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Thread: Advantages of fret less Ubass?

  1. #1
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    Default Advantages of fret less Ubass?

    What are the advantages of a fretless Ubass?

    I would guess that one big advantage is sliding between notes but I donít find the frets on a fretted Ubass interfere with sliding.

    There are fretless basses with marked frets and without. Obviously for a beginner having marked frets on a fretless would be an advantage. One would have to learn where to place oneís fingers with regard to these painted on frets.

    Is the advantage that you can use your ears to be slightly off true pitch and therefore get a kind of sliding or bending effect?

    And if there are strong advantages where can one begin with a relatively inexpensive fretless and where does one move up from there? Is scale length an influential factor?

  2. #2
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    I would think string pressure would be less on a fretless - not having to hold them down behind a fret bar....
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  3. #3
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    The main advantage of fretless is the differing tone and sustain from a fretted instrument. It's a very distinct, singing and endearing voice to me. And, of course, being able to retain your normal technique is an advantage to those accustomed to playing upright bass and fretless bass guitar. I haven't noticed string tension or finger pressure being less on fretless vs. fretted. I greatly prefer a longer scale for the clarity, tone and type of strings used. 30 inch scale is about the shortest I'd like to go.

  4. #4
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    Fretless is cool. Jaco didn't need frets

    The big advantage is the sound - if that's the sound you want then you can't get it with frets. Several of the songs that made me fall in love with bass depend on fretless. I have Flight of the Cosmic Hippo running in the background right now. Need a low-B and more chops for that.

    Overall it's harder to play. You have to be a lot more precise to get proper intonation. You need to train your ears well. I'm working on that. My wife has a good ear and either leaves the room when I pick up the fretless or I get a lot of "No!" remarks. The flip side is that you're not limited by the intonation of the instrument and its temperament. I'm not good enough to make use of that yet.

    Slides are cool but easily overused. I'm not good enough to really include them in my repertoire yet. They're where I have the most problems with Thundergut stickiness. I think Pahoehoes will be better at this, and flats definitely are.

    Longer scale lengths are easier to intonate than short ones - your target zone is larger. Strings matter though: I seem to do better with my 25" scale fretless Thundergut ABG than my 34" scale fretless P-bass with flats. Marked fret lines are a useful crutch - they give a map to the right general area, but aren't always exactly where I need them to be.

    I think you need a bit more string pressure to get a clean note without frets, but that's low enough with flooby strings that it doesn't matter much.

    I'd put fretless in the "If you have to ask then you don't need it" category. If fretless drives you then it's super cool. If not, then it's more work for little benefit.

    There are some dirt cheap fretless uke basses available with all of the caveats of a cheap bass. I posted my review of the $100 Aklot here last fall. To summarize: pretty bass, busted electronics, I returned it. Iím now playing a GoldTone Microbass 25. Wasnít dirt cheap, but wasnít too expensive. About the same as the mid-range Kalas. I think list is about $450, but theyíre readily discounted. It was back ordered and took a while to arrive. I absolutely love it. Thereís enough acoustic sound that I donít generally plug in at home. Not enough to be useful (or to annoy people with bad intonation) in a group setting.
    Last edited by Arcy; 05-21-2020 at 09:50 AM.

  5. #5
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    Because bass ukes are extra short scale, getting good intonation can be difficult, fretless allows you to control the exact note up the fretboard, but as said, you need a really good ear. I had a fretless 22.5" scale bass uke custom made for me, but since it was the only one of 10 at that time, I couldn't get used to the change in finger position to the fretted ones. I ended up selling it. I'm very happy with fretted.


    This is Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly Grove near the Beverly Center
    9 tenor cutaway ukes, 4 acoustic bass ukes, 12 solid body bass ukes, 14 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 39)

    • Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
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    Last edited by kohanmike; 05-25-2020 at 05:39 PM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arcy View Post
    Fretless is cool. Jaco didn't need frets

    The big advantage is the sound - if that's the sound you want then you can't get it with frets. Several of the songs that made me fall in love with bass depend on fretless. I have Flight of the Cosmic Hippo running in the background right now. Need a low-B and more chops for that.

    Overall it's harder to play. You have to be a lot more precise to get proper intonation. You need to train your ears well. I'm working on that. My wife has a good ear and either leaves the room when I pick up the fretless or I get a lot of "No!" remarks. The flip side is that you're not limited by the intonation of the instrument and its temperament. I'm not good enough to make use of that yet.

    Slides are cool but easily overused. I'm not good enough to really include them in my repertoire yet. They're where I have the most problems with Thundergut stickiness. I think Pahoehoes will be better at this, and flats definitely are.

    Longer scale lengths are easier to intonate than short ones - your target zone is larger. Strings matter though: I seem to do better with my 25" scale fretless Thundergut ABG than my 34" scale fretless P-bass with flats. Marked fret lines are a useful crutch - they give a map to the right general area, but aren't always exactly where I need them to be.

    I think you need a bit more string pressure to get a clean note without frets, but that's low enough with flooby strings that it doesn't matter much.

    I'd put fretless in the "If you have to ask then you don't need it" category. If fretless drives you then it's super cool. If not, then it's more work for little benefit.

    There are some dirt cheap fretless uke basses available with all of the caveats of a cheap bass. I posted my review of the $100 Aklot here last fall. To summarize: pretty bass, busted electronics, I returned it. Iím now playing a GoldTone Microbass 25. Wasnít dirt cheap, but wasnít too expensive. About the same as the mid-range Kalas. I think list is about $450, but theyíre readily discounted. It was back ordered and took a while to arrive. I absolutely love it. Thereís enough acoustic sound that I donít generally plug in at home. Not enough to be useful (or to annoy people with bad intonation) in a group setting.
    You mentioned Jaco, I grew up in Fort Lauderdale, he was in a band with my brother. Played with him and my brother in a jam once. I was so totally outclassed musically could not wait to get out. He was very nice.

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