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In this guide, we’ll take a look at the best fretless bass guitars on the market right now.
I’ve compared sound, features, design, and cost to give you my top recommendations.
What are the best Fretless Bass Guitars?
Fretless Bass Guitars Reviews
When people think of fretless bass guitars, they often picture Jaco Pastorius and his Fender Jazz Bass guitars, which he personally removed the frets from in the 1970s.
Since the 1980s, however, Fender has sold its own fretless bass guitars and the Fender Player Fretless Jazz Bass is a great example of a recent model.
The design of the guitar has a clear vintage appeal. While the fingerboard of the bass is fretless, it does include fret markers, which serve as a useful visual cue without compromising creativity.
A pair of Player Series Alnico 5 single-coil pickups help to provide that amazing jazz bass sound you would expect from a guitar carrying this name.
Meanwhile, the affordable price of the guitar means it is one of the single best fretless bass options for those who want to achieve high-quality sound without breaking the bank.
If you have your heart set on a Fender bass guitar, and you are seeking something that is truly top-of-the-range for professional play, the best fretless bass for your circumstances will be the Fender American Professional Fretless Jazz Bass.
With this model, the V-Mod single-coil pickups are able to combine modern sound clarity with the classic Jazz Bass tones you expect.
The Modern-C neck makes moving up and down the fingerboard quick and easy, while the fretless design offers excellent scope for creativity, and clearly visible fret markers provide visual guidance.
A stylish aesthetic is provided by the ‘Sunburst’ color scheme, while the bass has been carefully crafted to enhance sustain and optimize tone, resulting in the superb sound quality a professional bass player will be looking to achieve.
The Ibanez SRH500F Fretless Bass Guitar is similarly priced to the Fender Player Fretless Jazz Bass and could just be the best fretless bass option for those who want a non-Fender model in that kind of price range.
The Panga Panga fingerboard offers great comfort and while the guitar does have fret markers, they are less clearly visible than on the aforementioned Fender models, providing a more subtle overall aesthetic.
The body of the guitar is made from mahogany and is a hollow body, which offers great resonance. Ergonomically, the guitar is comfortable to play and provides the versatility you want from a fretless bass.
Black matte volume controls stand out from the “Natural Browned Burst” color scheme with visually-pleasing results, while the custom-built bridge, complete with its AeroSilk Piezo pickup system, delivers excellent sustain and tremendous tone.
If you are seeking a model with five strings instead of four, the Ibanez Bass Workshop SRF705 Fretless Bass Guitar sports a range of features that help to provide a strong claim for it being the best fretless bass option.
One of the key features of the guitar is a deep lower horn cutaway, which provides access to more of the fingerboard than most bass guitars.
In fact, Ibanez market the model as having a 30-fret extended neck for this reason. This, combined with the fretless design itself and the five strings, means you have access to a vast number of notes.
Again, this bass makes use of the AeroSilk Piezo bridge system, which is exclusive to Ibanez models, while USA Bartolini pickups further enhance the tone.
A large number of controls are also provided, allowing you to adjust the volume of the neck and bridge, as well as alter the tone, bass, and treble.
Finally, the single most affordable option on this list and the best fretless bass for anyone operating on a tight budget is the Ibanez Standard SR370E Fretless Bass Guitar. It takes many of the features seen in the more expensive Ibanez models and packs them into this affordable package to deliver great value.
Master volume and pickup balance dials offer great control over your sound, which is enhanced with PowerSpan Dual Coil neck and bridge pickups.
The fretless fingerboard covers the equivalent of 24 frets and clearly visible fret markers and dot markers are present to help you to easily find your position as you play.
The overall shape of the guitar is in-line with more expensive fretless Ibanez models, while the glossy “Brown Burst” color scheme provides a pleasant aesthetic, that will easily sit alongside almost any other instrument.
The Best Fretless Bass Guitar: A Buyer’s Guide
Are you interested in buying a fretless bass guitar, but feel unsure about where to start? No problem! This buyer’s guide is intended to provide you with a little background information, so you can make a more informed decision and buy the best fretless bass guitar for your needs, preferences, and budget.
Why Buy a Fretless Bass Guitar?
The first question that needs to be answered is why should you buy a fretless bass guitar? Essentially, the biggest reason here is because fretless models offer greater versatility and control over the sound. This includes the option to make use of sliding notes more easily, because the frets are not going to be in the way.
While frets are ideal for helping players to keep to specific notes, fretless guitars allow players to more easily find the micro-tones that exist between any two notes. This can provide you with a greater range of sound options, but it does come at a price because it will be harder to play the exact notes you are looking to play.
For this reason, fretless models are usually not recommended for complete novice players.
What Features Do You Want?
The precise range of features to look out for will depend, at least to some extent, on your personal preferences. For example, some people like to have very clearly visible fret markers, while others like the more subtle approach, giving the illusion from a distance that there are no markers at all.
You should look into the range of frets covered by the fretless fingerboard and make sure the guitar build quality is good. It makes sense to go with a recognized name, with a strong reputation for making dependable fretless bass guitars, with Fender and Ibanez serving as two of the most obvious examples.
What Strings Should You Use?
There are a range of different fretless bass string options available, from flatwounds and tapewounds, to stainless steel strings and nickel strings.
Steel strings will produce the brightest sound but are more likely to wear your fingerboard, whereas tapewounds may offer a slightly more muted sound, but they will preserve your fingerboard.
Half rounds serve as something of a halfway point between these two extremes. Ultimately, however, it comes down to personal preference and it may be a good idea to experiment with a few different types and see which you like best.