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 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.
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!
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.
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.
Live in studio recording with vocals, guitar and accordion.
Miking the rear port and blending it wit the DI signal from the ubass.
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
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!
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!
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!
Time for a new video. This time I’m exporing the difference between the 1MΩ and 10MΩ settings on my RMI Basswitch. Read more about the Basswitch here and here.
One of many great things with the Basswitch is the option to choose between two impedance settings on the first channel (INST A). My acoustic/electric UBass hasn’t got any onboard preamp so in order to get a great sound I need to use an outboard pre before plugging into a bass amp, PA, sound card or mixing console. I have tried a few and you can read about my thoughts here and here.
You will of course benefit from using the Basswitch even if you have an onboard pre but in that case you will probably get tge best sound using the 1MΩ setting. The quality of the components are super good and the built in DI is very good. Played a show this past weekend and the sound guy was very impressed with the sound from the DI and that’s not the first time.
More about how I use the RMI Basswitch in future posts.
The string gauges are a bit different compared to the Thunderguts. See gallery.
I feel it’s the E-string that really stands out the most. It is significally thinner and sounds and feels really focused, with a nice tone. The added copper powder in the blend really makes a difference and this is extra pronounced in the E-string. I believe the copper also takes away a lot of the sticky feeling compared to other strings on the market.
How playable different strings are is mostly in the mind of the player. I remember the first time I played a UBass, I thought it would take a long time getting used to the new feeling but it didn’t and all the strings I have played so far has only taken me a minimal time getting used to.
Please check out this stringing guide for one way of putting a set of Thunder Reds (or other ubass strings) on your UBass.
Check out the YouTube video below to hear them compared to the Thunderguts. I really think the Thunder Reds are a serious string to consider trying out on your UBass!
If you want to get a new case for your acoustic/electric UBass there are a few options.
You can read about some of the options here at kalaukulele.com
Besides these very nice hard cases you can also use the case designed for the Baritone Ukulele!
You can find it here.
I’ve used one of these Baritone Cases for a while now and it works really well.
It’s super light and still quite sturdy. It’s not as sturdy as the hard cases above but still a good lightweight alternative. You can also use it as a back pack or side carry with the supplied straps.
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.
Time to change the G-string
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).
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.
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!