Fretless guitar


Fretless guitar

A fretless guitar is a guitar without frets. It operates in the same manner as most other stringed instruments and traditional guitars, but does not have any frets to act as the lower end point (node) of the vibrating string. On a fretless guitar, the vibrating string length runs from the bridge, where the strings are attached, all the way up to the point where the fingertip presses the string down on the fingerboard. Fretless guitars are fairly uncommon in most forms of western music and generally limited to the electrified instruments due to decreased acoustic volume and sustain in fretless instruments. However, the fretless bass guitar has gained fairly widespread popularity and many models of bass guitar can also be found in fretless varieties. Fretless Electric Bass is particularly popular among Jazz, Funk and R&B players due to the similarity in feel and sound to the acoustic double bass.

Advantages and disadvantages

Fretless guitars are not constrained with particular musical tunings, tuning systems or temperaments, as is the case with fretted instruments. This facilitates the playing of music in other than 12-tone scales; these scales are typically found in non-Western or experimental music. Fretless guitars produce a different sound than their fretted counterparts as well, because the fingertip is relatively soft (compared to a fret) and absorbs energy from the vibrating string much faster. The result is that the pizzicato on a fretless guitar has a more damped sound.

However, playing a fretless instrument usually requires much more training of the fretting hand for exact positioning and shifts, and more ear training to discern the minute differences in intonation that fretless instruments permit. To make this easier, many fretless guitars and basses have lines in place of frets and side position markers (dots or lines), indicating half-tone increments.

Acoustic fretless guitars produce less volume than their fretted counterparts, which is usually addressed by the use of pickups and amplification. Fretless bass guitars, which have much heavier strings and a bigger body, are also typically amplified.

On fretless basses the fingerboard is usually made of a hard wood, such as ebony. To reduce fingerboard wear from round-wound strings a coat of epoxy may be applied. Other strings, such as flat-wound, ground wound or nylon tape-wound strings, can also be used to reduce fingerboard wear.

Fretless instruments

Fretless guitars are typically modified versions of factory-made traditionally "fretted" guitars, the frets being removed by the player or a professional luthier. There are also professional builders specialising in custom-made fretless guitars.

Fretless bass guitars are much more common than fretless guitars, and there are many manufacturers offering these as standard models.

Famous users

In no particular order:

Fretless guitar

* Frank Zappa used fretless guitars on a few albums in the early and mid 1970's.
* Erkan Oğur (Turkish player of fretless guitars) makes nearly all his music with self-made fretless guitars.
* David Fiuczynski plays fretless guitar extensively in his instrumental project KiF.
* Ron Thal (also known as Bumblefoot) has used fretless guitars extensively.
* [http://www.themichaelvicktrip.com Michael ATONAL VVVick] is the founder of the New York Fretless Guitar Festival and has been playing fretless guitars since 1995.
*Franck Vigroux plays fretless guitar on Push the triangle's album "repush" and live acts.

Fretless bass

* Jaco Pastorius (bassist for Weather Report, considered by many to be the most influential fretless bass player of all time) used a customized fretless Fender Jazz Bass that he modified himself.
* Bill Wyman, (former bassist of The Rolling Stones), was the first bass player to use a fretless bass. This can be heard on many of the early Rolling Stones records.
* Rick Danko (of The Band) used a fretless bass for several years, starting from the recording of the album "Music From Big Pink ".
* Freebo (session musician known mostly for his work with Bonnie Raitt) has used a fretless bass live and on many recordings.
* Brent Liles (bassist for Social Distortion and Agent Orange)
* Jonas Hellborg (solo bassist) extensively used fretless bass both on his solo bass recordings and with other projects.
* Pedro Aznar, bassist and composer who has played with The Pat Metheny Group
* Laurence Cottle (British session fretless/fretted bass player who has worked with such diverse artist as Sting, Cher, Eno, Eric Clapton and Black Sabbath
* Steve Bailey, a session bassist, frequently performs on the six string fretless bass guitar.
* Jack Bruce (of Cream) uses a fretless Warwick bass guitar.
* Steve DiGiorgio (one of the few fretless bassists in the metal scene) usually plays a five string fretless bass.
* John Paul Jones (bassist for Led Zeppelin) plays fretless bass on several Led Zeppelin songs, most notably on "In My Time of Dying".
* Mick Karn (former bassist of Japan and avantgarde musician) has used fretless bass guitar since the late 1970s.
* Dill Katz (bass player with Barbara Thompson (musician)'s Paraphernalia has played fretless bass since the early 1970's
* Tony Levin famous for the bass on Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" and a large amount of his solo album work.
* Tony Franklin has been instrumental in bringing the fretless bass to heavy music recordings
* Pino Palladino, a session bassist, has developed a fretless bass method.
* Percy Jones bass player with Brand X and Tunnels.
* Bunny Brunel had used a fretless bass on many recordings since the 1970's
* Victor Wooten uses a custom five-string fretless bass on several of his own songs as well as several Bela Fleck and the Flecktones songs.
* Sting (bassist and leader of The Police) used a variety of fretless basses with The Police
* Jeroen Paul Thesseling, fretless bassist, plays microtonal world music using six-string fretless Warwick basses.
* Jandek, outsider musician, has recorded entire albums of only vocals and fretless electric bass.
* Josh Ansley, (former bassist of Catch 22) is well known for his innovative fretless bass styles.
* Paul Simonon from The Clash used a fretless Fender Precision Bass in 1981, during the period of their Sandinista! album.
* Mo Foster is a highly regarded UK session bassist whose 'voice' is a fretless Fender Jazz bass.
* Stomu Takeishi is a Japanese jazz bassist.
* Geddy Lee, of the Canadian rock trio Rush has played fretless bass on and off since the 1970s, to include work on Rush's 2007 album, "Snakes & Arrows".
* Les Claypool (of Primus and his many many other side projects) uses a variety of fretless basses, most commonly an upright 5 string, and more famously his Carl Thompson (luthier) 4 string fretlesses and 6 string fretless Rainbow Bass.
* Wayne Renardson bassist with Six String Jazz, plays a 4-string fretless Turner Renaissance acoustic instrument.

External links

* [http://www.fretlessbassist.com FretlessBassist] - fretless bass resource: gallery, lessons, links, and a community forum
* [http://www.unfretted.com Unfretted.com] - fretless guitar resource: history, news, reviews, tips, FAQs, MP3s, lists, dictionary, etc.
* [http://www.fretlessbass.com Fretless Bass.com] - fretless bass resource: interviews, gallery, boards, etc. (semi-commercial site)
* [http://www.nycfretlessguitarfestival.com NYC Fretless Guitar Festival] - The New York Fretless Guitar Festival features fretless players from around the world.
* [http://www.nedevett.com Ned Evett] The home of the glass guitarist.
* [http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=52218190 "Iki keklik" by Erkan Ogur]
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2_4uxCt20U A beautiful Erkan Ogur piece]
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bYlZRG6hgM Turkish fretless guitar virtuoso Erkan Ogur in concert]

ee also

* Frets on bass guitar


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