Playubass String Test July 2019

The new Kala Flatwound by Gallistrings is one of the featured strings in this test

Hi fellow ubassists,

The main string types available for ubass players is featured and tested in this blog post

But first some background info…

When I started to play ubass the original Road Toad Pahoehoe (Black polyurethane) was used exclusively (2010-2012). One reason was of course because it was the only string available. (The Pyramid Round Wound String and strings by Aquila Corde debuted during this period but since I only had one ubass and used it so much I didn’t get around to try these at the time).

The next string I used was the Aquila Corde Thundergut string (2012). It had more tension and settled in quicker. One downside was that it had a more sticky feeling than the Pahoehoe strings. But I used them for quite some time and thought they were nice to play.

Next up was the Aquila Thunder Red strings (2014). These strings were really nice to play and had a lovely tone where it was pretty easy to go from a warm full jazzy sound (playing close to the end of the fingerboard) and more of a “pop” sound when playing closer to the bridge.

Since then even more option has come to us ubassists!

This Summer was the debut of the Kala Flatwound string by Gallistrings.
I have used prototype sets of these strings since December 2018.
Although they are primarily made for the acoustic/electric ubasses I have tried them on solid body ubasses too.
(I will share some videos from these tests soon!)

The focus with the following video(s) is a comparison between the Road Toad Pahoehoe, Kala Round Wound and Kala Flatwound by Gallistrings.

These sets truly represent three different tone flavors. (The difference in sound and feel between the other “rubber-like” strings and the Pahoehoe is of course noticeable but the Aquila strings are not included in this test. Please check other posts about strings under Reviews and tests).

Some info and personal thoughts about the following test

I made three different short compositions; Slow Funk, Pop Song and Jazz Intro. I wrote bass parts and recorded three (and in one example four) tracks with three different ubasses featuring the Pahoehoe, Flat Wound and Round Wound strings.
I cut between the different recorded ubass tracks in the main video so it’s easy to compare the different tones and timbres. (In a seperate video (see below) the examples are included in full if you want to hear more from each string set and not just around eight bars of each ubass/string set).
More info about the ubass tracks and how I worked with them in the Tech Talk section below.

So what do I think about these different strings?

Well, I do enjoy playing all of these sets since they give me different tones and timbres. I think my playing changes depending on the strings I play at the moment. I do believe all these sets can work for a big variety of styles and that it’s mainly up to the player to choose what feels best for him/her regarding to the sound they hear in their head.

I guess I’ll choose string (and ubass) based on these basic guidelines

A warm, round sound with lots of low end > Road Toad Pahoehoe

Warm, round with a more focused sound > Kala Flat Wound by Gallistrings

A defined yet warm sound with longer sustain > Kala Round Wound

Most important for happy music creation is a using tools that makes it easy to express yourself.
I really love having different options to choose from while others might have found their ”holy-grail-string” and stick to those strings for a long time!

A little disclaimer and some extra info about the recordings in this test

The round wound strings in this test are played on a fretted Kala Journeyman while the other string types are used on two different Spruce top fretless ubasses. My original Ubass (see Tech Talk) and a newer one. The best thing would have been to use the same ubass for all string types. This was not possible but I hope that you still can get something out of the test.

I have treated all the ubass recordings in approximataly the same way regarding volume, EQ and compression. A commercial release would NOT have been done this way! In the case of a commercial release the sound would have been tweaked even further to make it sit in the track best possible way. The volume of the ubass tracks would also have been considerable lower so it would blend better and not compete to much with melody and vocals. These recordings can be seen as basic tracks with room for instrumental or vocal melodies.

