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View Full Version : Second thought sabout the U-Bass



bassfiddlesteve
12-26-2010, 03:19 PM
As a uke playing bassist (or am I a bass playing uke-ist?) the U-Bass seemed like a natural fit. It's worked really well for uke club jam sessions and open mics but now I'm having some second thoughts about it:

1) Since it's bascially an electric instrument, why not just bring one of my electric basses? The U-Bass is certainly of no use without an amp, so it's really no more portable than the acoustic bass guitar (ABG) I sold to finance it. At least the ABG could hold it's own in purely acoustic situations.

2) I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, the U-bass looks a little silly.

The Barnkickers will be playing some out of town shows next year and I was planning to use the U-bass since an upright bass will not be available. Now I'm wondering if an ABG or a plain old electric bass would be better. Thoughts? Opinions?

- Steve

JT_Ukes
12-26-2010, 03:24 PM
As a uke playing bassist (or am I a bass playing uke-ist?) the U-Bass seemed like a natural fit. It's worked really well for uke club jam sessions and open mics but now I'm having some second thoughts about it:

1) Since it's bascially an electric instrument, why not just bring one of my electric basses? The U-Bass is certainly of no use without an amp, so it's really no more portable than the acoustic bass guitar (ABG) I sold to finance it. At least the ABG could hold it's own in purely acoustic situations.

2) I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, the U-bass looks a little silly.

The Barnkickers will be playing some out of town shows next year and I was planning to use the U-bass since an upright bass will not be available. Now I'm wondering if an ABG or a plain old electric bass would be better. Thoughts? Opinions?

- Steve

Depends I guess.. if you are going to be amped anyway Say at a live perfomance on a bar stage, the u-bass would save some room on stage and in traveling, but if room isn't a problem IE: recording studio, then it really wouldn't matter.

situational decision. of coudse if you are looking at creating an All Ukulele band, then you'd need the u-bass.

UncleElvis
12-26-2010, 03:52 PM
I just got one (Thanks, Mim!) and I have to say, for me, it's the sloppiness of the sound of the UBass that I like.
I can't speak to your ABG, but those thick, nasty strings just make me so happy, especially when combined with the relative brightness of the ukulele.

As for silly looking...

um... YEAH! *grin*

That's one of the reasons to get it, innit?

I guess my thoughts on it are...

It depends on your taste in sounds. If you dig the sound of the UBass, then it works.
If you prefer your UBG, go with that.

Fortunately, should you wish to resell it, you should be able to get a good price for it.

cb56
12-26-2010, 04:18 PM
I use mine in an all ukulele band so that's one reason I own it. BUT the tone really is far superior to an electric bass or ABG (IMO) for the all uke setting

bassfiddlesteve
12-26-2010, 04:30 PM
the tone really is far superior to an electric bass or ABG (IMO) for the all uke setting

I agree that the amplified tone is excellent, far better than any ABG I've ever heard. I can get a similar tone with my Fender Precision Bass which is strung with old LaBella flatwounds, especially if I stick a piece of foam under strings next to the bridge. That's really my favorite electric bass tone...old school all the way.

- Steve

Maybe this thread should be moved to the "Bass" section?

Hippie Dribble
12-26-2010, 04:56 PM
as far as bass sounds go, it's upright bass all the way for me. Sits beautifully in any uke based arrangement. Not as portable of course, but such a smooth and classy sound.

OldePhart
12-26-2010, 05:25 PM
I have a UBASS which I bought because my wrist/hand was giving me trouble when playing my 5 string. I've gone back to using the 5-string most of the time, though, because the UBASS falls short (pun not intended, but pretty funny) in two areas that are very important to me. First, it is very difficult to do long slides smoothly - fingers want to stick to the strings and the longer I play the worse it gets. Second, it has N O S U S T A I N. Seriously, I tried running it through two different compressors, then two compressors together, trying to get decent sustain out of it for slow pieces and there just ain't any to be had.

I'm still glad I've got it, but I'm also very glad I didn't sell the five string!

Realistically, I'll probably end up using both depending on what I'm playing. When I need the five string rumble or good sustain I'll use the Conklin GT5 and when I am playing something that requires a long stretch that tears up my wrist I'll switch to the UBASS.

