Ubass Buyers Guide + 2019 Kala Ubass Lineup

Playing a Fretted Exotic Mahogany at the Kala Booth at Winter NAMM 2019

So you’re thinking of buying a ubass, thats great! What ubass should you choose?
I have put together a couple of questions (with some answers from me) you can ask yourself as a little ”pre-buy-check-up”!

1. What is your primary goal with the purchase? Travel instrument? First stringed bass instrument? A compliment to your electric bass? A compliment to your upright bass? A second instrument if you already play for example guitar?
2. What sound(s) are you after?
3. What styles do you want to play?
4. Have you played fretless bass or other fretless instruments like upright bass, cello of violin?
5. Have you got small or big hands?

I think that these five questions is a great starting point. Ask yourself these before your purchase. Below are some of my answers to the questions…

My mom picking up my first ubass while visiting Hawaii back in 2010

There aren’t that many music stores left in the world, there are at least fewer here in Sweden now compared to 10-15 years ago, so it’s not so easy to get the chance to tryout different ubasses before you buy.
I know the feeling. My first ubass was bought by my parents visiting Hawaii back in 2010 and I had not seen or played one before.

There are a lot to choose from and different company’s have hoped on the ubass train. I play Kala ubasses, and have been doing that from the start, but there are of course other options out there now. I still recommend the original Kala Ubass in most cases, however if you find the 21 inch scale (most Kala ubasses have) to be to small for your hands you might find that it’s easier to play a slightly larger scale ukulele bass.

Here’s a couple of answers to the questions above that I hope will guide your search for the best ukulele bass for you!

1. What is your primary goal with the purchase? Travel instrument? First stringed bass instrument? A compliment to your electric bass? A compliment to your upright bass?

Travel instrument
I want to be able to bring a bass on my travels. Could be everything from your everyday comute to a vacation or holiday trip abroad or as a tour instrument that you bring on the bus or to your hotel room before and after your gig.
The ubass can be the solution to al the above! Since all the acoustic/electric ubasses are acoustic that do give you a nice unamplified sound. It’s not super loud but will work practicing on your own.
If you need more unamplified volume you can go for the Kala round wound strings. These will give a little bit more volume. Heads up: Most of the current models will work with either the Pahoehoe (original black polyurethane string) or the Kala round wound. It’s not recommended for the Wanderer model.

It you do want to amplify your ubass while traveling and don’t mind bringing an amp my recommendation is the Phil Jones Bass Double Four (or the new Micro 7). The (quite new) Roland micro Bass Cubes will work too. The core sound of the ubass is below 200 Hz so the better bass response an amp can give you the better your ubass will sound!

There are also headphone amps you can use. The Phil Jones Big Head (HA-1 or HA-2) seems like a good one although I haven’t been able to test one yet.
I have used my Zoom H6 recorder with great results too. The H6 has 4 tele-inputs and although the are line level inputs they have worked nice with my UBasses that has a built in preamp.

First stringed bass instrument
If you new to playing bass and want to take it up the Ubass is really a great place to start. Because of the shorter scale length you will have easy access to the first frets. You will not have to reach so far to play those low notes on the E string. The sound of the pahoehoe string through an amp is also very pleasing and full. Those strings are soft on the fingers too so you can start playing for quite a while without getting tired in your fretting hand.
I have been bringing UBasses to the high school where I teach many times (now we finally have two at the school) and all the students that have played them, even those with no or almost no prior experience, has been able to play and get instant gratification within a few minutes. Recently one of my students used a Ubass when one ensemble was to play Money (Pink Floyd) this made it possible to play the tune since the student was able to focus on the bass part and not spending a lot of time getting a good sound of a regular 34 inch scale electric bass that is so much harder to get. Great sound out of when you don’t have that mush experience and also quite small hands.
A great first stringed bass instrument for sure!

