I hereby proudly present some new music composed with and for solid body UBasses!
“Reflections” (Magnus Sjoquist) started out as a chord progression. The descending chords are played with a simple triplet rhythm throughout. Over this sequence of chords I started to improvise and captured a take. My initial goal was to pick and choose parts of this improvised recording into a crafted melody. When I revisited the recording later my goal changed. I decided not to mess with it at all and keep it as is. Instead of picking out parts what you hear is that first improvised recorded play-through.
When coming back to this demo later I wanted to flesh out the arrangement and started by adding a shaker and Udo percussion parts.
It wasn’t enough so a string arrangement was made and my old 1950’s Czech upright has a little cameo twice.
The melody and chord parts are played on my custom Kala solid body UBass tuned EADGC and as a final addition my Kala solid body fretless 5, also tuned EADGC, is used for the intro and outro melody.
I hope you will enjoy listening to (and watching, If you read this on YouTube) my new composition: “Reflections”!
This is an announcement for two upcoming releases of original music composed by me. The first release has been available on bandcamp.com awhile but will now be released on more major digital outlets.
First up is ”Tranquility”. This was composed, arranged and recorded back in 2018. The song features my good friend, principal solo bassoonist for the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Mikael Lindström. The arrangement is based around a chord progression played on a solid body ubass tuned EADGC. Besides the chord part both melody and solo parts are played on that same EADGC tuned ubass.
You can already hear the song on bandcamp.com, Spotify, Apple Music and other digital outlets. The Full video will be released this weekend, Saturday March 6! See Teaser video below!
Next up ”Reflections”. This song started out as a chord progression. The descending chords are played with a simple triplet rhythm throughout. Over this sequence of chords I started to improvise and captured a take. My initial goal was to pick and choose parts of this improvised recording into a crafted melody. When I revisited the recording later my goal changed. I decided not to mess with it at all and keep it as is. Instead of picking out parts what you hear is that first improvised recorded play-through. Read more on a dedicated blog post when the song is released!
The arrangement is based on the melody and a simple bass part that has mostly a root motion meaning I go from root to root in the chord progression. I choose the key of A major simply because the possibility to use a lot of open strings for the bass line part of the arrangement. This way I can focus on the melody and also get a bass part with a long legato feel. I want to make a contrast between the melody and bass rhythm is possible.
It would not have been so nice if I used the same rhythm in the melody and bass part throughout the arrangement. Although we as bass players really love bass this technique will let us focusing on the most important part of a song, its melody!
Tricky Bit 1: The highest note of the melody is a D. Since most Ubasses only has 16 frets and the D we want is located at the 19th fret we need to play the D as a natural harmonic. This note can be found where the 19th fret would have been if the fretboard was extended that far. You play a harmonic but lightly touching the string and then play with your plucking hand. You might need to play a little bit harder with the plucking hand than you usually play to get the harmonic to “ring”.
Extra info: If you play a 12th fret harmonic you get the same note as if you press down on the 12th fret. When you play the 24th fret harmonic you get a pitch that is one octave higher. If you can find the spot in between the 24th fret and the bridge you will get a note that is yet another octave higher. And now the crazy bit. If you do the same dividing the string from the 12th fret to the nut you will get the same results as in the 12th fret to the bridge area! More on this in a later blog post.
Tricky Bit 2: To get the C# you need to use a technique called false harmonics. The false harmonic technique is based on the same technique you use when playing a natural harmonic. You want to get the pitch that would have been find on the 18th fret. To get this note you fret the C# at fret 6 on the G-string. Then you find the spot exactly in the middle between the fretted C# and the bridge. You need to play that harmonic with you plucking hand. There are different ways of doing that. Here I’m using the first finger of my plucking hand on that “half-way-point”. (See Extra info!) I then pluck with the ring finger of my plucking hand. This will take some practice to find the right spot and get the note to ring and sound as close to the regularly fretted notes! Play slow and gradually add speed!
Tricky Bit 3: Getting from to the part with “Tricky Bit 1 & 2” can also be a little challenge since you need to quickly go from the lowest to the highest part of the fretboard. Practice slow and make sure you aim for that B. Best way to do that is to “look ahead” and aim with your eyes. That way you’re helping your brain to gules your hand!
