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!

 

What’s in the first ebook-ePub ”Learn to play the ubass – Basic Techniques”? First up: Lesson 1

In a series of four short blog posts I will write about the different lessons in my first Lesson Pack: ”Learn to play the Ubass – basic techniques” (One lesson at the time every Sunday for four weeks!)

First up…

Screen shot from Lesson 1 ”How to hold the ubass”



Lesson 1 – How to hold the Ubass

The first lesson gives you suggestions about different ways to hold the Ubass.

Since the body and over all length is so much shorter than a regular electric or acoustic bass guitar you really need to find a way to accommodate this.

In the lesson I go through different ways I hold the ubass. I have found out a couple of alternatives that can be nice to switch between or at least use as a starting point when you develop your own ”holding style”. I will let you know what has worked best for me and why.

Even though you have been playing regular bass for a long time I think this lesson will help you to get a good ”grip” on your ubass playing regarding how you can hold it to get the most out of your ubass music making!

Direct links

iTunes/iBooks Store 

Payhip (ePub)

Find out more here!

Stay tuned: Next Sunday [September 3rd] it’s time for ”Lesson 2 – basic plucking/picking hand technique”

 

Minutes after I got my hands on a ubass for the first time back in July 2010

 

– – –

My parents bought my first ubass at a music store in Honolulu, Hawaii while visiting the islands back in 2010. I had not been able to try one beforehand. It only took me a few moments to get acquainted with the short scale length and rubbery strings. After that I got more and more in love with the feel and sound of the ubass. Hope you have or will get the same feeling for these amazing instruments! Read more about my first encounter 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

Learn to play the Ubass. iBooks preview up! …and some questions for you!

UPDATE 2: (3.10.16) This preview is no longer available on the iBooks Store. Partial books are not allowed. Let me know if you want to try it out and I can send you a download link. Still working on completing my first iBook. More info ASAP!


UPDATE: Had some problems with the Google form I’m using for my questions below. But now it seams to work!

Hi,

If you already subscribe to my newsletter you might have seen that I have a sample lesson up on iBooks store. It’s a preview of my brand new Lesson Packs series- Learn to play the Ubass!

I’m putting the final touches on Lesson Pack 1 – Basic Techniques at the moment and hope to release it early 2016.

I really want your feedback and I know there are a at least a handful of downloads of that Lesson Pack 3 preview. Please help me out answering a couple of questions in the Google form below.

Ok. But if I haven’t got that preview yet, where can I find it? Click here to get the free preview on the iBooks Store.

I went for the iBooks format for a couple of reasons…

  • Digital distribution
  • Interactive media
  • Free updates and fixes

I did a poll a while back checking what preferred platform you have for digital media. Quite a few answered that they use iPhone/iPad or Mac so at the moment the iBooks format seams to be a good decision.

What do I want to know now?

One of the obstacles with the iBooks format is what to include regarding multimedia contents. As you know video takes up space and even if I go for a decent quality (720p) the videos add up on the final size of the download.

So one of the most important questions is how big a lesson pack can be? How much should be included and would it be ok to have links to some content outside of the book, additional videos on YouTube for example?

It won’t take more than a couple of minutes of your time to answer these questions and it will help me a lot to know what you think.

Big thanks to everyone that wants to help me out!

Link to questions!