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!
Time for a new Summer Ubass Video! Making a outdoor Summer video is now almost like a little tradition! 🙂
For the second time it is filmed in Jämtland, Sweden. I really love this region and have spent quite a lot of time there. Last year I did a version of the super classic song Summertime. Check out the blogpost and video here.
This year I decided to really pay homage by doing a version of Jämtlandssången, the official song of the region. It is also the first song I played on my new/old mahogany ubass. I found it in a music shop in Östersund the biggest town of Jämtland. This ubass is an early model without the built in preamp. I have looked for an early fretted mahogany model to compliment my first ubass, the spruce fretless I got in 2010.
I did a quick arrangement playing mostly melody together with a quite simple bass part. I added some more chord tones in some places to make the harmony come through a bit more. When I got back home to my studio I decided to add a string arrangement to spice it up a little. The strings are recorded with the Strings-instrument-plugin inside of Logic Pro X. Besides the video of me playing the mahogany ubass I added some video footage from 2013 (!) Yes, that’s right I got the original idea of doing a tribute video to Jämtland back in 2013 but I never finished it… That’s why the other footage in the video features my first spruce ubass.
I hope you will enjoy this little video. If your interested in knowing how I arranged this please make a comment below. If there is interest I can make the arrangement available with a little lesson on how it all works! If you want to do this to another songs and melodies please include the titles in the comments too. That way I can include more melodies in future solo ubass arrangement lessons!
The main string types available for ubass players is featured and tested in this blog post
But first some background info…
When I started to play ubass the original Road Toad Pahoehoe (Black polyurethane) was used exclusively (2010-2012). One reason was of course because it was the only string available. (The Pyramid Round Wound String and strings by Aquila Corde debuted during this period but since I only had one ubass and used it so much I didn’t get around to try these at the time).
The next string I used was the Aquila Corde Thundergut string (2012). It had more tension and settled in quicker. One downside was that it had a more sticky feeling than the Pahoehoe strings. But I used them for quite some time and thought they were nice to play.
Next up was the Aquila Thunder Red strings (2014). These strings were really nice to play and had a lovely tone where it was pretty easy to go from a warm full jazzy sound (playing close to the end of the fingerboard) and more of a “pop” sound when playing closer to the bridge.
Since then even more option has come to us ubassists!
This Summer was the debut of the Kala Flatwound string by Gallistrings.
I have used prototype sets of these strings since December 2018.
Although they are primarily made for the acoustic/electric ubasses I have tried them on solid body ubasses too.
(I will share some videos from these tests soon!)
The focus with the following video(s) is a comparison between the Road Toad Pahoehoe, Kala Round Wound and Kala Flatwound by Gallistrings.
These sets truly represent three different tone flavors. (The difference in sound and feel between the other “rubber-like” strings and the Pahoehoe is of course noticeable but the Aquila strings are not included in this test. Please check other posts about strings under Reviews and tests).
Comparing the different string types playing a Jazz-intro
Even my old czech upright was used for comparison purposes
Some info and personal thoughts about the following test
I made three different short compositions; Slow Funk, Pop Song and Jazz Intro. I wrote bass parts and recorded three (and in one example four) tracks with three different ubasses featuring the Pahoehoe, Flat Wound and Round Wound strings.
I cut between the different recorded ubass tracks in the main video so it’s easy to compare the different tones and timbres. (In a seperate video (see below) the examples are included in full if you want to hear more from each string set and not just around eight bars of each ubass/string set).
More info about the ubass tracks and how I worked with them in the Tech Talk section below.
So what do I think about these different strings?
Well, I do enjoy playing all of these sets since they give me different tones and timbres. I think my playing changes depending on the strings I play at the moment. I do believe all these sets can work for a big variety of styles and that it’s mainly up to the player to choose what feels best for him/her regarding to the sound they hear in their head.
I guess I’ll choose string (and ubass) based on these basic guidelines
A warm, round sound with lots of low end > Road Toad Pahoehoe
Warm, round with a more focused sound > Kala Flat Wound by Gallistrings
A defined yet warm sound with longer sustain > Kala Round Wound
Most important for happy music creation is a using tools that makes it easy to express yourself.
I really love having different options to choose from while others might have found their ”holy-grail-string” and stick to those strings for a long time!
A little disclaimer and some extra info about the recordings in this test
The round wound strings in this test are played on a fretted Kala Journeyman while the other string types are used on two different Spruce top fretless ubasses. My original Ubass (see Tech Talk) and a newer one. The best thing would have been to use the same ubass for all string types. This was not possible but I hope that you still can get something out of the test.
I have treated all the ubass recordings in approximataly the same way regarding volume, EQ and compression. A commercial release would NOT have been done this way! In the case of a commercial release the sound would have been tweaked even further to make it sit in the track best possible way. The volume of the ubass tracks would also have been considerable lower so it would blend better and not compete to much with melody and vocals. These recordings can be seen as basic tracks with room for instrumental or vocal melodies.
