Ubass Adventures: Travelogue from my trip to KALA and NAMM January 2018

Chillin’ with a lovely sunset at Helen Putnam Regional Park, Petaluma, CA USA

Here comes a long overdue travelogue…I know almost a year has flown by…

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In January I traveled to California for the NAMM show in Anaheim to promote the Ubass alongside Kala.
You can read about my experiences from Winter NAMM 2017 here!

Petaluma and Kala Brand Music

My trip started with a visit to Petaluma, CA, the home of Kala Brand Music. This was the second time I visited the Kala headquarters and since the first time in the summer of 2015 a lot has happened. The Ubass has evolved and in October 2017 the company moved to a new and bigger facility that includes a great factory where the California series of the solid body UBasses are built alongside the Elite series of the ukulele models.

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My focus for this visit was to make some videos with the Kala video crew and also talk about Winter NAMM that was just around the corner. I brought my two custom solid body ubasses with the prototype E-A-D-G-C string sets. I did some videos with them alongside the new Kala Journeyman ubass and a 5-string California koa solid body ubass with regular B-E-A-D-G tuning.

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Me and my wife really had a wonderful time in lovely Petaluma situated about an hour drive north of San Francisco. The town has a lovely downtown area and a beautiful countryside. We spent some time in the Helen Putnam Regional Park and caught a lovely sunset over the rolling green hills.

Magical sunset at the Helen Putnam Regional Park

I also had the privilege visiting the home of Kala Brand Music president, Mike Upton, and we had a nice little jam in his living room!

Jammin’ at Mike Uptons place

Winter NAMM 2018

We flew down to Anaheim January 24 one day before the four day music trade show would start at the Anaheim Convention Center. From the NAMM.org homepage:

”The 2018 NAMM Show gathered the music, sound and event technology industries for the largest show in NAMM history, welcoming 115,000 registrants, more than 7,000 brands, exciting events and triple the industry education.”
https://www.namm.org/

From NAMM.org: Winter NAMM 2018 Wrap-up

Pre-NAMM-day (January 24)
I went to pick up my name badge and got to see the wonderful Kala booth. It was a lot bigger then last year. Really spacious and beautiful with a genius and practical design!

The big wall of ukuleles at the Kala booth Winter NAMM 2018 (Since I took this photo with the panorama option on my iPhone it looks a bit strange. But it also show you the massive display in its full glory!)

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Day 1 (January 25)
From the get go there was a steady stream of things happening. Musical highlights was standing a few feet away to one of my musical heroes, the fabulous organ player Joey DeFrancesco, when he played some super lovely organ jazz at the Visconti Organ booth. I told him about that lovely concert I heard him perform in Stockholm many years ago. YES!

He came to Stockholm in October.  I saw the show with some friends. Did he have a bass player with him…no…was it still great… YES!!! 

The evening was spent at the Bass Bash a special bass event, a great hang! The year before I brought a Kala Ubass there for the ”raffle”. This night I heard performances by Abe Laboriel (Open Hands) and the John Patitucci Guitar Quartet with the amazing Nate Smith on drums (Side note: In this video I play to loops from thelooploft.com played by Nate Smith!)

Laboriel and Patitucci both received Lifetime Achievement Awards from Yamaha this night!

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Day 2 (January 26)
It was great to once again, if super brief, say hi to one of my mentors, Victor Wooten. I attended one of his camps outside Nashville back in 2011. Anthony Wellington was one of the many great instructors at the camp. Joe Craven was a guest at the camp. A super talented multi instrumentalist. So great to meet him again! Also got to meet Christian Fabian, a great bass player born in Sweden but now lives in NYC.

I also met some great musician friends! Please check out Ariane Cap she’s a great bass player and educator (I met her at that Wooten Camp back in 2011) I also met Sam Montooth a great singer, bass player, teacher based, as well as Ariane, in the LA area.

