11 Best Fretless Bass Guitars in 2021 (All-Budgets) | LATEST Guide

Note: Here you will find 11 of the best fretless bass guitars that I have personally tried and tested, containing detailed information along with relevant cons that will help you conveniently compare and select the most suitable model based on your needs.

best fretless bass guitars - blog cover

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Our top 3 Picks

4.8/5
  • Comfortable C-shaped neck profile
  • Possesses an authentic Fender bass tone
  • Beautiful craftsmanship

4.7/5
  • 3-way blade switch for versatile tones
  • Extremely smooth and responsive
  • Includes a deluxe black case, strap and cables 

4.5/5
  • Best quality at a low price
  • Extremely lightweight
  • It comes with handy tools and a cable

Before talking about the best fretless bass guitars, let us understand what exactly frets are? When you are looking at the neck of a bass guitar, you can see the lines that separate the sections down its neck. These are called frets. Frets are commonly made up of nickel and steel alloy or nickel and silver alloy. So, it must be clear that a guitar without frets is known as fretless guitar.

Why opt for a fretless bass guitar?
You may wonder what would make someone go for a fretless bass instead of a fretted bass? To answer your question, let us look at some of the advantages of a fretless bass which makes it the best.

  • Complete control over the tones: There are no frets to stop the vibrations, and now your fingers are the only thing that would cut the vibrating strings and create a pitch. The right fretless bass gives you the ability to find all the tones and microtones between G and F notes. However, doing this requires a lot of practice.
  • Staying in tune during the live performance: The fretless bass guitars provide you with the ability to fix any tuning issue in the middle of the performance. If you know the correct way of resolving a problem, then a little or flat note won’t be a problem in the middle of your performance with the help of the fretless bass guitar. All you need to do is slide your fingers a little up or down the neck of the out of tune string and make the necessary adjustment. For a bassist, this works as an invaluable benefit.
  • Sliding harmonics: While playing a fretless bass guitar, you can glide across the strings, which help you to create wonderful sliding harmonics. If you want to reach the upper register of the bass to hit some fairly unique notes, then sliding harmonics is the technique you would like to use.
  • Less pressure when playing the guitar: After performing a gig or on a stage, your fingers start feeling fatigued no matter how much you have played before. This often creates a mindset of avoiding playing the guitar for a long time. However, one of the greatest things about a fretless bass guitar is that it doesn’t matter how high or low action you play; your fingers use less energy in pushing the strings down. You don’t have to try hard enough to avoid the buzzing sound. Therefore, a nice fretless bass guitar will require much less effort and will save your energy during the performance.

Now, you know why you should consider buying a fretless bass guitar. So, let us look at the 11 best bass guitars in 2021, which would fall under your budget and provide all the benefits listed above.

11 Best fretless bass guitars of all time

Best Pick

True Music Helper Rating - 4.8/5
4.8/5

The Fender Player Jazz: Fretless Pau Ferro uses basswood for its back and alder for its body. It is a 4 string fretless bass with a Hardtail bridge system. The neck part of the guitar has a modern c-shape profile. 

How does it sound?
The guitar has nickel and steel strings which produce a full-bodied sound and makes it the best pick for fretless bass guitar for metal. It has single-coil pickups, which provide a smooth playing feel. You will get a classic, elevated style and authentic Fender bass tone from this instrument. 

How does it feel?
The guitar has a C-shaped neck profile to provide the best comfort when you are playing it. Its body and back, made of basswood and alder, make it easy to produce a robust and rumbling sound that is punchy and tight.

Pros

  • C-shaped neck profile
  • Produces versatile music
  • Beautiful craftsmanship

Cons

  • None

Premium Choice

True Music Helper Rating - 4.7/5
4.7/5

The Fender Tony Franklin Fretless Precision Bass uses maple for its back and alder for its body. It is a 4 string guitar with an S pickup configuration. It has an ebony fretboard and a Hardtail bridge system. 

How does it sound?
It has a single-coil bridge pickup, and American Precision Bass split single-coil middle pickup produces a legendary tone. It also has a 3-way blade switch that allows you to choose between Jazz bass pickup, P Bass pickup, or both Jazz & Precision pickups. 

How does it feel?
The guitar has a C-shaped neck profile to provide for excellent playability and comfortability. It has a very uniform ebony fretboard. The low action and absence of frets let you experiment endlessly.

