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sooo...back to my fretless....


VictorClarke

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I was wondering, as I haven't yet made that fretless purchase, how long will it take me for my intonation to be acceptable on it? A month after I get it will I still be hitting nasty in-between-er notes or will all those be smoothed out after a month or two?
When the music's over.
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Buy a lined fretless and you should be up and running pretty fast.

 

I bought mine without having ever seen let apart played a fretless bass, and loved it and started using it right away on rehearsals. Nobody in the band complained even once, so I just kept going.

 

Depends a lot on the type of music you play, how fast you need to play, and how much you want to look at the fretboard while playing. But it is certainly a LOT of fun, I love my stingray and wouldn't sell it for anything.

 

Good luck and don't be afraid!

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I feel that both Davo-London and Farid are correct. It depends on how much time you are willing to commit to the venture, and the tool that you choose to start with.

 

If I were going fretless (and I may very well do just that), I would very likely start here . A lined fretless will give you all the sound (once your technique is established) and half the positioning worry.

My whole trick is to keep the tune well out in front. If I play Tchaikovsky, I play his melodies and skip his spiritual struggle. ~Liberace
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I was gigging within a month of switching to fretless. Initially, it helped that it had lines (well, it was a cheap Precision copy that I de-fretted). Fairly soon I switched to unlined fingerboards and I don't find much difference. You have to use your ears to adjust on lined boards just as much anyway.

When I first switched to fretless, what helped was that I had tended to finger the notes very close to the frets on fretted to avoid fret buzz. What hindered me was my awful left hand fingering technique.

It helps if you use a system whether one finger per fret or Simandl - something based on positions anyway.

My ear helped: and the fretless certainly helped my ear!

When I get a new instrument, I spend a lot of time playing it and, as said above, practice is the only way to really improve intonation.

Don't expect your intonation to be perfect though, even after 16 or more years playing fretless I still have to constantly work to improve my intonation. When I play out of tune, I just have to hear it quickly and adjust.

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I'd have to vote for an unlined fretless as well. When I bought mine (unlined), I used it in a rehearsal and Sunday morning worship within 1-2 weeks of having it in my possession. I asked the group if my intonation sounded OK and everyone said "sounds fine to me". The lines don't help much in my humble opinion...you really have to use your ears with a fretless whether it has lines or not.

 

Dave

Old bass players never die, they just buy lighter rigs.

- Tom Capasso, 11/9/2006

 

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What Phil says is true. I have a lined fretless and even with lines you don't play on them all throughout the neck. I was gigging with mine within a couple of weeks, thanks to the lines.

 

If I get another one I will go for the ebony

'board unlined. Just look how good Phil's bass looks, and with the natural finish, too.

Sorry man, but I've coveted your bass ever since I first saw your avatar.

Visit my band's new web site.

 

www.themojoroots.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I have a lined (j-bass) and unlined (brice) fretless. I find the unlined easier. Having the lines without the usual dots/markers inlaid into the fingerboard is confusing to me, because switching from a fretted bass that has the lines (frets) and the inlays to just the lines is a problem. A clean fingerboard with just dots on the top does it for me, plus the clean fingerboard looks much better, tells the world you're using your ears, and invites creativity. Further, I epoxied the Brice fingerboard so I could use round strings, the resulting sound makes it easy to distinguish pitch, rather than just the mush/thunk from flatwounds usually used. It is extremely important to ensure the instrument harmonics are setup properly, just like a fretted bass, because intonation will really suffer otherwise regardless of how careful you are with finger placement.
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basslinedesign: A clean fingerboard with just dots on the top does it for me, plus the clean fingerboard looks much better, tells the world you're using your ears
What tells the world - the part of it that actually can hear and gives a crap, that is - that you are using your ears is their ears - and NOT their eyes. Some players seem to want to make lines-versus-no-lines a purity issue, but that statement just made me laugh. If you sound good THAT's how the LISTENERS tell you are using your ears. They don't care if you have lines or not.

 

It's a personal choice and a lot of great players have lines, and a lot don't. I myself prefer them because it helps me get near the mark when I am making big jumps up and down the neck in fast non-repetitive stuff, and it helps me for chords, especially way up the neck. It's especially useful when I am NOT trying to sound like a fretless (not sliding or using vibrato), to still hit on the mark. And dig, I use my ears every bit as much as if I didn't have lines. Actually it WAS My Ear that told me that lines were a good tool for all this stuff, and for when I am singing it doesn't hurt to have a little visual indication either.

