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!

 

What’s in the first ebook-ePub ”Learn to play the ubass – Basic Techniques”? First up: Lesson 1

In a series of four short blog posts I will write about the different lessons in my first Lesson Pack: ”Learn to play the Ubass – basic techniques” (One lesson at the time every Sunday for four weeks!)

First up…

Screen shot from Lesson 1 ”How to hold the ubass”



Lesson 1 – How to hold the Ubass

The first lesson gives you suggestions about different ways to hold the Ubass.

Since the body and over all length is so much shorter than a regular electric or acoustic bass guitar you really need to find a way to accommodate this.

In the lesson I go through different ways I hold the ubass. I have found out a couple of alternatives that can be nice to switch between or at least use as a starting point when you develop your own ”holding style”. I will let you know what has worked best for me and why.

Even though you have been playing regular bass for a long time I think this lesson will help you to get a good ”grip” on your ubass playing regarding how you can hold it to get the most out of your ubass music making!

Direct links

iTunes/iBooks Store 

Payhip (ePub)

Find out more here!

Stay tuned: Next Sunday [September 3rd] it’s time for ”Lesson 2 – basic plucking/picking hand technique”

 

Minutes after I got my hands on a ubass for the first time back in July 2010

 

– – –

My parents bought my first ubass at a music store in Honolulu, Hawaii while visiting the islands back in 2010. I had not been able to try one beforehand. It only took me a few moments to get acquainted with the short scale length and rubbery strings. After that I got 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!

How to read my ebook (ePub) on a PC (or MAC)!

Hi,

My first ebook was released on the iBooks Store in January and for PC/Android in April.

There is a great way to read the ebook if you have the ePub version (PC). Here’s a quick how to.

Loading the ePub into Readiator

Read ePub with Google Chrome on a PC with support for videos and word list

  1. Open Google Chrome (or download if you haven’t got it on your computer yet).
  2. Go http://www.google.com/chrome/webstore
  3. Search for Readiator
  4. Install
  5. Add ePub (drag to window or click + and navigate to Learn to play the Ubass – Basic Techniques) It will take a while to load!
  6. Click the icon to start reading. Videos should play and the word list will work.
  7. Your done, happy learning!

The Lesson links are not clickable in this version. I will remove these false links or try to make them work in the next update!

Although this method will work on a MAC (OSX) i do recommend using iBooks if you are a MAC or iPad/iPhone user!

Using Readiator to read ”Learn to play the UBass – Basic techniques”

The Chrome extension will even keep tabs on where you were last time you used Readiator.

 

You can find the different versions here:

ePub (interactive) (for Win/PC, Android)

eBook (interactive) (for OSX/iOS)

/Magnus

 

Review of the Pyramid Black Nylon Tape on a fretless acoustic/electric Ubass

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Hi!

I came home from this years Musikmesse (music trade show) in Frankfurt. Germany with strings from the German string manufacturer Pyramid. I had previously heard about their Silver-plated copper-wound strings (on a nylon silk core) but the Black Tape Nylon strings was news to me.
I decided to take the black tape nylons for a spin first!

I have also asked the president of Pyramid strings, Max Junger, some questions and you can find his answers below!

Putting the strings on
Stringing the Ubass with these string was a bit like a usual electric bass stringing session. Since they feature a steel core they are not as stretchy as the original Road Toad Music Pahoehoe or Aquila Thundergut strings. In other words they settle in faster than the before mentioned strings. I used my usual approach, for steel strings, sticking the end of the string into the hole in the string post.
I also used a plastic washer (from a Aquila set) and put the string through the washer so the ball end got a bit bigger, preventing the metal ball end to eat its way into the wood in the back of the bridge.

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Time to change the G-string

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Plastic washer between the metal ball end and wooden bridge

The feel and sound
I’m quite used to the feel of tape nylon strings having played these types of strings for more then 10 years on regular electric basses. Here’s a recent example with my Rob Allen Guitars MB-2: http://youtu.be/AXIGwa-UUtk
The strings has a texture that feels a bit like ”cloth”. If I compare the feel of my La Bella Tape Nylon strings, the Pyramids feels more like a regular roundwound string.
The higher tension makes playing faster passages easier. So if fast is your thing these strings might be just right for you 🙂
I really like the added tension of these strings, they obviously feel more like a regular bass string. The sound is also very nice ranging from fat, thubby low end (perfect for thumb mute style playing) to a nice top end (making harmonics sing more than other Ubass strings).

Acoustically
They are a bit louder when played acoustically. The top end is a bit more pronounced. You can hear this in the video below. Harmonics do pop out more then on Pahoehoe or Thundergut strings but this is quite obvious because of the different materials and construction of the black tape nylon strings.

Intonation
I have only tried these strings on my fretless Ubass and I find it a bit hard to play in tune compared to with the pahoehoe and thundergut strings I’m used to.
The further up the fingerboard I play, the harder it is to play in tune. I have to compensate quite a bit. When comparing an open string to the 12th fret on that same string I have to shift towards the 11th fret so my octave don’t go sharp.
For a trained ear, playing a fretless Ubass with these strings will/can work but on a fretted Ubass it will be hard playing in tune over, I guess, the 9th fret. (I haven’t tried the strings on a fretted Ubass yet).
If these intonation issues can be fixed these strings are a serious alternative to the Ubass strings already on the market.

