NEW Video Interview: Ubassists of the world – Håvard Mathisen Tanner

Håvard Mathisen and me jammin’ at Paddington Station, London back in September

 

Hi,

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. 

 

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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.

Links

Håvard Mathisen Tanner (Instagram)

Swing it Dixieband
Youtube-channel
Instagram

 

Jammin’ with Bass Legend Bakithi Kumalo

Bakithi and me at the Kala booth

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!

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!

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

 

Ubassists of the World – Abraham Laboriel

Abraham Laborial and me before the Open Hands concert in Sweden this past July
Abraham Laborial and me before the Open Hands concert in Sweden this past July

Hi,

One day in July I got the news that one of my bass heroes would come to Sweden for one gig. We are both Kala Ubass Endorsees (which is pretty amazing to start with) so I managed to hook up with him through the company. 

The meeting/concert was in the southern parts of Sweden and I traveled there with two of my Kala solid body ubasses. 

Who is Abraham Laboriel?

Some of you may know about him and some don’t so I’ll give you a brief background here.

Let’s start with some of the artists he has worked with as a session musician in Los Angeles:

Al JarreauGeorge BensonAlan SilvestriAlvaro Lopez and Res-Q BandAlvin SlaughterDon FelderAndraé CrouchAndy PrattAndy SummersBarbra StreisandBilly Cobham, Carlos Skinfill, Chris IsaakChristopher CrossCrystal LewisDave GrusinDjavanDolly PartonDon MoenDonald FagenElton JohnEngelbert HumperdinckFreddie HubbardHansonHerb AlpertHerbie HancockJohnny HallydayKeith GreenKelly WillardLalo SchifrinLarry CarltonLee RitenourLeo SayerLisa LoebMadonnaMichael JacksonNathan DavisPaul Jackson Jr.Paul SimonQuincy JonesRay CharlesRon KenolyRuss TaffStevie Wonder, and Umberto Tozzi.

Abraham Laboriel Sr. (born July 17, 1947) is a Mexican bassist who has played on over 4,000 recordings and soundtracks.[1] Guitar Player Magazine described him as ”the most widely used session bassist of our time”.[2][3] Laboriel is the father of drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. and of producer, songwriter, and film composer Mateo Laboriel.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Laboriel

Abraham trying out my Solid Body fretted 5-string tuned EADGC
Abraham trying out my Solid Body fretted 5-string tuned EADGC

 

Meeting Abraham was such a joy. He’s a wonderful, warm human being with such a big heart. Hearing/seeing him play live has knocked me every time. He is an ”all in” performer that really speaks to you from heart to heart. He has been in my musical life for quite some time. I told him about hearing/seeing him at concert in the mid 80’s and even in the town where I work now on a gig probably more then 10 years ago. 

We started talking and I showed him what I have done on my blog, video lessons and recordings. What was supposed to be an interview became a nice chat about music and life, almost as we had known each other since the mid 80’s…

I really hope we can meet again soon and continue of talk and I might even get around to ask him my prepared questions! 🙂

As I wrote earlier my two solid body’s were on the trip with me and I wanted to show Abraham these. You might have picked up that I have experimented with ”new” strings on these two 5-strings. (I will do a proper blog post about these tests soon!) Anyway, Abraham started playing on the fretted one, unamplified, and after a while I grabbed the fretless one and join in on the quiet jam. It sure was nice to get to play with one of my bass heroes!

Here’s a little snippet of that jam…

All the best to all ubassists out there,

Magnus

Some youtube videos featuring Abraham:

Build your own solid body Ubass – all you need to know | Phase 2 – Body Setup 1

DIY UBassKIT Video 2-upload-teaser

Hi,

It’s time for Phase 2!
It will focus on the setup of the body and first up is strap buttons and thumb wheels for the bridge.

The PDF instructions I compiled from info at kalabrand.com (no longer available) can be downloaded on this link: U-Bass Kit Assembly Instructions compiled by playubass-SMALL

Next up: EQ/Pre-amp, output jack, volume/tone knobs and back plate!

I have also done a video that shows you how to change the EQ/Pre-amp in a solid body ubass!

Read more about previous steps in this DIY project in posts that can be found on the DIY-page!

Until next tine: Have fun – play Music!

/Magnus

Kala Solid Body Ubass Kit | New DIY series at playubass.com

Hi,
New year, new project, new Instagram…lets go!

I have wanted to write about this for quite some time now. I got this kit last year and my plan was to start the project early August…this wasn’t possible because of my hand injury…
But now I’m back on track and will get started with the Kala Solid Body Ubass Kit!

EDIT: This kit is no longer available, you have to add all the parts to the shopping cart in the Kala Web Shop! See more here!

I will build the 5-string fretless based on the US made California series.

I will do this in a couple of phases. First phase has just started, working on the body finish. The goal is to mimic the espresso finish of my Kala Bakithi Kumalo Solid Body.
You will be able to follow each and every step/phase of me putting together the Ubass. Every phase will be a separate blog post, but they can all be easily found on my DIY page. I will update that page as the new blog posts rolls out.

Stay tuned here and on the DIY page!

I wish you all a great New Ubass Year!

/Magnus

Model comparison chart – Kala Ubass acoustic/electric models 2015

model-comparison-chart

Hi everyone!

I get a lot of question about different Kala Ubass models so I decided to make a little chart. In this first chart the focus is the acoustic/electric models.

If you download this pdf The-Kala-Ubass-acoustic-electric-models-2015 you can also click on different model names to get to the corresponding details page of that model at kalabrand.com

All the best, Magnus

NEW DIY Video! How to change the preamp in a solid body UBass

How to change the preamp in a Kala Solid Body Ubass

 

The second video in my DIY series is finally done!!! It sure took a while to get it done. Mainly because the lack of time.

This spring have been extremely busy. Besides my work as a music teacher and IT-pedagogy I have toured Sweden and just got back from a trip to Brazil…

Anyway, now it’s done! I hope it will be informative and could work as a guide if you want to perform this DIY!

If you have any questions please drop me a line at: ubasslessons@gmail.com

To help out even more please feel free to use this guide in PDF-format!

The next DIY video will be the first in a series of post. This is quite a big project in probably ten parts. More about this soon!

/Magnus