In the performance video I play only one verse of the song. My goal is to work more on this arrangement, maybe add an intro, develop a second verse with the use of other rhythms and maybe some re-harmonization and so on. I decided to record this very short version to give you something to work on during the Holiday’s!
Maybe this will be your first go at playing a solo ubass arrangement? I hope this will inspire you to make your own solo arrangements. The melody and bass approach is a great staring point! Please let me know if you decide to make your own arrangements. I’d love to feature your arrangement on playubass.com if you want to share something!
I wish you all a Merry Christmas And a Happy New 2021! /Magnus
2. Make sure to tape down the bridge saddle so it doesn’t move
3. Remove string back plate (if you have one)
4. Start with unpacking the E (lowest) string (and next time around the A and so on…)
5. Check and see if any metal washers are still in the string barrel. If so remove the one on the new string you’re about to install
6. Put the sting through the lowest string slot/barrel
7. Stretch the string past the string post. I use a cable cutter to measure how long the string needs to be before I cut it. I don’t want to have to much excess string around the post. 2-4 turns around the post is the goal.
8. Put the end of the string into the hole in the middle of the string post. Push it down as far as it goes
9. Bend it to the right for the lowest two strings (tuners pointing upwards) and left for the top three strings (tuners pointing downwards
10. Keep turning the tuning peg to get rid of the slack
11. Use a tuner and tune the string up to approx. one whole tone beneath the goal pitch (ex. D for the E-string)
12. Repeat step 4-11 for all the remaining stings
13. Put the string back plate back
14. Tune the strings up to pitch. Come back and retune until they stay in tune. This can take a day of two depending how much you play and stretch the strings
Time to make some new music with a fresh set of strings. Yummy!
Hope this is helpful for your next string changing session!
It’s time for a new interview in my Ubassists of the world – series! I started doing these back in 2014 (!) and did a few of them for a couple of years. Now I have a new one for you and you can choose to read it or see it…or both!
The written interview isn’t a transcript of the video interview so there will be some stuff thats different so I recommend that you both read and watch!
Background of ubassist Håvard Mathisen Tanner
I am a Norwegian bass player based in London. I started out playing classical music when i was a kid, and only played classical for a long time, however during high school I started with bands, and soon I was touring all around Norway. I moved to London to study music and did a bachelor’s degree in bass performance and production at LCCM (London Centre of Contemporary Music), and a masters degree in jazz performance at Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
My Main band is Swing’it Dixieband, they are based mainly in Norway but also London. Swing’it play 20s jazz with a bit more energy and humor. we play all over Europe and are going to USA in February next year. In 2018 we came all the way to the semi finals in Norway Got Talent.
In London I play with the band Robohands, but do mainly freelance work, gypsy jazz, symphony orchestras, studio sessions, etc…
I’ve done recordings for Sony Music Norway/Columbia Records with my previous band MHOO.
Recently I represented Norway In The Earth Orchestra by George Fenton recording at Abbey Road Studios for Universal Music UK.
Q and A
Why Ubass? I was mainly a double bass player, and when I started to travel a lot with my band Swing’it dixieband it became a lot of hazzle to borrow and rent double basses (since my double bass is in London). The Ubass wasn’t only small enough to fit as hand luggage it also sounded amazing!
Where did you first hear about Ubass? I heard about Ubass online (talkbass, YouTube videos from the NAMM show), this was fairly soon after it came out, but it took quite a few years before I managed to buy one myself.
How long have you played the Ubass? I started using the Ubass about 3 years ago. The first year I borrowed a mahogany fretless from a friend, then a year after I bought my own spruce top fretless.
How do you use your Ubass? (different settings and styles/genres..) I use the spruce top fretless Ubass, and the strings I currently use is Galli black nylon. I’ve been playing around 50-60 gigs with these strings over the summer and I really enjoy the sound and the feel of the strings. I run it through a Fishman platinum pro EQ, since the Ubass has such dense frequencies the low cut and EQ makes it very easy to shape the tone you want. And lastly I usually run through different Markbass amps, I really like the clarity the amp gives me. But recently I’ve bought a small acoustic amplifier (Guitar Sound Systems 06b400) just to use with my double bass and Ubass. I’ve started using the new amp and the Ubass sounds very double bass like, the amp is very clear sounding. And this gives a very honest acoustic sound.