Here is some info I have received from Max Junger, the President of Pyramid strings.
– The strings are available directly from Pyramid and retails for about €42. (Art.-No. is # 508/BT)
– For now they are only available for the acoustic/electric UBass. (Up to 53 cm/21 inch scale length).
– They have sold quite a few sets already and the customer feedback have been great.
– Although not yet available for solid body Ubasses there might be plans for some testing in the pipeline 🙂
The company will work on a way to solve the intonation problems I mentioned above. Great!

If you have tried these strings please let me know what you think!

That’s all for this time. I hope to try these strings some more on both fretted and fretless acoustic/electric and solid body Ubasses soon!
Now please check out the video below!

Links:
Pyramid saiten (German language)
Pyramidstrings.com (English language)

Pyramid-2

Pyramid-1

Strap button on a Kala Acoustic UBass

Hi!

Disclaimer! Installing a strap button on a Kala
acoustic UBass is best left to a
professional luthier or guitar tech!

If you decide to do it yourself be very careful.
You must drill a guide hole first to ensure that the wood won’t chip or crack.
If you have any doubts DO NOT try it, leave it to a professional!

I find that the position chosen in the pictures below works well for my needs.
There are other options too but
this is just right for me!

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Q and A! How to choose the right UBass model for you!

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Kala SUB and Spruce fretless at an outdoor gig August 2012

Hi!

I get a lot questions about what model to choose when thinking of buying that first Ubass!

I have blogged about these questions before. See these earlier posts from 2011 | Post 1 | Post 2

Some time have passed since I wrote those posts and I have been playing more fretted Ubass (Kala SUB) now. This makes it’s easier for me to compare fretless and fretted models and hopefully give you some new thoughts and perspectives about this matter.

Ok, so you’re thinking about whether you should get a fretless of a fretted Ubass?

If you want to buy any of the fretless models there will be an advantage if you have been playing a instrument without frets before, like a fretless bass, cello, violin or upright bass.
It is a matter of getting used to adjust your playing to what you hear. Most (or I guess all) fretless players don’t play exactly in tune the whole time. (It’s actually nice to be able to hear that it IS a fretless instrument. It would be hard if all notes were spot on all the time!)
On the other hand listening to someone that constantly plays out of tune is not really enjoyable. Not for the audience and not for the player…

If you buy a new instrument you probably want to use it in public as soon as possible. So if you are not used to the fretless fretboard of any instrument it WILL take time to get a consistent in-tune tone on your fretless UBass.

More things to consider: What styles of music do you want to play on the Ubass?
Playing the fretless model makes it a bit easier to get a more upright and jazzy sound. (But it is also possible to get a more rock sound from the acoustic Ubasses too, both fretless and fretted. It all depends on the technique used). This is something you can learn more about in my upcoming lesson packs for Ubass! Stay tuned for more info soon!

Because of the short scale (21 inch) the spacing of the frets on are a lot less than on a regular bass (most common on an electric: 34 inch). This will take some time to adjust to. Without frets you will be a bit forgiven if you fret the notes on the ‘fret’ (since it lacks fret wire!). Because of the rather short decay the notes you play will quite quickly ‘die’ and you can focus on the next note if the one you just played was a bit out of tune.
On the other hand if you play a fretted Ubass you have to play between the frets to get rid of fret noise (sometimes referred as ‘farting’ on some forums 😉 BUT to get the best possible tone you should play as close to the fret wire as you can. More about this in future lessons!

Summary
Ask yourself these questions:
1. What styles of music will I likely play on my Ubass?
2. Have I’ve got some experience playing fretless instruments (fretless bass, cello, violin, upright bass)?

If the answer to these questions are:
1. I want to emulate a upright jazzy sound.
2. I’m used to play fretless bass or another fretless fingerboard and because of that am used to really listen to the pitch my playing produce and can quickly alter my fingers to accommodate in-tune playing.

YOU should most definitely buy one of the fretless models (I have been playing the spruce fretless since 2010 and I really love the sound and the way it blends so great in the different situations I have tried it in. (This UBass has been used in most of my pics and videos on this blog)

Kala UBass Solid Spruce Fretless [SSMHG-FL]
(It’s now updated with a built in preamp, EQ and built-in tuner)
Read more here

…or…

Kala UBass Solid Mahogany Fretless [SMHG-FL]
(It’s now updated with a built in preamp, EQ and built-in tuner)
Read more here

If your answer to those questions are:
1. I want to play rock or blues based music or…
2. I have not played fretless instruments before and want to be able to use by Ubass RIGHT AWAY!

Well maybe you should go for the a fretted model OR maybe look into the solid body options.

Kala has quite a few models available now so there are a lot to choose from. Please check out the new instrument page at Ubass.com for more info.

Don’t hesitate to leave comments below this post or to send me questions about these matters to:
ubasslessons@gmail.com

I’m also starting up a playubass.com newsletter. You will soon be able to subscribe to it!

Stay tuned! (Hope you all had a great Valentine’s Day!)