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"Fret not..."

"Fret not...it only leads to evil" Psalm 37:8 (NIV)

Ideally, I don’t think this should be an "either/or" proposition. Fretted bass and fretless bass are really two entirely different instruments in terms of tone and musical application. Sure, they’re both tuned in 4th’s, etc., but they’re such different "colors" in the sonic pallette that I think it is truly valuable to have both at your disposal. The fretless bass can be approached in much more of a horn-like manner when playing in an ensemble, simply due to the timbre (that coveted "mwah-factor"). At the same time, though, there are intonation considerations that generally necessitate much more attention than is usually needed when mowing through a tune with the trusty fretted counterpart. One useful feature is a lined fingerboard, which will give the player a general idea of the note location; however, it should be noted that fret lines do not guarantee accurate intonation. There is no substitute for big ears and consistent practice.

If you’re not familiar with the sound of a fretless bass, some well-known examples are Nathan East’s work on Eric Clapton’s "Tears in Heaven", or Pino Palladino’s playing on Paul Young’s "Every Time You Go Away."

[Excerpted from "Bassic Communication", Christian Musician magazine (Nov/Dec ‘01). Reprinted by permission.]

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