Fretless instruments allow us a world of new possibilities. Notes that were once separated can become fluid motions, blurs of sound. For experimental bass guitarists, a fretless bass is a godsend, as it allows your imagination to run wild.
In this article, we will give a brief introduction to fretless bass guitars, giving you the basics and the inside scoop on this wonderful and unique instrument.
Believe it or not, playing a fretless bass guitar is just like playing any other bass guitar. The difference, and it will seem odd at first, is that you don’t have the perimeters of the frets to restrict your hand movement. This allows you to slow where you please when you please, making your playing extremely fluid and seamless.
Some fretless bass guitars have markers, or frets that aren’t frets, which allow you to see where the fret wiring would be if it were installed. These markers are simply lines, in some cases shallow grooves. They can be a bit helpful, but they aren’t entirely necessary.
The point of having a fretless bass guitar is to explore the territory without bounds. Having your frets marked out for you may bring a nostalgic sense of perimeters back into your playing. More often than not, the sense will be purely subconscious, but nevertheless it will still affect your playing in the same way.
Having boundaries with our boundaries is almost like having fun without having fun. It hollows out the meaning, and can be a bit of a buzz kill. If you are easily dissuaded, or if you tend to follow rules in every aspect of your playing, including when improvising, you may want to avoid the fretless basses which have the frets lines etched in.
The cool thing about a fretless bass guitar is that the fret wire isn’t there to create fret buzz. This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised by how much the fret wire actually muffles the natural resonance of a note. In fact, playing a fretless bass guitar is almost like playing a bass guitar for the first time, as notes sound clearer, crisper, and tend to resonate much longer when held.
The ability to slide around to different notes without frets in the way allows your notes to achieve a complete different feel. Sliding around your notes on a fretless bass guitar almost sounds like the notes are meting into one another. They have a somewhat unstable feel to them, and it adds a ton of dynamics, especially for jazz and fusion players.
The difficult thing about these basses is that fingering placement can be a bit confusing. If you are looking to shred, the fretless bass guitar probably won’t be your cup of tea, as these basses are meant for more relaxed playing. The lack of fret wire makes it hard to accumulate speed while staying in the proper positioning.
In the end, if you are interested in fretless bass guitar, it will be best for you to play one before purchase. They aren’t for everyone, so you want to be careful before dropping some cash.
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