Ned Evett's Fretless Guitar Blog: Fretless Guitar, Delta Style!
My name is Ned Evett. I play fretless guitars exclusively, modifying them with mirrored glass fingerboards.
When playing the fretless guitar, the material the fingerboard is made of greatly affects the overall tone; this same effect is found when using different types of slide (brass, glass, bone, etc.) on slide guitar.
Playing fretless guitar is a lot like playing slide guitar; just remember your left hand fingers take the place of a conventional slide.
I started playing Delta blues on a fretless resonator in 2003; I equipped it with one of my signature fretless glass fingerboards. After converting it, I toured solo opening for Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani and also a duo project with Franck Vigroux. My new album, Treehouse (which was produced by Adrian Belew), features a fretless resonator on a number of tracks.
My current fretless resonator of choice is a Republic Highway 61 (also with a glass fingerboard) outfitted with a Highlander pickup. Live, I run the pickup through an ART tube leveler into a Line 6 DL4 looper delay, then into a Trace Elliot TA 300.
I apply Indian sarod techniques to fretless guitar, incorporating LEFT-hand nail slides into the mix. I began adapting this technique in 1993 trying to coax more sustain out of a fretless 12-string. When you apply left-hand nail technique (on the plain strings, especially) you get a singing tone as the nail glides along the string; this is helpful on an acoustic instrument where you can't just crank the distortion to get sustain.
I use this approach in the video example below, playing Robert Johnson's "If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day."
Next time around we'll break out the fretless electric guitar and show you how to channel Muddy Waters and Ravi Shankar simultaneously!