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View Full Version : Playing UBass in ukulele group advice



Edspyhill05
07-23-2017, 06:16 AM
Hi all,

I'm getting a Kala UBass in about 2 weeks to play in my ukulele meetups.

Can you share advice about things like:

What bass playing is preferred by Ukulele groups.
Some do's and don'ts for playing with a group of ukes.
The worst experiences with a bass player, etc.

Thanks,

Ed

Rakelele
07-23-2017, 07:00 AM
Most groups should be happy they have a bass player! I think a common complaint is that the bass is too loud, supposing that you're gonna play it through an amp, since there is no way the UBass could be heard against a group of full-on strumming ukers.

kohanmike
07-23-2017, 07:17 AM
I've been playing bass uke with The CC Strummers for almost three years. I started because our leader asked if anyone would like to take up the bass to fill in our sound, we have a bout 30 to 40 players most of the time. I never played bass before, but in the almost 50 years of playing guitar before ukulele, I was often told to play bass. When I started, I took a few lessons just to understand the basics. One of the most important things the teacher taught me was the bass player keeps the tempo, everyone must follow, not the other way around. Use enough volume to make that happen, but too loud is not good too. (I once saw Jake Shimabukuro in concert and I thought his bass player was too loud.)

Not sure why you ask what is preferred or what kind, to me bass playing is bass playing, 1-5s, walk ups, walk downs. You will have to use an amplifier, don't be mis-informed that an acoustic bass will heard without one. I'm one who gets completely immersed (as my signature will attest), I bought a Phil Jones Double Four bass amp and battery. It's top notch, very compact, but there are plenty of less expensive choices.

Just feel it out when you get there. Have you told the leader? Communication is most valuable. We actually have two bass uke players, and the entire group often expresses their appreciation to us.

RichM
07-23-2017, 08:20 AM
I have found that a bass player helps ukulele groups immensely, especially those who have a lot of beginners or other players who are not used to playing with others. The bass gives the group a common reference point, and helps "fill out" the sound, which can get kind of samey with everybody strumming along.

With that being said, being the bass player is a big responsibility; everyone will be following you, so if you get it wrong, everybody's getting it wrong. You need to be rock solid. If you're not confident of that, spend some time with a metronome before you go to your group.

Have fun!

ampeep
07-23-2017, 02:34 PM
My suggestion is to listen to what the ukes & singers are doing & try to play bass lines that support them & fit the music. You can vary the amount of sustain & volume of your notes, depending on the song. Do not drown out the other instruments or vocals. If it's a slow ballad, there's no need to put in a lot of runs which would be a distraction. Agree with others that you can (along with the percussionist) lay down the beat.

Playing with unamplified ukes & vocals is different from playing bass in a rock group - in that case you don't necessarily worry about drowning other instruments out. ;)

kohanmike
07-23-2017, 08:26 PM
...being the bass player is a big responsibility; everyone will be following you, so if you get it wrong, everybody's getting it wrong. You need to be rock solid. If you're not confident of that, spend some time with a metronome before you go to your group. Have fun!
I tend to agree, but at the same don't put extra pressure on yourself. I have a very good sense if tempo, but I flub and decided I'm not going kill myself over it, just smile and keep playing.

Edspyhill05
07-24-2017, 05:21 AM
I've been playing bass uke with The CC Strummers for almost three years. I started because our leader asked if anyone would like to take up the bass to fill in our sound, we have a bout 30 to 40 players most of the time. I never played bass before, but in the almost 50 years of playing guitar before ukulele, I was often told to play bass. When I started, I took a few lessons just to understand the basics. One of the most important things the teacher taught me was the bass player keeps the tempo, everyone must follow, not the other way around. Use enough volume to make that happen, but too loud is not good too. (I once saw Jake Shimabukuro in concert and I thought his bass player was too loud.)

