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Thread: Fretted or Fretless UBass differences?

  1. #1
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    Default Fretted or Fretless UBass differences?

    Whats the advantage or disadvantage between a fretted or fretless UBass?

    Thanks...
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  2. #2
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    Many people (including me) like the freedom and smooth dynamics that fretless playing can give you. Fretless playing allows you to use semitones, deliberately create dissonance by coming in in front of or behind the tone, create unique slides and effects, and generally allow a different level of freedom and creativity that fretted playing does not.

    However, that freedom comes at a price. Frets pretty much guarantee that as long as you hit somewhere behind the fret you mean to be playing, you're going to hit the right note; the fret stops the string vibration at a static place, so you don't need to be dead on. Fretless playing demands that a player have a level of accuracy and a true ear, because failing to finger the string at exactly the right place will result in a note that is sharp or flat. While that slight variation often characterizes fretless playing, it can rapidly turn into a horrible mess. So fretless playing requires a bit more focus and accuracy from the player.

    When I'm playing long-scale bass guitar, fretless is awesome, and worth the effort. On a UBass, I think fretless would be a challenge. The shorter scale would place a huge premium on accuracy, since the short scale makes the difference between "close enough" and "awful" pretty tiny. I love my fretted UBass, but I'm not sure I'd have the courage to go fretless on a short-scale instrument. If you're not absolutely sure, I'd vote fretted.



  3. #3
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    Here's a video I shot at NAMM last year of Bakithi Kumalo (Paul Simon's bassist) playing fretless U-Bass. Might sway your decision.


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    The way I heard it explained was that the fretted u-basses have trouble with intonation higher on the neck.

    (Even the sharps and flats)

  5. #5
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    I was advised that the fretless is much harder for a beginner to learn on. Can't prove it by me.

  6. #6

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    I used to have a fretless Ashbory bass, which would be pretty much identical to a fretless Ubass in terms of playability.

    It is more difficult for a beginner, because you have to "guess" where the frets would be.
    And at a shorter scale, it is even more difficult to get the intonation right on a fretless.

    But in the hands of someone experienced, fretless gives more melodic freedom and more fluid "slides".

  7. #7
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    The fretless that Bakithi is playing in the video has fret markers, but no frets, so you have a visual clue where to place your fingers.

  8. #8
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    I have a fretless Ashbory bass, but it has fret markers. I can't play it.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dougf View Post
    Here's a video I shot at NAMM last year of Bakithi Kumalo (Paul Simon's bassist) playing fretless U-Bass. Might sway your decision.
    Kumalo is an amazing fretless player anyway, so it's no surprise he's killing it with the U-Bass. I don't see that as a valid argument for going for the fretless model when you've got other musicians citing the short scale of this magnitude makes playing fretless incredibly difficult.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dougf View Post
    The fretless that Bakithi is playing in the video has fret markers, but no frets, so you have a visual clue where to place your fingers.
    That can either make it easier or harder, depending on viewpoint. When the strings are in tune, it's very easy to play a fretless with lines. When they're a little out (which will be exacerbated by the scale of the U-Bass), for those inexperienced fretless players it will become a nightmare, since they're not used to hearing the notes as much as relying on the lines.
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  10. #10
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    Thanks, for the help everyone!...

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