A compliment to your electric bass(es)
I bought my first Ubass back in 2010. I started playing bass around 1983. The new feel of those rubber strings felt strange at first but that feeling quickly went away when I heard it plugged in. The smaller scale length made it ease to play and the portability was of course also an exceptionally good attribute too.
Since 2010 I have used at least one Ubass at almost every gig. Sometimes as the primary instrument and sometimes for a particular song in a set.
I got hooked really quickly and can’t really see myself not using a Ubass since I feel that it is such a great musical expression tool for me!

A compliment to your upright bass
If you play upright and want to be able to get a sound similar to your upright without always bringing one a Ubass is the solution. Although I don’t see me primarily as an upright player I have played enough upright to be able to say that I know the basics of it. I actually try to think like an upright player when I play, for example, jazz on the Ubass. I use the same fingering, although it’s not necessary. I play with a lot of open strings because I would have done that if I played the same tune on the upright. This makes it easier for me to emulate the upright sound too. This is one reason I feel bass players that primary play upright player quickly can feel at home on the Ubass!

A second instrument if you already play, for example guitar?
The Ubass is the perfect bass instrument for a musician that have guitar as their main instrument. The scale length is pretty close to a guitars and if you want to get a warm upright and earthy tone on your demos (or other recordings) the Ubass will fit the bill!
Link to the Ubassists of the world – Gunnar Hjorth post

2. What sound(s) are you after?
There are roughy two main types of ubass sounds you can get from a Ubass – the synthetic rubber sound and the round wound sound. (More options are on the way, though…)

Synthetic rubber (Polyuruthene or similar materials)
The original black rubber string (Pahoehoe by Road Toad Music) is the original string and sound of the ubass.
Nothing really compares to this sound. It has a lot of warmth and low end. The only real downside is that they stretch a lot and it can take a while before they have settled in and won’t stretch of go flat. But the sound is soooo nice and will fit and compliment many styles of music hand in glove!
For more on the synthetic stings available please check out for a upcoming blog post about ukulele bass strings. You can find previous string tests here!

Round wound
The first round wound string for the Ubass that came out on the market was made by the German string company Pyramid. These were a really nice compliment to the Pahoehoe synthetic rubber string. It gave the player a more recognizable feel and a sound that was a bit more distinct and closer in feel to a regular electric bass string.
There is also another similar string on the market made by Kala.
I have used these strings on most of my Solid body’s for quite some time now. They are also great on a acoustic/electric Ubass especially if you can’t get used to the feel of the rubber strings. The sound can be very warm on the round wounds too since they have a nylon or silk core. More on strings in a upcoming blog post about Ubass strings and sounds. Kala has a nice selection of the now available ubass strings on the market.

3. What styles do you want to play?
Although I feel that every ubass model can be used to just about all styles of music there might be some things to consider when you make your choice.

Besides the different string choices available (see above) it might be good to think about the design of the different ubasses. Will you play mainly bass parts of will you also play chords solos in the upper register?

The Kala California Striped Ebony Acoustic/Electric Ubass with Pahoehoe strings

The acoustic/electric models have 16 frets and although you can play chords on these they can be a bit limiting if you want to explore this a lot. Maybe you already play chords on a regular electric bass and want to have a travel instrument or just another sound. In that case a solid body ubass would be an option to check out.

The Nik West Signature Kala California Solid Body Ubass with Kala Round Wound strings

Since the round wound strings came out these have been my go to strings for my solid body ubasses, at least my 5-stings. If you have followed my blog you might have noticed that I have been using a prototype set of the round wounds. This set have a high C instead of a low B. This makes it possible for me to play nice chord voicings not possible on a regular B-G set. This set will be available soon! I will write a dedicated blog post once I know the release date!) Below is an example of how the E-C set can sound. The video features my composition ”Tranquility”. This is composed especially for the


You can support me and my ubass music if you buy this song at my bandcamp page!
https://basmagnus.bandcamp.com/track/tranquility

The Kala Round Wound strings in action in my composition ”Tranquility” that feat. the wonderful bassoon playing of Mikael Lindström

The Journeyman model (it came out in 2018) has a nice design that makes it possible to get easy access the upper frets. So please consider this model if you don’t want an solid body ubass but still want upper register access. See below!