One of my Ubass ”papas” Bakithi Kumolo is always such a great hang. We had some nice talks and jams at the Kala booth. He performed at the Bass Bach on the second day of NAMM and almost played my solid body ubass! 🙂
I also met some new friends and they were also Bakithi admires!

I got to meet and great Mr Funk, Bootsy Collins! And check out the great Manou Gallo!

Oscar Cartaya a great latin bass player and ubass artist visited the booth and also played at the Bass Bash.

I ran into Ida Nielsen (played bass with Prince) and Morten Ehlers (the founder of Bass Buddha, a bass shop in Denmark.

I met Christopher Bolte at the Frankfurt Musikmesse back in 2014 and now we finaly meet again. He’s a fellow Gruvgear artist.

Greg Olwell, the editor of Ukulele Magazine, came by the booth. He writes for the Ukulele Magazine and made a great ukulele bass roundup a couple of years ago.

It’s so great to hear talented ukulele players jam. Corey Fujimoto and Andreas David are super musical on their ukuleles! Andreas managed the German ukulele site Gute Ukulele!

Meeting more new friends, Amie Cool, trying out a new pedal by Ruppert Musical Instruments and seeing Jeff Berlin in a nearby booth concludes the Day 2 travelogue.

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Day 3 (January 27)
Some highlights this day was seeing good friends Ariane and Wolf. We had a nice little lunch away from the crazy show floor.

I got to meet Kala Ubass Artist Nik West. She had her signature ubass on display at the booth.

The duo Go West demoed at the booth. So did Corey, Andreas and myself.

I don’t have any pictures but have to mention the wonderful Jule amps the Jule Potter makes!

I would finally be able to meet Richard Mari Cocco Jr, (president) and Eric Cocco (vice president) for the great string maker LaBella

I got to meet great friend and ubass player Greg Gohde too! While walking outside after a long day we heard som crazy energic funky music performed by Kyotaro and Rikuo, a Japanese rhythm section duo. We closed out the day with some great food at the Disney Resort.

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Day 4

So it’s time for the final show day!
Bakithi came by the booth again so did bass player/actor Sekou Bunch. He did some great jams. I will probably share some of that later! Divinity Roxx, former musical director with Beyoncé, came by too.

The great Ukulenny demoed at the booth. My new friend Simon Poulton tried the Kala Journeyman. The Japanese bass player from Kyotaro & Rikuo from Day 3 visited the booth too.

I went to see Christopher Bolte demo at the gruvgear booth and got to met good friend Jay Baldemor. Gruvgear make a really nice and sturdy gigbag for ubass!

I also went to the Elrick booth to try out some lovely basses built by Rob Elrick

It was so great to work alongside my great Kala Family once again! See you soon!

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The Acoustic-electric Ubass Walls

Links
Good walkthrough of the updated Ubass line for 2018 by Ryan Haugh
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skjsPHn5ig0

The new Jorneyman ubass is one of three new ubasses in a new entry level line. These models are offered in fretted versions and will hopefully be available in fretless versions too later on. I played all three of these and they are a great addition to the existent line of ubasses.
https://kalabrand.com/blogs/u-bass-news/namm-2018-new-u-bass-preview

 

This concludes my travelogue around this wonderful Ubass Adventure!

/Magnus

Annonser

New music by Marlowe feat. Solid Body Ubass playing!

My friend Marlowe is a Kala Ukulele Artist that I met in California earlier this year. We decided to do a collab and I recorded overdubs to one of the songs of her brand new album ”Moments”. The song is called Battle Royale and it sure was fun adding ubasses to the track. I decided to play my Kala California custom fretless solid body tuned EADGC. 

Now check out the video below and then go to marlowe-official.com and find out more about Marlowe!

Ubass overdub session video of ”Battle Royale” from the album ”Moments” by Marlowe
Marlowe [ http://www.marlowe-official.com/aboutmarlowe/ ]

New video! My version of a true classic – Summertime by George Gershwin

A short background to my version
The classic song is, as you probably know, from the opera Porgy and Bess, by George Gershwin. It was first performed in Boston in 1935 before it moved to Broadway, New York.

