Playing classical music is very rewarding and it’s fun to do it on instruments that wasn’t even invented when the music was written.
This first video (I hope there will be more) features ”Inventio no. 4” (Invention No. 4 in D Minor, BWV 775) written by J. S. Bach. These short pieces was originally written as musical exercises for Bach students. Since I’m a forever student of music they suit me too! 🙂 I use these from time to time with my bass students. It’s lovely to play melodic baroque music on the bass/ubass.
Since Part 1 is played on my Kala California Solid Body, with the prototype strings (EADGC), I was able to play it one octave higher then on a ubass tuned (B)EADG. The contrast to Part 2, played on my Kala California acoustic/electric ubass with the original Pahoehoe strings, is nice I think. This piece was originally composed to be played on the piano (Part 1: right hand and Part 2: left hand). Playing both parts on one ubass would require some kind of tapping technique and could probably be done but would be very hard. I think it’s nice to use different instruments with sounds that, I think, compliments each other, and it’s easier too! 🙂
Playing in the high register of the Solid Body Ubass is very hard since the frets are pretty close from fret 15 and up. I decided to make ”one pass – no edits” takes of each part. It’s of course even nicer to play this as a ”real” duo since it will be easier to get more interactivity that way! 🙂
This piece can be done at different tempos and I opted for a medium tempo. It’s not slow but definitely not fast.
I hope you will like it and be inspirerad to play some classical music on your ubass!
In May I recorded some Bach-inspired improvised music. Here’s one of the videos recorded on my iPad (built in kamera and mic) I will try to make more videos like this but with a better video and audio quality!
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.
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. 🙂
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!
Great ubass playing in the blues zydeco genres of music can be heard on the 2017 live recording by Sonny Landereth called “Recorded live in Lafayette”
David Ranson has a beautiful tone and feel and this proves, yet again, that a ubass can fill so many “bass shoes” with fantastic results. This live recording is a great example thereof!
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.
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!
For the best listening experience please listen to this song with good headphones or speakers that can reproduce a wide frequency spectrum!
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.
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.
D minor 7 chord
Please check out my review of the PJB Double Four!
Mats Nyström, brushes and cymbals
Carla Bley, Daniel Björnmo, Steve Swallow and me Sweden, 2009
Still from video
Re-amping my Phil Jones Bass Double Four
Steve Swallow and Billy Drummond live in Sweden 2009
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 with 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!