Pros

  • Premium quality guitar
  • Includes a deluxe black case, strap and cables 
  • Extremely smooth and responsive

Cons

  • A string needs minor adjustments

Value for Money

True Music Helper Rating - 4.5/5
4.5/5

The Stagg BC300FL Fretless is a 4 string wooden guitar. The neck part of the guitar is made of maple with a rosewood fingerboard. 

How does it sound?
Its pickup produces a really fast, smooth sound to a melodic popping sound without trouble. Also, there is no requirement for any effects or adjustments to the amp. With a bit of practice, you can play every song easily, even without the frets. 

How does it feel?
The finger guides on the side of the neck are perfectly marked and are set up reasonably well. It is incredibly lightweight and feels solid and smooth. It is the best fretless guitar for beginners.

Pros

  • Best quality at a low price
  • Extremely lightweight
  • It comes with tools and a cable

Cons

  • Can use a little tuning

True Music Helper Rating - 4.3/5
4.3/5

The ESP LTD B-204SM FL uses Ashwood for its back and Swamp Ash for its body. It is a 4 string guitar with an H pickup configuration. It has a fixed bridge system. It has an ash body with a spalted maple top in a see-through black Satin finish. 

How does it sound?
The guitar has a 5 piece Maple neck which is extra thin and is best for fast playing. It includes passive ESP designed pickups along with an active ABQ-3 EQ for wonderful tuning. The guitar can produce full, round, and compressed sounding without laying too much pressure on its strings. 

How does it feel?
It has an extra thin U-shaped 5 piece Maple neck for excellent playing comfort. The strings are very soft and produce a great tone. Overall, it is a beautiful instrument with nice spalting.

Pros

  • U shaped comfortable neck
  • Great effects and amps
  • Eye-catching design

Cons

  • No notable cons

True Music Helper Rating - 3.7/5
3.7/5

The Squier Fender Classic Vibe 60’s Fretless Jazz Bass Poplar wood for its back and body. It has a Laurel fretboard with an S pickup configuration. It is a four-string guitar with a Hardtail bridge system. The string materials used are nickel and steel. 

How does it sound?
The guitar has nickel and steel strings which are capable of producing a full-bodied sound. Its vintage-style tuning machines provide rock-solid tuning stability and smooth action. It also has durable nickel-plated hardware that adds a deep rich sound to the instrument. 

How does it feel?
The vintage-style Bridge of the guitar features threaded saddles which adjust the string spacing. This is very important for producing the correct style. Its C shaped neck profile provides easy playing with the help of a comfortable fretless fingerboard.

Pros

  • Vintage printed gloss neck finish
  • Nickel-plated hardware
  • Great bass for the money

Cons

  • No notable cons

True Music Helper Rating - 4.1/5
4.1/5

The Gold Tone 4 String Acoustic-Electric uses mahogany for both its back and body. It is a four-string guitar with an adjustable bridge system. It has a piezoelectric pickup configuration. 

How does it sound?
The sound is amiable, and the finish of the instrument is extremely good. It is best for Latin music. It sounds amazing, and its heavy bass works great. It has a great fretboard which will make you slide for hours. 

How does it feel?
It is a great bass and is very lightweight. Its neck is fragile, which is best for fast playing. Therefore it becomes elementary to play on stage when you have to stand for long periods.

Pros

  • Includes bag
  • Solid mahogany body
  • Electric tuner and slide control for volume

Cons

  • No con

True Music Helper Rating - 4.0/5
4/5

The Squier by Fender Vintage Modified Fretless Jazz Bass uses basswood for its back and has a wooden body. It is a four-string guitar with a fixed bridge system. It has an Ebony fingerboard with an S pickup configuration. 

How does it sound?
It is a great sounding bass and gets better if you change the original strings. It brings a character to the instrument. It has a wide neck which makes its playability comfortable. Its performance reaches another level after truss-rod adjustments. 

How does it feel?
It is a bit heavy fretless Bass guitar compared to the other ones, But the performance it gives does justice to its weight. It has good string spacing, which makes it easy to play.

Pros

  • Wide comfortable neck
  • Great sounding bass
  • The high-quality instrument at a fantastic value

Cons

  • Pickup could have been better

True Music Helper Rating - 3.9/5
3.9/5

The Ibanez SRF700 Portamento Has a solid body bass and a Rosewood fingerboard with 30 fret length. It is a four-string guitar with an adjustable bridge system. 

How does it sound?
The Neck and Bridge pickups have an equal responsibility to produce the best tone. The guitar has a custom bridge explicitly created for the optimum performance of the AeroSilk Piezo pickup system. It has a split-coil design that provides a vast frequency range and enhanced definition. 