I was lucky to be a part of a short summary staging of the opera when I attended a music school in Sweden back in 1992. I had the role of Sportin’ Life and sang the song “There’s a boat that’s leavin’ soon for New York” and ”It ain’t necessarily so”. Sportin’ life was the drug dealer, and possessive lover of Bess the main character. Porgy the other main character wanted to rescue Bess from him…

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Twenty-six years later… I guess it’s about time to do another song from the classic opera
”Summertime”, by far, the most classic and recognizable song from Porgy and Bess. It has been performed by countless of musicians across the globe since 1935 and onwards.

My version is quite short. I present the melody twice, first instrumental with the melody played on my Kala California acoustic-electric fretless Ubass. Then sung and harmonized the second time around. All vocals by yours truly. 🙂

I decided to incorporate my fretting hand tapping plus plucking hand percussive technique that I have used from time to time since 2014.
It all started when playing in the country duo M&M’s Honky Tonk with the great friend and lovely guitar player, Marcus Måttgård. I wanted to add some percussive parts to mimic a drummer and experimented using the body of the Ubass as a percussive acoustic drum.

Recently I started to use a acoustic pickup by Ehrlund microphones to enhance these percussive sounds. Before playing with this technique only really worked in the studio, where I could use a separate mic to pick up the percussive sounds, or in a small intimate live setting where the audience is near the performance.
The pickup is blended with the built in piezo and this makes it possible to play bigger venues and the percussive parts can be heard alongside the tapped bass part. More about this in a later blog post!

Besides the core parts of bass line/percussion played and recorded live on a small dock by the lake Storsjön in Jämtland, Sweden I added vocals and, for the first time in any of my videos, ukulele parts!

I hope you will enjoy my version of the Gershwin classic!

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String Review of the Aquila Thunderblack

Aquila Thunderblack

There are now quite a few options for Ubassists when it comes to choose the right string for your preferred sound and playing style. Owen Holt invented the Road Toad Pahoehoe strings (made from polyurethane) to make the super short scale length of the ubass work. These are of course still the original ukulele bass string reference that many use and love.

The Italian string company Aquila Corde now offers three different ukulele bass strings.
Besides the Thundergut string that has been around since 2012 and the Thunder Reds since 2014 they also offer the Thunderblack.

The Thunderblack string has, in my opinion, more similarities to the original Thundergut than the Thunder Reds. I think they feel a bit less sticky then the original Thunderguts but the sound is pretty similar.

If you prefer the look of black strings but want a sound and feel similar to the Thundergut there’s now an alternative available.

In the video below I decided to record some of the same musical exemples used in the Thunder Reds review. This makes it easier to compare the different strings.

Past Reviews
Pahoehoe vs. Aquila Thundergut Part 1 | Part 2
Aquila Thunder Reds Review

Tech specs
Aquila Thunderblack strings
Kala spruce top fretless (2010)
RMI Basswitch IQ/DI in the 10 mOhm setting
Aguilar Tone hammer 500
Aguilar SL-112 cab
AKG C-414 mic
Universal Audio Apollo (upgraded with Thunderbolt card)
iMac with Logic X

 

A tribute to one of my musical heroes: Steve Swallow

Steve Swallow
This is a little tribute to one of my musical heroes: Mr Steve Swallow. I have listened to his Music for quite some time and have always admired his unique approach to playing bass. In my version I play fingerstyle although Mr Swallow uses a pick. One of his most famous compositions are Falling Grace. You can find out more about him here!
There are videos on youtube with bass players playing solos performed by Swallow but not many (if any) playing one of his chord-bass parts. This one is transcribed from a John Scofield Trio version of the evergreen ”Someone to watch over me” (George and Ira Gershwin) from the musical ”Oh, Kay!”.

