Headless, Fretless, what next?

I was sitting at my desk at work when a fellow employee walked in with his headless, fretless bass, based on the Steinberger style. He had brought it in to show another employee.

I quickly seized the situation and asked if I could borrow it over the weekend, just to see how it worked. To my surprise he agreed. Wow!

I had been toying around with maybe buying a 'stick bass', but after playing one it all seemed too hard, both in terms of price and physicality. This bass is played in the conventional electric position and doesn't require a new set of reflexes. Playing an upright seems akin to rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time.

That night I set up an amplifier in the lounge room and started playing it. The first issue is where to place your fingers. Yes there were black lines where the frets were supposed to be, but they weren't very dark and were hard to find, becoming lost in the dark wood used to make the neck. To make matters worse, the only dots on the neck were standard guitar positioning dots that bore no resemblance of where to place your fingers and were merely confusing. I solved this problem next day by sticking on little bits of white tape at the appropriate fret positions. This helped a lot.

I had a gig Sunday afternoon and took the bass along with me. The hardest part was playing in tune. Not so much on the strings closest to me, but on the strings furtherest from me. I seemed to play them a little flat, most likely due to parallax error. The sound was good and the string balance very good, but frets have made me lazy. Trying to read music and play in the correct position on the neck just was wasn't working out.

By the end of the day I could see that this isn't the way to go for me, I'll stick with the fretted EB3L.

Interesting experiment though.