Toontrack Fretless EBX Full v1.0.2At a glance, one wouldn’t think that removing the seemingly insignificant metal rods that separate the notes on a bass’ fretboard would open up a completely new harmonic panorama and transform it into an almost altogether new instrument. But it does, indeed. The sublime and soaring violin-like character, the near-weightless glissando, the rich, full and hearty sustain and the incredibly unique overall expressiveness are all qualities that make it utterly impossible to mistake it for a traditional bass. A subtle vibrato or just the strike of a single note gives it away.
The Fretless EBX comes with a handpicked instrument, sampled in extreme detail to capture all of these unique characteristics. In addition to the sounds, it also includes a broad selection of presets as well as a custom content of MIDI tailored for fretless playing styles.
Immortalized by players like Sting, Les Claypool, Bernard Odum, Pino Palladino, Gary Willis and, of course, Jaco Pastorius, the fretless has truly become a mythical creature in the world of basses – revered for its tone but feared for its profound complexity to handle. Regardless of what style you’re looking to write, welcome to a bass that encompasses the entire dynamic and tonal range needed to cut through on both ends of the extremes. This is a bass that lets you paint with sound – outside the lines. Literally.
•A meticulously captured fretless, top-shelf bass
•Offering a range from A0 to E4
•Includes a collection of presets covering a broad range of tones – from dark and mellow to bright and articulate
•For use in any style where the bass has a prominent role
•Includes a custom MIDI library tailored for the instrument and fretless playing styles
Welcome to a bass for the ages.
When looking for an optimal fretless bass to sample for an expansion like this, the Toontrack sound design team had an extensive list of boxes it needed to tick. Extreme craftsmanship and attention to detail was one, a pure and transparent tone was another and an even and balanced sustain was a third. In the end, the list whittled down to one obvious choice, the brainchild of fretless master player Gary Willis: an Ibanez GWB 1005.*
“This bass is truly a marvel of craftsmanship. It sounds as natural, raw and organic as it looks. Just at the strike of a note, it’s obvious that it’s a fretless – which is exactly what we were looking for,” comments Magnus Melkersson, EZbass lead R&D technician.
A brief history of the fretless electric bass.
As to who invented the fretless bass: no one really knows. Just like in any good tale, the accounts are many and all more or less unverified. But that’s what makes a great story great, right?
Jaco Pastorius, who in the late sixties or early seventies yanked the frets from his bass and sealed the fretboard with marine epoxy, is often credited as its inventor. Without a doubt, he was indeed early to rip his frets out – but far from first. Likely, Jaco being credited for the invention probably stems from the fact that he was the one who popularized the instrument through his uncanny skills at mastering it. In fact, as early as 1961 Bill Wyman removed his frets based on the simple fact that they made his strings rattle horribly. That old bass then ended up being played on several classic Rolling Stones album to come. To his account, it was one of his favorites. To unravel the mystery, we need to go back all way way to the mid-1930s.
The first electric bass was in fact fretless. Be it that it was an upright with electronics, but still. It would actually take until the mid-’60s until fretless basses were production models – years after we first started flipping the basses to play them horizontally. The rest is history, as they say.
THE SOUNDS &
Seeing as the finger style is predominant for fretless players regardless of the genre in which they may operate, the Fretless EBX solely hones in on that. Generally, a fretless bass is played more softly than a fretted one since a hard-hit string rattling against metal frets as opposed to a blank fretboard sounds way more appealing.
Oftentimes, fretless players also use the entire picking surface to generate a broader width of tone. In the Fretless EBX, this was illustrated by sampling each note not only in an increasing velocity, but also by gradually changing the position of the right hand. The softer a note was struck, the closer to the neck it was sampled. This will help further showcase the entire frequency range and expressiveness of the instrument.
The scope of music a fretless can be used in is as endless as the tonal range of the instrument itself. There are fretless players in anything from classic jazz and modern fusion to extreme death metal. With that in mind, the included collection of presets was designed to showcase as much width as possible while keeping the instrument and its unique qualities in focus.
Expect anything from dark and mellow to bright and articulate tones – all flaunting the distinct growl and timbre of the instrument.
The included MIDI was created by noted player Laurence Cottle and covers anything from basic to elaborate basslines – all tailored for the touch and tone that can’t be mistaken for anything but a fretless.