You might be wondering, "Why should I go fretless?". As with most things, the reasons vary person to person. Here’s some common reasons:
- The sound: Fretless guitar sounds different. In particular, sliding on the neck makes a wonderful "mwah" sound, remarkably different than the sound of a bend on a fretted guitar. It’s way better than an effect, because it is real sound from a real string on a real instrument. The sound is quite different from a fretted guitar or slide playing.
- Pitch freedom: With the frets gone, microtonal playing is possible without bending strings. Sliding up and down a given string allows for a much larger shift in pitch than bends. One can hit a string and raise it or lower it well over an octave, much like with a slide. Unlike with a slide, there is freedom in where each string is fingered at. With a slide, everything is always in a line. This limitation is removed when playing on a fretless.
- The challenge: Let’s face it: frets are the auto-tune of a guitar. When Leo Fender popularized frets in the bass world, he named the instrument a "Precision Bass" because the frets automatically bracketed the pressure points on the neck for the player. Prior to the success of the Precision Bass, basses were commonly fretless. Fretless playing is more difficult than playing with frets, no question. The adventurous player is rewarded however with great, distinctive sound and more pitch flexibility than with a regular fretted guitar.
- It’s cool: ‘Cause it is! The training wheels are off.