Ubassists of the world!
In this series of interviews I will try to find out how and why Ubass has become a new tool for different musicians around the world to express their Music!
For an even nicer reading experience please download this PDF!
Interview 3 Rick Saenz (Kentucky, USA)
It’s time for my third interview in this series. This time we’re in USA and we get to know Rick Saenz. He found a perfect instrument in the Ubass, portable and with great acoustic sound.
Since we live on different contents we did this interview via email.
Over to Rick.
It’s an honor to participate in your interview series, Magnus, especially since I don’t consider myself much of a bass player! For the past 11 years my son Chris and I performed as The Ridgewood Boys, an early country music duo, until we decided to put the project on hiatus when my travel schedule changed.
When he was 13, my son Chris began to exhibit some serious musical gifts on guitar and banjo. We lived in the southeastern US (Virginia), where the dominant acoustic music is bluegrass, so I began taking him to festivals and music weeks so he could learn about it. I wanted to participate, but I had never played an instrument, and arthritis had twisted my hands to the point that forming chords was very difficult.
But one day I was watching someone play bass guitar, and thought: hey, I could probably do that! So I bought one, and learned to my relief that bluegrass bass playing is very simple–in fact, flashy or busy accompaniment is frowned upon. Once I knew where to find the root and five notes for a given chord, I was on my way. In our duet the focus was on our singing and Chris’s guitar and banjo playing. Having the bass mostly gave me something to do, but Chris tells me that even my simple accompaniment provided critical low end and rhythm, freeing him up in his own playing.
Let the interview begin.
The sound! We had switched from bass guitar to upright acoustic because of the sound, and this was the first bass guitar I’d ever heard which made a credible acoustic sound.
Magnus: Why Ubass?
Rick: Because it’s so small! Soon after starting our duet I switched from bass guitar to upright acoustic, which gave us the proper bluegrass sound–but also additional difficulties, both in physically playing it and in transporting it. It was also limiting in performance, since I was anchored in one spot and had to stand as well. The Ubass solved that instantly–when we played standing I was able to walk around the stage, and we were also able to both play seated. (The sketch I’ve included shows how we would normally play a coffee shop.)
M: Where did you first hear about Ubass?
R: The first time I remember noticing the Ubass was in this April 2010 video of Raul Malo, who had just bought one. I may have been looking for info on the Ubass, or I may have just stumbled across it, but this video sold me. The sound! We had switched from bass guitar to upright acoustic because of the sound, and this was the first bass guitar I’d ever heard which made a credible acoustic sound.
M: How long have you played the Ubass?
R: I bought mine, a spruce top fretless, in September 2011. Since then I’ve played it almost exclusively, dusting off the upright acoustic only on those occasions where the crowd is too traditional to accept an electrified instrument.
M: How do you use your Ubass? (different settings and styles/genres..)
R: I use it to accompany my son, who plays either acoustic guitar or banjo as we sing old time, early bluegrass and early country music.
I generally play through whatever PA system is available, or the Fishman SA-220 portable PA we use for smaller gigs. I connect using a Fishman Pro-EQ Platinum Bass Preamp, adding a bit of compression and rolling off the highs (otherwise I get clicking when I pluck the strings, something I could probably control at the source if I tried ….)
I have used stock strings, Aquila Thunderguts, and Silver Rumblers, and liked them all.
The response has been tremendous–folks who are hesitant to touch an upright acoustic or even a bass guitar just can’t resist picking up the Ubass to try out!
M: Can you recommend others to start playing Ubass? Who can benefit from adding a Ubass as a new musical tool?
R: In fact, I currently work for a well-known banjo player and bluegrass music teacher, Pete Wernick, who has created a network of music teachers who introduce novice players to bluegrass jamming. One feature of these classes is to encourage everyone to take up the bass as an additional instrument, since the sound is vital to bluegrass and it is good to be able to switch to bass for the sake of the jam. We offer five-minute (!) bass lessons to anyone who is interested, enough to allow them to play along on a simple song in an easy key.
Lately we have been recommending the Ubass as a friendly and inexpensive way to do this. The response has been tremendous–folks who are hesitant to touch an upright acoustic or even a bass guitar just can’t resist picking up the Ubass to try out!
And of course I recommend it to anyone currently playing bass, at least as a change of pace. Audiences love both the look and the sound. And other more skilled bass players I’ve loaned it too are reluctant to give it back!
A big thank you to Rick and please keep playing that UBass!