I heard this performance last year and decided to transcribe the part when he comps behind John Scofield during the the melody. I wanted to explore the voicings he used with his 5-sting bass tuned EADGC.

In the video I’m using my Kala California Custom Flame Maple solid body ubass. One of the first made using the ”exotic tops” back in 2012-2013. Please check out the new updated ones!

I decided to add the melody singing the Frank Sinatra version of the lyrics. I got some nice help with a great brushes and cymbals part too.

Magnus Sjöquist, kala solid body ubass (EADGC-tuning) and vocals
Mats Nyström, brushes and cymbals

I’m working on more ebooks in my Learn to play the ubass series and one of these will focus on playing chords on a ubass/bass.

Recording info

The ubass was recorded through my RMI Basswitch IQ/DI and then re-amped using a Radial X-amp. Se pic below. I used a combination of mics to capture the sound of the Phil Jones Double Four combo amp. Read more about the amp in my review.

 

 

Review: Phil Jones Bass Double Four – small but powerful combo amp for ubass and more

The PJB Double Four at a recent gig. A perfect small combo amp and monitor for ubass, electric and upright. The Ampeg combo in the pic is only used to elevate the Double Four. Behind the D4 is my Slickbag Double Gigbag. It is used to get some more bass response since there was about 50 cm to the rear glass wall.

Let’s take a look at the Phil Jones Double Four combo amp

Background
In 1987 I bought a new amp, a Gallien Krueger 200MB. I used this amp for a lot of different gigs sometimes with a extension cab but for most part as a standalone amp. The MB250 was a small combo amp that was a real breakthrough product back in 1987. Small but powerful and well built. I still have this amp! I have changed the speaker once since the surround of the original speaker dried and fell apart. However once you open the enclosure once it’s really hard to get it air-tight again. The construction is built upon a closed box to get the sound. I have used this amp mainly as a backup only for the last 8+ years. When I planned a trip to Brazil in 2015 the need for a new really small and travel friendly amp grew. I started to look around, getting different recommendations from friends and online searches, found the Phil Jones Double Four and decided to try it out.

Description
The Double Four is a 70 watt (all digital, pre- and power amp) with two four inch speakers (hence the name). It features a specially developed innovation called RALFR®, a special reflex port that greatly enhances the bass response. Besides basic amp controls there is an AUX-input (for your smartphone or more…) with a level control, headphone and Line out. You can use it in either a vertical or horizontal mode. Read more about the amp here.

Although the amp is all digital it sounds very warm and organic and brings out the core tone of everything I put through it, and it weighs in at only 4 kg! It is loud enough for rehearsals and smaller venues. More info below!

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Gig-stories
This little amp has been working hard for me. As I mentioned in the background the initial goal of the amp was to bring it with me to Brazil in 2015 when I visited the capital city Brasília to check out different music schools. I met a lot of wonderful and lovely people on the trip.

The amp was really a great companion to me and my Kala acoustic/electric ubass. I used the ubass with the amp on outdoor restaurant gigs, at a small pub and at the different schools me and my colleague visited, played concerts and held workshops at.

Please read more about the trip here!

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Back in Sweden I have used the small and powerful combo for a lot of rehearsals and small gigs. It has been a great way to always have a great sound wherever I go. The people I have played with have always been overwhelmed and surprised about the small amp with a big sound. It has worked well with ubasses, electric basses and upright bass. Although it’s small and “only” 70 watts i has even worked as the only amplification in acoustically big sounding rooms like stone churches together with guitar and vocals.

Studio recording

Sound examples

Let’s listen to some examples of how the Double Four sounds with ubass in different genres and situations.

Tango (See info above on how this was recorded!)

Acoustic Hiphop (Recorded with a single mic Zoom recorder)

Bossa Nova in Brazil

Recorded through the PJB Double Four

 

Recorded a a rehearsal with a Zoom H6

 

Iso-amp-box

This Summer I also made a ”iso-amp-box” for ”silent recording” with the Double Four.