 

So that's my choice, and I'm not in bad company.

 

 

and invites creativity.
Surely a set of lines or the absence thereof doesn't affect your creativity one way or another. Personally, I can be creative no matter what. Though I've heard people who later lose the plot say that little White Lines make them a better musician ; }

 

 

It is extremely important to ensure the instrument harmonics are setup properly, just like a fretted bass, because intonation will really suffer otherwise regardless of how careful you are with finger placement.
Didn't you just say you use your ears? If so, you don't need to have the bridge barrels set perfectly to play in tune ... Actually you don't even have to have the string tuned too well. If you are really using your ears, I mean ; }
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Well said. Lines or no lines is your choice, but don't slam me for using one or the other. The whole "real men don't use lines" thinking is rediculous.

 

As is worrying about what the audience thinks based on your gear. I wish I would have come around sooner. It would have saved me lots of money and hassle.

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G.B. and SteveC., in the context of the original discussion a suggestion was made to acquire a lined bass in the transition to fretless. In fact that is what I did for my first fretless. My second fretless does not have them, and after the fact, I find the without-them bass preferable for the reasons I mention. I am not attempting to make any statements about purists, etc., if a lined bass inspires confidence or is useful in other ways then go for it. I have found the same diciplines in fingering precision required to play a fretted bass applies to fretless, lines or not, so, I personally find them distracting and not really useful. My cello does not have lines nor my upright bass, I am accustomed to an uncluttered fingerboard. But that is just me and what I am used to. I do not knock those that have lined basses, and I certainly apologize if I so implied. Again, I own one and I still play it, and I don't care who is watching or what they think, unless of course my musical offering has some issues. But since I have both and thought I could offer VictorClark my perspective accordingly, take it or leave it, a lined bass is not required to learn and enjoy the unique sound and freedom sans frets. Otherwise, pick up a standard Jazz or Precision with the lines, solid instruments for the money, as did I.

 

G.B., on the bridge barrels/harmonics comment, again, I have found that certain strings require harmonics adjustment to maintain their pitch in the expected position. Ears or not, FOR ME, if the harmonics are off so will my intonation be. For any given scale or riff it is bothersome to me to have to adjust sharp or flat the pattern because any given string is off pitch in that position especially in the upper part of the neck. I expect the note to be in tune if I play accurately, if it's not then my fingering precision needs some work, after the bass has been properly setup.

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gb and a few of you pretty much covered it. I'd like to add that when I started on fretless I didn't know you could have lines on the neck, as I was always leaning towards the original Fender P-bass (unlined). Turned out my first fretless (Ibanez Musician) was also unlined and my primary fretless for many years.

 

My first lined fretless was a 6-string Heartfield and I found that handy for chords and fast runs. But I keep up on the unlined 5s and (outside of the side dots) I try not to worry too much about my intonation and go by what I hear and feel. Which has all been said before.

:wave:

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This is what I did when I switched to fretless-

 

I ran my cord to a coupler with a spitter on the other side of it. One signal went to my amp and the other went to a chromatic tuner.

 

I played through a few exercises in Simandl really, really slowly watching the tuner and listening. Then I would play the same thing without the tuner really, really slow(about five seconds a note).

 

My bass has lines, but I just made sure it was intonated so the notes(on most of the fretboard) landed on the lines and watched the tuner instead.

 

The slow playing really improved my ear and hand strenghth.

 

Ian

"A is A"-the people of tunagialand
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I just consider the lines rough targets so that when I actually look at them and I'm playing a triple stop or jumping big didtances very quickly whatever I'm on base immediately, with maybe a slight shift if the duration is even long enough to hear any beating against guitars, etc - since other instruments fretted or not do not always sound in tune.

 

The lines are only there when I actually need to look ; }

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I'm still amazed that this lined vs. unlined topic is an issue at all except individually. Everyone seems so defensive about their choice. Personally, I've admired many a bass player with lines, without lines and even (god forbid) with frets!

 

Of course the idea that unlined basses exude more machismo is stupid. And while we're at it, playing fretless because you think that is macho is stupid too. Let's face it, machismo in general is stupid.

 

Play a fretless because it sounds like it sounds. If you shut your eyes and shut your mouth and just listen to it, the lines or their absense are irrelevant.

