Fretless Bass

April 23, 2009 at 1:40 pm Leave a comment

A couple of years ago I decided that it would be preferable for me to actually play the bass parts on my recordings instead of simply programming them and letting the computer play them. I purchased at that time a short scale P-Bass from Rondo Music in New Hampshire. This has worked out very well and I played all the bass tracks on my commercial release from last year, (could be) *LIVE* (but isn’t).

For my current project, it occurred to me that some of the numbers would work well with a fretless bass. So I went back to Rondo Music and purchased a short-scale fretless J-Bass.

More on these basses and on fretless in a moment — first here are the links to the songs I redid with the new fretless bass:

Stream MP3
  1. Way Out Willie
  2. Bright Size Life
  3. Trio on a Riff
  4. Just The Three of Us
  1. Way Out Willie
  2. Bright Size Life
  3. Trio on a Riff
  4. Just The Three of Us

Okay, now a bit about these two basses. The “brand” is SX. They are obviously copies of the two classic Fender designs. They are made in China, are of amazing quality, fit & finish, and cost less than $150. Incredible. Both have short 30″ string length scales. Normally a bass has a 34″ scale. I opt for the short scale being a guitarist with small hands. I find these much easier to play. SX also makes full-length scale basses and the cost is the same.

I had always thought that Fretless bass guitars were used mainly in the jazz realm.  However, the Wikipedia article on fretless guitars and basses claims that Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones was the first to actually use one, and that Rick Danko of the Band used one starting back with the classic album Music from Big Pink.

One of the best known early proponents was the incredible Jaco Pastorius. Jaco’s approach was very influential. The sound is very distinctive — people often describe the tone as having a “mwaaa” character to the attack. He was the bassist on Pat Metheny’s original recording of “Bright Size Life”. He is also noted as the bassist of the influential fusion group Weather Report.

Of course, the absence of frets makes playing in tune really challenging. I hope the intonation on these recordings is good enough.

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Entry filed under: bass guitar, Guitar, Jazz, jazz fusion, Music.

What Inspires You to Play? My First Music Videos

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