A ghost is haunting around the guitar world: the ghost of the fretless guitar. Technically the fretless guitar is an instrument (electric or acoustic) without frets, such that fingering its strings at particular positions on the string is done by pressing the string against its fingerboard. A "fretboard" in fact is just a fingerboard with inlaid frets, hence the principles for fingering the fretless is almost the same as the fretted, but with three exceptions 1) the position where the finger marks the string is not as exact as in fretted instruments, requiring greater finger position precision, and 2) the resonance of strings is different and may require more apt plucking or modified amplification (pickups) to achieve desired volume, and 3) the smooth form of the fingerboard allows for slides between notes which are natural and not notched to particular notes. While the violin and other stringed instruments are always fretless, other instruments exist both the regular version that the one without frets (typically electric bass and electric guitar) . Behind this seemingly simple technical definition hides however a very complex and varied guitar’s microworld. Playing a fretless guitar involves not only the need for pinpoint accuracy to find the correct pitch on the keyboard, but also a different use of fingerings (better to avoid the contrast with open strings and a radically different sound’s conception. Over the recent years we are seeing a growing number of professionals who are intriguing and ushering in this new world. A world that is gathered from a few years in several festivals around the world and on Internet on the website www.unfretted.com, a world populated by guitarists working in different areas: the fretless seem to have enjoyed particular success in metal, ethnic music, microtonal music and avant-garde, with passages within ambient and funk.
The double CD "Village of the Unfretted" presents itself as an authoritative point of view for those who want to start to listen and understand what's in store and what can be interesting to continue to investigate: two CDs for a total of 35 tracks (and 35 guitarists) ranging in every genre of music from pop to metal, rock and ethnic music to the most abstruse atonal and microtonal forms.
The risk that often faces cd’s collections is not to find a consistent quality but rather a series of ups and downs, it’s not the case of the Village of the Unfretted where its inhabitants will give everyone great pains to present to best of their abilities and talents. The result is an interesting compilation, extremely varied and mostly valid. If you have any curiosity about fretless guitar this is a great starting point.