If you’re looking for the best fretless bass guitars you’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled a list of the best fretless bass guitars you can buy. Since fretless basses are generally harder to find than regular bass guitars, we want to make sure that you are choosing a high-quality fretless bass. If you are just getting started with bass guitar, you will probably want to consider a beginner bass guitar since they are fretted and thus easier to learn.
What makes a bass guitar fretless?
The greatest difference between a fretted and fretless guitar is the presence, or absence, of a fret. Simply defined, a fret is a piece metal that is entrenched along the fretboard of a guitar. The primary function of frets is to guide players to the correct notes as they play the bass guitar. When one touches the strings between frets, it changes the length of the guitar string, and this in turn changes the notes of the song being played. If you want to read more about fretless bass guitars, you can read our article on the differences between fretted and fretless bass guitars.
Benefits of Playing Fretless Bass Guitars
1. More Freedom
The absence of frets on a fretless bass means that players are not restricted only to the Western Standard sound range. This gives them freedom to explore all the sound ranges that fall in between the traditional notes. It gives them room to explore their creativity and discover new sounds that are unique.
2. Better your skill
Playing a fretless bass requires a high level of skill on the part of the player. Players have to rely on their own listening skills and technique to play the instrument correctly. While some view this as an unnecessarily difficult, it actually is an opportunity for ardent players to perfect their bass guitar-playing skills. It might require long hours of practice before you start playing perfect music, but when you eventually excel in playing the fretless bass, you will feel an incomparable sense of accomplishment. Few things are as rewarding as learning how to play a fretless bass well.
3. More Fluidity
The absence of frets on a fretless bass means that you can transition more smoothly from one note to another. Music played on these guitars is warm, soft, and smooth. This is because there are no abrupt stops as you change pitches, which allows the sound to flow smoothly. This sound is more pleasant to the ears as well.
Best Fretless Bass Guitars 2018
1. Fender Jaco Pastorius Jazz Electric Bass Guitar
This bass guitar is named after Jaco Pastorius who redefined the role and voice of the bass for generations. While he didn’t use this specific bass, he did use a Fender Jazz fretless bass guitar. This bass features an alder body, C shaped maple neck with fret lines, pau ferro fingerboard, and vintage style single coil Jazz Bass pickups. The package includes a brown hard shell case, strap, and cable. If you’re looking for a very high-quality bass guitar, look no further than the Jaco Pastorius.
2. NS Designs NS CR5-BG-AMS-FL Fretless Bass Guitar
While certainly pricey, this bass guitar has all of the features you’d want from a fretless bass guitar. The neck is made from one-piece maple with a carbon fiber core that gives it that luxury feel you’d expect from a top-line bass guitar. The patented tuning system turns the act of tuning literally upside down with the tuning knobs at the bass of the bridge. The pickup, featuring an 18V onboard preamp, is also unmatched giving an exceptionally broad, musically rich spectrum of tone. If you’re looking for an exceptional fretless bass guitar, look no further than the NS CR5-BG-AMS-FL.
3. Fender Tony Franklin Fretless Precision Electric Bass Guitar
Another Fender, but another steller bass guitar. Fender did an amazing job with this bass guitar. The Tony Franklin Jazz Bass single-coil bridge pickup is bar none with exceptional tonal quality. Not only that, but the design is absolutely stunning. It is made with an alder body and modern C-shaped maple neck with an unfinished and unfretted ebony fingerboard.
This bass guitar is meant for experienced musicians though. It does not feature fret lines as it is expected that the player knows their way around the neck.
4. ESP LTD B-204SMFL Fretless Bass Guitar
The ESP is a great option for intermediate bass players and highly versatile. You can use it to play everything from jazz lines to modern rock, and it kills in solos, too. It features full tonality that usually comes with higher-priced bass guitars, but at an affordable price of less than $500. For those still learning how to play a fretless bass guitar, this ESP has fret markers so you can easily find your way around the neck.
This bass guitar does not come with a bass guitar case, so you will need to buy one.
5. Stagg BC300FL Fretless Bass Guitar
For any beginner who wants to get started with a fretless bass guitar or try playing with no guidance, you can’t beat the Stagg BC300FL. At less than $250, this bass guitar has all of the basics you would expect. Built with a solid alder body, hard maple neck, and rosewood fingerboard, this bass guitar will get you addicted to fretless basses.
Best Acoustic Fretless Bass Guitar
Dean EAB FL Acoustic-Electric Bass Fretless Guitar
If you’re looking for a great acoustic fretless bass guitar, the Dean EAB should be on your list. The body is made from beautiful mahogany with a spruce top and rosewood fingerboard. You can use this bass guitar with or without an amp, but it comes with Dean active pre-amp electronics so you have the option. This is a great option for at-home or on-stage performances where you want the ambience created by an acoustic instrument.
regardless of which fretless bass guitar you choose, remember that playing a fretless bass is a lot more challenging than playing a bass where you clearly know where to place your fingers to hit the notes. If you’re a beginner, we recommend that you start with a regular fretted bass guitar (you can find some great ones here) and become comfortable with knowing where your fingers are relative to the fingerboard. Once you’ve mastered playing on a fretted bass guitar, you can proceed to the fretless bass guitars above.