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Smooth Music
                     
   

One of my many basses is a fretless. And since I've started to adjust to it, it's rapidly become my main instrument. I don't know how I ever lived without one!

For those who don't play bass or guitar, frets are the little metal strips that run across the neck of an instrument. Press down anywhere behind one, and the string stops vibrating on that fret. As the name implies, a fretless bass doesn't have one! This puts it in a similar vein to conventional stringed instruments, like violins, cellos and so on, where your fingers have absolute control over the intonation of the note.

 

 
                     
         
       
Fretted neck
     
Fretless neck
 
                     
   

Obviously this makes playing quite a bit more challenging. Your accuracy has to be MUCH higher. But once you get used to playing a fretless, it's a completely different world. The sound is smoother, the feel is smoother, vibrato and glissando so much more free and expressive. Slides are effortless, and the tone is great.

They don't fit all situations, no - but name me an instrument style that does. I for one am a definite convert. Pretty much every bass I've ogled and wished I could buy in the last six months has been fretless. So if you're a bassist, and you've never played a fretless, grab one now. You don't know what you're missing.

                     
   

Recommended Fretless Artists

If you can track down their music, the following players are true masters of the fretless bass, and well worth a listen.

- Michael Manring
- Jaco Pastorius
- Steve Bailey
- Gary Willis
- Sean Malone
- Steve Lawson
- Tony Levin
- Les Claypool

- Solo bassist extraordinaire. Possibly the best player alive today.
- Legendary bassist, popularised the fretless. And the bass.
- Famous for the Bass Extremes tours with legend Victor Wooten.
- Accomplished jazz bassist
- Progressive/metal bassist (Gordian Knot)
- Unique solo ambient soundscaper, makes heavy use of Loopers.
- Reknowned Progressive bassist (King Crimson)
- Well... he's Les Claypool, you see. (Primus)

 

 
 
                   
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