Should I get a fretless? [Video]

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Fretless Dreaming! [Video]

When is the “right” time to add a Fretless?

Asked & Answered Series

Victor asks:

I’m a beginner and have a medium scale four string fretted bass. When should I add a fretless bass? Do you agree when the time is right, a medium scale four string fretless bass similar to the instrument I’m playing will be the correct one to progress to?

First I would recommend you check your scale length.

Standard scale length (which is what I assume you mean by medium*) is 34 inches.

Short-scales are typically 32 or shorter. Longscale 36.

You don’t want your fretless to have different distances than your main axe with frets. So there is that. But there is more…

Watch this video…


*As one reader pointed out, there are famous 32-scale basses that are typically are referred to as “medium-scale”.
Since the nomenclature for scale lengths can be a bit ambiguous I am including this link for a nice summary of scale lengths: post by stringsdirect.


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  • Victor Cohen
    February 18, 2021, 09:46  Reply

    Thank you for taking the time to provide a detailed answer. Soon I’ll be ready to learn on a fretless bass, and it will be mine!

    • Ari
      February 18, 2021, 20:48

      You are very welcome, Victor! I am looking forward to hearing you play it when the time is there 🙂

  • Glenn
    February 18, 2021, 19:04  Reply

    Awesome news on the pattern book – been waiting a couple years for this!! 🙂

    • Ari
      February 18, 2021, 20:47

      Thank you! I am really really happy with it. News coming soon for pre-orders and more info!

    • Ari
      February 18, 2021, 20:47

      Thank you Glenn! I am really happy with it and can’t wait to show around. Pre-sales starting soon!

  • Al Wilson
    February 18, 2021, 19:47  Reply

    Pino Paladino

    This is a good bass line that I really like he goes a little beast mode.

    • Ari
      February 18, 2021, 20:46

      ha! No kidding! And I love the first comment: Pino “I don’t need to look at my fretboard” Palladino 🙂

  • Dave Ammerman
    February 19, 2021, 04:53  Reply

    Cool maybe someday, you mentioned intonation and that got my curiosity up.
    Found this, and I could actually follow along with her fun explanation.

    • Ari
      February 19, 2021, 20:30

      Nice nice. It’s definitely a great tool to have in your arsenal. Hope you are well Datrucks!

  • Dave Hein
    February 20, 2021, 06:21  Reply

    Yes!! I saw an interview with Ron Carter, a few months back, where he was talking about keeping up his chops during the lockdown (as he was no longer performing nearly every day). He said he has started playing the C major scale up and down the range until he plays it with perfect intonation; every day. If that is not too basic for Ron Carter, then it is not to basic for any fretless player. 🙂

    • Ari
      February 20, 2021, 10:19

      Great story, Dave!! Makes perfect sense. And intonation training is a never ever ending pursuit on any instrument. Same with tone. Upright orchestral players spend hours on fat gorgeous long notes played with a bow. Tone is everything.

  • Hayden b
    February 21, 2021, 15:01  Reply

    Hi Ari, thanks for the interesting post! I started on a fretless (I might be one of those people), and I don’t regret it even though it might be a slower journey. I occasionally wonder about going the other way. My left hand finger positioning is ingrained, and I am concerned that I would disrupt that by playing a fretted bass. Do you have any thoughts please?

    • Ari
      February 21, 2021, 16:58

      Hi Hayden, I think you will have a very easy time transitioning from fretless to fretted. Make sure to have the same scale length for the easiest transition. Nice to hear this journey worked for you. Definitely a bit more work, but if this is the sound that calls you, that’s definitely worth it! Enjoy!

  • Stephen SHoihet
    May 29, 2021, 18:38  Reply

    If you’re fretting a fretted bass properly ie right behind the wire, there isn’t much difference when switching to a frettless bass… so good fretted bass technique gives good fretless technique. I have 4 bases, one of them is a 5 string fretless and I find it much more enjoyable to use that for working on scales and other theory stuff. I think it’s because I have to listen more carefully.

    • Ari
      May 29, 2021, 22:02

      100%, good fretted technique pays off on fretless as well. Plus they sound so yummy!

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