 

Good luck with your ubass playing,

Magnus

 

Tech Talk

Instruments used
Road Toad Pahoehoe strings: Kala Spruce acoustic/electric ubass, fretless (2010) Recorded through the RMI Basswitch IQ/DI with the 10MOhm input setting

Kala Flat wound by Gallistrings: Kala Spruce acoustic/electric ubass, fretless (2018)

Kala Metal Round Wound: Kala Journeyman (2018)

Signal chain
Jule Monique – all tube premium tube preamp XLR out > Universal Audio Apollo > Logic Pro X

Channel strip
Minimal EQ, compression on the ubass tracks

Slow Funk
EQ: HiPass at 30 Hz x dB boost at 2,5 kHz.
Compression: ~ 1 dB compression with LA2A UAD compressor

Song 2
EQ: HiPass at 30 Hz x dB cut at 200 Hz x dB boost at 2,5 kHz
Compression: ~ 1 dB compression with LA2A UAD compressor

 

 

Full length versions of Slow Funk and Pop Song

Annonser

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.

Throwback: Jammin’ with Frank Vignola

Me and Frank Vignola after the concert at the jazz club in Hallsberg , Sweden. It was almost 8 years to the day from when I got to jam with him for the first time.

Back in 2011 i attended a workshop with master jazz guitarist Frank Vignola.

A couple of days after the workshop he was going to play a show not to far from where I live. At the workshop he invited the participants to come to the concert and offered the possibility to jam with him, Vinny Raniolo and Eric Bogart.

I talked to a friend and we decided to drive to the concert. I brought my original fretless Kala spruce ubass and a cord…

In the intermission I approached Frank and told him that I’d like to take him up on the offer to jam. We decided on Fly me to the moon and a blues

Set two starten and I was called up on stage after the second song…

I brought my ubass plugged into the PA and of we went. We had not played a single note prior to this and there was somewhere around 150-200 in the audience probably wondering who that guy was taking the stage.

Fly me to the moon flew bye and Frank started to play the head for C-jam blues and after a somewhat shaky start (on my part) we found a nice groove.

I still love the part where I manage to steer us into half-time mode and the audience starts to clap along. Frank plays a smoking solo, I play a solo and we go into trade mode and finally manage to sync the ending pretty nicely!

This was a great experience and has also been great for my “ubass exposure” on YouTube with around 135.000 views to this day.

Last Saturday Frank played at a nearby jazz club and I went there with a friend. It was a fantastic concert. Frank played with top notch Swedish jazz musicians, Eric Söderlind, guitar, Hans Backenroth, upright bass and Joakim Ekberg, drums.

No jam for me this time but I managed to talk to Mr Vignola for a bit, telling him how fun it was when we jammed and that the video of that firat jam back in 2011 has been great for me. It’s nice to be able to give thanks for these things in person.

The sax and trumpet players from the support band was invited to jam. It’s so nice that Frank still pays-it-forward at his concerts!

Original blog posts:

Post 1

Post 2

PS: I have jammed with Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo once more. That time we played the Police song Walking on the moon. I played my Rob Allen Guitars MB-2 that time. Check it out here!

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.

 

 

Over the rainbow…new track from ”Speaking UBass” vol. 1

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Hi,

Its Christmas and time to release the third track from the first ”Speaking UBass” album!

This time it’s a track that I started working on quite sometime back! I have always loved the classic song from The Wizard of Oz, ”Over The Rainbow”. I love to sing it and thought I should do something with my voice and the ubass. I decided to start with the lesser known verse and wrote a ubass chord arrangement using mostly arpeggios but also some ”regular” chords. Playing this in tune was quite a challenge and took a while to learn and record.

Anyway, I hope you have a great Holiday and that you will enjoy my ubass version of this classic song!

 

Playing Ubass with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra

The Bass Section of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and me!
The Bass Section of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and me!

