5 reasons why FRETLESS BASS SUCKS (and how to fix it)

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Hi\n\nI play a five string upright Kay bass(low b). A five string fretted 35 bass guitar. And a 34 fretless that I don’t play much.\n\nI’m going to design and build my own own fretless and the build a fretted sister bass with the exactly same profile and dimensions. \n\nMy theory is that jumping back and forth between the two will force my brain to develop better intonation on the fretless and better location on fretted.\nI’ve noticed that when I practice on fretted instruments certain musical approaches come easier, yet other approaches are easier on fretless. By playing both, these aspects transfer from one instrument to the other, or so is my opinion. \nSetting on the side intonation, there are three adjustments saddle height, nut height, and neck bow. These all need change depending on finger technique, desired sound and type of string. Changing one may offset the other two.\nIn my opinion fretless neck setup must be more precise than the setup on a fretted bass, to produce the desired tone, sustain or growl. Most store fretless basses sound like crap because of setup. \nIf I can’t buy an adjustable nut for my headstock, than I’ll fabricate one. I think controlling the height of both the nut and bridge is crucial to fretless setup. Filing the nut lower is a one way proposition.\n\nThanks for reading my opinions, I’m open to any input.
Aaron Joy's crosswords, music & books
Buying a fretless (unlined) bass has been one of the best purchases as suddenly I had to pay attention to my fingering technique like never before, while I also realized that when I play fretted I really don't hear every note. It really up'd my playing skills. But, I wouldn't recommend it for beginners.
Adam Blaknovski
I bought an Ibanez Portamento srf705 \
I had the opportunity to listen to Gary Willis live, loved it\n\nHe's an awesone bass player
Hey what do you think of Steve Digiorgio?
Atlas Robotics
I learned on an unlined fretless and never had to mark the notes when I later learned cello..learning to use the bow, however, was another story (and not a pretty one).
Bass- Buzz
I like frets
I took a drink every time Scott said \
I've played that Gary Willis signature bass in the past and absolutely loved it. Great to see you playing it
Ben Fox
When’s the next bass giveaway? Thank Scott mate
Bo Dan Petersen
Just Got myself a Wal fretless- start to practice for real
Bob Devlin
Careful Scott fretless is addicting. 😁
Bryan Bassist
Great video Scott, all great considerations! I am curious though, why you did not feel the need to discuss ear training in regards to fretless bass. I agree that poor technique is the main culprit for poor intonation but even with great technique if your ears are undeveloped that can still lead to problems. Having said that the video was excellent!
Pino's work in Pete Townshend's \
There's also that fretless growl that you get when you're not turning everything into vibrato. My tip is, start playing on songs that are typically fretted and don't have a lot of slides. \n\nI always assumed you played on the fret mark because that would be the point of vibration on a fretted instrument.
Chillzilla __
Why is one hand wearing a glove?
Chris Wenkle
Scott. Thank you for those 5 simple truths (tricks..? techniques...?) on playing fretless. I'm actually building my first fretless jazz bass from parts and plan on shedding with it until I get to the point of being comfortable enough to play with others. This video is gold!
Christmas Cottontail
Late to the party but oh well, I will offer encouragement! I played mostly 'bowed strings' for a long, long time before transitioning to things you can finger/ strum and I must admit it was an enormous stumbling block to go from fret-less to frets (let alone strumming). From fret-less to fret or fret to fret-less either way it will be a learning curve, just practice and have confidence! You will probably surprise yourself with what you can do without frets if you have been practicing long enough and take the leap! You can do it! Keep working hard!
Cole Hallman
No one ever mentions Les Claypool when talking about fretless? Why?
Dam Dami
Listen to mark egan or others....nonsense video
Daniel Bednarski
I just got a fretless bass, also it's a six string. I play in a death metal/ death core band so the extended range is a must. But here's the thing, it's an unlined fretless. I couldn't find a lined one with being a lefty and all so I had to take what I could get. And I'm really worried about my ability to play it live. Our next show is in three weeks so I still got time to practice. But does anybody have any tips or suggestions to supercharge my practice time?
Dark Horse
Hey Scott - just an observation. You mentioned about having good techique being essential to being in tune. I happened to watch a video of Tony Franklin, and also Mick Karn. They both have 'terrible' technique, yet seem to get away with it. Mick Karn (RIP), was particularly scrunched up - he seemed to play mostly with two fingers on his left hand. However, his playing was sublime (IMHO). I remember Django Rheinhart only playing with two fingers on his left hand also. I get where you're coming from, just wanted your opinion on these well regarded players who don't/didn't follow convention.
