you decide - frets or no?

Which should I get for my bass?

  • Fretless

    Votes: 2 15.4%
  • Lined fretless

    Votes: 4 30.8%
  • Fretted

    Votes: 7 53.8%

  • Total voters


Senior member
The last major part I need for my FIRST bass ever is the neck.  I am not a bassist but I want to learn.  I haven't decided whether to go fretless or not yet... I'm a great believer in doing things the hard way the first time around.  That way it only gets easier.  :)  But fretless might be too difficult.  I'm not so sure about lined fretless... expensive and not that pretty.

What do you guys think?  Here are the details of the rest...

Swamp ash G4
MM pickup (GFS)
V/T passive (later I may add a preamp making it VBMT)
single-string bridge
Warmoth wenge 2+2 neck with ebony fretboard
I'm trying to make the jump to bass myself.  The transition is tough at first.  It's hard to get used to the plucking part. 

I would go fretted simply because the transition is already pretty awkward, and if you're going to spend a bunch of cash building a cool bass, I would make sure it's something you're not going to be discouraged from playing because it's too much challenge and not enough fun, especially in the early months.  When I play bass, I play for a little while and then I'm really tempted to just pick up my guitar because my guitar is so fun and easy in comparison, and my bass isn't even a difficult one to play because it is a comfy shape, it's fretted, and it's lightweight. 

There is the golden rule to consider though, which is "the most important thing is how it sounds".  If you like the sound better, then go fretless.  Don't even think about difficulty. 

I recommend this site for when you get your bass all ready to rock:  It has helped me out. 
Having never played a fretless bass, I'm biased.  I tend to agree with Hannaugh on this one.  As a first instrument you may want something a little more familiar.  You can always get a new fretless neck down the road if you like it.  Just my 2 coppers
Playing fretless is not that bad, but that is if you have the muscle memory of playing bass.  I would suggest using a fretted bass to learn on, because the worst scenario is that you build it and don't play it.  By adding the difficulty of the fretless to it, you are making the odds sway more to the not in favor of you side.  While I love fretless, and it is a blast to play, you also have to use it where appropriate.  For most band and home recording applications a fretted bass will be more useful.  If you have the chops, you can make a fretless sound close enough to a fretted that it doesn't matter.  After a couple of decades of messing around on basses and guitars, I still don't have the chops to do that.  Now, if you have the means, plan another bass and get started on the fretted, fretless, or fretless with lines, because lets face it, you WILL need one of each...

Okay I'm gonna get frets.  I will order after I get paid at end of month :)
unless you're going to lay down all your other instruments and play nothing but fretless for the next six months I would recommend you go with a fretted neck

fretless bass is an entirely different animal than a fretted bass. you don't simply play fretted bass without the frets when you go fretless. you need to develop muscle memory by continued, frequent, regular, precise repitition. it's not an instrument you take casually if you want to play it well. and you also need to develop your ear so you can hear when you're in/out of tune by 1/64" of finger placement or so.

a fretted bass will serve you well for the occasional weekend fill-in gig when you're really a guitarist at heart. a fretless bass will get you a weekend to drink beer -alone- when you're really a guitarist at heart and you haven't put forth the disciplined effort to become proficient

so ... can you precisely hear pitch and find fault with cheap electronic tuners? are you willing to devote yourself to nothing but fretless for the next 6+ months? are you willing to practice precisely to build muscle memory for your finger placement? will you be OK three months from now when you still totally suck? (at fretless playing, of course :laughing7:)

if you answer no to one or more of these questions, you really need to go the fretted route and save the fretless for when you're truly ready to give it your undivided focus

fwiw I've played 4, 5, and 6-string fretless for years and I don't need no stinkin' lines, but having not played much the past two years I wouldn't even consider playing fretless with others unless I wanted to guarantee that I never had opportunity to play with them again anytime soon.

all the best,

I would like to thanks Mr Rod Skuttle for having the time and patience, plus the bass knowledge and english expertise to write down all I tried to say in a technical and understandable way :icon_biggrin:

EDIT: doh, so idiot, the talk about fretless I tryed to say it was in another thread :doh:
Yeah, that was pretty cool.  I haven't given it much thought before now, but that was a great explanation for those of us who were also planning a bass.
Thanks Rod.  I will definitely be a weekend bassist at most.  Frets will make that easy :)
tictackman said:
Dude I would defiantly go with frets. Basses without them are wrong.

Jaco might argue that point with you...  :redflag:
tictackman said:
Basses without them are wrong.

Please explain.
What exactly is "wrong" about playing fretless? There are no "right" and "wrong" ways of building/playing a bass. It is all about what technique/sound/playability works best for you.

I play fretless because i enjoy the sound and expressive playability. I love being able to bend vibrato both up and down for a more natural sound, and i love sliding harmonics up and down. I also like venturing into different temperaments not possible on fretted instruments, and depending on how well i can play, i don't have to worry about the intonation issues inherent in fretted designs.

What works for me may not work for you, but that doesn't make it "wrong". It makes it "different".

Don't forget that upright basses are fretless, so if you truly appreciate the instrument, you should appreciate it, regardless of your personal needs as a bassist.

dbw said:
tictackman said:
Dude I would defiantly go with frets. Basses without them are wrong.

Jaco might argue that point with you...  :redflag:

Yes, +1.
Jaco refused to conform to the "right" way of playing an electric bass. He dared to do something that was "wrong", and look how amazing the results were...