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  1. #1

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    A few years ago, I traded one of my solid body electric guitars (I had two identical guitars with different colors and different production years) with a Godin Glissentar- a fretless instrument with a 25.5" (648 mm) scale length originally intended for 11 nylon strings (one low E and duplex strings of A, D, G, B, E). I strung it with six nylon strings like a classical guitar. I attached a Peterson tuner to the headstock. I try to fret notes to correct pitch/frequency and produce it by singing and try to find octaves, fifths and other more challenging intervals with my eyes closed. Also try to play melodies accurately (chords are extremely difficult).

    If you think this is a worthwhile exercise, you can remove the frets off a cheap guitar or swap the bolt-on neck with a fretless one you can get from Warmoth or USA Custom Guitars.

    Has anybody else tried this ? Surely those who double (or dabble) on upright double bass know of the challenges and rewards of this approach.

  2.  

    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I've played slide guitar for over 40 years, it has similar demands.

  4. #3
    How did that experience translate into other instruments, I believe you played tuba too :-) I think even for people who have perfect pitch fretless instruments are difficult.

  5. #4

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    once you open up your ears to more microtonal music..it becomes more second nature...not to just approach it from a western "jazz" outlook...but worldly... north indian classical or middle eastern oud, gimbri and beyond...there's lots of modern players meshing the two in a really smart way these days...listening to that kind of music and getting your brain configured to those kind of intervals and harmonies is the the first step..otherwise a glissentar, that you are just trying to translate american jazz onto is not really going to work


    some great slide players incorporate the whole spectrum of notes into their playing...the great dave tronzo, greg leisz and derek trucks to name but 3 of the more popular...most famously, george harrison was even a precursor...

    the mind leads the fingers...think outside the box..and the ear & digits will follow


    cheers

  6. #5

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    I love listening to Perdesiz style playing !! - Cenk Erdogan is one of my favourite players - he has some tutorials on the style available.


    and

    and


    Erkan Ogur is one of the masters for many younger players.

    You can purchase small removable fret marker dots to place along the neck to act as an aid to get you going.

    Will

  7. #6

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    We're dealing with the fretboard accuracy that other string players take for granted as a normal part of their technique. Violin must be tough because of the small scale of the instrument. I've also spent time on a fretless 5 string banjo, and it's a challenge to finger chords with precision, but ear and technique prevail.

  8. #7

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    I play cello. A few thoughts/suggestions:

    Cultivate moving with physical confidence even when an intonation success rate
    is a low percentage event. Practice with drones or pedal tones to provide an aural measuring stick. Practice with your eyes closed. Visualize the sound and
    location of the target note(s). I found practicing interval double stops
    immensely helpful, building a foundation for melodic and chordal playing.
    Record yourself often. Explore in detail the continuum of when an interval
    is not in tune, in tune and more in tune. Humbly accept the lifetime quest that
    is good intonation.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by medblues
    ... I believe you played tuba too :-)
    And how! Here he is, in the middle of his blistering solo on "Feelings".

  10. #9

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    Well, some twenty years ago I was granted a Churchill Fellowship (no need to bow!) to study music somewhere in the world, but it must be music I knew nothing about. I chose Turkish classical music, with its 53 subdivisions of the octave, and unlike Indian music it has no drone. I went to Istanbul, and was allowed to observe the State Orchestra rehearse most days for up coming concerts. This was a tremendous privilege. I also got oud lessons from Necati Celik, arguably the greatest living proponent of the Turkish oud. I also saw Erkan Ogur perform in a bar to about thirty people, and be introduced to him. It was quite a trip! and lasted for three months.

    The orchestra consisted of about fifteen musicians, each a different instrument, and six singers. Everyone had exactly the same score, which they each interpreted in their own way. There was a Musical Director, who was extremely strict in having everyone play and sing the correct intervals. I recall him screaming at one singer, throwing her out of the rehearsal room. These were intense rehearsals!

    When first attended I couldn't hear the subtleties that they obviously did. Sure, it sounded in places a bit odd to my ears, a bit "oriental", but after a couple of months I was beginning to tune in. I also had an oud to practise on. I got deeply into it over a short period of intense study, so much so that when I got home after three months, I couldn't tune my guitar!

    So, why didn't I continue down this route? I could have continued a study of Turkish music, and/or incorporated some of my experience into music I was already playing. For the former I felt the music was so bound up in the sounds of the language I was hearing, the articulation and phrasing, I just found it too alien, no matter how beautiful it was, or how moved I was - it would require a lifetime of devotion. As for the latter, I was recording and touring playing 17th Scottish lute music, which with its hexatonic melodies was a world away from anything I heard in Istanbul, and it never felt right whenever I tried to find common ground.

