18 Fretless Questions: Barry Bales
1. FB: At what age did you start playing fretless bass, and how long have you been playing?
Barry Bales: I started at age 16 and have been playing for 17 years.
2. FB: What influenced you to play fretless?
Barry Bales: I grew up in bluegrass and was always around acoustic basses – I really loved the sound.
3. FB: Are you self-taught or did you take lessons?
Barry Bales: Self taught.
4. FB: Who are your main fretless bass influences?
Barry Bales: Roy Huskey, Jr., Todd Phillips, Larry “Dee” Sparks, Mark Hembree.
5. FB: Who is your favorite fretless bass player and why?
Barry Bales: “Dee” Sparks, great “pull”, tone and feel.
6. FB: Do you play Stand-up, acoustic, electric, or all? Which do you prefer?
Barry Bales: All, I prefer the upright most of all.
7. FB: What was your very first fretless bass? Do you still own it?
Barry Bales: ’87 P-Bass. It was stolen.
8. FB: What is your favorite fretless bass you’ve ever played?
Barry Bales: My ’26 American Standard upright.
9. FB: What fretless basses have you owned, which do you still own?
Barry Bales: Did own a late 60’s Kay and a ’43 M-1 Kay, now have a old plywood Miesel (unknown date) and the ’26 American Standard. Also own a early 90’s Azola electric upright.
10. FB: What types of strings and fingerboard combinations do you like?
Barry Bales: On the Standard I have a gut g & d, D’Addario Helicore Orchestral heavy gauge on the A & E. Full set of Helicore mediums on the Miesel, Thomastik Dominants on the Azola.
11. FB: What playing styles do you use – finger, thumb, or pick (or other)? What do you like about those styles?
Barry Bales: Finger(s).
12. FB: What bands/projects have you played fretless bass in/on (list as many as you like)?
Barry Bales: Recorded the last 12 years with my full time band Alison Krauss + Union Station. Have also recorded with Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, Reba McEntire, the Chieftains, Clint Black, Vince Gill, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, as well as the soundtracks to “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” and “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood”.
13. FB: What is your favorite song you played fretless bass on (studio or live)?
14. FB: What is your favorite fretless bass riff you’ve written (if different from above)?
15. FB: What would you say is unique about your fretless style?
Barry Bales: I would like to think that I combine the “pull” and drive of some of my earlier influences with a more modern, thoughtful approach.
16. FB: Are you still actively playing fretless bass?
Barry Bales: Yes, playing live and recording regularly.
17. FB: Do you have any basic advice for bass players looking to take up fretless or those who are currently playing?
Barry Bales: Practice A LOT!! Develop your listening skills. Don’t just listen to the bass, listen to everything on a recording. Listen to the way all things interact. Practice with a metronome for timing. Practice with a tuner for pitch. Get out and play live where ever and however you can.
18. FB: Do you have a web site address you would like to share?
Barry Bales: www.AlisonKrauss.com
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