I made this box for recording dates where I need to get a miked amp sound in the same room with other musicians. Very little sound is heard outside the box and not much sound will get into the box. It can be used for the actual recording or to get a great and organic headphone sound when tracking.

I will do a dedicated blog post about how that works (and sounds) later!

 

Amp-in-a-box-recording

 

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a small and ultra portable amp with a warm and natural sound you should definitely add the Phil Jones Double Four to you check-out-list. Playing my Kala Ubass with the PJB DoubleFour is a match made in heaven – a wonderful and small footprint with a big warm sound – a great combination for sure!

Playubass at the 2017 Winter NAMM show in Anaheim, CA

Long overdue here’s finally a short travel log about my trip to the 2017 Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA

I have been to a couple of music trade shows in Europe as a visitor but this was my first trip to the Winter NAMM show in Los Angeles. It was also the first time working closely with Kala. My main focus was to release and letting people know about my first Ebook/ePub in my Learn to play the Ubass series.
I started working on the ebook back in 2013 and it has slowly taken its form. The basic idea and the text was ready after about a year but working on how to present it, all the movies and the graphics and navigation took quite a while to finalize. You can read more about the Ebook/ePub and where to find it here.

After a +10 hour flight from Stockholm ARN I landed at LAX and took a bus to Anaheim where I met staff from Kala. I settled in and started to plan the next coming days.

I arrived on Monday, January 17 with the show starting on Thursday that week. I helped out a bit loading in some stuff and setting up the booth. The booth was fantastic with a really well throughout design that got a lot of compliments from many visitors and booth neighbors.

Load in and set up of the Kala Booth

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Once the show started I met a lot of great people, both visitors, other companies and press. Besides talking to some online magazines myself I was also fortunate to get help to set up some meetings and interviews both from Kala and other friends in the music business. It was, for example, crazy to see Nathan East being interviewed in the exact same spot a day before I got an interview from the same online community! 🙂

You can find the news coverage and interviews here.

I got a lot of new friends at the show and also managed to do quite a few nice jams with amazing musicians. Bakithi Kumalo, Miki Santamaria, Corey Fujimoto, Ariane Cap, was some of the musicians I got to play with. Great fun!

Booth and NAMM show pictures

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The Ubass got a lot of attention at this Winter NAMM show. 8 years after the first Kala Ubass was released its still a ”show stopper”! Many musicians, including lots of bass players of course, came by and was floored by the small footprint bass with the huge sound. It’s so great to see the happy smiles on the faces of the first time players


The California solid body Ubasses was revamped with slightly bigger and rounder bodies as one of the main differences. Check them out here.

I also got to try out the prototype Paddle Bass by Kala. A great one string bass for a quick and refreshing way into the wourld of bass playing! Link to Bass Musician Magazine article.

All in all my first NAMM show was a very nice experience. And although it’s quite exhausting being on the show floor with the intense sound and constant stream of people I hope to return and continue my ”IRL” networking across the pond as soon as possible!

A big thank you to all the staff at Kala and the wonderful Kala and Ubass artist I got to hang and work with!!!

– – –

I read a Kala Ubass review in Bass player magazine back in 2010. At the same time my parents happened to be on vacation and they helped me to buy my first ubass at a music store in Honolulu while visiting the islands of Hawaii. l had not been able to try one beforehand but it only took me a few minutes getting acquainted with the short scale length and rubbery strings. After that I have gotten more and more in love with the feel and sound of the ubass. Hope you have or will get the same feeling for these amazing instruments! Read more about my first encounter here!

Review: Gruvgear Gigblade for Baritone Ukulele/Ubass

Hi,

I have been using products from Gruvgear since 2013 with a focus on their FretWraps. The FretWraps makes it possible to dampen open strings when playing a higher register or simply want to get rid of unwanted string/fret noise. Here’s a video showing some ways I have used the FretWraps with Ubass.