Out of the blue my dear old friend from my music study days in Jönköping, Sweden called me up and asked me if I wanted to SUB for the SOUSAPHONE player in the Dixieland/trad jazz band ”Hejåhå med Peter”. He called last Thursday and the gig was that weekend!
The regular tuba/sousaphone player wasn’t able to make the show. My friend thought about me because I live quite close to the racing track and he thought it would be cool to try using a ubass instead of the tuba/sousaphone. When I was between 13-19 I played a lot of trumpet but tuba is another ball game and I have only tried it a couple of times.
They did bring a sousaphone and I got to try it. I will try to borrow a tuba or sousaphone because it’s such a fun instrument to play. Since I have my trumpet technique somewhere in the back of my head, and already know the function of the bass and how to play basslines, it would be a great addition to my bass tool palette! If I can at least borrow one and put in some practice it would be so great to once again play with the band – with me on sousaphone!
But this time it was ubass I added to the mix. The first obstacle was to find a suitable mobile amp setup that would be easy to move around and had a powerful enough sound to blend nicely with the rest of the band. The band has a classic dixieland setup with clarinet, trumpet and trombone as lead instrument, banjo and washboard (cow bells, woodblock and cymbal).
My first thought was to only use my Phil Jones Double Four. That amp can be played powered by an external battery. I don’t have a battery yet so I still needed to connect to a power outlet in order to make it work. The gig was outdoor and although the Double Four has a great sound with a fantastic low end response the volume I can get out of it is a bit to low when used outside. I decided to use a combination of the Double Four and my old ”vintage” Gallien Krueger combo amp, that I bought new back in 1987. That way I could use the preamp and main sound of the Double Four and use the GK as a slave amp to get some more power and volume. As you can see in the video below I had some trouble finding power everywhere. But most time it worked out nicely!
I put the amps on a cart and together with my friend we came up with a great way to incorporate a long extension power cord that was easy to use at the different locations where we played throughout the weekend.
Mr Michelin loves ubass!
Minis + ubass = true love
A classic Swedish Volvo had to be included
There were a lot of great cars at the show
I played through a Bose L1 at one time during the weekend
So what do you need to focus on to sound somewhat close to a brass instrument while playing the ubass? First of all you need to play quite short and staccato-like notes. Almost the opposite as when you play ”newer” jazz (1940-) where a long legato sound is preferred.
Because of the interactive weaving lines from the melody instruments (clarinet, trumpet and trombone) it’s also best to keep the bass lines super simple. That way you won’t get in the way of the interactive in the moment harmony they produce. The chordal instrument (banjo) should also play simple triads with the appropriate dominant seven chords where applicable.
For me this means playing a staccato root fifth motions with the occasional chord or approach notes here and there to build up for a new section or chorus.
Besides using my ”cart rig” I used a Bose L1 PA that was available at one location. In video below you can hear and see what it all sounded and looked like.
It was pure joy playing with these guys. It’s always very rewarding when you get to play music with musicians that have taken time to get inside a certain genre. Besides playing in ”Hejåhå med Peter” the three lead melody instruments plays together in Gentlemen and gangsters a trad jazz group that regularly performed in Sweden, Europe and Asia.
We played a variation of classic jazz tunes with original or new lyrics and some ”Dixieland-ised” Swedish children songs too. Great fun!
Welcome to a fantastic race weekend for the whole family with lovely race cars and nostalgic feeling of the old days! Historic racing for pre historic, formula, standard, GT and sports cars. Club & car exhibitions, TT motor cycle show, retro and vintage feeling on the track.
Back in 2011 i attended a workshop with master jazz guitarist Frank Vignola.
A couple of days after the workshop he was going to play a show not to far from where I live. At the workshop he invited the participants to come to the concert and offered the possibility to jam with him, Vinny Raniolo and Eric Bogart.
In the intermission I approached Frank and told him that I’d like to take him up on the offer to jam. We decided on Fly me to the moon and a blues…
Set two starten and I was called up on stage after the second song…
I brought my ubass plugged into the PA and of we went. We had not played a single note prior to this and there was somewhere around 150-200 in the audience probably wondering who that guy was taking the stage.
Fly me to the moon flew bye and Frank started to play the head for C-jam blues and after a somewhat shaky start (on my part) we found a nice groove.
I still love the part where I manage to steer us into half-time mode and the audience starts to clap along. Frank plays a smoking solo, I play a solo and we go into trade mode and finally manage to sync the ending pretty nicely!
This was a great experience and has also been great for my “ubass exposure” on YouTube with around 135.000 views to this day.
Last Saturday Frank played at a nearby jazz club and I went there with a friend. It was a fantastic concert. Frank played with top notch Swedish jazz musicians, Eric Söderlind, guitar, Hans Backenroth, upright bass and Joakim Ekberg, drums.
No jam for me this time but I managed to talk to Mr Vignola for a bit, telling him how fun it was when we jammed and that the video of that firat jam back in 2011 has been great for me. It’s nice to be able to give thanks for these things in person.
The sax and trumpet players from the support band was invited to jam. It’s so nice that Frank still pays-it-forward at his concerts!