    But overall my study opened my ears to the expressive qualities of microtones, and odd time signatures such as 15/16 or 24/8.

    So, with humour I warn you away from micro intervals, as there will come a day when you can't understand why you can no longer tune your guitar!

  11. #10

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    I played trombone in the army which is the same theing approximately, and I also a big fan of early transverse flutes as a hobbiest (baroque, renaissance, medieval) they are very demanding about intonation (you can flex almost more than 1/4 in most notes).

    This is enough for me to excercise good intonation)))

    But my wife played cello and viols da gamba (which is fretted) and when I tried cello I found it is more fun for me to play fretless by ear...

    I have to try fretless guitar - it sounds iteresting... But I guess that guitar should be very well made to soud well fretless.
    (
    I do not like that oriental colour that comes in... but probably it depends on the player's choices more?)

  12. #11

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    I attached a Peterson tuner to the headstock.
    I would not use tuner... I know a guy who teaches cello buy puttin a tuner in fron of a student -- I think it is a big mistake...
    Only ears and good hearing of context make sense here.

  13. #12

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    I had a Godin fretless guitar for many years, I really liked it, but ultimately just didn't have enough time to explore the instrument the way I wanted. I used it a lot for singing and playing against a drone (the guitar is double coursed except for the lowest string)

    couple practical notes:
    - You want a guitar with really good sustain, as quick attack/decay will mask intonation problems. the double strings helped a lot. My main instrument is double bass, and us bassists practice with a bow for intonation stuff.
    - chords are really hard to play in tune
    - don't feel bad about using markers, it's not cheating. Some of the best classical bassists in the world (Edgar Meyer, Lauren Pierce) use markers.

    I personally find guitar (and also electric bass) much harder to play reliably in tune than acoustic bass. The portion of the neck on a double bass that is "open space" is actually way shorter than an equivalent electric bass. Classical bassists practice shifting exercises and staying engaged with the string in a way that I've never really seen guitar taught.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcsanwald
    - don't feel bad about using markers, it's not cheating. Some of the best classical bassists in the world (Edgar Meyer, Lauren Pierce) use markers.

    I personally find guitar (and also electric bass) much harder to play reliably in tune than acoustic bass. The portion of the neck on a double bass that is "open space" is actually way shorter than an equivalent electric bass. Classical bassists practice shifting exercises and staying engaged with the string in a way that I've never really seen guitar taught.
    I also thought about different physiology and psychology of playing on cello/upright bass and guitar.
    They hold the instrument vertically and there technique and teaching method are more connected with sensual 'searching' for a tone... and also they do not have to play so many big chords in consequences.
    Guitarists often think of the fretboard in the way that is more similar to that of a keyboardist

  15. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    Well, some twenty years ago I was granted a Churchill Fellowship (no need to bow!) to study music somewhere in the world, but it must be music I knew nothing about. I chose Turkish classical music, with its 53 subdivisions of the octave, and unlike Indian music it has no drone. I went to Istanbul, and was allowed to observe the State Orchestra rehearse most days for up coming concerts. This was a tremendous privilege. I also got oud lessons from Necati Celik, arguably the greatest living proponent of the Turkish oud. I also saw Erkan Ogur perform in a bar to about thirty people, and be introduced to him. It was quite a trip! and lasted for three months.

    The orchestra consisted of about fifteen musicians, each a different instrument, and six singers. Everyone had exactly the same score, which they each interpreted in their own way. There was a Musical Director, who was extremely strict in having everyone play and sing the correct intervals. I recall him screaming at one singer, throwing her out of the rehearsal room. These were intense rehearsals!

    When first attended I couldn't hear the subtleties that they obviously did. Sure, it sounded in places a bit odd to my ears, a bit "oriental", but after a couple of months I was beginning to tune in. I also had an oud to practise on. I got deeply into it over a short period of intense study, so much so that when I got home after three months, I couldn't tune my guitar!

    So, why didn't I continue down this route? I could have continued a study of Turkish music, and/or incorporated some of my experience into music I was already playing. For the former I felt the music was so bound up in the sounds of the language I was hearing, the articulation and phrasing, I just found it too alien, no matter how beautiful it was, or how moved I was - it would require a lifetime of devotion. As for the latter, I was recording and touring playing 17th Scottish lute music, which with its hexatonic melodies was a world away from anything I heard in Istanbul, and it never felt right whenever I tried to find common ground.

    But overall my study opened my ears to the expressive qualities of microtones, and odd time signatures such as 15/16 or 24/8.

    So, with humour I warn you away from micro intervals, as there will come a day when you can't understand why you can no longer tune your guitar!
    Great story ! I actually grew up surrounded mostly with eastern music mixed in with rock and blues, jazz came later ! Right now I am using the fretless strictly for pitch training for my ear. I agree that it is another lifetime going into microtonal music.

