Kala U Bass should it be considered as a Ukulele

Jag-Stang

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I am familiar with the story when Owen Holt teamed up with Kala to produce the first commercial Bass Ukulele. In 2009 Kala showed the first U Bass at NAMM (pictured below) It seems these instruments have caught on and
now I am hearing that these are considered Bass ukuleles. I am uncertain if in fact this is because Kala has become a well known producer of Ukuleles and this is simply a marketing ploy or if those of us interested in the Ukulele have accepted this hi-bred as a bass ukulele. It is even more confusing as all of the Kala U basses have
on board electronics so they are either acoustic/electric instruments or they are solid body electric instruments.
The short scale and size permits these U basses to be tuned like a regular bass E-A-D-G. I am uncertain if these U Basses should even be considered as part of the Ukulele family. As one who has been a guitarist for a long time and as I own an electric fretless bass that rarely gets played unless my bass playing friends stop by, I sort of think the the U bass is just a miniature bass and really has no connection to a Ukulele. The only connection I see is that both have four strings and as the bass has been around for a long time for me the U bass is simply a mini bass and I can’t wrap my head around the idea that this is a Ukulele. I own a Cordoba mini
from the first generation of minis produced by Cordoba and it is clear that this is a classical guitar neck placed on a small body. Cordoba never marketed the mini as a 6 string Ukulele, by the way I have found these first generation mini’s to be ideal instruments for kids to learn the guitar on. They are a comfortable size the fretboards are wide making fingering easy as string spacing is plentiful, and the nylon strings are easier on the fingers of children than steel strings.
The U bass is also close in size to a baritone Ukulele in fact the length of a Baritone Ukulele is generally
between 28-30 inches and a U Bass is 30 inches . I like the U bass I am just not certain it is really a Ukulele. I would like to hear other thoughts and comments. I suppose as the U Bass started out as an electric/accoustic instrument that may be why it is confusing to me. All of the others in the Ukulele family started out as acoustic instruments.
 

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Arcy

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Is a hotdog a sandwich?

Can you come up with a definition of a ukulele that excludes a bass ukulele but includes everything you think should be called a ukulele?

Pro: it looks like a uke, is shaped like a uke, you can bring one to a uke group and most people won’t bat an eye.

Con; it’s not played like a uke. If you bring it to a uke lesson you’ll get very confused and probably get some side-eye.
 

ripock

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The ukulele is the only stringed instrument I have ever played, so if I can play it...then it is a ukulele. I would just down-tune the 2 treble strings a half step and get EAC#F# and then all my ukulele chord shapes will work. So, yeah, I'd consider it a uke, albeit not a uke with that traditional timbre of a guitar being plucked between the bridge and the tail-piece. But a uke nonetheless.
 

Knows Picker

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I think I can help muddy the waters a bit.

Sure, I play the ukulele, also the banjo ukulele. Is that still a ukulele?

Now what if we stretch that scale length out to about 20 inches, add a full size 11 inch banjo pot, but keep the tuning the same and keep the nylon strings.

Ukulele?

If yes, then I could retune to a typical tenor banjo tuning, CGDA. Still a ukulele?

People say to me all the time, "Gosh, I didn't know you could play the banjo too!"
 

Knows Picker

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What about this case:

A vintage banjo-mandolin from the 1920s.

13.75 inch scale on a ten inch pot.

Set up with only four strings, tuned gCEA.

Banjo? Ukulele?
 

Wiggy

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It is a bass that is complementary to the ukulele. But it is still a bass.

The Ford Model A and Volkswagon "Bug" immediately came to mind. The basic design was a palette for the creative artist with the results being named; hot rod, tractor, roadster, rat rod, dune buggy, etc.

Kala wisely called it a U-Bass.

<edit> The name U-bass, like Kleenex is a registered trademark.
However, Kleenex is popularly used when referring to any similar product.
 
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Jim Hanks

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there's really no debate about the U-Bass. It's a bass. It is not a ukulele. Calling it a "bass ukulele" is pure marketing as those who are interested in "little guitars" might also be interested in "little basses"
 

merlin666

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Is a hotdog a sandwich?

Can you come up with a definition of a ukulele that excludes a bass ukulele but includes everything you think should be called a ukulele?

Pro: it looks like a uke, is shaped like a uke, you can bring one to a uke group and most people won’t bat an eye.

Con; it’s not played like a uke. If you bring it to a uke lesson you’ll get very confused and probably get some side-eye.
Yup, and that's why it's not a ukulele but a u-bass, which for me is a good label. And when we had a u-bass player in the uke group he could also blend in quite nicely, sometimes better than the baritone players (with their partial mini guitars).
 

mimmo

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Is it the guilele an ukulele or a guitar? The name simply remember us -for a merely marketing strategy- that its dimension is those of a (tenor) ukulele. Despite the fact that it is tuned in A, this instrument has 6 strings arranged with the same intervals of acommon guitar. So it is not an ukulele; just the dimension recall it. it is a small guitar tuned higher. Guitars sometime had different tunings than the standard, The Terz guitar in G for example and it was smaller. Even the guitar in B, that is bigger is another example.
U bass: the fact to call it bass ukulele is a marketing strategy organized by a brand famous because produce ukuleles only. The tuning is those of a real bass so this is a short bass. The only link to the ukulele is the fact that it is small and for the fact that it was interest of Kala to link it with the rest of the production; i.e. ukuleles.
Mimmo
 
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Wiggy

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Yup, and that's why it's not a ukulele but a u-bass, which for me is a good label. And when we had a u-bass player in the uke group he could also blend in quite nicely, sometimes better than the baritone players (with their partial mini guitars).
Yes, baritone ukuleles [their choice of name is similar to this topic] are considerably louder than S-C-T ukuleles and can drown them out. Orchestrally, they would be placed toward the back row.

