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  #1  
Old 08-04-2022, 09:47 PM
Pine Cone Pine Cone is online now
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Default Any Uke Bass fans out there?

Sweetwater and a great deal on a demo Kala Uke bass this weekend so I sprung for it.

Anyone out there with u-bass experience? Any advice? Setup tips? Amp recomendations?

I play old time banjo and guitar & Americana roots music and often wish for a bass player, so I thought getting a u-bass would at least give me a better reference to talk to a real bass player about the sounds I wanted. In a perfect world I could lay down my own bass tracks.

Anyone willing to suggest some resources for learning how to play bluegrass/old time/roots Americana bass?
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Old 08-05-2022, 08:18 AM
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I have said before, when people ask about acoustic basses, acoustic basses are really toys that look like real instruments, whereas Uke basses look like toys, but they are real instruments that have an important niche to fill.

While nothing has the presence of a true upright bass, a Uke bass can approximate the sound of an upright bass, especially if you find a fret less Uke bass. There is something about the strings that just give a fat, thumpy tone. I have seen them used effectively in bluegrass bands.

Obviously they need to be plugged in. I have seen people use little bass cubes as amps (especially battery powered cubes for outdoor gigs), but I would recommend a Fender Rumble. They are great amps that don’t cost a fortune and are super light and portable.
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Old 08-05-2022, 08:32 AM
FrankHudson FrankHudson is offline
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My introduction to this sort of instrument was the Ashbory bass, a 20th century idea to create a very-short-scale instrument using fat rubbery strings and a piezo pickup to approximate the sound of an upright bass.

Challenges with the Ashbory? The combination of very short scale and fretless neck highlighted my poor sense of intonation (violin or viola players would think me lame). The original rubbery strings had a great sound, but were sticky under the fingers and often broke just from being under tension.

I moved on to a Kala U-bass several years ago. They use a different string that is more like a super fat classical guitar treble string. Not nearly as sticky. My U-Bass has frets. I moved over to the Kala strings on my Ashbory after playing the U-Bass. I'm not sure the Kala strings sound better on the Ashbory, but they are easier to play.

I tuned either to EADG, same a "real bass."

As already mentioned, the sound is somewhat upright-bass-like, but they are remarkably easy to play, are quite portable, and are a worthwhile option for those that want to add a different sound.

Ditto on the light weight and sound of the Fender Rumble series. For recording, I just plug in direct.
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Old 08-05-2022, 11:49 AM
columbia columbia is offline
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Advice on playing bluegrass/old time bass: In a 4/4 song, play the root of the chord on beats 1 and 3, play the fifth of the chord on beats 2 and 4.

Ditto the Rumbles.
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Old 08-05-2022, 01:00 PM
Rudy4 Rudy4 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pine Cone View Post
Sweetwater and a great deal on a demo Kala Uke bass this weekend so I sprung for it.

Anyone out there with u-bass experience? Any advice? Setup tips? Amp recomendations?

I play old time banjo and guitar & Americana roots music and often wish for a bass player, so I thought getting a u-bass would at least give me a better reference to talk to a real bass player about the sounds I wanted. In a perfect world I could lay down my own bass tracks.

Anyone willing to suggest some resources for learning how to play bluegrass/old time/roots Americana bass?
I have a good friend who's an excellent upright bass player and plays with a number of bands. Several years ago I went to an outdoor show where he was playing bluegrass / Americana with a band. As I entered the stage area I was thinking how great his upright bass was sounding through the PA. When I got closer I realized he was playing his Kala U-Bass through his AER amp. I dislike the feel of playing them, but they can sound good.


Amp-wise I have a Fender Rumble 100 that's great, and I even gig with it. If you are only going to play at home the Fender Rumble 40 is a great amp, too.


As far as learning goes, the best thing to do is watch a few good bass players on Youtube and simply play along with music that you like.

I've been a bass player for a long time and my preferance is either fretless or fretted 30" scale basses fitted with LaBella black tape strings. If you keep playing you might want to pick up one of the many fine short scale bass guitars in the future.

I'll also throw out the idea of getting a looper to record your own backing tracks, including bass. Here's a quick "HOW TO" guide for doing that, showing my Rumble 100 being used.


Last edited by Rudy4; 08-05-2022 at 01:09 PM.
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Old 08-05-2022, 01:05 PM
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I would say that typically, and this is specific to bluegrass, the bass plays the root on the 1, either slaps or rests on the 2, plays the fifth on the 3, and rest or slaps on the 4. This coincides with the bass and mandolin working together to approximate a drum kit. The bass is serving as the kick drum on the 1 & 3, and the mandolin serves as the snare on the 2 & 4. The bass may also walk between chords, but you need to coordinate with the guitarist (who may also walk between chords in bluegrass).

Again, that is specific to bluegrass. In a lot of old time fiddle bands, and I am talking bands from the 1920s and ‘30s, there often was no bass. In bands like Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers, the guitar was “the bass” and pretty much played like an early jazz bassist. There might be a strum here and there, but lots of walking bass lines and walking between chords. Riley Puckett, the rhythm guitarist for the Skillet Lickers, played lots of single note bass runs.

These are actually good recordings to seek out. You can usually hear what the guitar is doing, and you can emulate most of it (the single note runs and walks, anyway) on bass.
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Old 08-05-2022, 02:19 PM
The Growler The Growler is offline
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I have a Kala UBass. A solid mahogany fretless model. I love it. You need to plug it in, but it does have a nice upright bass sound. Not much sustain, but that comes with those strings.

