A Conversation for Why Use a Fretless Bass Guitar?
Steve K. Started conversation Apr 18, 2002
Nice article, I have heard a folk/bluegrass group using an acoustic fretless bass (not upright, but like a guitar), quite a sound.
I play a little guitar, but have never seen a fretless guitar. The closest I can think of is using a slide (metal or glass tube, or a beer bottle in a pinch), which allows glissandi without the fret "stairstep" effect. Bonnie Raitt plays great slide guitar. This is different than fretless, I realize, for one thing, the attack is preserved pretty much. But it does allow using both fretted and slide techniques in the same song. I've never seen a "slide bass", so it must not work too well ...
I play a little keyboard, also - I guess bass guitars don't have a "portamento" switch?
Evil Zombie Strider Posted Apr 20, 2002
No, slide bass doesn't work very well. For one thing, the metalic sound of a slide doesn't translate to the lower frequencies as nicely. Additionally, the thick strings are also detremental to the sound quality of sliding (I know. I just tried it )
Steve K. Posted Apr 20, 2002
Yup, if slide bass were a good idea, I think we would have heard of it.
Just to mention it, my slide guitar book quotes Leo Kottke as saying "Left hand damping is essential for getting a good sound with the slide." This means damping the strings behind the slide with, say, the index finger (assuming the slide is on the little finger). This will avoid the vibration behind the slide, although there will always be some noise caused by the hard slide contacting the vibrating string. Maybe not much good to bass players, but good advice for slide guitarists.
Evil Zombie Strider Posted Apr 20, 2002
Just Another Number Posted Jan 19, 2003
Sounds like everyone who has access to a bass guitar and a guitar slide has tried the combination and promptly rejected it!
I recently arrived at a bass-playing friend's house with my (treble? - I suppose you could call a regular guitar a "treble guitar" as its music is read from the treble clef... Anyhoo...) guitar and found a slide kicking about in my gig-bag.
First thing we did was try it on the bass! Four seconds later we had decided never to try it again!
Steve K. Posted Jan 20, 2003
A unanimous opinion on H2G2? This is no fun ... I'll have to go borrow a bass and play it with a slide and then I'll say "It sounds great!" and then we can argue ...
I mean, I saw a percussion ensemble with one guy dropping a length of chain on a wooden box ... it actually DID sound pretty good in the context, the piece was about war, as I recall.
Max the Bass Player Posted Aug 6, 2003
I was playing bass at a folk music session a few months ago and one song was missing something. I was hearing a sound in my head that wasn't on the recording, so I started fooling around with my bass and I came up with the missing part.
What was it?
I used a shot glass that the producer on the session supplied and the result was amazing.
While the low notes on the bass are horrible for slide, the high notes created a harrowing tone something like a dobro on quaaludes. It was just what the track needed, but I don't think I'll ever find another use for slide bass.
The secret may have been in the shot glass.
Come to think of it, I know quite a few people who have ruined their lives by thinking the secret is in the shot glass.
Steve K. Posted Aug 7, 2003
" ... I know quite a few people who have ruined their lives by thinking the secret is in the shot glass."
You beat me to that line. Somehow Janis Joplin comes to mind ...
It is interesting to me that you found a use for slide bass, Mother Necessity rearing her head. Reminds me of Link Wray punching holes in his amp speaker cone with a nail (or a pencil, depending on who's telling the story), thus creating an industry of distortion effects.
Josh'zilla Posted Sep 1, 2005
"I play a little guitar, but have never seen a fretless guitar........"
Hi.... I'm new here. I just wanted to mention- Pat Metheny plays Fretless Acoustic Guitar on the first track of his album "Imaginary Day." I'm sure he uses it on other tracks too.... I've also seen a video online (Some time ago) of a guy playing an electric guitar with a Mirror for a neck. Fascinating stuff........ Great Entry by the way!
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