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Should I get a fretless? [Video]

Should I get a fretless? [Video]

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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0 Replies to “Should I get a fretless? [Video]”

  1. 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!

  2. 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. 🙂

    1. 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.

  3. 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?

    1. 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!

  4. 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.

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