I have that Ibanez GWB35 and love it. Wish the fret board did not have the fret lines on it.
Dub Boyz
Check out , lesser known 80s band So , album Horshoe in the glove , fantastic fretless work on that album. I think it’s a guy called Marcus Bell
Do a video on a bass that doesn't suck, will you Scott?
Foster's Lab
I'm a bit turned off by the amount of clickbaitness in the title and the thumbnail.\nWe are drowned in clickbait everytime we go on the internet, and music is my way to escape the modern world (admittedly, YouTube is not the best place to do that). Hope you'll consider turning it down a bit, but your business model is probably based on that :)
You've forggoten Sting
G Productions Tech Gaming
Dont be such a racist to fretless bass!
Galgo Darkz
but listen beyond creation and forget this
Greg Pantelides
Couldn't of been a more timely video, Scott. I just dropped of my EBMM Sterling off at a well respected luthier for a defretting. \n\nI'm super stoked about the Gary Willis course. I watch all his videos I can find. There's actually an instructional video on YouTube he did when he was younger which is just superb! Proud to be a lifetime supporting member of SBL :-)
Groundbreak Creative
The only fretless I’ve played didn’t have the fret positions marked like that. That makes it a lot easier. 😂
J Harrell
Scott you are better than the corney video picture click bait. That's what lame's do, you maybe a square but definitely not a lame. But pictures biting a bass? Remember this is online forever. Not just the trendy time that making corney pictures for your YouTube video picture.
call me dumb, but its clear that that bass has frets...?
Jalenski Broski
I will say, playing a fretted bass with your eyes closed or in a dark room is actually fairly similar to playing a fretless
Jamestown 34
Not being able to play with a cheat sheet on a gig is not a reason a fretless is bad, it's a reason why they're not for a beginner. If you are playing a gig you should know your instrument and how to play!
Jensen walker
As an experienced cellist who has of course always played fretless as that is the nature of the instrument, it’s not impossible. You can do it! It just takes a lot of time and practice to get that muscle memory. That’s all it is.
i am just learning to play the bass and im borrowing my dads bass to start with but he only has fretless so rn im learning on this till next payday when i buy a fretted one
John C
Awww Scott! You're 10 times the bassist I'll ever be. If I can play unlined, you most certainly can. Much cleaner and pure look. Use the force. Unless slap funk is on the menu, I personally feel frets are useless prison bars. Fretless advantages (imo):\n1) Better and wider range of tone (especially when using the fleshy pad of your finger rather than the tip like on fretted bass).\n2) If you go out of tune during a song, just roll your finger a bit and you're good.\n3) Don't have to press as hard.\nI dig on nickel wound rather than flat wound or - god forbid - teflon coated, which are both from satan.\nAwesome video, great sense of humor, keep up the great work mate!
John Crafton
I love Pino Palladino's fretless work on his Stingray in the early- to mid-80's. The guy was such an influence to me.
John Maloney
I've been playing an unlined (actually unlined) fretless exclusively for over 20 years and I would absolutely recommend trying one out. While good technique is always useful, It's not absolutely necessary to play in tune. I still play with my thumb over the neck (a bad habit from guitar) and I never struggled too much with intonation. In fact, it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. it's just a matter of putting the time in and training your ears. Also, I think the urge to vibrato and slide all over the place comes down to who your influences are. For me it was always Tony Franklin and Sting, neither of whom do a ton of really showy playing so I never had the urge to show off too much. Although, I was a bit enamored with sliding harmonics for a few months.
Jon Hallam
Live playing fretless bass tip:\n\nI have a splitter (a pedal with one input, two outputs) that takes my tuner out of my signal chain so I can leave it on all of the time without it muting my signal (I have a volume pedal for that) so it means that I have a visual indicator of how in-tune I am and can adjust accordingly - my fretless basses are both unlined so I can't see if my finger is positioned sharp or flat.\n\nThis is cheating but sometimes on a loud stage with a bad monitor mix there's no way I can hear myself to know if I'm in tune and it's got me through a lot of gigs. \n\nMy tuner is a TC Polytune, I think some Boss tuners can be set so they stay on without muting the signal.\n\nAlso, if you've never gigged a fretless and want to try but worried about intonation, try this.