4. Have you played fretless bass (or other fretless instruments like upright bass, cello of violin?

If you have prior experience playing a fretless instrument please consider a fretless model. I really like the added expressiveness the fretless fingerboard gives me, especially when I play styles where a upright bass would fit in nicely. See previous blog post about this below!

5. Have you got small or big hands?
The Kala ubasses has a scale length from ~20 to 23,5 inches. I have quite small hands so I have never had any issues with the super short scale length. If you have bigger hands you might need to look at other brands that make slightly longer scale ukulele basses.

Examples
GoldTone has 23 and 25 inch acoustic/electric ukulele basses
Aquila ShortBassOne 12 and ShortBassOne 60 are both 23,6 inch scale ukulele basses

 

CurRent Kala Ubass models (2019)

I managed to cram most of the current models onto one of the ubass walls while working with Kala at the Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim in January!

Acoustic/Electric models

All Solid Mahogany (The model that started it all!)

Available in: Fretted and fretless (right handed)

Link


 

 

Solid Spruce Top/Mahogany (This model has also been around for a while although current model was updated in 2018. My first ubass was the original Spruce model w/o a built in preamp)

Available in: Fretted and fretless (right handed)

LINK


Striped Ebony (New model that came out 2018) One of my favorite looks!

Available in: Fretted (Pahoehoe or Round Wound strings), Fretless

LINK


Exotic Mahogany (Introduced in 2012 a great and popular model)

Available in: Fretted (Pahoehoe or round wound strings), Fretted (left handed, Pahoehoe), Fretless (Pahoehoe)

LINK


Rumbler (Introduced 2013)

Available in: Fretted and fretless (Silver Rumblers strings)

LINK


Journeyman (New model that came out 2018!)

Available in: Fretted (right handed, Aquila Thundergut)

LINK


Red Journeyman and Black Journeyman (New models that came out 2018!)

Available in: Fretted (right handed, Kala Round wounds)

LINK (RED)

LINK (BLACK)


Passenger(New model that came out 2018!)

Available in: Fretted (right handed, Aquila Thundergut)

LINK


Wanderer (New model that came out 2018!)

Available in: Fretted (right handed, Aquila Thundergut strings)
Use only Aquila Thundergut or Thunder Reds on this model!

LINK


Solid body models (Only available at kalabrand.com)

Natural

LINK

Available in fretted, fretless and in 5 string versions

Maple

Koa

LINK

Available in fretted, fretless and in 5 string versions

LINK

Available in fretted, fretless and in 5 string versions

SIGNATURE SOLID BODY UBASSES

Bakithi Kumalo

 

LINK

Available in fretless 4 string only

Nik West

 

LINK

Available as fretted 4 and 5 string

Previous posts with tips on buying, amplifying and playing fretless Ubass can be found here
https://playubass.com/2011/09/03/tips-on-buying-a-kala-ubass/
https://playubass.com/2013/02/14/how-to-choose-the-right-ubass-for-you/
https://playubass.com/2011/12/23/playing-fretless-ubass-heres-some-tips-for-you/

Annonser

DIY – Piezo Check-Up

Hi,

Here’s one method you can use to check the piezo on your solid body ubass.

 

If you’re not certain you can do this yourself please get help from a guitar/bass repair service!

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: 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!

Detta bildspel kräver JavaScript.

Link to Gruvgear / Gigblade

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

It is here: Learn to play the Ubass – Basic techniques. Get your copy now at the iBook store

Hi,
After three years in the making, I’m proud to announce that my first interactive ebook is live at the iBook store!

The ebook is packed with amazing features that make learning about the Ubass a new and exciting experience! I will go through these features in detail in a future blog post but for now, let’s have a quick look:

  • Picture gallery’s that enhances the reading experience
  • Multi-angle videos that show you how to get the best out of your Ubass playing
  • Highlighted words are clickable and explained in pop-ups or in the extensive word list. (I bet you can spend hours just  navigating the word list alone!)
  • End of lesson quizzes – check and see if you have understood the lesson you just worked with
  • Marking text and make notes – find something especially interesting? Mark the text/or make a note – these are collected and can be browsed and/or searched

Preview videos

Link to the iBook Store
Learn to Play the Ubass
by Magnus Sjöquist

DIY Update! BUILD YOUR OWN SOLID BODY UBASS – ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW | PHASE 2 – BODY SETUP 2

Video 3.png

Hi,

Finally video 3 (of 4) is done!

