and bassists use any kind of position markers. (Although I do believe that Edgar Meyer has position markers on his bass....and he is definitely not a beginner).

 

Trombonists never have position markers.

 

But there are only 7 positions on a trombone.

 

And the members of the violin family have the body of the instrument meeting the neck somewhere around where our 8th or 9th fret would be. The body becomes a physical reference point that helps find notes higher up on the neck.

 

My 21 "fret" fretless has a deep cutaway and jumping to a note on the 13th or 14th fret without looking can be quite challenging. It can be challenging even if I am looking. ;)

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I'll never understand why this lines/no lines thing is such a controversy. I can understand why people would have preferences for either, but why is is so emotional? Why does anyone care what the neck of somone else's bass looks like? Nobody's shorts get so ruffled when discussing maple or ebony fret boards.

 

Seems to me that some of the lined board proponents argue so passionately due to their own insecurity. They seem to think that the un-linned guys look down on them for needing a crutch. That's just silly. Did Jaco not have lines?

 

If you really have to look at every line on your board for every note you play, then your intonation probably does suck. I suspect that this is not the case for people who play lined boards with any frequency.

 

So magpel, are you going to get side dots, or glue some frets on that thing? :) Look what you started (again).

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Jaco had ripped the frets out of a fretted bass, and filled them in with wood putty....lines.

 

There is a serious point being made though. People who make an ego point outta "look, Ma. No lines!" are a serious drag.

Yep. I'm the other voice in the head of davebrownbass.
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Originally posted by Prague:

Now everyone knows why Fender's first electric bass was called a "Precision". It was because it had frets and could intonate precisely.

When in reality it should have been called the accurate bass, because precision is defined as the exactness of quantity while accuracy is defined as exactness.

In other words if you have five tones that are within a semitone of each other, they are precise. However, if you have 5 tones that are completely in tune to a given pitch, then they are accurate. :thu:

Hiram Bullock thinks I like the band volume too soft (but he plays guitar). Joe Sample thinks I like it way too loud (but he plays piano). -Marcus Miller
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But, ten again...could you really imagine running your good ole' abass into an ampeg svt?
Hiram Bullock thinks I like the band volume too soft (but he plays guitar). Joe Sample thinks I like it way too loud (but he plays piano). -Marcus Miller
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Originally posted by Father Gino:

I'll never understand why this lines/no lines thing is such a controversy. I can understand why people would have preferences for either, but why is is so emotional? Why does anyone care what the neck of somone else's bass looks like? Nobody's shorts get so ruffled when discussing maple or ebony fret boards.

I've always asked myself the same question when it comes to so-called 'extended range' basses. Not trying to stir the pot here, but who cares how many strings are on another man's bass?

 

If you want 4, play a 4 string (there's definitely snobism in there as well). If you want more, play more. Same thing with fretlines. I was really worried when I bought my fretless, cos it doesn't have lines. I think I manage, and it's less frightening than I imagined. But my next may or may not have fret lines. Who cares?

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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None of these issues have ever really affected me. All of my basses have four strings, this is because I have never heard a place for those lower notes in music that I've written and I've never encountered a situation that would need those 5 extra notes. If I neeeded the extended range I would buy a 5 string in a heartbeat, or a 6, or a 7+. But as it standsI don't need one, so why bother. If you need one, or if you feel more musically fulfilled with one, all the power to ya.

As far as lined/unlined fretless basses go, I really don't care.

If you feel more comfortable with the lines...then go for it.

If you find it more pleasing to play an unlined fretless bass.....then go for it.

Maybe you want a certain bass, but it only comes unlined....go for it.

Maybe you want a certain bass and it only comes lined....go for it.

 

As long as you can make it musical, GO FOR IT!!!

 

I'm personally gassing for a rob allen fretless, and if I get it...it will be lined. He offers a choice for unlined fretboards, but I don't see a reason to have an unlined fretless because I feel I can express myself with more ease on a lined fretless bass. For a long time beforehand, I was gassing for a veillette fretless, which is most commonly available unlined. I played a few of the Veillette's and they felt very comfortable and easy to play intonation wise. I would have bit the bullet, but I had seen rob allen basses before and they semmed a little more appealing in regard to aesthetics. After reading an interview with Rob allen I found his concepts on tone and building very appealing and I am currently planning on visiting his shop soon to finger a few basses and see how they feel.

....I have no ego, and I don't see a need for it in regard to what you play. I mean, what are we...G**tar PLayers?!?!?!?

Hiram Bullock thinks I like the band volume too soft (but he plays guitar). Joe Sample thinks I like it way too loud (but he plays piano). -Marcus Miller
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I play an unlined fretless Fender Precision Bass (yes, a contradiction in terms as Prague has already explained). I find the dots on the side essential.

 

Curiously, after playing fretless exclusively for long periods, I find myself having to consciously adjust to the 'visual profusion' of the frets on my fretted bass, which inhibits my fretted playing for a while. Maybe its just me, but I would say that's a point in favour of a lined neck ... more adaptable.

 

Another point I don't think has been mentioned yet: I was once given a lined bass to play at a gig and had a real tough time because the neck markers were between the "frets" and not on them, as is the case with my (unlined) bass. So whatever you decide to get, stick to it. I don't think a lined neck is any less demanding to play, just different (though for some, I suppose an unlined neck will have more 'pose' value).

 

Incidentally, although I try as much as possible not to look at the neck when playing upright, I still have a marker on my E octave position. I find this an invaluable precaution when I'm playing loud gigs and there's bad monitoring on stage.

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FWIW....I'm currently doing a bass with side dots at every fret position...large(.093") in the "usual" places, ie,3,5,7.......and small(.050") for the rest of the "fret" positions.

 

I think this will become a popular no-cost option.

 

Regardless of whether or not you have fretlines...you STILL have to use your ear.

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