John

Chris Tarman
12-26-2010, 05:36 PM
I agree that the amplified tone is excellent, far better than any ABG I've ever heard. I can get a similar tone with my Fender Precision Bass which is strung with old LaBella flatwounds, especially if I stick a piece of foam under strings next to the bridge. That's really my favorite electric bass tone...old school all the way.

- Steve

Maybe this thread should be moved to the "Bass" section?

Man, there's nothing quite like the sound of a foam-muted P-bass with old LaBella flatwounds, is there? Total Jamerson!

Chris Tarman
12-26-2010, 05:44 PM
Speaking of upright tone, I made this today with GarageBand to lay down the bass and backing uke track, over which I improvised a lead while I videoed it. The bass is this very funky old short scale fretless violin-shaped Univox. It has the black tapewound LaBella flats on it. I used to have a foam mute, but I don't know what happened to it (although it MIGHT be in the case in the basement). I've always thought it sounded crappy live, but hearing it on this recording is making me rethink that!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95DHRYoNxEs
I've played around with a couple of UBasses in shops, and I think they have a good upright tone, but I can't decide if they'd be very useful live. I can see using them in an all-uke group, or just as something different. I have to admit, I'm the kind of guy who ALWAYS gigs with at least 2 basses, and more if I can get away with it. I totally believe in having the right tone for the song, and for me that means multiple basses. So, I could sort of see using a UBass, possibly. At least it would get people looking to see what the heck you were playing on!

bassfiddlesteve
12-26-2010, 05:57 PM
as far as bass sounds go, it's upright bass all the way for me. Sits beautifully in any uke based arrangement. Not as portable of course, but such a smooth and classy sound.

I used to bring my upright bass to the Tampa Bay Ukulele Society jam sessions, but that got old as I am the leader of this group and I have so much other stuff to carry. I always use my upright bass when my daughter Amanda and I perform as The Barnkickers, but that's just not practical when we play out of town. We borrowed an upright bass when we performed in Texas earlier this year, but getting around with it proved to be a bit of a hassle and to top things off, one of the tuning machines broke just before the concert! I wound up playing it with only three strings. Now that's old school! One of the reasons I bought the U-Bass was that it fit the look and sound of what we do better than any other more "portable" bass instrument. I suppose that's still the case.

- Steve

southcoastukes
12-26-2010, 07:54 PM
I hesitated a bit on joining in here. I have no experience with a bass, and this experimental instrument has not been played yet by a true bass player who could give me an adequate opinion of it's worth (although a couple of them are "on their way").

If this indeed turns out to be something a bass player would want to play, then I would say we have a true Bass Ukulele. It is not amplified, uses flat wound strings, and is tuned an octave higher than a true bass.

It is actually listed on our website as a "Sold" instrument, but it is not sold - still "under evaluation", and not yet for sale. Here are the photos:

http://www.southcoastukes.com/index_files/caraocuatro.htm

Body and scale are both slight larger than the standard baritone ukulele.

Would much appreciate the reactions of UU bass players on an intrument like this.

ADD
12-26-2010, 08:58 PM
Wow, beautiful looking instrument that you call a Cuatro. I didn't realize a cuatro was a bass instrument. Anxious to hear what an experienced bass player thinks. Never played bass in my life, but got a U-Bass to hopefully learn and be able to fill in when our uke club bass player (by profession, who thoroughly enjoys his U-Bass sent to him for review) is out of town.

southcoastukes
12-26-2010, 09:11 PM
Well, even the description is a bit "experimental". We called it a "Short Scale Cuatro". No, you are right - a true Cuatro Venezolano is not a bass instrument, but our Cuatro has a body (as mentioned above) that is a bit bigger than a standard baritone. We thought that size, and more importantly, that depth, might work as a bass instrument.

We shortened the scale to make the flat wound strings work. To me, it sounds really nice, but as I mentioned, the next step is to get some feedback from a true bass player.

ADD
12-26-2010, 09:56 PM
Thanks for your response. How about posting a video. Would love to hear it. There are bound to be lots of bass players in Louisiana willing to help. You are not far from New Orleans, are you?

Pippin
12-27-2010, 12:58 AM
Steve, when I bought my Hofner bass, one of the reasons was that many professional reviewers said that it is the closest thing to the sound of a string bass of any other bass guitar. When I started recording with it, I had to agree. What a great sound.