Phase 2 | Body setup 2
It’s time to install the pre-amp/EQ, bridge, back plate and volume/tone knobs. All the steps are shown in the video. You can also download a PDF guide here!

Best of luck and stay tuned for the last part in the Build your own Kala Solid Body Ubass series. You can find the earlier posts here!

/Magnus

Build your own solid body Ubass – all you need to know | instructions and phase 1

ubass-finished body+neck
5-string fretless. Body finish done with neck in neck pocket

Hi,

I’m finally done with phase 1 of my ”Build your own ubass” series. In this series I will build a Kala Solid Body Ubass. All the parts are from the Kala web shop!

In the first phase 1 worked with the finish of the body. As you might have seen on my instagram or facebook page I wanted to get close to the finish of my Bakithi Kumalo signature solid body 4-string fretless. I’m quite happy with the result and learned a lot in the process!

All associated blog posts regarding this project will be accessible on the DIY page!

I will go into the details about the first phase, but first, let’s check what you need to build your own ubass.

Step 1 – Buy the parts
You need to decide what model you want to build. There are four options:

  • 4-string fretted
  • 4-string fretless
  • 5-string fretted
  • 5-string fretless (the one I’m putting together!)

When I got the parts to my UBass there was a kit option with all the parts included. This is not available anymore so you need to add all the parts yourself at the Kala Web Shop.

Here’s a PDF with all the info about what’s needed for a Solid Body fretless 5-string:
Build your own Solid Body Kala Ubass – parts needed

Step 2 – Decide on the body finish
I choose to mimic the look of my Bakithi Kumalo signature ubass and went for a so called ”tar” finish. I will not go into detail of the different products I used since these will differ from country to country. It is of course possible to do whatever you want with the body finish!

Please send me pictures of YOUR custom UBass finish so we can show them to the world! 🙂

Step 3 – Put the ubass together
I have compiled a guide from the instructions you could find on the previous version of the kalabrand.com web page.

Download my PDF instructions below:
U-Bass Kit Assembly Instructions compiled by playubass

I will guide you step by step – phase by phase through this process in my series of blog posts!

First up: Body finish!
This first phase is documented in the movie below!

Good luck with the making of your own solid body ubass!

/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

New newsletter with lots of…news!

playubass-newsletter-logo

I’m just about to send out my next newsletter…the first one this year…

My goal was to keep these going in a more monthly or bi-monthly faschion. But time kind of rushes past too quickly…

Anyway if you don’t already subscribe now!

From the newsletter:
Education material for the Ubass
In this next issue of the newsletter I will finally let you try out a portion the educational material I’ve been working on for quite some time now.

These so called Lesson Packs is aiming towards different topics and since I haven’t been able to play with my right hand because of a hand injury (more in the newsletter) the first thing up is part of a lesson focusing on the hammer-on and pull-of techniques from a future Lesson Pack 3 ”Etudes and dexterity” lesson.

In the lesson you will be able to try out the interface. I will start by releasing these Lesson Packs in the iBooks format.
This format is available only via the AppStore/iBooksStore so iPhone, iPad and Mac users (Yosemite 10.10 and up) will be able to uses these.

To check ”the market” I have made a little survey trying to find out how many of you that have access to any of the above mentioned platforms. If demand is high, I might put time into transforming/developing versions of these lesson packs for other formats/platforms.

Please fill in this survey (will take 1-2 minutes tops!)

The first lesson pack to be released is Lesson Pack 1 ”Basic techniques”.
I’m still in the process of making the video portions of these lessons, and it takes a lot of time to get these right. Can’t yet let you know about an exact date for the release but my goal is the beginning of 2016.