One aspect I should mention is that it took me quite a while to get a comfortable swing feel similar to the double bass. On double bass you would use your whole arm, shoulder, and body to get the tone and feel, your swing feel is in your body! However on the Ubass you have to play very light because of the light tension in the strings, I recently switched to Galli Black nylon strings, these strings have more tension so you can play a bit harder, but also they are not sticky, much smoother to play on, and if you play outside they are less affected by changes in humidity, like the older Thunderguts and Pahoehoe strings. Another aspect is your wrist. It’s easy to get an angle over the body of the Ubass, so I always try to bring the bottom of the Ubass back and my arm forward, this makes it easier to have a straight wrist and to prevent any potential tendonitis.
I’ve been using the Ubass mainly as a replacement for my double bass in a 20s jazz band (Swing’it), we play a lot of festivals, events, weddings and jazz clubs, I’ve even used it when we played live TV on Norway got talent! Swing’it are releasing an album next year, and the majority of the songs are recorded with the ubass!
I’m very pleased with how the Ubass sits in the mix and the live sound on stage, it has the woody open tone of the double bass and the punch of the electric bass.
I’ve also used the Ubass live with another band called Robohands, which is a smooth jazz/funk band with influences of hip hop.
Can you recommend others to start playing Ubass? Who can benefit from adding a Ubass as a new musical tool? I would definitely recommend others to try out the Ubass, especially if you are struggling with back pain from carrying gear or the physical aspects of playing. The Ubass has a much lighter touch, and weigh next to nothing! If you are a double bass player and need a small easy to travel instrument, then I would definitely recommend the Ubass as an option.
– ”Is there always a “sweet spot” on the fretboard where you should play a bass figure or part”? – ”The answer is yes” (in my opinion!)
I have played ubasses since 2010 (and electric basses since the early 80s) but during my years as a ubassist it has been ~90% focus on fretless ubass models.
Well, one reason is that my first ubass was fretless and I played it almost exclusively for the first three years. I guess I choose the fretless model because I wanted to emulate the upright bass and as you probably know it doesn’t have frets.
In 2013 I started to play fretted solid body ubasses too but I have been playing fretless acoustic/electric ubasses a lot more.
So why did I tell you this?
In July (2019) I bought my first fretted acoustic/electric ubass. I have been looking for an early model without the built in preamp to compliment my 2010 spruce fretless that also i ”pre-amp-less”.
I have of course been playing fretted acoustic/electric UBasses but never owned one until now.
It came with the original black synthetic polyurethane Pahoehoe strings. These strings has such a nice tone and it’s not hard to understand why they are loved by many ubassists.
…BUT…those Pahoehoe strings are actually harder to play on a fretted then a fretless ubass, at least in my opinion! I have written about this before in my 2019 Buyers Guide post […and also here: Post 1, Post 2]
If you mis-fret, playing on the fret-wire, using the Pahoehoe strings on a fretted ubass you will probably get a strange not-so-pleasant sound. If you “mis-fret” on a fretless ubass you will play out of tune.
So why is ”out of tune” not as bad as the fret noise on a fretted ubass?
It all comes down to the nature of the polyurethane strings. These strings have a warm tone and because they are made from “solid” synthetic rubber they tend to have a quite short decay; you play a note and it fades away quite fast. If you play a little out of tune the “mistake” will quickly disappear!
You need, of course, to be “in-the-ballpark” of the desired note but you will quickly be “forgiven” if you don’t hit the note spot on! On a fretted ubass everyone will hear if you “mis-fret”…
This is why it is very important to have a clean playing technique and also know where a bass part or riff will sound the best on your particular ubass.
These suggestions are good for all ubass players, both fretted and fretless!
First up – map the fretboard
The goal here is to map out where the different notes are located on the fretboard so you can move around easy and navigate through chord progressions and riffs. This also makes it easy to move a bass riff or shape to different locations/boxes on the fretboard.
Count your options – How many notes of the same pitch (and octave) are they on the fretboard?
1. Start with an open G-string
2. The next available G is on the fifth fret of the D-string
3. The third G is on the 10th fret of the A string
4. The forth G is on the 15th fret of the E string
Can you see the pattern here?
Rule of thumb
If you take any note on the G-string, move to the D-string and five frets higher you will find the same pitch and octave. Continue to the A-string and five frets higher…
How many notes you’ll find will differ a bit depending of what note (what octave of the chosen pitch) you choose to map out. It also depends on how many frets you have. Typically the acoustic/electric ubasses have 16 frets (and most solid body ubasses 24).
