– ”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.
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
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
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:
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!
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:
Listen to a song that you thing has a great bass part and sound
Try to figure out where the bass part or riff was played on the fretboard
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!
Try to play the bass part the way you believe (or saw) it was played
Does it sound good there or can you find a place where it better?
I will explore this further in upcoming lessons and ebooks!
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).
Comparing the different string types playing a Jazz-intro
Even my old czech upright was used for comparison purposes
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Mr Michelin loves ubass!
Minis + ubass = true love
A classic Swedish Volvo had to be included
There were a lot of great cars at the show
I played through a Bose L1 at one time during 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!
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.
I just compiled my videos so they’re easy to find. You can watch my Youtube playlist (at the moment 72 videos) and access videos where I play Kala Solid Body Ubasses with EADGC tuning on the new VIDEOS page.
Besides this there is also a VIDEO LESSONS page for easy access to my free lessons.
My focus for this visit was to make some videos with the Kala video crew and also talk about Winter NAMM that was just around the corner. I brought my two custom solid body ubasses with the prototype E-A-D-G-C string sets. I did some videos with them alongside the new Kala Journeyman ubass and a 5-string California koa solid body ubass with regular B-E-A-D-G tuning.
Me and my wife really had a wonderful time in lovely Petaluma situated about an hour drive north of San Francisco. The town has a lovely downtown area and a beautiful countryside. We spent some time in the Helen Putnam Regional Park and caught a lovely sunset over the rolling green hills.
I also had the privilege visiting the home of Kala Brand Music president, Mike Upton, and we had a nice little jam in his living room!
Winter NAMM 2018
We flew down to Anaheim January 24 one day before the four day music trade show would start at the Anaheim Convention Center. From the NAMM.org homepage:
”The 2018 NAMM Show gathered the music, sound and event technology industries for the largest show in NAMM history, welcoming 115,000 registrants, more than 7,000 brands, exciting events and triple the industry education.” https://www.namm.org/
Pre-NAMM-day (January 24)
I went to pick up my name badge and got to see the wonderful Kala booth. It was a lot bigger then last year. Really spacious and beautiful with a genius and practical design!
Day 1 (January 25)
From the get go there was a steady stream of things happening. Musical highlights was standing a few feet away to one of my musical heroes, the fabulous organ player Joey DeFrancesco, when he played some super lovely organ jazz at the Visconti Organ booth. I told him about that lovely concert I heard him perform in Stockholm many years ago. YES!
He came to Stockholm in October. I saw the show with some friends. Did he have a bass player with him…no…was it still great… YES!!!
The evening was spent at the Bass Bash a special bass event, a great hang! The year before I brought a Kala Ubass there for the ”raffle”. This night I heard performances by Abe Laboriel (Open Hands) and the John Patitucci Guitar Quartet with the amazing Nate Smith on drums (Side note: In this video I play to loops from thelooploft.com played by Nate Smith!)
Laboriel and Patitucci both received Lifetime Achievement Awards from Yamaha this night!
Day 2 (January 26)
It was great to once again, if super brief, say hi to one of my mentors, Victor Wooten. I attended one of his camps outside Nashville back in 2011. Anthony Wellington was one of the many great instructors at the camp. Joe Craven was a guest at the camp. A super talented multi instrumentalist. So great to meet him again! Also got to meet Christian Fabian, a great bass player born in Sweden but now lives in NYC.
I also met some great musician friends! Please check out Ariane Cap she’s a great bass player and educator (I met her at that Wooten Camp back in 2011) I also met Sam Montooth a great singer, bass player, teacher based, as well as Ariane, in the LA area.
One of my Ubass ”papas” Bakithi Kumolo is always such a great hang. We had some nice talks and jams at the Kala booth. He performed at the Bass Bach on the second day of NAMM and almost played my solid body ubass! 🙂
I also met some new friends and they were also Bakithi admires!
Day 3 (January 27)
Some highlights this day was seeing good friends Ariane and Wolf. We had a nice little lunch away from the crazy show floor.
I got to meet Kala Ubass Artist Nik West. She had her signature ubass on display at the booth.
The duo Go West demoed at the booth. So did Corey, Andreas and myself.
I don’t have any pictures but have to mention the wonderful Jule amps the Jule Potter makes!
I would finally be able to meet Richard Mari Cocco Jr, (president) and Eric Cocco (vice president) for the great string maker LaBella
I got to meet great friend and ubass player Greg Gohde too! While walking outside after a long day we heard som crazy energic funky music performed by Kyotaro and Rikuo, a Japanese rhythm section duo. We closed out the day with some great food at the Disney Resort.
So it’s time for the final show day!
Bakithi came by the booth again so did bass player/actor Sekou Bunch. He did some great jams. I will probably share some of that later! Divinity Roxx, former musical director with Beyoncé, came by too.
The new Jorneyman ubass is one of three new ubasses in a new entry level line. These models are offered in fretted versions and will hopefully be available in fretless versions too later on. I played all three of these and they are a great addition to the existent line of ubasses. https://kalabrand.com/blogs/u-bass-news/namm-2018-new-u-bass-preview
This concludes my travelogue around this wonderful Ubass Adventure!
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!
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!