 

My first fretless bass (which I played exclusively for many years) was de-fretted and hence had lines and side dots in between the frets. I bought an unlined bass and was initially scared that I'd really miss the lines. Happily, I did not find this to be the case. The side dots being on the fret position made it much easier to play for me. Going from a 30" scale to a 32" helped I think too and now I vastly prefer 34". OTOH, that de-fretted bass had dark red lines on a virtually black ebony board so the lines were barely visible. It was really the worst of both worlds. Unlined neck with the dots in the wrong place. But I could still play the thing in tune.

 

If you're buying your first fretless bass, it most likely won't be your last unless you decide you like frets a lot better. Once you've played one for a while, you'll be in a much better position to decide whether you like lines or not or don't give a hoot. It's still the same as buying any bass; play a bunch and see what feels/sounds good to you.

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Hey fellow thumpers,

This is my first post (I feel naked {and thats not pretty} without a avatar pic) and all the(posts) I have seen are valid. I just finally got my first fretless (6 string to boot). No I'm not Canadian. I went with the lines for familiarity for the transfer. Helps at times but practice and the ear is the key. Its no secret, listen while you practice. If its sounding scary and not in a good way, try try again! Personal note, my next fretless won't have the line markers! Oh, by the way how many basses can one own?? I need to clarify this for my warden ...er wife.

Peace Paint N Progressions

Don't have a job you don't enjoy. If you're happy in what you're doing, you'll like yourself, you'll have inner peace. ~ Johnny Carson
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[irony]I only play fretless to look good! [/irony] ;)

 

Seriously, my Wal is a thing of beauty - I don't mind other bassplayers admiring her.

 

I do use the side dots as a guide, apart form at the 3rd, 5th etc. frets, they bare blacked out but still visible. Fretlines would give me a better idea as when playing on the G string (especially chords) the effects of perspective mean that the side dots are not a great guide.

 

Occasionally I've got too reliant on them and suffered with stage lighting and really they (or fret lines) are only a guide and there's no way to avoid using your ears.

 

One's ability to use one's ears will define how good a bassplayer one becomes. Fretless seriously helps develop your ears.

 

The main consideration for me (on stage) is being able to hear myself well enough to be able to play in tune; this has meant increasing wattage and careful stage positioning. Playing fretless with too low a stage volume compared to the other instrument is like trying to sing without monitors.

[irony] I wonder if my unlined fingerboard would help me pick up more groupies? Wonder what my wife thinks?[/irony]

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At the risk of being pummelled again (which seems to be a sport in this forum for some), in relation to intonation and playing in the dim I also use a tuner within eyeshot to help me distinguish pitch, also useful for lower volume situations as noted. The low notes in a full section sometime become difficult to discern especially if there are others in the band (e.g. big band horns) that are also chasing the ever elusive where the heck is the pitch, I hope the bass guy has it. The trick is finding a tuner responsive enough so adjustments can be made quickly, mine is a bit lacking. If there are favorites out there a recommendation would be appreciated.
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At the risk of being pummelled again (which seems to be a sport in this forum for some)
Surely you don't think unsubstantiated, polarized statements should always go unchallenged. If you feel pummeled perhaps you should take a look at what you say; it's those type of statements that might get pummeled - not you.

 

I personally could care less whether someone other than me is using lines or not.

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Maybe it's just me, but I thought half the fun of playing fretless was working in those off-pitch notes into the music, just like in traditional (acoustic) jazz and in Eastern music. When pitch is an issue I'll switch back to frets, but when I'm allowed a little creative leeway I turn to the naked fingerboard for inspiration.

 

Tuners: Boss makes some great little boxes for the price of a Franklin note. They'll last for years if you don't abuse them. There's even a tuner in a stomp-pedal that'll fit in one of their molded pedal cases. The TU-12H (click here) was the one I used for years before I went with multiFX pedals, and I still carry it around as a backup unit. It isn't a metal one but it's as accurate as they come.

 

Intonation: I don't want to get into this right now because there are too many factors (materials, setup, environment) that affect intonation and it's all been covered here before. (ex: strings stretch over time and will take your intonation off by a hair) Suffice it to say that a good shop setup and routine checkups will keep your bass in tune.

Coloring outside of the lines can be equally inspiring. :wave:

PS: anyone remember a fretless player named Tony Franklin?

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Real bassists don't care what other bassists instruments look like.

 

I don't know how long it will take you to play fretless without wincing at the intonation. That's up to what your technique is like, how much you practice, and what level of out-of-tuneness causes you to wince.

 

Brocko, where are you in R.I.? I visit there a few times of year...Pawtucket and the East Side of Providence. (I went to Shea High School which was called Pawtucket West when I was there.)

