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!

 

Annonser

Summer Ubass Video from Jämtland, Sweden

From the video recording of Jämtlandssången

Hi,

Time for a new Summer Ubass Video! Making a outdoor Summer video is now almost like a little tradition! 🙂

For the second time it is filmed in Jämtland, Sweden. I really love this region and have spent quite a lot of time there. Last year I did a version of the super classic song Summertime. Check out the blogpost and video here.

This year I decided to really pay homage by doing a version of Jämtlandssången, the official song of the region. It is also the first song I played on my new/old mahogany ubass. I found it in a music shop in Östersund the biggest town of Jämtland. This ubass is an early model without the built in preamp. I have looked for an early fretted mahogany model to compliment my first ubass, the spruce fretless I got in 2010.

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I did a quick arrangement playing mostly melody together with a quite simple bass part. I added some more chord tones in some places to make the harmony come through a bit more. When I got back home to my studio I decided to add a string arrangement to spice it up a little. The strings are recorded with the Strings-instrument-plugin inside of Logic Pro X. Besides the video of me playing the mahogany ubass I added some video footage from 2013 (!) Yes, that’s right I got the original idea of doing a tribute video to Jämtland back in 2013 but I never finished it… That’s why the other footage in the video features my first spruce ubass.

I hope you will enjoy this little video. If your interested in knowing how I arranged this please make a comment below. If there is interest I can make the arrangement available with a little lesson on how it all works! If you want to do this to another songs and melodies please include the titles in the comments too. That way I can include more melodies in future solo ubass arrangement lessons!

 

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

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!

New video! My version of a true classic – Summertime by George Gershwin

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.

I was lucky to be a part of a short summary staging of the opera when I attended a music school in Sweden back in 1992. I had the role of Sportin’ Life and sang the song “There’s a boat that’s leavin’ soon for New York” and ”It ain’t necessarily so”. Sportin’ life was the drug dealer, and possessive lover of Bess the main character. Porgy the other main character wanted to rescue Bess from him…

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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. 🙂

I decided to incorporate my fretting hand tapping plus plucking hand percussive technique that I have used from time to time since 2014.
It all started when playing in the country duo M&M’s Honky Tonk with the great friend and lovely guitar player, Marcus Måttgård. I wanted to add some percussive parts to mimic a drummer and experimented using the body of the Ubass as a percussive acoustic drum.

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!

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New video! Eva Stenström Limited ”Allt under himmelens fäste”

Eva Stenström | Magnus Sjöquist | Daniel Björnmo

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!

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For the best listening experience please listen to this song with good headphones or speakers that can reproduce a wide frequency spectrum!

 

 

 

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.

 

 

New Single Out Today!

First release by Nilsson – Sjöquist Duo!
In this first release, by the Swedish based Nilsson – Sjöquist Duo, we want to show our love for the music of Brazil and this time we feature a Sivuca song!

We play an arrangement by Tommy Nilsson of the song ”Cada Um Torce Como Pode” made famous by Sivuca.

Both Tommy Nilsson and Magnus Sjöqust have been playing in different groups and projects for many years.

The duo format is nice because it gives us a lot of space to express ourselves through our instruments, the accordion and the bass.


Side note: In the recording I used my trusty fretless Kala spruce acoustic/electric ubass. However in the accompanying video you’ll see my new fretless Kala California acoustic-electric ubass!

Quick links to some of the places you can find the song:

cdbaby

Spotify

Amazon

GooglePlay

Tommy is also featured in the latest single release ”Jag vet att vi ses snart igen (Manha de Carnaval)” Link to info about that release!