Not sure why you ask what is preferred or what kind, to me bass playing is bass playing, 1-5s, walk ups, walk downs. You will have to use an amplifier, don't be mis-informed that an acoustic bass will heard without one. I'm one who gets completely immersed (as my signature will attest), I bought a Phil Jones Double Four bass amp and battery. It's top notch, very compact, but there are plenty of less expensive choices.

Just feel it out when you get there. Have you told the leader? Communication is most valuable. We actually have two bass uke players, and the entire group often expresses their appreciation to us.

kohanmike,
Thank you. When I start looking at a problem, or looking for information, I start from zero with a wide open mind. I'm thinking I need to actually come up with bass lines, which should be I - IV mostly, so I'm preparing myself. I studied bass guitar years ago so can read bass clef and know my primary role is tempo and time keeper. This time I'm taking a guided approach and will seek out a teacher. Working on the studyBass.com lessons for now. The group members want a time keeper in addition to the fundamental sound the bass brings to acoustic jams.

I have an old Peavey Microbass III Transtube bass amp. Should be enough since I don't (shouldn't) place loud and shake the walls. I started researching batery powered bass amps.

Right now I'm going to create simple bass parts for a couple of songs and find YouTube recordings to try them out on. I'm in that "feel the fear, but do it anyway" mode.

Thank again,

Ed

Edspyhill05
07-24-2017, 05:29 AM
I have found that a bass player helps ukulele groups immensely, especially those who have a lot of beginners or other players who are not used to playing with others. The bass gives the group a common reference point, and helps "fill out" the sound, which can get kind of samey with everybody strumming along.

With that being said, being the bass player is a big responsibility; everyone will be following you, so if you get it wrong, everybody's getting it wrong. You need to be rock solid. If you're not confident of that, spend some time with a metronome before you go to your group.

Have fun!

RichM,

The responsibility aspect is driving me to take a more "professional" view. I do know that being the timekeeper and holding the tempo are the most important roles I will play. There are one or two people who speed up every song. That drives the leaders crazy. So keeping the tempo will be very important. Way back when I studied bass I got used to using a metronome, and came to prefer using it, even for classical guitar, and now Ukulele. (I'm amazed by how many people are afraid of the metronome.)

I'm looking forward to my first meetup with my bass - with trepidation.

Thank you,

Ed

Edspyhill05
07-24-2017, 05:34 AM
My suggestion is to listen to what the ukes & singers are doing & try to play bass lines that support them & fit the music. You can vary the amount of sustain & volume of your notes, depending on the song. Do not drown out the other instruments or vocals. If it's a slow ballad, there's no need to put in a lot of runs which would be a distraction. Agree with others that you can (along with the percussionist) lay down the beat.

Playing with unamplified ukes & vocals is different from playing bass in a rock group - in that case you don't necessarily worry about drowning other instruments out. ;)

ampeep,

Thank you. I have to try out some combo amp placements. Thinking, should I face the amp into a corner, face the speaker straight up under a table? This will be more fun than I could wish for. The universe always brings me back to bass. (Even when I played in a classical guitar orchestra, I played part IV, the low parts. Sometimes I just played bass notes on the guitar, which the leaders liked.)

Edspyhill05
07-24-2017, 05:39 AM
Most groups should be happy they have a bass player! I think a common complaint is that the bass is too loud, supposing that you're gonna play it through an amp, since there is no way the UBass could be heard against a group of full-on strumming ukers.

Rakelele,

Thanks. My current plan is to have people feel the low note,s and just hear the root note. I'm sure I'll get feedback quickly, in real time. Initially I'll be using an old Peavey MicroBass III Transtube bass amp. I'm already having GAS attacks and looking at newer amps and battery powered amps.

Thanks you,

Ed

ampeep
07-24-2017, 09:00 AM
Edspyhill05,

Appears that you already know a lot about what's expected of a bassist. As you noted, it's similar to what you were doing with a classical guitar but more effective cuz the notes are 2 octaves lower. Since the notes are a lot lower, any mistakes are not as noticeable!

