Bass size to go with ukuleles

UkingViking

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Hi forum,

Considering adding a bass to the collection of instruments that I have but only try to learn playing from youtube toturials and stuff.
I never played a bass before, but I have a guitar and have a few times added "bass" lines to ukulele recordings from the guitar. I am hoping that if I go for totally simple bass lines, it should not be too hard to get started. Am I too optimistic? :)

Fretless is out of the question, since my skills are not there, and I want something I can get just a bit out from without too steep a learning curve. From sound samples they sound the best, but thats just too bad.

I would prefer to record stuff with my USB microphone, and I am thinking acoustic bass guitar. But which size?

I'm leaning towards a jumbo long scale bass, thinking that though you cannot hear them acoustically through a strummed guitar, perhaps you can hear them through ukuleles or with singing. Just in case I would ever find myself in a group.

Shortscale basses tend to have a mellower sound though, that I kind og prefer. Does anyone know the difference in volume between shortscale and longscale basses?

And in this forum I'm sure U-basses will be suggested, but will they even be good to record with a microphone?
 

KohanMike

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In my experience over the last 7 years playing bass uke/mini bass guitar with my uke group, a bass needs to be amplified when playing with others or recorded, even bigger acoustic basses. I have 30 acoustic and solid body with both piezo and magnetic pickups, plus a very small portable amp, everyday portable shoebox amp, and larger two cabinet 250w amp for big gigs. I record bass directly into my computer with a USB mixer, not a mic, to get the full sound of the bass.

Bass Collection.jpg



This is Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly Grove near the Beverly Center
9 tenor cutaway ukes, 4 acoustic bass ukes, 12 solid body bass ukes, 14 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 39)

Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
Member The CC Strummers: www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/video, www.facebook.com/TheCCStrummers
 

UkingViking

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Based on the first couple of replys, I an leaning towards dropping the bass idea completely, and just record any needed bass line an octave too high on my guitar. The low notes are perfectly audible played on a guitar.

I know that the idea of anything other than a double bass or washtub bass being audible in a band context is a myth, i read enough about it online.

But then again, I read that the old Guild bass guitar models were really huge, and could somehow be heard among guitars. Perhaps if the guitars are are picked rather than strummed.
These vintage basses are naturally very high prized.
So I just thought, perhaps the biggest modern day jumbo bass guitars would still be audible next to ukuleles, since ukuleles are not as loud as guitars.
I was thinking something like this https://www.thomann.de/dk/guild_b_140e_nat_westerly.htm

I don't need it to fill a large room with sound, I just need to hear it for myself when practicing, for mic recording, and preferably in a quiet jazz arrangement with ukuleles and crooning vocals.

But I guess its a lost cause.
 

UkingViking

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In this demo a short scale bass is played along a guitar, pretty audible, and they claim that there is no amplification. Yeah, he is playing the guitar quietly, but are they faking it?

http://https://youtu.be/kbjR1VTEVgQ

That taylor bass should come with wound nylon strings. I wonder if that makes them deteriorate like classical guitar strings, but it sounds easy on the fingers.

My dilemma before posting was that I prefer the sound of the Taylor but I want some unamplified volume, and believe the Guild to be louder.
 
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Croaky Keith

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Maybe try a baritone with bass strings(?) - you can usually hear a bari against regular ukes, so maybe that would work.
 

Arcy

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Baritone with bass strings is a bass and will sound like a U-Bass - the problem is that low notes need high volume to get volume (there's physics behind an upright being so large). Tuning an octave up as a piccolo bass will be similar to playing the baseline on the guitar.

That said, even small acoustic basses have some acoustic volume. Certainly plenty enough to hear yourself practice, and with appropriate strings (wound strings are much louder than rubber strings) enough to hang with a couple of instruments played softly.

I usually play my GoldTone MicroBass 25 (about the same size as that Taylor and much smaller than a full-scale ABG) with Thunderguts unplugged for practice and have used a mic to record with no problem. I amplify for the full uke group, but have played acoustically with a handful of ukes in close proximity (pre-social distancing!). A full size ABG with steel strings would be much better at that.

I don't need it to fill a large room with sound, I just need to hear it for myself when practicing, for mic recording, and preferably in a quiet jazz arrangement with ukuleles and crooning vocals.
I expect you're well within the limits of an ABG here. You'll get drowned out by a rock drummer or a bluegrass banjo, but a jazz guitarist who is trying to play with you shouldn't be a problem.
 