The company has a lot of different products that focuses on transporting your gear to and from gigs and/or rehearsals.

In this review, I will focus on their quite new Gigblade model for Ukulele. The model that fits a acoustic/electric Ubass is called the Ukulele Gigblade, available in two sizes, small (soprano, concert) and big (tenor, baritone and ubass).

The design is made to be carried on the side. Why you might ask? I think the main reason is that you can use it together with a regular backpack.

Most traditional gigbags are designed to be worn like a backpack, the Ukulele Gigblade is not. The design is made to be carried on the side. Why you might ask? I think the main reason is that you can use it together with a regular backpack. I have a Gruvgear Club Bag. They compliment each other perfectly and make it possible to get both hands free so I can carry even more in one go! (See pictures in the gallery below). (I will do a review of the ClubBag in a later blog post!) You can also quite easily have a regular gigbag (ubass or full size electric bass) on your back and then the Gigblade on the side!

Back to the Gigblade. The design is well thought out, zippers and padding have a very nice quality and the overall feel is very robust. Besides the big compartment for the actual Ubass there is a pocket in the ”lid”, for straps, a cord of maybe a tablet.

What about the top pocket? It is a design thing and really makes the gigbag stand out from the rest of the crowd! It works best if you don’t pack this pocket too heavy since the weight distribution will be a bit strange if you do. (The acoustic/electric Ubass is quite light as you know!)

It is also possible to fit a solid body ubass (or TWO!) in the Gigblade

It is also possible to fit a solid body ubass (or TWO!) in the Gigblade. I managed to fit two 5-string solid body ubasses in the case. By removing the foam bar and using a towel (or something similar) as a wall in-between the ubasses it workes out really nice!

Please check these gigbags out. They are great options to consider for protecting and lugging your precious ubass around!

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Link to Gruvgear / Gigblade

Different options for ubass cases and gigbags can be found here!

Thanks Adam Neely…and of course Frank and Vinny!

 

 

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Hi,

Well, it’s kind of funny how things connect sometimes…

One of my students showed me one of Adam Neely’s videos about bass and learning. From out of the blue I’m in the video. Ok, it’s only a couple of seconds from Jammin’ with my Kala Ubass video no. 7 but still! This video features my friends and really great guitarists Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo.

So why is those seconds of out performance flashing by?

In this particular video Adam talks about playing music alone or together. He also speaks around the topic of learning to play music and if music theory is necessary.

When I started jammin’ with Frank and Vinny we had never played a single note together before that very moment I came up on that stage!

I was invited to jam. We decided to play Fly me to the moon and a C-jam blues in the intermission between the two sets they played. That’s it! No rehearsals, no talks about form (how the songs should be structured with the different parts and so on). We just played Music.

How was this possible? Well, we all shared some common ground. We have all been playing Music for quite some time and as it happens we all knew (some) standard jazz repertoire. But is that enough? It’s a big part of the equation but one more ingredients is super important…

Focused listening! Because we all not just played but also listened to what the other musicians was doing we could come up with an arrangement on the fly that worked pretty good in my opinion.

I really like the part in our jam where I somehow manage to imply a cut time feel and the jam turns into a slow blues for a while before Frank takes us back to the original tempo!

Back to Adam’s video. He talks about the, overwhelming information we can get from the Internet regarding music theory. But as Adam points out, information is not knowledge. The knowledge part is when the information becomes true to you and when you have processes the info!

This is a very interesting topic. In the Lesson Packs that will be released (in iBook format) the focus is to help ubassists to get info about specific things (music theory, styles/genres, techniques and so on…) but also to paint the ”big picture” of how it all connects – from information to knowledge!

Teasers of the first Lesson Pack – Basic techniques are being made and will be shared soon in a new newsletter! So subscribe here to get first hand info!

Happy ubass playing to you all!

/Magnus