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A fretless guitar is a guitar with a fingerboard without frets. While fretless guitars are typically modified versions of factory-made traditionally "fretted" guitars – the frets being removed by the player or a professional luthier – they can also be custom-made by professional builders who specialize in fretless guitars.
Fretless guitars are similar to fretted guitars, with the exception that they do not have any frets to act as the lower end point (node) of the vibrating string. Rather, on fretless guitars, the node is established by pressing the string against the fingerboard, resulting in a vibrating string that extends from the bridge (where the strings are attached) to the fingertip, instead of to a fret.
Fretless guitars differ from fretted guitars as follows:
They require greater finger position precision, because the position of the node of the string is continuously variable (being established by the position of the finger) rather than fixed (established by the position of a fret). As a consequence of this, chordal playing in particular is more difficult to achieve cleanly on a fretless guitar.
The resonance of their strings is different and may require more apt plucking or modified amplification (pickups) to achieve desired volume
The smooth form of the fingerboard allows for continuous slides between notes, rather than being notched to individual notes
Fretless guitars are fairly uncommon in most forms of western music and generally limited to the electrified instruments, due to their decreased acoustic volume and sustain. Fretless bass guitars are the most common form of fretless guitar. This is due to similarities with the upright bass, and also because the bass guitar is generally not played as a chordal instrument.
The Mysterious Triple-V (VVV) Multi-Instrumentalist and microtonalist, VVV has played fretless guitars since 1994 & founded the NYC International Fretless Guitar Festival in 2004 with support from Unfretted.com.
Issei Noro has used fretless guitar from professional debut year in 1979, the user of the most famous Japanese guitarist, and most user are using.
Erkan O?urTurkish pioneer of the fretless guitar. Makes nearly all his music with self-made fretless guitars.
Yannick Robert plays his Ibanez signature model on "Vaci Utca" and "Dix cordes de nuit".
Karl Sanders plays a double necked guitar which has an 11-string fretless setup on the top neck, which he used on many of the tracks on Nile's album Ithyphallic.
Elliott Sharp has occasionally used fretless guitars, such as on his 1996 album Sferics.
Ron Thal (also known as Bumblefoot) has used fretless guitars extensively.
Steve Vai played a triple neck (12-string, 6-string and 6-string fretless) guitar during live shows many years ago.
Franck Vigroux plays fretless guitar on Push the triangle's album "repush" and live acts.
Vindsval of Blut Aus Nord used fretless guitars on the microtonal MoRT album and other albums.
Frank Zappa used fretless guitars on a few albums in the early and mid 1970s.
Tom "Fountainhead" Ex Obscura guitarist, used fretless guitar as main instrument. He collaborated as lead guitarist with a lot of band (The Ritual Aura,Amoghsymphony,Pitts Minnemann Project,Defeat Sanity and many other)
Sinan Cem Eroglu Turkish musician and producer plays both classical and electric fretless guitars. He played at lots of international guitar festivals and gave lecture recitals inc. Berklee College of Music, Florida School of Music, Berlin Fine Arts University etc. with his fretless guitar. He opened the first fretless guitar department in a University in the World.
Richard Bona best known as the bassist of The Zawinul Syndicate, Pat Metheny Group (Fodera Monarch 4 Fretless Standard and Fodera Imperial)
Stanley Sheldon bassist, songwriter. Bassist for Peter Frampton during the "Frampton Comes Alive" period.
Bunny Brunel had used a fretless bass on many recordings since the 1970s, usually a signature Carvin BB75 bass.
Les Claypool (of Primus and his many other side projects) uses a variety of fretted and fretless basses, including Carl Thompson four-string fretless and six-string fretless Rainbow Bass, and an upright 5 string.
Mick Karn (former bassist of Japan and avantgarde musician) used fretless bass guitar from the late 1970s up until his death in 2011. Karn mainly used Travis Bean during his early Japan years and Wal (bass) after 1981.
Bill Wyman, (former bassist of The Rolling Stones), was the first bass player to use a self-made fretless electric bass that he created by modifying a UK-built Dallas Tuxedo bass, in 1961. He removed the frets because they were rattling. This can be heard on many of the early Rolling Stones records.
Festivals featuring live fretless guitar music have been held for several years both in the US and in Europe. In New York, the first NYC Fretless Guitar Festival was held in 2005. In the Netherlands, the Dutch Fretless Guitar Festival has taken place since 2008.