We will focus on 16 fret models here.
[Cue drum roll…] The right answers for G pitch is:
G (1), g (4), g1 (1), g2* (1) (For info on the different octaves please check out the movie below!)*) Harmonic ”over the sound hole”
This gives you quite a few options, especially with g!
Knowing the above will help move bass parts and riffs around the fretboard.
But how can you tell where a bass part or riff will sound/work best on the fretboard?
This is where your work and ears come in!
I can explain how I think and work out where to play different parts but it’s really up to you to map your fretboard and find a workable plan for your ubass playing!
Example Bass Part
Here’s a simple bass part that I have mapped out on different places on the fretboard. Where you choose to play it should come down to two main things:
Where on the fretboard the bass part/riff sounds the best (in my opinion the most important thing to keep in mind!) In the included example there are, in my opinion, definitely notes that don’t sound perfect in some of the positions. I would probably discard that position ”in real life” for the sake of getting the most consistent tone as possible. All three positions are however included so you can hear, compare and find out what you think is best for you!
Where on the fretboard the bass part/riff is most convenient to play regarding what you played before and what you will play after the bass part/riff
This will of course require some work but here’s some suggestions how what to do:
Listen to a song that you thing has a great bass part and sound
Try to figure out where the bass part or riff was played on the fretboard
If possible see if you can find a YouTube video of a live performance of the song. This can be hard especially since bass player probably isn’t going to be featured as much as the singer or lead instrumentalist… Try to choose a singing bass player since this will probably give you more ”bass-playing-in-view” time!
Try to play the bass part the way you believe (or saw) it was played
Does it sound good there or can you find a place where it better?
I will explore this further in upcoming lessons and ebooks!
In January I was fortunate to once again work with Kala at the Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA. This time I managed to get a nice video from my little jam with Bakithi Kumalo on the classic Wayne Shorter tune ”Footprints”!
In 2017 I had my first NAMM experience and met a lot of great musicians including Bakithi Kumalo. He was really wonderful and we had a great time talking and jammin’. It’s a very special feeling meeting bass innovators like Bakithi. It’s even more special to get that chance to make music together!
I have always been amazed by the story of Paul Simon traveling to South Africa to record his super classic Graceland album with local musicians. Among these musicians were Bakithi! He has played with Paul Simon ever since, both on albums and on countless tours around the world.
Back in 2014 I became a Kala Artist and got a Bakithi Kumalo Signature Ubass. I made a little birthday video for Bakithi since the ubass arrived around that time! Check it out here!
I went to the Paul Simon concert in Stockholm 2018 together with my wife. It was the first Paul Simon show for us and we very truly amazed. The music was fantastic, ranging from Chamber Music to musical styles and genres from across the globe. Everything performed with such a wonderful feel. Even the sound was the best I have ever heard in that venue, and I have been to a lot of concerts there. Anchoring it all with super solid bass playing was of course Bakithi!
After the concert we got to hang a bit with the musicians in the bar at Grand Hotel. A fantastic ending to this incredible musical experience!
Bakithi and me at the Grand Hotel ”afterparty”
My wife Semitha, Bakithi and me at the ”afterparty”
In January Bakithi and I met again at Winter NAMM. The NAMM experience is hard to describe but the people you meet there is what makes it a great experience although it’s super ‘crazy” with lots of music. (At times the experience is a ”bit” overwhelming with all the simultaneous playing all around you…)
One of the highlights of the 2019 show was hanging and playing with Bakithi at the Kala Brand Music booth. We are both Kala Artists and being in the company of Bakithi, Abe Laboriel, Hutch Hutchinson and Nathan East, among many other fantastic bass players, is mind blowing to say the least!
Bakithi and I managed to do a little jam of the classic Wayne Shorter tune ”Footprints”. The great video team from Kala helped capture the performance. Thank you guys! I got the files and edited the video you’re about to see. Besides the violin sound, from a nearby booth, and lots of people talking in the background, the sound is pretty good. It was recorded with the built in mic on one of the DSLR cameras used.
I hope you will enjoy watching this as much as I loved jammin’ with my dear friend and living bass legend Bakithi Kumalo!