How does it feel?
The neck of the guitar gives a tremendous playable action feel and tone. Its solid body produces excellent bass sound, and the system delivers an uncanny touch of hollow-bodied openness.

Pros

  • Excellent AeroSilk Piezo pickup system
  • Split coil design for a wide frequency range
  • Wonderful bridge pickups 

Cons

  • No notable con

True Music Helper Rating - 3.9/5
3.9/5

The Ernie Ball Music Man Stingray H Fretless BFR uses Ash Wood for its back and Swamp Ash as its body material. Its top is made of Ash Wood and Maple. It is a four-string guitar with limited edition BFR Stingray bass. 

How does it sound?
Its 3-band active EQ and a free active amp produce a signature sound effect every time you play it. Its passive pickups and H pickup configuration give a tremendous tonal ability to the guitar. It has a 34-inch scale length and a standard truss rod to enhance your style and produce a versatile genre of music. 

How does it feel?
The guitar has excellent weight and balance. The neck and fingerboard make it way too sticky to play smoothly. It has a solid body construction with double cutaway and right-hand orientation. 

Pros

  • 3-band active EQ
  • Great sound effect
  • Beautiful look 

Cons

  • Not the best guitar finish

True Music Helper Rating - 3.7/5
3.7/5

The Ibanez SRH500F Fretless Acoustic-Electric Bass Uses mahogany and basswood for its back material full stop. It is a four-string guitar with a passive pickup configuration and a Rosewood fingerboard. 

How does it sound?
It has a semi-hollow body that delivers a rich acoustic tune. The Rosewood fingerboard Provides balance and guiding positions to keep the fretboard from being disturbed, which is expected in a fretless layout. Its custom Bridge works well with flat wound strings to provide a great upright sound. 

How does it feel?
The guitar has a specially designed forearm contour on the body top, which offers excellent playing comfort and adds an elegant accent to its appearance. It has a sleek, compact, and comfortable, lightweight body.

Pros

  • Comfortable and lightweight body
  • Delivers rich acoustic tunes
  • Elegant design and finish

Cons

  • Little low volume can, however, be adjusted with amp

True Music Helper Rating - 3.7/5
3.7/5

The Schecter Stilleto Session-5 Fretless Uses Ebony as its back material and Swamp Ash for its body material. It is a 5 string guitar with an adjustable bridge system. It has an Ebony fretboard with a combination pickup configuration. 

How does it sound?
It is an outstanding fretless bass with an Ebony fingerboard that produces great tones. The total control on this bus is incredible and has a great sound range. The bonus point is that it comes with Flatwoods strings which increase the comfortability of your hands when you are playing. It has an EMG 40DC Bridge Pickup to control and produce a variety of tunes. All of these features make this guitar apt for a wonderful performance. 

How does it feel?
Its Swamp Ash body makes it lightweight and comfortable. Its thin Maple neck helps you to move fast around the strings to produce the desired tune.

Pros

  • EMG 40DC Bridge Pickup for great control
  • Ebony fingerboard for versatile tunes
  • Maple neck for fast movement

Cons

  • Stock strings can be improved

Therefore these are the 11 best basses, which have all the qualities to produce the right tone and get the best performance every time you play it, whether in practice or on stage. These guitars are apt for both beginners as well as professionals. These guitars have various qualities like a lightweight back and body, thin and fast neck, beautiful and elegant look, etc. Therefore, they are the right choice for any artist who wants a high-quality instrument at the most affordable rate.

How to play fretless bass?

Generally, fretless basses are considered harder to play in comparison to the standard bass guitars. Fretless guitar players need to develop a sound playing technique and good ears to identify the best tone. Thus, if you are a beginner and want to learn how to play fretless bass, you must be disciplined, patient and practise regularly to develop the skill.

Here are some steps which you need to follow/ keep in mind while playing a fretless bass guitar: 