Jonathan Murphy
great vid. just bought a fretless for the first time after 25 years of playing and these are nice tips. 🖒
I play classical contrabass, and in trying to learn electric. My father has a fretless electric, so I figured that I technically already play a fretless bass so how hard can it be? As much as I love the fret marks themselves, not having them next directly next to my face makes them prove less useful than I anticipated when I’m looking at diagrams and songs to learn. I just want frets. My god, I love being able to play the vibrato and shifts properly in my classical sheet music on it, though.
Kaler Vapors
I mostly agree with this! I'm an upright player though, so the lines actually mess me up lol. It can be hard to find an unlined fretless electric bass with the specs I want. I had a Warwick that was pretty good, but it was a 5 string and I hate 5 string
Kenton Park
Still a better vibrato than most guitarists I'm seeing these days. Studying classical bass this last year, my teacher has been working with me on my vibrato. Still not fantastic at it, but I've learned to be greatly appalled by what my teacher calls \
Krunk Cobain
So you've gotta be pretty comfortable on a freted bass before you go fretless? Makes sense to me!
La Aplanadora Mdp
the fretless bass split the bass players between guitar players and real bass players
Landon Jordan
you sound unbelievable on fretless
Lee Bakker
What really pisses me off are people who say, \
I got a Dean edge fretless 5 (unlined) yeeeeaaaars ago. Fun to play but I never use it for recording or play live, but I still love it. \n\nSidenote, I think the thumbnails and titles should be more positive. Too many thumbs down, unsatisfied faces, and \
Listen to the bassist Pedro Aznar in Serú Giran - La grasa de las capitales, he uses a fretless bass and he is amazing
Lonnie Mansell
you have to have a good ear. my bass has no fret lines or reference top dots.......dont need em.
Luis Sethakorn
Thanks for great VDO man. \n\nCould you please share some of your tips for fingerboard maintenance for fretless bass? I love the sound of roundwound string on fretless bass but as you know, it dig in to the board so easy. \n\nCheers!!
I like to touch bum bums
Michael B
Problem #6: not mentioning Tony Franklin! Fix: YouTube him and learn!
Michael Chevalier
Intonation on fret - think logic. On a fretted instrument you play in the space in front of the fret. Why? Because you push the string down onto the fret for your note! So, fretless, you must play (and tune) on the fret line - if you have them. If you don't have lines marked then you're like a double bassist, where the note will always be slightly hit or miss and you have to accept that.
Mike Smith
I dont feel or sound like me on a fretted anymore .
Mission Multi Media
The tip regarding reading and playing bass is brilliant, I've done that to the point where I stopped playing fretless bass back in the 90's because I was doing alot of reading gigs and had the exact problem, and the solution is so simple I cannot believe I never thought of it. But you're right just turn your body slightly and problem solved, genius!
One tip with vibrato is to use a straight not first, and only play a vibrato after holding that note for a while, which sounds a bit like a singer would do it.
Nathan Fiew
Man frettless AND 5 strings?? Thats a double suck in the Scott book.
too much vibrato on fretless bass is one thing that made me hates 80s music
Paul Paul
0:06 how on God’s earth do you play that harmonic?! I’m trying my best but I can’t do it at all please help!
Fretless basses actually intimidate me lmao\n\nBut I'll admit that is a great looking fretless!
Radityo Pramono Adi
that bass is beautiful
One thing I was surprised that you didn't mention in the 5 reasons why Fretless sucks.. Either, fretless bass sounds very farty sound which is unappealing/offputting to many listeners as opposed to a fretted bass twangy sound OR the sound is less unique,, there isn't really many \
Richard Roberson
The first good bass I had was a crappy fretless conversion. Still use it a little even though the neck had bent lol.
You cough like a man who regularly consumes tobacco. Please consider retiring this behaviour. We don't want to lose you!
Ronan Cantwell
No. 6: Don't play \
Sandra Beaulieu
Why do you wear a glove on your left hand? Does it make it easier to play? I am just beginning to play fret less with latex/rubber strings? Thanks for your good information.
Sir Paul
why do u wear a glove ?
For me I love the sound of Steve DiGiorgio. I first heard him when he was in the band Death, what a wonderful sound.
If you have to look at the neck, you're doing it wrong..
My urge is to slide in and out of every note. But I only use my fretless in my house.
Love you Scott! You monster!
Wolfgang Ohndorf
This (look at the chart...) is a very helpful tip.
Xavier Smith
If you know what you're doing, you can play more in tune on a fretless than on a fretted.
Your Dad's Blackberry
what's up with those tuning pegs?
