How do you practice Fretless Bass?
One of the main things that makes it difficult to practice Fretless bass, especially on a fingerboard without Fretlines, is getting consistently accurate intonation.
If you've just started to play the fretless and you've tried to play some of your favorite licks and songs, you may have noticed that sometimes the notes don't sound in tune.
Especially if you haven't been playing the bass for all that long overall, this can be very frustrating.
Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to improve your intonation to near superman (thats right, I said superman) levels:
1. Practice fretless bass in the dark.
When it comes to playing any instrument, you want to be focusing on the music itself instead of worrying about where your hands are positioned. Especially when it comes to any instrument without frets (such as a cello or a violin or a fretless bass), you want to be using your ears instead of your eyes.
So, what better way to force yourself to get better with your ears than to take away your sight altogether? If you practice in the dark, all you have are your ears to go on.
If you can't get somewhere where you can control the lights, you could always try tying a shirt around your face or using a blindfold instead (Not Recommended in traffic).
2. Tune your bass.
Seriously, this one is important. Nothing will throw you off more than an out of tune bass.
If you're having troubles staying in tune, you may want to get your bass set up properly. Getting a bass properly set up isn't hard and, actually, is a good thing to know how to do.
3. Open strings.
One thing that many players do to practice getting good intonation is using drone notes along with fingered notes.
How you can practice this is by plucking an open string and letting it ring. While it's ringing, you play notes on another string, trying to stay in tune with the ringing string. Try to play a scale along with the open string and see how in tune you are.
Another good way to practice fretless intonation is to play octaves.
First, fret any note on either the E or the A string. Keep that note held and try to play the octave of that note. The objective to to play the octave and have it in tune as soon as it's struck. This is a very valuable method of practice and will help to increase the accuracy of both your hearing and your fretting hand.
5. Playing music you already know.
When you start on the fretless bass, try to play along to some music you already have memorized. Chances are that you will be able to move around better once you can connect some of what you already know on the fretted bass to the fretless bass.
When playing, make sure to place the tips of the fingers of your fretting hand where the frets on fretted bass would be. If you don't play where the frets would normally be, you'll consistently end up out of tune, so make sure to keep an ear out for that.
Many people have different ways of practicing their intonation. If you ask around, you might get some really good information and practice ideas that aren't listed here. Don't be afraid to ask. It's one of the best ways to learn.
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