This is my first column for Bass Musician Magazine, and it’s dedicated to my favorite instrument, fretless bass. I started to play fretless in 1982, influenced by Jaco Pastorius (Weather Report’s “Heavy Weather”) and Alain Caron (Uzeb’s “Fast Emotion”).
My first fretless bass was a Leduc 5 string with a high C. Then, in 1984, I played a Vigier Arpège 5 string with high C, and in 1986 a Jacobacci 5 string (still with high C). From 1987 and until 1997, I played only F Bass 6 string fretless basses.
In 1998 I started to design my own models with Christian Noguera, the Noguera YC basses. I wanted to have my own sound. I still play those Noguera basses, in 6 and 8 string contrabass and sub-bass versions.
Since 2006 I’ve been playing Jerzy Drozd Legend YC 10 and 12 string sub-basses.
Since the beginning, I’ve wanted to play everything: bass lines, ghost notes, harmonics, chords and melodies. I started to transcribe everything I could from Jaco and Alain, but also solos from other instruments, such as John Coltrane’s 1959 “Giant Steps”.
One of the things I enjoy about fretless is that it helps you as far as developing your ear. If you’re not playing in tune, it’s just horrible!
Below is a transcription of one of my songs, Detachment, from the album “Carbonne Di Piazza Manring” (2005). In this piece Michael Manring is playing his Zon Sonus fretless bass, and I play my Noguera YC 6 string fretless contrabass guitar.
This song is a good way to work on different aspects of fretless playing:
During the intro (0:00 to 0:42) I play chords with harmonics and mute the fundamentals. Michael is improvising using ebow.
Then I play the melody, and Michael is playing the chords along with harmonics (0:43 to 1:37).
Michael then plays a solo (1:38 to 2:31) I then play the melody one more time at the end. (2:32 to the end)
The feel is close to an old rhythm and blues 12/8 ballad.
The melody has to be very lyrical, and a little bit retarded.
It’s a simple, but very inspired song.
Click on the three links below to download the transcriptions and to listen to the MP3