Free October Lesson on Technique: The Ubass Fretboard Map

– ”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.
Why?
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

Mapping guidelines
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

Example riff played at three different positions on the fretboard

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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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:

  1. Listen to a song that you thing has a great bass part and sound
  2. Try to figure out where the bass part or riff was played on the fretboard
  3. 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!
  1. Try to play the bass part the way you believe (or saw) it was played
  2. Does it sound good there or can you find a place where it better?

I will explore this further in upcoming lessons and ebooks!

Good luck and happy Ubass playing to you!

 

Playubass goes Dixieland/Trad Jazz at the Classic Car Racing Track

The winning team! ”Hejåhå med Peter” at the Classic Car Racing Show at Gelleråsen, Karlskoga, Sweden

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.

Talking the sousaphone for a little spin! Wow, it has a powerful sound. I’m addicted and have get one so I to play some more!

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!

The band lined up (minus the trumpet player) at the racing track

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!

My amp-cart setup. A Phil Jones Bass Double Four and an old GK as a slave amp for more power. Maybe not the prettiest setup around but it worked well and sounded very nice!

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.

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!

Thanks for letting me swing with you guys!

 

 

About the car race

”Velodromloppet Grand Prix” has been around for quite some time. Here’s a movie from the 1959 competitions. (Swedish speaker)

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.

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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New video! Eva Stenström Limited ”Allt under himmelens fäste”

Eva Stenström | Magnus Sjöquist | Daniel Björnmo

This song is a traditional folk tune from Gotland, Sweden. Eva and I started playing it as a duo on our trip to Brazil back in 2015. We wanted to bring some examples of traditional Swedish folk music on our trip. To make it work in a ubass and vocals setting I played the bass part through a delay pedal. I thought the extra rhythmic motion we got using this technique really helped us capture and deliver the haunting melody in a great way. I use a combination of arpeggios, chords and regular bass lines in my bass part.

In the trio version Daniel Björnmo adds an extra layer of color with his world class guitar playing. The added grit with close cluster like harmony through distortion pedals makes the song even more ethereal and haunting, I think. The ubass have some added modulation and octave up effects blended together with the delay.

This is a live in studio recording but we also added some percussion parts. I played some suspended cymbal swells.

You can also hear what we call ”the submersed gong”. This is a gong gong that we recorded as it is put under water after it is played. This bends the sound in a very nice way. I first heard this on records and live with one of my musician heroes, Indian percussionist, Trilok Gurtu.

We really hope you will enjoy our version of this Swedish’s folk song!

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For the best listening experience please listen to this song with good headphones or speakers that can reproduce a wide frequency spectrum!

 

 

 

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.

 

 

What’s in the first ebook-ePub ”Learn to play the ubass – Basic Techniques”? Lesson 4

One of the videos in Lesson 4 focus on the difference of Legato and Staccato playing

Lesson 4 –  combining plucking/picking and fretting hands (and a basic harmony lesson)

Q’s: I need to develop my technique to better sync my left and right hand. I also want to be more expressive and vary my tone/touch, note length and phrasing. Are there any exercises I can do to develop this?

The starting questions gives you a feel of what I will cover in this lesson.

After focusing on the plucking and fretting hand in two dedicated lessons it’s time to work one combining the techniques and work on getting it all to work together as a single unit.

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A little snippet of the word list. You can reach the word list by clicking on bold/highlighted words in the different lessons to get them explained. You can also browse the word list. This can help you vet a broader understanding how different words and phrases connect.

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Once you’re in the word list and have read the explanation of one word it’s possible to reach related words in the word list. This can further help you reach a better understanding on how the musical lingo connect!

Some musical lingo is introduced here, musical lingo is actually described all over the ebook and there’s even a dedicated interactive word list. This list is deeply integrated into the book. Highlighted words in the different lessons are clickable and explained. The word list is also searchable, connects a lot of related words and musical terms and let you browse the word list. When you’re done searching and browsing the word list the ebook remembers what you have been up to. It can easily return to where you were when you clicked that first highlighted word during your reading session, cool huh!

Staccato and legato is a big part of the lesson and these two Italian musical terms, and how to use them is, great to have in your musical vocabulary and playing toolbox.

There are exercises that focus on developing and working on these techniques with standard and tab notation as well as pictures and video.

Having a grasp of these techniques (and going in between) will land you a more expressive playing style that breaths and makes your bass parts stand out, building a steady but musical foundation all bass players need.

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End-of-Lesson-quizzes!

End-of-Lesson-questions are included. This is a great way for you to check what you have learned in the different lessons in the Lesson Pack.

More info about the Lesson Pack here!

Direct links

iTunes/iBooks Store 

Payhip (ePub)

– – –

My parents bought my first ubass at a music store in Honolulu, Hawaii while visiting the islands. I had not been able to try one beforehand. It only took me a very a few moments 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!

https://playubass.com/2010/12/26/the-first-pictures-of-my-kala-ubass/

What’s in the first ebook-ePub ”Learn to play the ubass – Basic Techniques”? Lesson 3

Lesson 3 – basic fretting hand technique

Q’s: Should I use different approaches wether I play a fretless of fretted UBass?

How can I do warm-ups? Basic fretting techniques?

In Lesson 3 the focus is the fretting hand. From where and how to put your fingers on the fretboard to get the best sound to warm-up exercises and more.

With pictures and video examples.

In my videos there is almost always at least two angles including my ”players-view-angle”. That angle lets the player see a natural view of the fretboard and body of the ubass from above.

The ”players-view-angle” is, in my opinion, a great way to get the most out of learning techniques from a video.

Screenshot from a video in Lesson 3 including the ”players-view-angle”

More info about the Lesson Pack here!

Direct links

iTunes/iBooks Store 

Payhip (ePub)

– – –

My parents bought my first ubass at a music store in Honolulu, Hawaii while visiting the islands. I had not been able to try one beforehand. It only took me a very a few moments 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!

https://playubass.com/2010/12/26/the-first-pictures-of-my-kala-ubass/

What’s in the first ebook-ePub ”Learn to play the ubass – Basic Techniques”? Lesson 2

Lesson 2 – basic plucking/picking hand technique

[EDIT: This post was supposed to go live last Sunday September 3rd…This means were one week behind my initial plan to release these series of blog posts every Sunday for four weeks…Sorry!]

Q’s: How can I get a nice round tone? Are there any differences playing with thumb, index- and/or the middle finger? Anchor your hand, fingers or arm? Dynamics?

Screen shot from Lesson 2 Picture gallery focusing on plucking techniques

In this lesson the focus is techniques for your plucking/picking hand. You might wonder why I have decided to call it plucking/picking hand…
The answer is simple, I want both left and right handed players to feel at home and welcome to use this ebook so I went for plucking/picking!

There are many ways to get the strings on a ubass to vibrate and make a sound.

In lesson 2 some of the most common ways are described. Besides showing how to play with your index/first and second finger with lots of pictures and video I also show how to get a warm and fat low end response playing with your thumb. I urge you to consider playing with your thumb even when the obvious choice would be your index/middle fingers. You might like the sound of your thumb even more!

This video let’s you see and hear differences in sound depending on the plucking technique you choose to use.

More info about the Lesson Pack here!

Direct links

iTunes/iBooks Store 

Payhip (ePub)

My parents bought my first ubass at a music store in Honolulu, Hawaii while visiting the islands. I had not been able to try one beforehand. It only took me a very a few moments 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!

https://playubass.com/2010/12/26/the-first-pictures-of-my-kala-ubass/