I would love to try a fretless bass, are there some good ones that are not too expensive ?
baga chati
((((Mick Karn))))
caçador do rio
my first bass was a fretless because my father used to listen jaco and steve bailey, so i after some piano classes i say for him im interesting to change to bass guitar, so he become very happy about that and off course he bought a fretless because he favorite musicians played one, i tried learn by myself 2 months and i become frusted thinking man bass guitar is hard and i suck its not for me, i went a friend house and he had a fender jazz bass with frets and after some minutes i was playing some of favorite sounds easy than i guess, fretless its no for me but i kept my first bass because was a gift of my father and he still askin me to try play the chicken hahahahaahha
Imagine A 100 String Guitar.
Learn double bass positional fingering from a double bass teacher. \n\nLearn to listen to the notes you're playing. \n\nThere should be no need to ever look at the neck of the instrument. After all string players in an orchestra don't look at the fingerboard whilst sight reading. \n\n\nGood technique and hand position are essential.
Re: Setting intonation: Just think about it: When you play a fretted bass, what you are really doing it pressing the string down until it rests RIGHT ON the fret. You have effectively shortened the vibration length of the string to the distance between the bridge and the fret. Other than avoiding buzz, it doesn't matter a lot where in that space, your finger actually is. \n\nNot so with fretless, where your finger IS the fret, which is why we put our finger right OVER the fret when we play harmonics. \nSo.... it only makes sense that the fretting finger should be in the same place when checking intonation on a fretless. \nI hope that made sense. \n\n(Honestly, I'm a little surprised that it took Gary Willis any years at all to figure that out. Which has nothing to do with his jaw-dropping chops!)
Having played both, i find lined fretless fingerboards WAY harder since they are a crutch you may start to rely on to make sure you're in tune. Once you get your ear in sync with your playing, you can focus on the music instead of lines on the neck. Same as classical string instruments, they don't have lines on their fingerboards except for absolute beginners
Keep in mind that no upright basses, cellos, violas, or violins have fret lines and people learn to play them with good intonation.
gregor cvetko
i tune my octaves with fingernail on the line.
When I received my Cat Bass as a gift, the neck drove me crazy and I could not make the intonation work. I removed the neck, shaved and bent the crookedness out and ripped off all the frets. It is now a beautiful fretless with alder markers where the frets were and it sounds wonderful!
jean-marc Coppey
Hello All. I got a \
junior alvarez
No entiendo ni madres, pero me sirve sus técnicas👌
Brilliant video and the advice is spot on. You proved that fretless bass is Great !\n\nA fretless bass that has been lined will give better intonation for reasons that you have explained every well, the player has more information to avoid errors (#5). Out of tune is a disaster that can be easily avoided. Adjustment of the bridge will have less errors because the guitar tech will know the correct spot! This also allows for better bridge adjustment that is preferential to the lower neck or the higher neck, depending on where the player wants to play more often, just like on a fretted base. Why not have more calibration when it will always sound better? Ask a luther.\n\nTo the gentlemen below that says he can't find a fretless bass that suits him. That makes no sense. Have one made or modified. If you find an off the shelf fretless bass then great - LINES can always be added by a luther.\n\nPlaying a fretless bass will make everybody a better fretted player. Didn't Scott say he played only fretless for three years?
math you
LOL... parallel universe Scott: If I do catch you going over-the-top with the vibrato you will be severely punished. :)
nite shade
play by ear n vibration n match with other instruments. or use a korg rack tunner. my thing was guitarist could not learn a song by watching me. did not believe me where 1st n 2nd \
My first bass was an unlined fretless bass. I played in a Country Folk / Westcoast band. Whenever we played a ballad or Country Roads or such, the stage lights were turned off and the audience got their lighters out, making it impossible to see where I was on the fret board. Not funny, yet... funny.
ronnie craft
that is a hot looking bass , nice !!!
See, if you played an unlined bass you wouldn't have to worry so much about how to set the intonation. I don't mean that you don't have to set it, but that you basically can't do it wrong. There are no lines to contradict you!
Yawn. The same folks who whine about fretless basses also whine about bicycles without training wheels as well as violins and cellos that lack frets as well.\nDamn this subject has grown old.
solar clapson
Hmm? I am preparing to tear the frets out of an old Ibanez that I have refurbished.
Wtf, u dont need to look at the finger board to play in tune. Just memorize how it feels to play that note in that position. Its all about muscle memory. Thats how cellist and double bassist play in tune and sight read an orchestral piece at the same time
Suck clickbait.
ändrew Salter
The main reason I hate fretless bass is it sounds like amplified farts!!