Fretless Pro/con

It always seemed like something super advanced but as I’m struggling with fret buzz it occurred to me that as long as the lines were there it shouldn’t be any more difficult? Set me straight please folks!

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I play a fretless in addition to my fretted bass. The most important thing is, you MUST know your fingerboard like the back of your hand before you consider a fretless.

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Obviously that is great advice and the goal but just out of curiosity, if it has lines how is it any different than playing my fretted bass where I only am beginning to memorize some of the fretboard

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The lines help, and to be honest, a fretless bass removes the issue of fret buzz. But it creates a new challenge, which is you have to be dead-on accurate when you land your fretting finger. If you are off by a fraction, the tone could be a bit sharp or a bit flat. The good news is, in the absence of frets, its fairly easy to surreptitiously roll your finger one way or the other to make the correction.

I love playing fretlless and encourage anyone to try it, but just be aware of the new challenges, with or without lines.

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This is my fretless bass. I love it!

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I’m definitely curious to try it. Any recommendations in the $600 or below range? I imagine it’s harder to get a lower priced one

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This is what I got mine for (minus my veteran discount). I’m very happy with it, but please do shop around.

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Oh, it’s a 5 string. If you want a 4 string I’m sure it’s cheaper.

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yeah, I can’t go to fretless AND 5 string all at once!

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Also might be worth looking on the used market @doylecb

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Biggest con: they don’t have frets :slight_smile:

I love frets. Frets are your friend.

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Ha. I echo what @howard and @PamPurrs both said.
Wise words there.

My biggest con with the fretless - it doesn’t sound like 99% of music you hear.
A fretless has a very unique and specific sound, and it doesn’t do the other thing.
Same with fretted. It’ll never sound like a fretless.

If you’re a huge fan of session bassist Pino Palladino’s playing like this:


or the ENTIRE album Graceland:

…then your sound might just be the fretless.

But almost every other bassist is playing fretted.

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Or, if you - God forbid! - like stuff like this:

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Interesting. I kind of want to EQ the piano/clavier out of that and see what it sounds like though :slight_smile:

Not even joking, the bass and drums do some really interesting things on their own in there! I’m just not much for the lead line in that one. Gets kind of neat about four and a half minutes in.

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:rofl: :joy: :rofl:

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Those are steel drums :joy:

Agreed!

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I should have known those were steel drums, they sound just like that. Not sure why I thought they were clavier.

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I’ll throw in that fret buzz is one part technique and one part setup.

If you haven’t done a setup (or had one done) I recommend starting with there. It can make a world of difference between an instrument being either awful or wonderful to play.

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Thanks everybody. I don’t actually think a fretless bass is in my immediate future but this has definitely been instructive. Someday when I get to the point of having more than one bass for different purposes fretless will definitely be in the arsenal. But, at this point in my playing I only need one bass and I need it to be versatile.

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Thanks Gio. Can you tell me a little bit about what frets do other than mark the position of the notes ( something paint could do) and obviously are required for slap? So if someone used an overdrive pedal and a Pick you’re saying a fretless would still not sound like rock ‘n’ roll?

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