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About FretlessBass.com

Welcome to FretlessBass.com. This site is dedicated to fretless basses only (acoustic and uprights welcome too!). Originally designed as a user submitted gallery of fretless basses, our site now includes much more, including exclusive interviews and articles, featured songs and videos, a shopping area, and community links for those who play or simply admire fretless basses.

FretlessBass.com was originally launched in 2000 and within the first year became a top ten search engine result for fretless basses. The user submitted gallery has grown from one bass to nearly five hundred! We have been very fortunate to speak with some of the greatest fretless bass players around, including Michael Manring, Mark Egan, Tony Levin, Tony Franklin, Percy Jones, and many others. It’s the players and the community that make this the best site on the Internet for fretless basses.

A message from our founder

Hello, this is Eric, founder of FretlessBass.com. I’d like to tell you a little bit about myself, why I started FretlessBass.com, and why I want it to be the best place on the Internet for fretless basses.

First a background: I am a drummer. That’s right, you read it correctly – a drummer. Not only a drummer, but one of over 35 years. Don’t stop reading. I’d like to share with you why being a drummer has made my passion for fretless basses so unique. What other instrument could have such an affect on a drummer that he would drop the sticks? No other instrument for me but the fretless bass. I’m sure many of you have stories of what drew you to the fretless bass. Please share your stories on our message board or feel free to send us and email. As for me…

Alien Fretless Bass
This is my first fretless. A very cheap Steinberger copy made by Hondo called the “Alien”. I removed the frets with a flat head screwdriver.

My earliest memories of fretless bass start with an album a friend introduced me to, by guitar great Michael Hedges. The album was Aerial Boundaries originally released in 1984. As the album tracks passed I came to “After the Gold Rush”, a cover of Neil Young’s classic. On this track came the sweetest sounding bass I had heard, with a growling yet silky tone, melodic and unique. A sound that could only have come from a fretless bass. And a fretless sound like this could only come from a bass master – Michael Manring.

This same friend of mine soon had me listening to the Father of the fretless bass, Jaco. His ability was mind boggling and his approach simply stunning. Not much can be said here to do any justice.

Soon after these experiences I starting really paying attention to what other music might feature fretless bass. I was finding that its presence was welcome in many different types of music, including main stream Rock and Roll.

Fender Precision Fretless Sunburst
This is my first real fretless bass which I purchased from eBay. 1970s Fender Precision Fretless with one-piece maple neck, sunburst color.

The next album that really caught my ear was Arcadia So Red the Rose released in 1985. This project was made up of members of Duran Duran and featured Mark Egan on fretless bass. The bass playing on this album is amazing, and one particular track that really solidified my love for fretless bass was “The Promise”. The use of fretless bass on this album contributed to it’s sound in a way that some people might not realize.

My next memories are of the incredibly thick fretless tones on The Firm’s debut album in 1985. Tony Franklin joined Jimmy Page and Paul Rogers to create two amazing albums, both strongly influenced by the fretless bass.

1970s Fender Precision Fretless Bass - Black
This is my second fretless bass which I purchased again on ebay. I paid under $500 for this bass and from what I can tell its all original. It was in great shape. Very hard to find these under $2000 today!

Following these introductions to fretless bass came the discovery of fretless in a live, pop/punk influenced setting, that included improv techniques, energy, and simplicity. The experience came from listening to bootlegs of early live Police shows, where Sting brought the fretless bass into the pop/punk live arena in the late 1970s. Although some may not realize or consider Sting to be a great fretless bass player, the live shows from their first three albums show some amazing abilities, techniques and musicality. In addition he had a collection of some of the nicest fretless basses ever made.

Ovation Applause Acoustic Fretless Bass
This was my first acoustic fretless bass I purchased. I bought this at a local guitar store. It is a very affordable acoustic but sounds great and is an excellent practice bass. I’ve even had very nice recordings from this bass.

In addition to all of these there were many others I was exposed to such as Dan K. Brown of The Fixx, Pino Palladino, John Taylor, Tony Levin, Percy Jones, Victor Wooten, Steve Bailey, Jack Bruce, Andy Sheldon, Nathan East…the list goes on and on.

fretless crop circles

I will always be a drummer, but the need to expand my musical horizons had peaked. I was hooked, I was bored, and I was ready to remove the frets from my brother’s Steinberger copy – the Hondo Alien headless bass. I convinced him of the possibilities and took a flathead screwdriver to the frets. I filled the fret slots with wood filler and tried many finishing techniques, ultimately ending up with an unfinished, oiled neck. The shortscale neck made a growl under the round wounds that gave me chills. Finally, the sound was in my own hands. I practiced feverishly in my college dorm room, and would never care to pick up a fretted bass from that day forward.

Fretless Snow Trail

The first official fretless that I purchased for myself was a used 1970s Fender Precision with a one piece maple fretless neck and a sunburst body, fitted with Bartolini pickups – used, weathered, but featuring the most pristine, smooth, glossy, and unmarked maple fingerboard. I bought this bass off of eBay, and have found this to be the best place to find fretless basses. Amazingly enough, retail instrument stores rarely carry fretless basses. After getting it home I would open the case many times a day just to glance at it. Most of the time I wouldn’t even pick it up. I would just admire it. To me the beauty of a fretless bass is as much visual as it is musical.

Fretless Road

One of my first goals was to find a place on the Internet that featured pictures of these fretless wonders. I was shocked to find that there was no Internet site dedicated to fretless bass, and soon purchased the domain name FretlessBass.com. It all started as a user submitted gallery of fretless basses, and a community of players and admirers. From there I have had the pleasure of having made contact with many great fretless players through interviews and other personal contact. This site has grown quite a bit and is constantly evolving.

Fretless Snowboarders

The success of this site is due largely in part to the fretless community, and we thank you for your support. Please send us your feedback to make this the best site on the Internet for fretless basses!

No frets. No limits.