Croaky Keith

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Baritone with bass strings is a bass and will sound like a U-Bass

Yes, I was just thinking that if it didn't work out well, he'd still have a baritone added to his collection.... :)
 

dwizum

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Keith - I think that's a noble idea but I'm not sure it would play out. You won't be able to put the way-oversized bass strings on a typical baritone bridge without irreversible modifications. Probably a better idea would be to buy a recognizable and respected name brand u-bass on the used market. Then if you try it and don't like it, you can sell it along, and probably break even or come close.

I agree with Arcy though - I think you're within the realm of what's possible on most common full sized ABGs. They're certainly loud enough to hear when played solo in your home for practice (loud enough even to bother others trying to do quiet activities within a room or two away!) Played with a uke or two it'll be fine as long as you're not playing with very aggressive ukers playing on very loud instruments. Trying to overcome a few full sized guitars in a noisy coffee house is one thing. Playing with a uke or two in a quiet room has much less demanding requirements.

Of course, just playing on an acoustic guitar, an octave up, is fine too. Especially if the uke players you're working with are all tuned re-entrant - the lower notes on the guitar will be easily distinguished from the ukes and will sound like a natural bass line. If you go that route, and you have an amp, you can always add an octave pedal to get it in the "right" octave.

And there are probably a host of other great ideas, too. You could find a tenor guitar and string it with heavy strings, then tune down from typical tenor guitar tuning to end up with a piccolo bass style instrument, tuned somewhere lower than guitar but higher than bass. Most tenors have bigger bodies than a typical u-bass so you'll get more volume. That would be a great compromise in terms of getting low-ish notes without needing a huge body size.
 

turf3

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Bass player here.

You've got three options.

1) Acoustic bass guitar will be just loud enough to project with a couple ukes. Fortunately one of the cheapest (Dean EAB or EABC) is also one of the loudest. I own one of these but rarely use it, preferring...

2) Upright bass. Not for the dilettante, though. Expensive and takes time to learn how to play. Best sound by a mile, though. Also troublesome to cart around and store - huge. On occasions when it's not practical, then, I use...

3) A Squier P Bass (it's so cheap you don't even get the "recision") with flat wound strings, a piece of foam rubber under the strings at the bridge, a good setup, and a 15W practice amp. This will run you something like $300 or $400. It occupies the same acoustic space as an upright and it can get as loud as you need. I prefer the upright, but it's not a bad choice.

Frankly the ABG is my last choice of the three options.
 

UkingViking

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Thanks for the advice everybody.

I know that ABGs are not known for being the reasonable choice, but I still fancy one. Even though I dont expect to learn it very well. But like some people collect ukuleles in more numbers than me without playing them all very often, collecting a variety of different instruments can not be worse can it?. The reasonable choice for me would be to stick to my guitar, but I like some more gear :)

I would wish I had the ears to learn fretless, but not going to happen. So double bass is out of the question.
I researched strings a little bit on youtube, and I think I am going to end up buying a big ABG, and put some half rounds on it for a more mellow sound. That way the advantages of the shorter scales will be compensated for. I saw a youtube demo of normal round wounds vs flat wounds vs taped vs half rounds on the same ABG, and the half rounds sounded the best by far. It was an Emerald carbon fiber bass, but I guess it works on wood as well.
 
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UkingViking

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I pulled the trigger on a huge ABG, an early Christmas present for myself :)

Lets see if I can manage to learn playing it.
 

UkingViking

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What kind?

The 34" Guild i linked to. Not the cheapest first bass, but I figured a nicer one would entice me to play more.
I hope I will like the sound. I bought some half round strings too, I would like to mellow it up/ focus the sound a bit.
 

mjh42

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You could try something made by TOM RIBBECKE.

Likely not a low budget item.

Still might need to be plugged in.

Wonderful luthier for sure.
 

UkingViking

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Nice to see more the post is still getting attention :)

My 34" ABG arrived a week or two ago. I havent played it enough, but hope to find time to record a bass/uke recording for the Seasons of The Ukulele thread during this week.

This thread was mostly to hear opinions on the un-amplified volume of ABG's with scale lengths approx 22", 32" and 34", and if any of those would have enough volume for a quiet uke session.

This far I like the volume of my bass ok. It is definately more audibly in a more reverberant room, in the basement where I usually play it is a bit more quiet. I havent changed the strings yet. Changing to half round will probably take off some volume, but give a more focused sound.
 

electrocio

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So I actually went the other way with my accoustic bass I got some Rotosound TruBass (nylon tape wound) strings to put on my Dean playmates (I got a fretted and an frettless) I really love the sound of these strings! I pluck the hell out them for volume and I feel they still sound Great.