Hi,
One of my goals with this blog/site is to take my Ubasses to places you normally don’t see one!
Here’s a new experience for me and the Ubass 🙂
Besides blogging I do other stuff too 🙂 I work as a music teacher and ICT-pedagogy in a Swedish secondary school with an arts program (music, dance, theatre, and visual arts).
Among the highlights we give our music and dance students is a collaboration with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra that is based in our town. Since our hometown <a href=”http://www.orebro750.se/”turns 750 years in 2015 we decided to do a concert with songs that is either performed or composed by someone from here. (There is even a bass neck and head in the logo! 🙂

I had to (which wasn’t a sacrifice at all) chime in and play two songs on these concerts. One of the songs lend itself towards the Ubass. So I decided to play my trusty acoustic/electric on a jazz ballad. It is composed and arranged for orchestra by one of Sweden’s premiere jazz pianists and composers, Lars Jansson. The song is called Hilda’s smile. Below is a sneak peak of one of our performances of the song. It was great to play together with this wonderful orchestra once again. I have done it a couple of times before in different projects, but never before with a UBass. It was also nice to talk and hang with the nice fellows of the bass section. See pic above!

Ubass + Chamber orchestra = check 🙂

More of Lars Jansson’s music here!

More about the orchestra here!

NEW INTERVIEW SERIES! Ubassists of the World – Gunnar Hjorth (Sweden)

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Hi!

I’m super exited to post the first (of hopefully many) interviews in my new series.

This interview can be also be downloaded as a PDF if you want a nice reading experience 🙂

Ubassists of the world!
In this series of interviews I will try to find out how and why Ubass has become a new tool for different musicians around the world to express their Music!

Interview by Magnus Sjöquist for playubass.com

Interview 1 Gunnar Hjorth (Sweden)
To kick of this series I asked my long time friend Gunnar Hjorth if he wanted to be my first interviewee. On Saturday 8th of March 2014 I visited him in his studio. Besides the interview we also got to do a quick Ubass duet jam in his studio! Pure fun!

Let the interview begin!

This interview was done in Swedish (made sense since we’re both Swedish)
so this is a translated transcript of the interview).

Magnus: Hi Gunnar!
Gunnar: Hi Magnus!

M: How come you play the Ubass?
G: It is a fantastic instrument, fun to play and very versatile!
I’m mainly a guitarist but do play quite a lot of bass in different situations, live and also on different recordings in my studio, I have been looking for a bass that gives me a big sound but also is easy on my hands. If I play a lot of electric bass I often get blisters on my finger tips. Since this is the case I always have to take this into play when I’m about to do some electric bass recordings. Recording bass and then wait a while until the next session so I don’t get blisters. Then suddenly I come a cross a instrument that sounds almost like an upright bass, is totally ergonomic and easy on my hands (body), fun to play and with a fat/full sound and fits the hands of a guitar player perfectly!

M: I know you play a lot of classical guitar that requires nails on the right hand fingers to be able to get the desired sound.
G: Yes, and here lies a big part of the problems that faces a guitarist that wants to play bass.
M: Playing bass however requires short nails to get a full/round sound.
G: Exactly, I have to turn my fingers to a certain angle to avoid nail sound.
M: So you have found a technique that works? Is it easier to use this technique on a Ubass than it is on a regular electric bass?
G: It’s a lot easier on the Ubass! Much because the strings are less tough on the fingers/nails than on a regular electric bass. If your nails touch the Ubass string they won’t break because of the softer material. (Gunnar talks about the original Pahoehoe strings here. Thunderguts and Silver Rumblers by Aquila are also softer on the fingers. These three are the most common string choices for the acoustic/electric Ubass). This makes the feeling more similar to an nylon guitar than a electric bass. I can use more of my classical guitar technique on the Ubass than I could on a electric bass.
M: Do you play only with your right hand index or middle fingers or are you using your thumb as well?
G: Yes, sometimes I use my thumb to get a more fluffy and round tone. But I do play a lot with my index and middle fingers and it works really well.