Here is an MP3 of the Irish pub tune, Jug O' Punch with the Hofner...
http://www.tricornpublications.com/music/jug_of_punch.mp3

That is a 192 bit MP3 file, so it might take a little longer to download.

ichadwick
12-27-2010, 02:43 AM
I have a U-bass (it's up for sale if anyone wants one). I like the fat sound, although I find the output a little unbalanced. My biggest problem with the instrument is having to work closely with my fingering because I find the fat strings tend to roll under my fingers. A more precise placement is required and sometimes sliding is mucky. But it really got me interested in re-learning to play the bass (played on many decades ago). I have a thread in the guitar/bass zone about alternate basses I'm looking into. So far my choices are Kona Walking Bass, Dean Pace electric, and Stagg 2/4 scale electric upright.

southcoastukes
12-27-2010, 04:19 AM
Hello ADD,

Yes we are more or less in the New Orleans area (just across Lake Ponchartrain from the city), and yes, we have some excellent bass players around. A couple of the best should take a turn or two on this instrument sometime soon.

If they like it, we will then attempt a video. Videos are also something "experimental" for us, so we'll see how that turns out.

WS64
12-27-2010, 06:39 AM
I actually hate the electric sound of the UBass. It just sounds like Piezo.
For all my recordings I play the UBass unplugged and record it directly with my Zoom, that way it sounds WAY better. (example: here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVhHsqX2EQA))

But the alternative since you need an amp is clearly the Ashbory which sounds much better amplified than the UBass (example: here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fe_TSwZouZc)) and is even smaller than the Ubass.

Howlin Hobbit
12-27-2010, 09:50 AM
...really got me interested in re-learning to play the bass. . .So far my choices are Kona Walking Bass, Dean Pace electric, and Stagg 2/4 scale electric upright.
Funny you should mention the Stagg EUB (http://www.americanmusical.com/Item--i-EMD-EDB34-LIST). I've just stumbled across it in the last week and did some research on it.

For the same price as the fretless mahogany UBass, you can get the Stagg. It's about the same length as a 3/4 scale bass guitar but considerably thinner and lighter.

Yes, it is a beginner-level instrument at this price point. Expect to tweak it here and there for optimum sound. Luckily, there's a huge meta-thread on talkbass.com (http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=344951) (stretching back to 2007!) that, amongst the pros & cons, details the tweaks needed and, to some extent, the updates that Stagg has made to improve on initial complaints.

I'm drooling a lot looking at the picture of the Stagg but luckily can't really afford to drop that much moolah, reasonable as it is for the instrument.


...since you need an amp is clearly the Ashbory which sounds much better amplified than the UBass (example: here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fe_TSwZouZc)) and is even smaller than the Ubass.
But don't you have to powder your fingers because of the sticky strings? Or have they changed since I last noodled around on an Ashbory?

WS64
12-27-2010, 10:33 AM
But don't you have to powder your fingers because of the sticky strings? Or have they changed since I last noodled around on an Ashbory?

I never used (or even saw) the original white strings that were on the Ashbory and which I guess need powdering.
When I bought my Ashbory used a few years ago the same Owen Toad Music strings were on it as are now on the Kala UBass.

musicmonsterw
12-27-2010, 10:34 AM
I actually hate the electric sound of the UBass. It just sounds like Piezo.
For all my recordings I play the UBass unplugged and record it directly with my Zoom, that way it sounds WAY better. (example: here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVhHsqX2EQA))

But the alternative since you need an amp is clearly the Ashbory which sounds much better amplified than the UBass (example: here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fe_TSwZouZc)) and is even smaller than the Ubass.

Thanks for these examples.

ADD
12-27-2010, 06:18 PM
Hello ADD,

Yes we are more or less in the New Orleans area (just across Lake Ponchartrain from the city), and yes, we have some excellent bass players around. A couple of the best should take a turn or two on this instrument sometime soon.

If they like it, we will then attempt a video. Videos are also something "experimental" for us, so we'll see how that turns out.

Sounds like a plan. Looking forward to your "experimental" videos. I'm trying to figure that part out myself. Thanks again.

