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Fretless Questions: Terje Gewelt
FB: How long have you been playing fretless bass?
Terje Gewelt: I started playing fretless bass guitar at the age of 16. It was my main instrument for 5-6 years. At the age of 21 the doublebass became my main instrument. I did not really play much fretless until I took it up again in 2012.
FB: Are you self-taught or did you take lessons?
Terje Gewelt: I taught myself the basics by listening and playing along with records. Then I studied bass at BIT in LA with Jeff Berlin (81-82) and at Berklee College of Music (83-87). I also took private lessons with Jaco Pastorius in New York (84).
FB: Who are your main fretless bass influences or favorite players?
Terje Gewelt: It has to be Jaco Pastorius, because of his choice of notes, great grooves, musical phrasing, fantastic personal singing bass sound and great intonation.. But all the great double bassists in jazz also influenced me.
FB: Do you play upright, electric, or both? Which do you prefer?
Terje Gewelt: I play all the basses. The upright bass has long been my favorite, but lately the fretless bass guitar has really inspired me to make some new music.
FB: What was your very first fretless bass? Do you still own it? Have you had or played others?
Terje Gewelt: That was a Fender Precision fretless that I bought new in London in 1976. I sold it in 1985. Favorite has to be Jaco’s bass. Too bad I had to give it back to him when the lesson was over. I’m really a Fender Jazz guy and I own 2 FJ fretless basses. I bought a Wal fretless bass in 1982 that I liked a lot. I sold it in 1992 and regret that very much. It has my initials (TG) on the head. I would really like to buy it back!
FB: What types of strings and fingerboards do you prefer?
Terje Gewelt: On my fretless I use DR Hi-Beam strings and I prefer rosewood fingerboards with fretmarks. We have a fantastic bass/guitar technician in Oslo, his name is Robert Tot. He did a great job on my fretless fingerboard. Now it really resonates with a warm and defined sound that fits my music.
FB: What playing styles do you use?
Terje Gewelt: I’m a finger player. I feel that using my fingers gives me more control of dynamics, tone variations and phrasing. It’s the sound I like best and the sound that best fits my music.
FB: What bands or projects feature you playing fretless bass?
Terje Gewelt: One of the first recordings I played fretless on was with Michael Shrieve on “Stiletto” (RCA 1989) (iTunes, Amazon). Lately I have been playing some fretless bass with John Surman (UK saxophone master). With my “Spindrift” project I only play fretless and on my last trio CD “Steppingstone” I played mostly fretless.
FB: Do you have a favorite song you played fretless bass on or some notable songs or experiences?
Terje Gewelt: Hard to pick one song, but I like how my fretless sounds on the tune “Aftermath” from my CD “Spindrift“. Also, there is some nice fretless bass on my last 2 CD’s (“Spindrift” and “Steppingstone“).
FB: What would you say is unique about your fretless style?
Terje Gewelt: Maybe coming out of the European jazz tradition has given me a bit looser approach to the instrument.
FB: Are you still actively playing fretless bass?
Terje Gewelt: Yes, more and more!
FB: Do you have any basic advice for bass players looking to take up fretless or those who are currently playing?
Terje Gewelt: Practice scales and arpeggios, and be aware of your intonation. Playing arpeggios in tune on the fretless bass is hard, it’s some of the best practice you can do. Learn harmony and learn to read music. When you practice, always spend some time fooling around with your instrument. You will come up with some stuff that is only yours. Have fun, set goals, be constructive and for inspiration and reference, listen to the bass players that have mastered the instrument. Record yourself. You always think that you sound better than you do. Do not give up!
FB: Do you have websites or social media sites you would like to share?
Terje Gewelt: Please visit me at: www.resonant-music.com
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