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Fred the bass player: Maybe it's just me, but I thought half the fun of playing fretless was working in those off-pitch notes into the music, just like in traditional (acoustic) jazz and in Eastern music.
Hey Fred, what you just said I addressed in a couple sections from these old posts; I bolded those portions. But the rest is relevant to bassists too, and especially what is discussed about my Tonal Center of Gravity analogy can be leveraged by fretless players...

 

 

* * *

 

 

From: greenboy

Date: 12-Jan-2001

Subject: Individuals On the Money Who Also Play with Cents

 

 

> Actually, I have a theory that THIS is why blues-based (or other blues/R&B/funk music) where the tonality is based on what I like to call a "floating third" is so universal...the true third is neither one of those, so it has a nebulous quality {...}

 

 

What you said ; } I've thought about that too - note-bending, vibrato, all those blues tricks. Maybe one of us needs to Publish {or perish ; }

 

 

> Also the sharper b2, and maj 7 have interesting implications... our even tempered half-steps like these are perhaps less dramatic.

 

 

One name: Wendy Carlos. Examples abound in text and music from back issues of Keyboard mag, this source http://www.wendycarlos.com/ , and elsewhere.

 

... Actually, in tertiary stacks that major seventh is leveraging off the third, to form a 5th which isn't too far from perfect.

 

 

> I also found it interesting a while back when some folks were talking about being able to play "pure" intervals and scales on a fretless bass; presumably an advantage.

 

 

I can't remember if I posted about that in a thread here, or elsewhere ... But it is true, and even can be in guitar bands. More below.

 

 

> Well, maybe... throw in a guitar, piano, or any other even-tempered instrument (those two seem to be pretty popular though), and you're back to having to play the even-tempered scale to work with them.

 

 

That is one remark I've made - but with a major(!) qualifying clause: tonal gravity has lots of influence. In a big band, for instance, the piano may not be comparatively that loud - thus, it is not really doing much to weight the total "gravity".

 

As a sax player, I can assure you that horn players - good ones anyway, and good leaders - are more interested in the total effect, and the piano and guitar are not necessarily the gravity well to be pulled down into. For one thing, pianos are "stretch tuned". For another, guitars have the same neck and string physics liabilities as fretted basses do; ie they do not always sound in tune to the even tempered "western compromise". We all know what Anthony Jackson has said (don't we?) about neck relief and its effect on in-tuneness. Luthiers have commented about this from time to time as well.

 

So. Fretless players, like horn players and bowed string instruments and massed voices in mixed ensembles (and in accompanied choirs too) must find their own way through the morass and adjust their tuning ear to whatever is happening at the time. Sometimes the gravity may be stronger toward even temperament, but in another moment it may be better to go "Pure". And like the method Wendy Carlos uses for perfect chords/consonance, the tuning is predicated on modulating to whatever root is current. That has been my experience anyway.

 

Another thing to think about: being perfectly on the money to the nearest cent is not always the most expressive way to make music. Many bands leverage the tendencies of their players approach to their instruments to sound unique. Though they may be using the same chords, harmonies, equipment, and styles, one might note something that sounds a little different about that particular assemblage of wetware. For instance, one may note that this is true when listening to jazz quartets with standup and sax or trumpet, and quartets with vocalists.

 

 

* * *

 

 

From: greenboy

Date: 15-Jan-2001

Subject: Fretless's Place In Even Temperament

 

 

> While this is true, it certainly doesn't put the guitar or piano any closer to pure temperament, it only means they are even farther away from any system.

 

 

You miss the point. My point is that it pulls them away from being the best examples of even temperament... You wondered at people who asserted that fretless could be an advantage in ensembles when these [relatively] even-temperament instruments were present. I provided the data to show that it isn't that simple because these instruments that are based on even temperament also deviate from it for several reasons: physical (guitar is why Buzz Feiten systems are developed) and esthetically (piano because stretch tuning blends sympathetic overtones with sounded-strings overtones better).

 

 

> Besides, as Bach showed us long ago; PURE temperament is fine for diatonic (or closely related) harmonic structures, it fails to deal with modulation or complex harmony very well {...}

 

 

Thus my referral to Wendy Carlos who often treats the root of each ongoing chord as a new root for Pure tuning - thus being able to modulate and have total consonance whenever desired. She uses synths and samplers that allow control over tuning tables, and a subsystem that can be mapped to change the tunings on a per-chord basis (when desired). As I recall she can play a midi note on one short keyboard especially for the purpose of controlling this, or embed it into a specific track/channel in the sequencer software. This shows the system what root to set the Pure tuning to on all the synth modules in use.