I recommend them. Lots of fun
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Old 08-05-2022, 06:15 PM
Pine Cone Pine Cone is online now
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Thanks to everyone for the comments and advice.

The Fender Rumble 100 seems to be the most recommended amp.

I am looking forward to getting my u-bass next week. The next few days I plan on watching lots of youtube videos to try and educate myself ...
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Old 08-05-2022, 07:39 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Ex-jamming bud had a U-Bass that he ran through a Fender Rumble 40: got a good sound out of it, but I can come very close with a short-scale (30"+/-) hollowbody and tapewounds, and my fingers don't hang up as they do on the silicone U-Bass strings...
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Old 08-05-2022, 11:11 PM
Pine Cone Pine Cone is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
Ex-jamming bud had a U-Bass that he ran through a Fender Rumble 40: got a good sound out of it, but I can come very close with a short-scale (30"+/-) hollowbody and tapewounds, and my fingers don't hang up as they do on the silicone U-Bass strings...
I ordered a Fender Rumble 100 amp this evening, hasn't shipped yet so I am not sure when it will get here.

There seem to be a few more ubass string choices these days including round and flat wound metal wrapped string, two or three black polyurethane variants, the Italian string manufacturer Aquila (I have used their Nylgut banjo strings) now makes Thundergut, Thunder-red, Thunderblack, and Thunderbrown ubass strings which have different textures, diameters, and tensions. I think all of the Aquila strings have higher string tensions and are less sticky than the original black poly strings sold by Kala.

I have ordered a set of Kala round wounds as well as sets of Aquila Thunderblacks and Thunderbrowns to potentially replace the gummy black poly strings that are stock on the model I bought. The Thunderbrowns are the newest variant and have gotten good reviews. I am looking forward to some ubass string comparisons later this year.
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Old 08-05-2022, 11:32 PM
Pine Cone Pine Cone is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by posternutbag View Post
In a lot of old time fiddle bands, and I am talking bands from the 1920s and ‘30s, there often was no bass. In bands like Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers, the guitar was “the bass” and pretty much played like an early jazz bassist. There might be a strum here and there, but lots of walking bass lines and walking between chords. Riley Puckett, the rhythm guitarist for the Skillet Lickers, played lots of single note bass runs.

These are actually good recordings to seek out. You can usually hear what the guitar is doing, and you can emulate most of it (the single note runs and walks, anyway) on bass.
Thanks for your comments. I am a huge fan of the Skillet Lickers music. Emulating Riley Puckett's guitar bass runs is exactly what I had in mind for some of my u-bass exploration.

During the summer months I have several folks to play with, but come November most of them head south from Idaho to Southern Utah, Nevada, or Arizona for the winter and early spring.

I hope to do some multi-track recording this winter and spring with myself on vocals, guitar, banjo and u-bass this winter. Not as fun as playing and performing with other live players, but an incentive to up my music knowledge, arranging skills, and performance skills.
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Old 08-05-2022, 11:38 PM
PatrickMadsen PatrickMadsen is online now
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I play this custom Ubass archtop by English luthier Toby Chennell.

I use Pahoehoe strings and can get fairly close to a big bass sound. The Pahoehoe stringset is made from a rubber like material.

He also makes nice standup basses as well as an incredible archtop guitar and ukes.
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Old 08-06-2022, 12:08 AM
Pine Cone Pine Cone is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PatrickMadsen View Post
I play this custom Ubass archtop by English luthier Toby Chennell.

I use Pahoehoe strings and can get fairly close to a big bass sound. The Pahoehoe stringset is made from a rubber like material.

He also makes nice standup basses as well as an incredible archtop guitar and ukes.
I checked out his website... what a nice range of styles and options!

I am pretty sure it is too soon for me to order a 2nd u-bass. I should at least wait until my first one arrives....
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Old 08-06-2022, 04:19 AM
Nymuso Nymuso is offline
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I heard a Bluegrass band in Gatlinburg using a U-bass and it sounded tremendous. I have a bass playing friend who was having left hand problems because of C- spine issues, and I convinced him to try one of these. He agreed that it was easier to play and sounded good, but could not get past the idea that it was “a toy” and he would feel silly on stage. He put it down. This was my last attempt of several to help him work around his problem.
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Old 08-06-2022, 12:59 PM
Brent Hahn Brent Hahn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by posternutbag View Post
I have said before, when people ask about acoustic basses, acoustic basses are really toys that look like real instruments, whereas Uke basses look like toys, but they are real instruments that have an important niche to fill.
Well... first off, I'm primarily a bass player. Had a fretless U-bass for a while, and just couldn't deal with it. The strings didn't cooperate with my touch, and I found intonation really difficult. I mean, a 16th of an inch off on a scale that short sounds a lot more wrong than it does on an upright or P-bass-length scale.

As for toys that look like instruments, I was recently given a Chinese acoustic 5-string fretless prototype with roundwounds and a UST pickup that started out pretty useless. But after I turned it into a 4-string (new saddle and nut) and gave it a tailpiece, flats and a magnetic pickup, it became a lot more instrument-like.

Here's a demo I did to show a song to my band -- hence the countoff, mouth-breathing, finger squeaks and AC noise -- with that bass on it. Scroll down to 2:15-ish and you'll hear it more or less in the clear.

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