UkeNukem
01-21-2011, 05:38 AM
Late post on this, I just saw it. My situation is a little different, I am a guitarist that dabbles in ukulele. I picked up a concert and took to it with ease. I also have "played" bass off and on and the guys I jam with at present each have some sort of electric bass so we switch around for giggles.

I happened to play a UBass because I got into a Uke Meetup that was meeting on Wednesday evenings (which I work) that moved to Tuesdays. I showed up and the leader pulls out a new Ubass and says "Can you play this?" since I knew what it was and that it was tuned like BG I said "No Problem!" After one tune everyone looks at me and the leader says "We have ourselves a bass player for this Sunday's open mic!" ACK!

Anyway, that gig went very well, I played three tunes on the UBass with only about an hour of practice the Tuesday before. But, I just loved the thing! Easy to finger, frets, whole scales available at whatever fret I wished. I figered this was it, I didn't even have to buy it!

Then the worst thing then happened, they changed the meetup back to Wednesday nights! My short lived career as a semi-semi-semi professional Ubassist was over. Now I had to get one of my own. Big problem - $400. My youngest daughter has her wedding early January, lots of new debt.

Now I'm in process to convert a cheapo baritone uke to bass (I won't ever refer to my creation as a UBass, that would be an insult to Kala). I'm hoping to swing it for just over $100. Also, I read on the Largesound Ashbory forum that many Ashbory Basists are moving to the Pahoehoe strings and using fingerEase against the stickiness.

We shall see . . .

Ukulele Jim
01-21-2011, 06:16 AM
How can you not love this thing??


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9k-8cyUtMJo&feature=player_embedded

Dougf
01-21-2011, 06:46 AM
I've posted this to "videos and links" and to the bass forum, but if you haven't seen it, check it out, especially the 30 seconds or so starting at 2:27. He also does some pretty interesting things with overtones toward the end. If I really thought I might ever play like that, I'd get a UBass yesterday!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liM2bUUK_TE


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liM2bUUK_TE

musicmonsterw
01-21-2011, 07:35 AM
I've posted this to "videos and links" and to the bass forum, but if you haven't seen it, check it out, especially the 30 seconds or so starting at 2:27. He also does some pretty interesting things with overtones toward the end. If I really thought I might ever play like that, I'd get a UBass yesterday!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liM2bUUK_TE


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liM2bUUK_TE

I might have to get one of these!

marymac
01-21-2011, 08:52 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liM2bUUK_TE

Boy, he makes that look so easy. On the other hand, I've found that it's pretty easy to sound good on the ubass. I wasn't sure what to expect since I've never played a bass before but just playing the ubass makes you sound (and feel) cool. A good friend of mine said they should ship these things with sunglasses so you can have the whole coolness factor in a single box.

ukestang
01-21-2011, 01:16 PM
I'm convinced, haven't played bass in a while but used to love it. Going to order a U Bass tonight.

Dougf
01-21-2011, 02:06 PM
Don't know if you could pick it up from the clip (the background noise is pretty bad), but the UBass he is playing is the fretless, which seems to be his preference.

bassfiddlesteve
01-29-2011, 07:24 PM
BTW I take back everything I said in the original post :o I've fallen back in love with the U-Bass. I had a lot of fun playing it at the last Tampa Bay Ukulele Society open mic. I plugged it directly into my PA system and many people commented on how good it sounded.

- Steve

pdxuke
01-29-2011, 07:46 PM
How can you not love this thing??


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9k-8cyUtMJo&feature=player_embedded

I am in love. I used to play a Fender bass in the 60s. makes me want one. I love the sound!

ADD
01-30-2011, 03:36 PM
BTW I take back everything I said in the original post :o I've fallen back in love with the U-Bass. I had a lot of fun playing it at the last Tampa Bay Ukulele Society open mic. I plugged it directly into my PA system and many people commented on how good it sounded.

- Steve

Yeah!! Good to hear it from a real bass player.

Gillian
01-30-2011, 05:35 PM
One of my local music shops is selling a spruce top for $339. I wanted to buy it and I don't even know how to play the bass!

ADD
01-30-2011, 06:34 PM
You can always learn!

haole
01-31-2011, 06:12 AM
Glad you could rekindle your romance with the U-Bass, Steve! It really is a neat instrument. I have one on order from MGM that should arrive today, and I'm super pumped.