M: What turned you on to the Ubass? Where did you find out about the instrument?
G: Well, I heard a good friend play the instrument and it sounded so very nice and felt like a really cool instrument. I got very interested in the Ubass and wanted to find out more so I asked him a lot of questions that he answered gladly! I thought about it for awhile and started looking for them in the music stores but they were hard to find so I ended up buying one online.
Once I got the Ubass I started to play it for a couple of months to get to know it before I brought it to a gig.
M: To get more familiar with the feeling of the Ubass!?
G: Yes. Playing the Ubass has become increasingly more fun and nowadays I almost always prefer the Ubass instead of a regular bass if the situation let me choose!
M: I think that it is quite easy to get used to playing the Ubass. And for a guitarist I presume it will be more like a guitar since the scale length isn’t so far from a regular guitar.
G: It’s very easy on the hands.
M: You don’t have to stretch your fingers that much on the Ubass.
G: It’s the ideal bass instrument for someone that’s mainly a guitar player

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G: You can use your basic guitar technique. I also think it has the possibility to get a lot of different and diverse sounds. I like the fact that mine is fretless. I really love the fretless bass, maybe because I have played with a great fretless player for many years!
M: Did you hesitate when you choose between the fretted or fretted model?
G: No, for me it was the fretless I wanted to play.
M: Did you have the chance to try both models before you ordered your fretless?
G: Only a quick test.
M: Was that enough?
G: I felt it was a bass instrument I could invest time practicing without the fear of getting blisters after a short while!
M: I do recommend the fretless, or at least that you try it out before you decide. If you’re used to play a regular bass the change to a smaller scale length can take some adjustments and the lack of frets will help you avoid playing on the fret wire since this will produce an unpleasant sound.
G: I wanted to get a sound close to the upright bass because I’m interested in jazz music and I have been using my fretless Ubass on music in that style.
M: And on a upright bass there are no frets…
G: You’re right, it’s a well known fact! 🙂

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It’s the ideal bass instrument for someone that’s mainly a guitar player

M: How long have you had your Ubass?
G: Almost two years.
M: And after about two months you started to use it live!
G: Yes, but I did stare a lot on the fretboard to play in tune. It has however been easier and easier to play in tune in the 21 inch short scale.
M: When you play the Ubass what styles do you play? We have already talked about jazz. Are there other styles you play live and in your studio?
G: I have been using it on Latin inspired music (from ex. Brazil…) and also pop songs.
You can vary the sound a lot so I think it is a versatile and all-round instrument.
M: So by varying the playing technique you can get different sounds?
G: Yes, it’s surprisingly easy and it’s easier on the Ubass than on a regular bass
You can easily go from a upright-like tone to a snappy pop sound just by varying the playing technique.
M: That’s interesting. You might think that the rubbery original black strings should be very round sounding but they can really sound very snappy and short too!

M: You are a multi instrumentalist with guitar as your main instrument,
can you recommend other musicians that don’t have bass as main instrument to start playing the Ubass?

G: Yes I can, and I do! There are people I have played with that have picked up their own Ubass, wanting to have that tool of expression too! The Ubass has so many benefits!
I can really recommend it to other guitarists that want to have a great bass instrument in their toolbox. And it isn’t too expensive!
M: I know that many guitarists (and people with other main instruments too) have a home studio and might want to record, for example, music that ”requires” the sound of an upright bass. Why not play it yourself instead of trying to record it on a midi keyboard with an upright sound patch!
G: It will be a more live/living feel and maybe even more authentic than if you play on the midi keyboard keys.

Find out more about Gunnar Hjorth and his music on gunnarhjorth.se

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Jammin’ with my Kala UBass | 39 Fretless Ubass x 2

More interviews soon!

Jammin’ with my Kala UBass | 33 Footprints (W. Shorter ‘cover’)

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Hi!

Back in March I recorded some music at a friends house. This jam on the classic Wayne Shorter tune Footprints was some of the music that was captured. Hope you like it!

Daniel Björnmo, guitar and Mats Nyström, drums has been featured on this blog before. Please check these posts out if you want. Post 1 | Post 2

Wayne Shorter Documentary in the making!
If you want to help the people that are making the documentary about the life and music of Wayhe Shorter please hurry and contribute here: http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/wayneshorter
Hurry up there are only 11 days left (until 6.20.13) of this pledgemusic.com opportunity!