I know this is an old thread, but I thought I could add some information to it. I am primarily a classical guitarist that has been exploring the fretless classical guitar as a compositional tool and performance instrument for the past few years, and I find it full of possibilities. The above poster is correct in directing anyone who is interested in fretless guitars to unfretted.com. It is a great source of information, and the people over there are a friendly group.
What I discovered when I first ran across the fretless guitar is that there are quite a few players already using it in a variety of styles–rock, jazz, experimental–and it seems to be gaining in popularity. However, when examining who is doing what on fretless guitar I found that there are actually very few players that use it as an instrument for new classical concert music. This is partly because there is no repertoire for it. If you are interested in using it in recital you pretty much have to be a composer also. What is more common is to use a fretless nylon-string guitar as essentially an oud substitute. By the way, there are some great players who do this, especially certain Turkish players–check out two of my favorites, Erkan Ogur or Cenk Erdogan on youtube if you are interested.
If anyone is interested I have some audio files and live videos on my myspace page at: http://www.myspace.com/buzzgravelle of me playing some of my compositions for fretless classical guitar. Hopefully, they might inspire others to explore this variant of the classical guitar.
* Unfretted site dedicated to..
…and from http://dennishavlena.com/fretles.htm
Curious about what it'd be like to Play a fretless guitar, I
converted a garage-sale Crestwood nylon string guitar into a
fretless guitar in just a few minutes.
A few notes on fret removal:
I placed a small block of hardwood at the end of a fret and with a
small hammer, carefully tapped out the fret - sliding it in it's
groove. On this guitar, the frets were not glued in. If they had
been, I'd have first heated up the fret carefully with a small
soldering iron before tapping them out. The heat helps loosen the
The “proper” way to proceed would be to fill in each fret groove
with either epoxy or a thin strip of hardwood & epoxy. I intended
to do this, but after a bit of playing, decided that the fret
grooves could be left as is - unfilled. They don't in the least
affect the sliding or sound, nor do they buzz. They serve a couple
of purposes – they indicate proper finger position and can even
be slightly felt under your finger, which further helps proper
finger positioning. I'd suggest lightly sanding down the neck with
a piece of sandpaper attached to a block of wood, to take off any
irregularities around the fret grooves.
I found that slight irregularities in the fingerboard itself posed
no problem in my case. Even though my action is quite low, the
bridge height raised each string amply above the fingerboard and
thus easily compensated for these irregularities. There were no
buzzes. However, if such irregularities do prove troublesome, the
sandpaper/board method cures this easily. Just work slow and
carefully and evenly.
Nylon strings suit me fine. I have long preferred nylon for
playing blues. Nylon strings on this fretless guitar are a
“natural”. Despite the lower three being wound, they slip and
slide beautifully. The lack of frets does noticeably dampen the
string's vibration, but not at all objectionably so. The thing is
very much fun to play. One major recommendation about playing:
DON'T THINK CHORDS. While chords can be played on a fretless
guitar, it's often not pretty, nor is it easy. I find that two-
note chords are not that hard however. Also a melody note played
against an open string sounds very nice.
Given the fretless guitar is not at all unwieldy and certainly
opens up another whole ballgame in guitar playing, I am at a loss
to understand just why they are not more popular!
In a guitar “rut”? Give the fretless guitar a try.