View Full Version : Beginner's Bass - fretted vs unfretted

08-10-2011, 06:00 AM
Am interested in a Kala U Bass or perhaps a Samick Corsair (only 2" to 3" longer depending on which Kala U bass you have

I will never be a bass virtuoso. Should I stick with a fretted or unfretted. (seems like lots of unfretted used bases available, or at better prices)

08-10-2011, 07:05 AM
I play a fretless bass, and I love the tone and the freedom you get from a fretless. However, playing fretless requires you to have a good ear and reasonably precise technique. Frets are sort of like bumpers in bowling; you can play this not or that note, but you can't play anything in between. Fretless drops the bumpers down, so you need to feel good about your ability to hit the right note.

I've never played a fretless short-scale bass like the Kala, so I'm not sure what that feels like. But playing a fretless bass guitar feels awesome, so I recommend giving fretless playing a chance-- you might like it!

08-10-2011, 09:55 AM
Well, for a beginner I've got to go with the ease of using fretted. This of course will make your learning curve much higher.

But, then again, plenty of people have started off on fretless instruments and become awesome players (think of violins, violas, cellos, and double basses).

Long run, if you have already developed a touch and feel for a fretted instrument, keep with it.


08-10-2011, 10:16 AM
But, then again, plenty of people have started off on fretless instruments and become awesome players (think of violins, violas, cellos, and double basses).
Yeah, and have you ever listened to a beginner on one of those fretless instruments struggle with proper finger placement and the resulting aural torture their practicing inflicts? :D

I'd also recommend you stick with fretted if that's what you're used to.

P.S. And I'd hazard a guess that the reason there are more unfretted used basses available is that people tried them and gave up on them. ;)

08-10-2011, 02:02 PM
The kind of feedback I was looking for, thanks!

08-11-2011, 01:32 AM
As I understand the history, originally all basses were fretless. Fender created the fretted bass and called it "precision" because it allowed exact finger placement.

08-11-2011, 01:38 AM
My buddy has a really nice fretless Fender jazz bass.... one of the nicest sounding/playing instruments I've ever played. If only I could play it. I've played guitar for years and still have a hard time with proper finger placement..... but I never play if for more than a few minutes at a time and not very often. If I actually practiced with it, it would be different, I think.

If you're looking for ease of play and don't want to fiddle with it a heck of a lot out of the box, I'd stick with a fretted instrument. It's a lot easier, especially if you want to spend more time playing than practicing....

08-11-2011, 02:50 AM
The ubass has inlays so you can see where the frets should be. I'm not sure about other brands, but when I get a small scale bass it will be fretless and I will make sure I find one with markings where the frets should be.

08-11-2011, 03:23 AM
Hi, I have a Kala spruce top Fretted and I absolutely love it. I've heard that the fretless don't stay in tune very well.

08-11-2011, 03:44 AM
I've even seen a few fretless guitars in my day. I can't imagine trying to play chords on one.

Even for jazz, if you aren't a full time, dedicated player, then I would go with frets.


08-11-2011, 04:19 AM
Learning fretless will take longer. In addition to the obvious left-hand challenge of playing without frets, right-hand technique is a little more touchy as well. Arguably, it could make you better in the long run, because you really can't get too sloppy on a fretless, but there's definitely a steeper learning curve if you've never played bass (or some type of naturally fretless instrument like violin) before. Fretless also requires less pressure on the fingerboard. If you go with a steel string instrument, DO NOT use roundwound strings because they'll eat the fretboard. (I did read an interview with one guy who would put a thick layer of marine epoxy on the fretboard so he could get away with roundwounds, but you get the idea.)

For what it's worth, I'd definitely stick with fretted if a) you want to get up to speed more quickly, or b) you plan to be a casual bass player. If neither of those is your priority, buy the one you prefer the sound of. :)


08-11-2011, 10:46 AM
Thanks for the feedback. I do believe I'll stick with a fretted bass.

08-11-2011, 11:02 AM
No idea if that's good or bad, but my first bass was an electric double bass (freteless, of course).
I learned bass playing on this one by practising my fav album at that time (The Turn of a Friendly Card by The Alan Parsons Project) from start to end.
I got some fretted basses in the mean time, but I always got back to fretless (just a few weeks ago I sold my fretted Kala UBass and bought a fretless Kala UBass instead.)