Fretless Bass: A Startling Guide for a Beginners [2021]

Playing a fretless bass guitar is challenging for even many experienced bass players, but it does come with its rewards. You can’t get a similar smooth feel and distinctive sounding unique tone on any fretted bass.

So, What is a Fretless Bass?

Fretless bass is essentially a bass with no frets on the fingerboard, similar to the traditional double bass. It provides more freedom to the player and allows for smooth-sounding transitions with various playing techniques while giving complete access to all micro-notes present on the string.

Is that it?

Of course not! Let’s start digging into this amazing instrument and find whether or not, you should try one for yourself:

What is the Purpose of a Fretless Bass?

The purpose of a fretless bass is to provide more freedom to the player during a performance. Once you learn to play pitches accurately, it allows you to find all micro-notes on a string to deliver a distinctive sounding tone. Also, it required fewer efforts to press a string on fretless bass, which enhances the overall playability of the instrument.

On a standard bass guitar, strings are divided into different notes with the help of those metallic frets. But, here, there is no such divisions are present, which increases the capabilities of this instrument.

Is Fretless Bass Hard to Play?

Playing a Fretless Bass is relatively harder to play as compared to the standard fretted bass. As there are no frets, you need to make slight adjustments in your playing technique to press the strings on the right spot. It takes a lot of practice to play a proper note accurately and become a master on fretless bass.

Along with that, you’re also going to face difficulty in playing some advanced playing techniques like slapping, tapping, and playing chords on a bass guitar.

Fretless Bass Vs Fretted Bass Guitar

The only difference between the fretless and fretted bass guitar is, Fretless doesn’t have frets on its fingerboard. Other than that, both of these bass types are virtually similar to each other.

So, What are the Actual Differences Between Fretless and Fretted Bass?

1. Sound Quality and Tone

This is the first and most important difference between these two types of bass guitars. The Fretless model offers a unique and distinct sound quality as compared to the traditional fretted bass.

It gives you more freedom while playing by giving you access to all the micro-notes that are present between the standard pitches. What that means is, you can actually play the notes that are technically not even present on a fretted bass.

Many players in the industry like to call it the “mwah” sound. Definitely, you’re not going to get a metallic tone similar to a fretted bass, but it does introduce a smoother and warmer-sounding element in your tone.

2. Comfort

One of the major advantages of fretless basses is, whether the string action is high or low, you need to spend a lot less energy to press the strings on the fingerboard.

As there are no frets is standing in your way, it is much easier to press strings on fretless as compared to the fretted bass guitar. This not only solves the issue of sore fingers but also allows you to perform for hours and hours.

3. Playability

We consider fretted bass as a standard bass and there is a reason for that. Frets on the fingerboard make it easy to play and eliminate the stressing about the intonation.

On fretless basses, it is required to place your fingers on the right spot for playing the notes accurately. As there are no frets to guide you, you need to make slight adjustments in your playing technique and of course have to spend a lot of time practicing.

Whereas, Fretted bass significantly decreases this margin of error. Even if you miss the right spot and press the string somewhere between the frets, aside from a little buzz, you’re still going to hear a note sound, as fret is cutting the string vibration.

Although different playing techniques like slapping, tapping, and chords are relatively harder on a fretless model, but if you’ve got a great ear and want to learn something exciting, fretless can allow you to do some crazy finger stuff with very smooth action, which isn’t possible on a fretted bass.

Also, fretless bass gives you the benefit to fix your tuning instantly (even during a performance). As you’re not limited to the solidified tones and pitches, you can simply slide your find on the string and adjust accordingly. For an astute bass player, this is definitely an invaluable advantage.

With that said, the obvious question that might be popping in your mind:

Is a Fretless Bass Worth it?

Fretless basses are definitely worth it, as they deliver a unique & distinctive sound quality. It provides you more freedom by allowing you to play super funky finger-stuff and melodic riffs. Fretless essentially giving you complete access to all the micro-notes, but it required a few adjustments in your playing technique and a lot of practice.

If you have even a little confusion, Check out this Bass Solo:

Who Plays Fretless Bass Guitars?

There are so many popular bass players who find their creative voices on a fretless bass guitar. Many of them are known for their unique styles, everything from slinky riffs to tastily swirly curves.

Here are the 13 Best Fretless Bass Players in the Music History:

  • Rick Danko
  • Dan ‘Freebo’ Friedberg
  • Jaco Pastorius
  • Pino Palladino
  • Rand Forbes
  • Tony Franklin
  • Les Claypool
  • Mick Karn
  • Bernard Odum
  • Jack Bruce
  • Pino Palladino
  • Sting
  • Les Claypool

Click here to read more about the history of fretless bass guitars.

Can You Slap a Fretless Bass?

You can definitely slap a fretless bass guitar, but you won’t get the quite metallic-sounding tone similar to fretted bass. Also, slapping is a little bit challenging on fretless and you need to be very clean with your technique to get proper tones.

How Much Does it Cost to Convert Bass to Fretless?

On average, a professional technician could charge you around $180 to $300 to convert your standard bass guitar to fretless. Along with the removal of frets, they also need to take care of string action, pickups, tension, and setup for the overall playability of the bass.

Is a Fretless Bass Good for Beginners?

Generally, Fretless basses are relatively harder to play than the standard bass guitars. Fretless models are good for developing the right playing technique and good ears for music. If you intend to learn a fretless bass as a beginner, it is great, but it required a lot of discipline, practice time, and patience to master.

Best Budget Fretless Bass for Beginners

Fretless basses are wonderful instruments that allow you to express your feelings in though very interesting way.

If you’re sure what type of tone you’re looking for and want to invest in a fully-features bass instrument, Fender Player Fretless Jazz Bass would be the perfect option for you. It is known for its top-notch materials and exceptionally well smoother playability, but costs you around $700.

If you’re a beginner player or getting started with fretless instruments and want to keep things simple and affordable, Stagg BC300FL Fretless Fusion is one of the great models available for you.

What are the Best Strings for a Fretless Bass?

There are so many peoples in the bass community thinks that you should use flat-wound strings on a fretless bass guitar because round-wound string damages the fingerboard.

While keeping that in mind, I think you should choose the bass strings based on the overall sound quality and their feel. Flatwound is relatively a safer bet to go with, but you should not neglect the round-wound strings too.

Round-wound strings are very brighter in sound and tend to lose it over time. whereas flat-wound strings aren’t as bright as round-wound, but they do not lose their brightness when they age. Also, flat-wound strings feel very smooth against fingers, which makes them a great choice to put on a fretless instrument.

Final Thought on Fretless Bass

I hope you find this resource about fretless bass guitars helpful and you get a clear idea if it is meant for you or not? If you have any doubts or even any kind of suggestions for my work, feel free to put it down in the comment section.

Also, don’t forget to share this article with your bassist friends, so they can read something new and interesting today! Either way, keep enjoying your music! 🙂

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