 

 

> This is certainly an area with a lot of grey to it though; it all depends on the musical context, of course. Everything is out of tune to an extent, it's just a matter of degree and taste.

 

 

Exactly. Thus my assertion that players with fluid methods of pitch control are still best off using their ears and fitting their approach to playing in tune on a per-situation basis. Good fretted players attempt to do this at times with subtle bending and finger pressure. More obvious need for this is during slower passages and when many longer-duration notes are coexisting. I've played with guitarists who are cognizant and exacting about this - and ones who know something is wrong but haven't yet learned how to apply the fix. {And ones for whom I recommend using a chorus stompbox ;}

 

Not yet discussed: players can also sound exotic when playing exposed passages and solos by intimating other tuning systems. Benny Maupin used this to great effect in Miles Davis and Headhunters days on bass clarinet and saxello. I also notice lots of standup players in modal situations who key into such alternatives quite naturally. Some ostinato lines of wider span really display this characteristic well; indeed, when the lines are played to strict even-temperament pitch they seem quite stilted, lifeless, and generic for those otherwise rich compositions/recordings.

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Fred the bass player: Tuners: Boss makes some great little boxes for the price of a Franklin note. They'll last for years if you don't abuse them. There's even a tuner in a stomp-pedal that'll fit in one of their molded pedal cases. The TU-12H (click here) was the one I used for years before I went with multiFX pedals, and I still carry it around as a backup unit. It isn't a metal one but it's as accurate as they come.
And that's a great entrance to influental indie/grunge producer/engineer Jack Endino's article about tuning for recording. Yeah he says the g word, but as bassists it applies to us too - whether working with our own instruments or adjusting our playing when working with guitarists.

 

Jack has actually written a lot of great stuff on the w-w-web over the years. This article covers a LOT of ground and is revealing reading for anybody who wants to understand their own instrument's liabilites and how to minimize them, or anybody who wants to make good recordings...

 

 

Tuning Nightmares Explained, by Jack Endino

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The Green One speaketh the truth. Listen to him.

 

You can play more in tune on a fretless than it will ever be possible on a fretted bass.

 

You can actually play 5ths in tune. You can actually play a leading tone which is a real leading tone and not a compromise based on equal temperament. You can make a difference between F# and Gb. They are only the same note on a piano or a guitar, not on any other instrument. You can play with Indian or Arabic instruments who use intervals different than ours.

 

I'm not saying that I can do any of that, but I can hear it. Even when I was a kid, I could hear that the piano in a string quintet or in a piano concerto did not match the string instruments in tuning.

 

A good horn section or vocal section will always play the chords in tune. Chords on a piano will never be truly in tune...the system of tuning that we use is a compromise.

 

If all this is mind-boggling or confusing, please ignore it, your life will go on as regularly scheduled.

 

That's a great article by Jack Endino, thanks Greenboy!

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Originally posted by VictorClarke:

Wait a tick...so you're saying that our tuning ways are just generalities to what the true tones are?

Yes. Our Western tuning is a compromise that yields keyboards & fretted instruments that can play in any key without noticably bad dissonant notes. This is not that old of a convention either.

 

Read the book: "Temperament, How Music Became a Battleground for the Great Minds of Western Civilization" by Stuart Isacoff. It's a nice little history of the subject that's not overly technical. Great cast of characters including Pythagorus & Issac Newton. God was mentioned a lot too.

 

Here's a recipie for screwing up a piano that proves the point. Tune middle G (or any note) to your geetar tuner. You can then tune a perfect fifth by ear. Just tune the fifth untill it no longer waivers. Then continue tuning the circle of fifths. By the time you get back to your starting note, it'll be a hideously out of tune piece of junk. I did this to a friend's Fender Rhodes years ago and got my first glimpse of this subject.

 

Pianos in equal temperament are a compromise. A Hammond organ, because of its manufactured harmonics, is a true bastardization. Play around with one and you can easily hear how out of tune it is even with itself. Instead of a hinderance, that dissonance, over driven by a 40 watt tube amp, became its signature sound

 

I've heard said that the instrument that had the largest influence of spreading equal temerament around the world was the accordion. In its day, it was relatively cheap, portable and loud. And it was, of course, tuned in equal temperament like most modern day pianos.

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