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is there such a thing as a fretless electric guitar?


samal50
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I never understood the purpose of a fretless bass guitar. Wouldn't it be hard to follow through with notations? Is it played more with a "feel" rather than "by note"?

 

I've never seen a fretless electric guitar. I'm assuming the guitar instrument had to be fretless when it was first invented then the frets came along later as a way to "follow" through with notations? I don't know the history of guitars.

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The guitar on the right is an early fretless electric made by Harry Partch around 1949.

the polished pin heads on the fingerboard allowing the player to locate microtonal pitches.

 

partch_guitars_medium.jpg

 

John Cale, John Lennon, Jimi hendrix, Frank Zappa, Adrian Belew, John Frusciante, Matt Bellamy ... numerous great guitarists played and used fretless guitars, some of them willingly unfretted their guitars, there were also semi fretless guitars.

some had custom made fretless guitars, like Andy Summers with his fretless Hamer

 

andy_summers_gw_may81.jpg

 

some more obsure devoted themselves to exclusively play fretless guitars, like ned Evett or Erkan Ogur

Vigier, Fernandes and Godin all produced fretless guitars at some point

but it never really became a popular or widely used instrument.

no commerical success for instance, this Donahue design, that was licensed and made in Japan by Selva Guitar Co. in the mid 80s

 

td_gp_may87.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The violin, viola, cello and upright bass are all fretless. The ability to play great classical works on those instruments isn't impeded. Upright bass is used in Jazz as well and much of that music is very difficult to play.

 

The problem with a fretless guitar is the note duration. It gives a pizzicato tone because the fingers absorb allot of the note. Thicker strings help of course. As far as feel goes, Its actually the opposite. A fretted guitar doesn't require nearly as much thinking as an unfretted instrument does. You only get one chance to get the notes exactly dead on so you need to have a highly developed "minds eye" to visualize your intervals, and a well trained hand to execute what the mind tells the hand to play. You can be off a whole lot with your finger placement on a guitar and sound OK because the frets compensate for the finger placement inaccuracy.

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I never understood the purpose of a fretless bass guitar. Wouldn't it be hard to follow through with notations?

 

Not necessarily. Once learn to play one, there's no difference with the notes.

 

Is it played more with a "feel" rather than "by note"?

 

By ear...as should be the case with any guitar, with our without frets. There are also a markers on fretless instruments to indicate where the frets would otherwise be.

 

I've never seen a fretless electric guitar. I'm assuming the guitar instrument had to be fretless when it was first invented then the frets came along later as a way to "follow" through with notations? I don't know the history of guitars.

 

I believe the first guitars did have frets...they were strings of gut wrapped around the neck at the intervals where you normally find permanent frets.

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I believe the first guitars did have frets...they were strings of gut wrapped around the neck at the intervals where you normally find permanent frets.

 

A guitar was a spin off of a Lute which also had frets. Before that there were harps and Lyres of all kinds with strings tuned to pitch and different strings plucked for different tones. The Lute and Guitar used Pythagoras divisions which mathematics dates back before the romans to Greek times.

 

Early fretted instruments used gut wrapped around the neck to act as frets. They have pictures of guitar like instruments (part of a family of stringed instruments called chordophones) dating back 3300 years, but the roots of an actual guitar don't seem to be a roman invention. The traces die out in Spanish history and is likely a variation or a Lute or Oud. with the earliest history dates back to 1200

 

Stringed instruments have a long, long history and probably date back to the original bows and arrows that go back 64,000 years. Some ancient tribesman likely plucked on his bow and noticed it made a musical note, then when he put the end of it against a hollow tree it amplified the tone. There's no way to prove that but man is very inventive and I have no doubt people have been jamming far longer than we give them credit for.

Edited by WRGKMC
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wouldn't having "markings" like those "dots" you see on guitars be an alternative instead of having "physical" frets? I never considered my self a "clean" guitar player, perhaps it has something to do with the frets getting hit awkwardly that the tones of some notes are buzzy. Maybe I could sound great fretless? Would be helpful to have some type of markings to take notations?

 

I as complex as if find transposing mode/scales to other keys, I just can't imagine doing it without frets.

I know people do it, but they must have a different way of looking at then I do, either that or they've had inordinate amounts of time to practice.

 

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is it the only company right now making fretless guitars?

 

 

 

 

looks like Fernandes stopped making fretless guitars (they had 3 different models at some point)

Godin still has a fretless nylon string, the Multiac

 

then there's the custom shop route

Manson does fretless guitars

or this Halo Morbus, a 7 string fretless baritone guitar

Fretless%207%20String%20Halo%20Custom%20Baritone%20Guitar%204.JPG

or this LRG

LRG_e051.png

 

or you can have your guitar unfret by a luthier (or diy), like this fretless PRS

tom_baker_prs.jpg

 

 

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wow $375 fretless for a Les Paul (when was this?)? The Vigier fretless are about 3 grand. The picture of the Les Paul does have fret markings but I couldn't see if it does have those metals on frets. The markings may be just that, not metal frets.

 

I think Godin only sells acoustic fretless guitars.

 

I contacted Fernandes here's what they said:

 

"Unfortunately, they have been discontinued for a long time, but a skilled guitar technician can transform a normal fretted guitar into a fretless."

 

I guess only Vigier is the only one producing a fretless guitar now?

Edited by samal50
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About a year ago HCEG dug up some low-budget fretless guitars. Not sure if the were blowouts or what. Search function isn't working for me, but maybe someone else can find the mention (maybe in a Great Deals thread?) or remembers the details?

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It appears that it's the same company who manufacture and sell Ashbory basses in the U.S. as they are affiliated with Large Sound. I don't think they ever sold enough of the fretless guitars which is why they have been out of stock? They would re-stock if there was demand...

 

wait a minute

I just stumbled upon this

seems too good to be true

Smoothboard guitars

MIC guitars

items currently out of stock though

angry02

 

 

Edited by samal50
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there are guitar companies who make customs so basically just ask them not to add frets on the custom guitar huh? But these usually also start at a grand or two.

 

 

yup, custom guitars are expensive, the one I posted in #21 is 7 grand

I think you can order a fretless neck at Warmoth, so you could also make your own customshop fretless guitar

or keep an eye out on eBay for one of those Agile fretless LP or something

there are some pretty ugly fretless guitars on eBay now, cheap ones

 

$_57.JPG

 

kind of like this one and asking 125$ no bids so far

$_57.JPG

 

or this one, not cheap at 599$ but it is 2500$ otherwise

$(KGrHqR,!rgFIsKjBg2UBSL1d10s0w~~60_57.JPG

 

 

 

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