A bass naturally does not compete frequency-wise with ukuleles. Its tone and volume can be adjusted to blend in.

<edit> Please don't take offense to my remark about baritone ukuleles.
I own 2 baritones and enjoy playing them. They sound like a tenor guitar, or a small classical guitar without the 2 bass strings.
 

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Jim Yates

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No, U-Bass and guitaleles are not ukuleles, but they are closely related.
A U-bass is played like a bass and a bass player would have less trouble adapting to a U-bass than a ukulele player would.
Similarly, a guitalele is clser to a guitar than to a ukulele. It would be much easier for a guitar player to play a guitalele than a ukulele player. Any guitar player who has used a capo on the fifth fret has essentially already played a guitalele.
 
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UkeOkay

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To me, the things that make a bass ukulele unique are the thick, rubbery strings, the pizeo-pickup, and the ukulele style body. Of course, technology has advanced and lines have been blurred since the original came out, but this is a good starting point. It does deserve a unique name.

The first (commercially mass produced) ukuleles were likely all koa sopranos with gut strings tuned to reentrant high A. An all solid tenor, tuned to Low G and piped through an amp is only similar in that it has four strings, but we are all happy to call it a ukulele.

Where was the original uke bass invented? All I have is a name, Owen Holt.
 

KohanMike

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I only use the term U-bass when I talk about Kala instruments, otherwise I use bass uke because of the size. I put it in the ukulele family because it has a piezo pickup rather than magnetic pickups. I've had short scale solid body guitars converted to a bass and call those mini bass.

Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly Grove near the Beverly Center
4 tenor thinline cutaway ukes, 3 thinline acoustic bass ukes, 5 solid body bass ukes
•Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
•Member Cali Rose & The CC Strummers: www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/video, www.facebook.com/TheCCStrummers
 

Paul1973UK

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I think I can help muddy the waters a bit.

Sure, I play the ukulele, also the banjo ukulele. Is that still a ukulele?

Now what if we stretch that scale length out to about 20 inches, add a full size 11 inch banjo pot, but keep the tuning the same and keep the nylon strings.

Ukulele?

If yes, then I could retune to a typical tenor banjo tuning, CGDA. Still a ukulele?

People say to me all the time, "Gosh, I didn't know you could play the banjo too!"
In my humble opinion... YES, the banjo ukulele (banjolele) is still a ukulele... the clue is in the name! But I am biased as i own 12 banjolele's compared to only 7 'traditional' uke's, a 'Flying V' uke, a homemade 'Risa' style travel uke, and a banjolin (I bought thinking it was an 8 string banjolele only to find out later it was an 8 string banjo mandolin hybrid thingy)
 

John Colter

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For me, it is quite simple. A small four string bass is a bass. A small four string banjo is a banjo.
 

Joe King

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Aquila has a smaller-bodied acoustic bass, with a 23.6" (60cm) scale length, that uses the poly-rubber strings, and they have named this instrument "Short Bass-One".

I remember it was released as a product about five years ago.

They did not call it a "uke bass", nor "U-Bass", maybe to avoid a lawsuit, and also maybe to differentiate it from Kala or other (less expensive, China-made and owned) brands that have essentially copied the Owen Holt/Kala original/official products.


The Aquila product has a shorter scale than the Ibanez Mikro Bass, which is 726mm/28.6" according to this product page:


other models here:


However, these Mikro Bass models use steel strings and magnetic pickups, which is far away from the instrument normally classified as ukulele.

But I digress...so sorry. I was noodling on one of these Mikro Basses at a pawn shop last week, so they are still in my mind. I did not buy it. Maybe one day...
 

Paul1973UK

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For me, it is quite simple. A small four string bass is a bass. A small four string banjo is a banjo.
With respect to yourself... even if its got ukulele, uke or lele in the name? (excluding guitalele 'cos that's just a tiny guitar)
A ukulele banjo (banjolele) has the same scale lengths and is tuned and played the same as a ukulele, not a banjo.
We shouldn't be 'body shaming' just because it looks different, or we'd be shunning Flying V ukes, pineapples, cut-aways, Risa's, electric ukes modelled on strat/tele guitars, or those who's soundhole isnt in the conventional place ect. ect.
 

Cluze

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I like the U bass I am just not certain it is really a Ukulele.

I know that you are trying to get the thoughts of others, but my thoughts are this: does it matter? If you like it, and you enjoy making music with it, then does it matter what it is called? A rose by any other name smells just as sweet.

For myself, I am happy to include the U-bass (and the non-Kala equivalents) as "bass ukuleles." Here is my logic-train:
1. I think we can all agree that the four stringed, re-entrant tuned instrument that was adapted from the machete (and similar instruments) brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants in the 1800's is a ukulele.
2. The tuning of that style of instrument has changed over the decades, so while gCEA is quite common now, other tunings exist and some are quite popular (including aDF#B and non-reentrant GCEA.)
3. Several sizes have evolved from the original (now called soprano) including larger sizes (concert, tenor) and smaller (sopranissimo and the like.)
4. 5-string, 6-string, and even 8-string ukuleles do exist, and are still ukuleles.
5. The baritone ukulele, while straddling the line between guitar and ukulele is still considered an ukulele. It has four strings, but is still smaller than a typical guitar.
6. A bass ukulele is simply the same idea as a baritone ukulele, but now we are straddling the line between a ukulele and a bass. It is still smaller than a normal bass, so I think it still falls safely in ukulele territory.

Then again, I tend to think of guitars as "oversized 6-string baritones" so I might not be the best person to ask...