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Username: redcloud

Post Number: 78
Registered: 5-2011
Posted on Friday, October 21, 2011 - 2:37 pm:   Edit Post

This time regarding fretless basses. I love the tone live and sound clips.

1.) How hard is it to learn to intonate properly. Like any endeavor practice helps, but just how hard is it?

2.) I suspect that an UB is more difficult than an electric bass. Is it hard harder on your fingers, etc. I have pretty good callouses from guitar and electric bass already.

3.) I love the look of a clean fretboard and have several guitars while fretted have no position markers. I have also heard that fretless basses are devalued in someways when they have fret markings/lines. Given that there are materials and ways to make something visible from one angle of view but different from another, I wonder if there was such a way to make fret lines on a fretless invisible from visual perspective of an observer but visible from the perceptive of the player. Just wondering. I suppose just having LED or some other type of side markings would meet that goal , albeit more simply.
Senior Member
Username: hb3

Post Number: 664
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Friday, October 21, 2011 - 3:15 pm:   Edit Post

1) It's hard

2) Way harder. Not just on your fingers but every part of your anatomy involved in playing: fingers, wrist, shoulder, etc.

3) Yeah, they can make on the side of the neck but not directly on the fretboard.
Advanced Member
Username: darkstar01

Post Number: 378
Registered: 6-2005
Posted on Friday, October 21, 2011 - 4:08 pm:   Edit Post

getting your intonation right on a fretless is definitely hard, and it takes a lot of practice and familiarity with your instrument. upright is a totally different instrument. if you approach playing upright like you're playing guitar or even an electric bass (in terms of positions, fingerings, etc), you're not going to be playing in tune. and it's a much, much more physical thing, as hb3 said. as for the markings, i know several companies (i think alembic included, not sure though) can put lines on the side of the fingerboard that you can't see from the front.
Senior Member
Username: pauldo

Post Number: 687
Registered: 6-2006
Posted on Friday, October 21, 2011 - 9:11 pm:   Edit Post

Not so hard, in fact for me upright was easier then fretless electric (I have 'cheater' lines on my electric - decreased value? I'm playing it, not flipping it for profit.)

On upright I find that my fingers contact the strings differently and so I have callouses in different places from it. As mentioned by Hugh and Austin, it IS a totally different (and BIG) instrument it's not just the hands, it is arms, shoulders, upper back, wrist, etc. I used black pin stripping tape to mark the third, fifth, and seventh 'fret' positions on the side of the fingerboard - two feet away no one can see it. Practiced and practiced - got rid of the pin stripping and boned up on the Simandl method and used my ears. I had to because you can't watch your left hand and read music at the same time, you just can't! I still need ALOT more practice but am confident with my left hand.

The biggest 'success' for me on upright was becoming comfortable with it, it is large and cumbersome, you need to find away to not wrestle with it but envelope it and allow it to rest against you.

Arco/ bowing - now that IS hard! (must keep practicing)
Advanced Member
Username: darkstar01

Post Number: 382
Registered: 6-2005
Posted on Friday, October 21, 2011 - 10:32 pm:   Edit Post

yeah the most important part of learning upright is the really boring, tedious, mechanical stuff. like how to hold your bass. simandl is a must. and bille, although his fingerings are kind of in conflict with Simandl's (he uses the ring finger in lower positions).
i guess upright method wasn't really the question, but it just adds to the point that upright is a completely different beast. and it takes a lot of commitment.
Username: redcloud

Post Number: 80
Registered: 5-2011
Posted on Saturday, October 22, 2011 - 3:20 am:   Edit Post

Thanx for the replies. I am a long way from starting UB, but fretless electric has me intrigued.
Senior Member
Username: hieronymous

Post Number: 968
Registered: 1-2005
Posted on Saturday, October 22, 2011 - 8:12 am:   Edit Post

I have an old Guild (early '70s) that has dot markers where the frets would be. You don't get every fret (only 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, etc.) but it helps a lot! My Alembic doubleneck has the 3-5-7-etc. dot markers in the normal place, and then other markers for each fret!