  16. #15

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    Fretless midi guitar (well 1/2 of his double neck), lots of microtonal and poly rhythmic techniques influenced by Balkan and Indian music:


  17. #16

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    lap steel is pretty ideal for this. More sustain I would imagine and it's made for playing like this (I would imagine it's difficult to play in tune chords on a fretless guitar but that's how a lapsteel is set up. Plus they are particularly cheap and have potential for playing jazz (western swing is pretty much cowboy jazz, check out Joaquin Murphy solos). If you want a nice cheap one, I like the Melberts which are kind of plain looking but pro quality instruments.

    My favorite book on music is called A Harmonic Experience and it walks you through how the overtone series works, how that leads to different temperaments and most importantly how to sing them against a drone. I have a long commute and lately I've been playing a C and G drone and then singing chromatic major triads against that (Db Major, D major, etc). I can only do that because of that book and also doing some indian classical singing.

    Favorite drone app is Total Energy (TE) Tuner, which is just amazingly useful. You can program equal or just temperment, and you can make the drone as many notes as you want. Also itablapro which is only on IOS. It is really popular with Indian musicians but super useful. I like TE tuner a lot but Itabla pro has a great "mood".

  18. #17

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    well if we speak about lap-steel for the purpose of ear-training - a monochord will be enough... and it was used for these purposes for hudreds of years of years

  19. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by medblues

    Has anybody else tried this ? Surely those who double (or dabble) on upright double bass know of the challenges and rewards of this approach.
    I play a 7 string fretless archtop. It's changed the way I play fretted in a number of very definite ways.
    First, I play triads a lot more, and not just tertiary harmony triads but three note chords that include seconds and fourths and wider, but in three note combinations. My fingers can't realistically hold down more than three notes without disastrous intonation issues.
    I find myself going up and down the neck in a more linear way, as opposed to the across the neck playing fretted playing lends itself so easily to. In the fretted realm, this has helped me get a more lyrical legato aspect of my playing.
    I will say that I took the dots out of the side of my neck and I re-dotted the guitar on the fret location-where the actual fret is. For a fretless, this makes a lot more sense.
    It's also helped me play with better left hand technique. There's a clean and expressive way of playing that comes from being really mindful of using fingertips of the left hand. This is something stressed when playing classical guitar, not so much playing jazz on a steel guitar where just making the chord cleanly especially with wider chord stretches is the priority. But playing fretless has made me play cleaner on the fretted guitar.
    Playing fretless has also coincided with playing with a more upright position. I play sitting and I use a guitar support permanently affixed to my guitar. This makes for a greater reach for chordal and linear work.
    It's also changed the way I phrase. Long notes are really not possible for me on the fretless. My phrasing has more linear support and exposition to it when I'm playing fretless. This has led to the challenge of being melodic in my harmonic fills while playing fretted.
    So those are a few takeaways from my feeble and humble forays into the fretless realm.
    D

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonah
    well if we speak about lap-steel for the purpose of ear-training - a monochord will be enough... and it was used for these purposes for hudreds of years of years
    Cool. Who's your favorite swinging monochord player?

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by sully75
    Cool. Who's your favorite swinging monochord player?
    Boethius of course!
    Attached Images Attached Images Ear training with a fretless guitar-boethius-jpeg 

  22. #21

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    I play a 7 string fretless archtop. It's changed the way I play fretted in a number of very definite ways.
    mmmm.... what kind of guitar is it? It seems to combine features I wanna try...

    Could you share more please?

    Is it modified? Or was it built like that?

  23. #22

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    I think it makes sense to share my lute experience.. I play early lutes a lot and very intensivel.

    they have moveable gut frets... when I got into mean-tone intonation it was never-ending story ... a bit crazy...

    It is both fun and crazy to find a compromize on a fretted instrument (on keyboard you can at least tune a single key separately!).

    When I changed frets (once in 1-2 months) - I tried to play fretless but the problem is early lutes are too light and the tension is too low and they do not sound at all (oud for example has usually much higher action and tension) also they have wooden frets on the top that are fixed and they buzz))))

    So it was almost impossible because the pitch was too obscure.. bows definitely help a lot to hear correct pitch because the sound is clearly pronounced and sustained.
    When the sound decays - and when the instrument has complex sound with lots of harmonics - the pitch become illusive... I experience it on long neck basses on archlute - you play and the pitch floats a bit.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonah
    Boethius of course!
    That cat could really play, man! Far out.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by sully75
    That cat could really play, man! Far out.
    I like how he outlines the chord.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by corpse
    I like how he outlines the chord.
    He could play more with one 1/4" goat gut string a large piece of bone than most dinguses can play on an 8 string stuper 400.