  • Sitting position: It is the first and the most crucial step you need to play a fretless bass. The guitarist should be seated in a straight upright position to play the instrument properly and get the best performance. 
  • Use of tape-wound or flat-wound strings: The frets act as a barrier between the string and the neck, which results in more wear and tear on the neck of the guitar. Therefore, using a tape-wound or flat-wound string will enhance the sound of your instrument, and as they are smoother, they will not wear down the neck. 
  • Focus on your finger position to find notes: When playing fretless bass, you need to place your finger directly where the fret would have been and not next to the fret as you would in the case of a fretted bass. At first, it can be tough to play fretless bass, but regular practice will be the key to your problem. You should focus on your ear rather than feel so that you can find the notes by their sound too. 
  • Sliding on a fretless bass: To do this, you need to start with your finger at one note on a string and slide it up or down the string. This sounds simple, but it requires a lot of practice to know where to stop your fingers while sliding. If you master it, you can play the harmonic slides, a signature sound of the fretless bass.
  • Adjusting the amp: Fretless basses are a little quieter than fretted basses. This can be corrected by just turning up the volume. You need to get used to the fact that you will need more amplification while playing a fretless bass guitar. You need not worry about blasting or disrupting the balance of your band. The soft and warm sound of a fretless bass would not let that happen.

What is the point of a fretless bass?

Many of you would question why anyone would want a fretless bass, as it is tougher to play than the fretted bass. I agree that it won’t be the first choice for any beginner bassist, and it needs more practice than any other bass guitar. However, there are plenty of reasons why fretless bass guitars are worth buying and playing. 

  • It has a natural warm singing quality
  • The sliding from one note to another is very smooth
  • They have a lot of subtlety and nuance
  • It is a beautiful sounding instrument and worth an extra practice 

How do fretless bass guitars work?

Fretless bass guitars mainly use pickups to amplify their sound. Whereas acoustic fretless guitars rely entirely upon the natural hollow body of the guitar for resonance. They use internal pickups or external microphones to produce sounds.

Strings are crucial in determining how a fretless bass guitar will produce its unique tone. Many guitarists who play a fretless bass guitar prefer using the flatwounds strings. These strings are manufactured by flattening a wrapped wire so that the player can hardly feel any ridges between these wraps. 

To get the best performance from your fretless bass guitar, your fingertips become the frets. The fingers press the strings directly, similar to what we see in the case of a violin. This helps in vibrating the string, which extends from Bridge to fingertip. One of the most noticeable things you can see in a fretless bass guitar is the interaction of strings with the instrument’s body when the frets are not there. 

How to know the position of the fretless bass?

The position of your fretless bass is the essential thing that will give you the desired performance. What you need to do is focus on these points, which are listed below:

  • Sitting position: The most important thing while playing the bass guitar is your sitting position. It should not feel like you are playing it while lying on a table or counter. You should sit upright, and it should look and feel like you are playing it. Your sitting position determines the intonation and tuning of the bass, which are the things you would ever want to go wrong. So, you must focus on your sitting position more seriously than ever. 
  • Hand position: You need to pay close attention to your left-hand technique while playing a fretless bass guitar. It becomes essential that you have a good hand position and complete control over your finger spacing. In this, one finger per fret will be the ideal spacing to produce the most beautiful tones. Also, you can try playing scales or melodic patterns slowly with the help of your tuner. This would help your finger feel where exactly it should be to get the perfect tune.

Now, you know the correct sitting position and a proper hand position to play your fretless bass guitar. Other than this, you should also focus on using the correct string for your fretless bass to get the best performance. So, let us see various types of strings and understand their role to choose the best one for you. 

  • Stainless steel: They are the brightest sounding strings and also the hardest ones. Therefore, they are most likely to chew up the fretboard. 
  • Coated strings: These types of strings are a little mellower than steel and nickel strings tonally. They also feel a bit slicker and tend to last longer.
  • Nickel: They are slightly less dark than steel and a little softer too. They also grab less on the fingers as compared to steel strings. 
  • Flatwounds: They are flat in shape and darker than the strings mentioned above. They are well known for producing a more thumpy tone which is like an old school tone. They don’t do much harm to the fretboard. 
  • Tapewounds: They are generally steel strings wrapped in flat nylon tape. They are the best strings to save your fretboard. They have less string tension with a nice feel. 

In conclusion

Voila! Now you are aware of the 11 best fretless bass options mentioned above in the article, how to play fretless bass, what is the point of playing fretless bass, and how a fretless bass works and the correct position to play a fretless bass. 

Go thoroughly with every fretless bass guitar mentioned in the article and analyze the best one that serves your purpose and is within your budget. Purchase the correct fretless bass, which can give you the desired performance every time you play it and gives you the inspiration to play it every day. Also, follow the various steps mentioned in the article to help you play a fretless bass with the correct position for the best performance.

Cedric Philips

Cedric Philips

Hey there, I am Cedric and I've been playing guitar professionally for 9+ years. I also work in a music shop so I can get my hands on a lot of different guitars. And so, I like to share my take on these fantastic instruments here. Cheers!

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