One possibility would be to pick up a cheap fretless and just try it out! Make sure it has markings you are comfortable with though - my first fretless (25 years ago?!!) only had the regular 3-5-7-etc. markers in the fretted positions with no lines - I gave up and never played fretless again until I got my Alembic doubleneck in 2006. Now I enjoy it so much more, though I really don't play fretless enough to have confidence on a gig or in the studio. Actually, that's another point - those markers could become invisible on a dimly lit stage! So eventually you stop using the markers and learn to feel and hear where the notes are - presumably! Can't say I'm there yet...
Username: chuckc

Post Number: 92
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Saturday, October 22, 2011 - 9:57 am:   Edit Post

I made a Frankenbass out of Fender Jazz bass body and an unlined fretless Precision bass neck. I added a schaller bridge which took a bit of setting up to get it right but boy was I happy I made it. I literally couldn't put it down for weeks on end. It does take some deligence in getting your hand positions just right and not having the position markers on the neck was weird at first but the tone and versatility was just out of sight. I use it quite regularly for my normal gigging bass just because it feels so comfortable and has such a neat quality to it's sound. It will absolutely help your fretted playing as well since you will begin to feel the notes rather than going by sight. Good luck.
Senior Member
Username: pace

Post Number: 788
Registered: 4-2004
Posted on Sunday, October 23, 2011 - 2:18 pm:   Edit Post

I started on a lined fretless neck, and that helped me gain confidence early on. I now play 34" and 30.75" electrics, both of which aren't lined. Each bass uses dots to indicate something different: on fret/center of fret. Furthermore, the 3,5,7,9,12,etc,etc dots on my Alembic are LEDs with no silver barrel to outline them~ so sometimes when it's not plugged in, I'll look down and aim for a dot, and be a half step off!

I never bothered taking a tuner and pencil to my upright and hashing out spots, and to this day I always flinch when going to the 3rd position, so even though I try not to rely on side dots/lines, subconsciously I probably do.
Intermediate Member
Username: dlbydgtl

Post Number: 116
Registered: 7-2008
Posted on Sunday, October 23, 2011 - 5:27 pm:   Edit Post

i just finished a six night run of theater work with my fretless Europa. The sound is just so right for this work. When is was built i had Alembic lay the side line where the frets would be and blue leds in the regular side dot positions. so. its like playing a lined fretless. Playing with a keyboard and guitars is easy. It is when you add horns that playing in tune gets a little tricky because horn tuning can change so much. A slight roll of the finger on the neck can make considerable difference. The leds are essential in a dark orchestra pit in order to get a point of reference. Really i think it comes down to the type of music you play. On Sunday mornings i play fretted for loud praise and worship. If i am playing a show such as The Wiz i play fretted if i am playing My Fair Lady i play fretless. John
Senior Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 2619
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Sunday, October 23, 2011 - 10:57 pm:   Edit Post

I have a fret less electric guitar and playing that in tune with a band is difficult especially chords where notes in the same fret need to be fingered.

All the best with the fret less bass.
Intermediate Member
Username: rjmsteel

Post Number: 171
Registered: 7-2008
Posted on Monday, October 24, 2011 - 9:25 am:   Edit Post

Ah yes... The Simandl method - Lessons with this guy from The Chicago Civic Orchestra, that did`nt hurt either. Man that guy was good! Used the black pinstripe tape on the side for markers (on the upright) too.
Intermediate Member
Username: wideload

Post Number: 179
Registered: 6-2003
Posted on Monday, October 24, 2011 - 4:47 pm:   Edit Post

The singers in my group don't seem to care if their key is a little off, but if MY playing isn't spot on, they get all huffy! I just tell them I'm trying to match them.
Username: redcloud

Post Number: 82
Registered: 5-2011
Posted on Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 10:49 am:   Edit Post

Larry that's a resourceful approach.

I have a custom acoustic bass in the works. The luthier is David Berkowitz of Washington, D.C. He is going to start in a month or so. The bass will be a 5 string B-C and have a p/u, probably a piezo and will be fabricated using Padauk (Vermillion) for the B/S and possibly a Cedar top.

I could still decide whether to make this a fretless. Would this be a reasonable platform for a fretless noob?

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