I'm looking into fretless guitar after swapping out the G and D strings on the fretless bass with piccolo bass strings.
I've only had this set up for about 3 months, and my intonation is sometimes good (well average), sometimes bad, but I really like some of the non-traditional sounds I can get. Only problem is I've only got 2 strings to play with at the moment for the guitar part, hence me looking more into fretless guitar. I intend to get a custom built, and am deciding if fretless is the way to go.
Sounds like you are experimenting, and I think that's a good way to go. Otherwise your expectations may not be met. Keep trying different things like you are!
I don't own a fretless bass, but keep in mind that most basses are ~34" scale, and most guitars are ~25.5" scale.
If you are familiar with piano - you know that without the damper pedal, or when holding a note, low notes sustain longer. This is because in pianos, the lower strings have a longer scale length. The higher strings have shorter scale length.
The shortest scale length on a bass or guitar are between the nut and tuner, and/or the tailpiece and the bridge, if applicable. These can be places that, regardless of string gauge, the pitches can be high, the string tension is high, and the scale length is short...one or all of those factors yields rather short sustain. I say the main contributor for the short sustain is the short scale length, though. That is the best/most readily available example sometimes.
Guitar and bass guitar are similar in this regard--as you ascend a single string - pitch increases, and scale length shortens.
However, your starting scale length is set on a guitar or bass, and you can usually play all but ~8 very specific "notes" on 2-4 places on a 6 string guitar tuned "standard."
Due to scale length and some other factors, bass have more *potential* and apparent sustain. Know this - if you have a bass at 34" scale, and a guitar at 25.5" scale, the guitar is 5 frets shorter in scale length, basically. That is, the 5th fret on a bass is close to where a 25.5" scale guitar's nut/zero fret is located, in terms of scale length.
So that means, the 12th fret on a guitar is where the *17th* fret is on a bass. I find this general area +/- a fret to be about where sustain gets significantly reduced, if one is using the pads of the fingers to "fret,"
If you use a long fingernail, you can get different results--a different tone, but more apparent/actual sustain, but that's a different technique in many ways. This will of course vary significantly with the fingerboard material, too. I am thinking of wood fingerboards for the moment.
You'll get a good feeling for the differences between plain/solid steel strings and wound strings with your 2 high piccolo bass strings as you have them, for sure, but keep the scale length differences in mind for a guitar.
If you like bass, there is the option to get a 6 string fretless bass, but keep the lowest string a Low E. then you have a 4 string fretless bass plus two higher string--say, high B/C and also a E/F above that, using a combination of standard bass strings and piccolo strings.
Fretless guitar will appear to have higher note options etc, but really, the shorter scale length and 2-3 plain unwound strings and such will change things significantly.
I actually like tuning C-C rather than E-E with a fretless guitar, personally. I've tried lots of gauges of strings to balance out what seems to get the most sustain and it's a bit unconventional, as it surprised even me what worked best in that regard!
As I'm having intonation trouble, I'm wondering if fret-lines or markers would help. A friend of mine said how without lines your ear develops better but after doing my first gig with it the other day (mine has no markers), when I missed a note and the pressure was on, I found I lost my place for a good few bars. Did anyone start off with markers or just the plain fretless?
Has anyone tried a fanned fretted guitar? Or a fanned fretted fretless guitar? The concept is kind of absurd, especially without the markers and could even be kind of unplayable to begin with, but yeah. Anyone tried one?
Intonation is never easy.
I'm a charlie hunter fan myself. In some ways, as I discussed above about scale length, fanned frets make sense. In other ways, a short scale length for certain notes is sometimes (what I think is the major part of) the reason sustain is shorter than some find desirable for certain notes.
While I think fretless multi-scale is not ridiculous, I would say you'd want fret lines IF you did that. They're never going to be a replacement for one's ears, but indeed, a reference is virtually essential in that case. you still must learn the fretboard and play by ear, not by fret lines, even when they're there, in order to play well. SOME kind of FRET locator (not just side dots centered in the middle of 5/7/9/12 etc) certainly helps when you are totally lost and don't want 5 notes or a major interruption for the sake of getting back on track when playing live, and getting accustomed to fretless. Practicing 'blind,' eyes off the fretboard and/or eyes closed is really the ideal anyhow. The more you stare at the fretboard, typically the less you can focus on phrasing anyhow--where the emotive aspect of fretless is a real asset in making music, not just playing notes....
Ebow is cool. Michael Manring uses the ebow on fretless BASS quite often. I think the ebow is sometimes over-used on fretless guitar (youtube videos abound), but making things tasteful, and what is/isn't tasteful is up to the player! In the end, ebow gives "infinite sustain, where some feel that fretless guitar lacks sustain to a point...but limits the picking hand's activity in phrasing, IMO. These things are always a combination of advantage/disadvantage, and rarely just one or the other.
Sometimes it's sad being a lefty...