I wouldn't face the speaker upwards in case someone spills a drink. Corner placement with the speaker facing the wall would emphasize the bass but you'd lose some clarity. You have the right idea of starting simple & adding more as your comfort level expands.

Your Peavey amp is more than enough unless you are playing outdoors. Surprisingly, I've been using my Blackstar Fly 3 bass pack for jams as well as gigs. The only time I had to bring my Roland Supercube Bass 60 was for an outdoor gig at the Honolulu Aquarium.

Don't be intimidated; the group will likely welcome your bass playing. ....and above all, have fun!

UkerDanno
07-25-2017, 02:59 AM
My suggestion is to listen to what the ukes & singers are doing & try to play bass lines that support them & fit the music. You can vary the amount of sustain & volume of your notes, depending on the song. Do not drown out the other instruments or vocals. If it's a slow ballad, there's no need to put in a lot of runs which would be a distraction. Agree with others that you can (along with the percussionist) lay down the beat.

Playing with unamplified ukes & vocals is different from playing bass in a rock group - in that case you don't necessarily worry about drowning other instruments out. ;)

That's pretty much what I do. I started out playing along without an amp, just to "get a feel" for how I can fit in, some players didn't even realize I had a U-bass! I mostly just play root note and fit in some 5ths along the way. I get comments that it fills out the group and people say I'm getting better, so I guess it's working out.

ampeep
07-25-2017, 12:24 PM
Fortunately, the leaders of my ukulele groups are pretty flexible so I can basically play what I feel like that day. Occasionally, I'll let everyone else start the song so I can hear what they're playing/singing. Then I'll start playing the chorus or the 2nd verse, which is an interesting change of pace. Sometimes this was inadvertent as when I had problems locating the right file in Dropbox. ;)

lfoo6952
07-27-2017, 02:36 PM
Some ukulele groups post their songbook online. If your local group does, then familiarize yourself with the songs and the key they'll be playing before you go. You'll sound like a pro! Good luck!

Edspyhill05
07-31-2017, 05:50 PM
That's pretty much what I do. I started out playing along without an amp, just to "get a feel" for how I can fit in, some players didn't even realize I had a U-bass! I mostly just play root note and fit in some 5ths along the way. I get comments that it fills out the group and people say I'm getting better, so I guess it's working out.

UkerDanno.

I like your idea of playing unamplified at first. I'll try that with the smaller group that meets on the second Tuesday of the month. That subgroup is thinking about adding some chord melody arrangements.

Thank you.

Ed

Edspyhill05
07-31-2017, 05:54 PM
Fortunately, the leaders of my ukulele groups are pretty flexible so I can basically play what I feel like that day. Occasionally, I'll let everyone else start the song so I can hear what they're playing/singing. Then I'll start playing the chorus or the 2nd verse, which is an interesting change of pace. Sometimes this was inadvertent as when I had problems locating the right file in Dropbox. ;)

I'll be interested in the feedback from the groups. One role for me will be to hit the root note and slow down the speedsters. I'll just dive in cautiously.

Thanks,

Ed

Edspyhill05
07-31-2017, 05:57 PM
Some ukulele groups post their songbook online. If your local group does, then familiarize yourself with the songs and the key they'll be playing before you go. You'll sound like a pro! Good luck!

lfoo6952,

Ours sends out links to the song books being used for each jam. I was printing them out but the song lists are very similar and just the order changes. Now I use my iPad. Just bought a bluetooth page turner. Not using so much paper and toner.

Thanks,

Ed

ampeep
09-11-2017, 05:39 PM
Ed, have you played with your group yet? If so, an curious about how it went.

UkerDanno, can your U-bass be heard unamped?

UkerDanno
09-12-2017, 05:17 AM
UkerDanno, can your U-bass be heard unamped?

Only by me or maybe someone sitting right next to me. I could easily practice without an amp...