Re: dumb question about fretless


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Posted by anonymouse on January 16, 2002 at 18:48:11:

In Reply to: dumb question about fretless posted by derek on January 16, 2002 at 12:43:07:

More of what Basshead and others said.

I play upright, and electric (both fretless and fretted). My steady Wednesday gig is upright and my Thursday/Friday is electric.

Electric freless can sound like a fretted or approximate some of the sounds of an upright (the growl and the swoop), or do something totally in its on class. Essential fretless listening is Jaco Pastorius - check out Weather Reports' "Heavy Weather" or Joni Mitchell's "Hejira" for an example of something that is neither upright or electric but a fretless own individual voice. Lots of other masters like Michael Mannring....

The Electric fretted and fretless are played very similarly except that with the fretless, fretting accuracy is absolutely importantly. It takes lots of practice to accomplish this, but once you do, it will improve your fretted bass playing sound. I switched between playing Motown and classical scores on fretless along with the CD's to get my intonation up.

If you have bad left hand finger habits, they will become very obvious when you play fretless. Use all four fingers, one finger per fret, curl the fingers and keep the thumb behind the neck in line between the 1st or second finger and you will be on the way. Every time the string is depressed, your ear will will hear and make the micro-adjustment on the fingerboard required for correct intonation. I met a pro in Nashville who could play killer bass parts and you wouldn't have a clue it was a fretless. Slapping is the only thing that is limited - I was slapping on fretless for a long while before some told me "that wasn't possible".

Upright is a wonderful instrument and has its own voice and feel, but IMHO, it is much more difficult to play due to the longer scale length (42 to 44 inches vs. 34 - 35 inches for electric bass). The upright player's left hand normally uses a three finger (index, middle, pinkie) approach. This is very limiting outside of the open positions, smooth accurate position shifting is required to get all the notes in the chromatic scale. One of the keys to mastery of the upright is learning how to make all the position shifting seamlessly while maintaining intonation. If you thought "Donna Lee" was hard on fretless, its killer on upright. Playing high up the neck in thumb position is another technical hurdle that has to be mastered.

I love the upright; in a traditional jazz trio it is hard to replace that percussive thump on the 2 and 4.


Hope my answer wasn't too long.





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