The how of plucking is also important. I found
three ways to get different and usable sounds,
but I’m sure there are more possibilities (keep
in mind that this will never be a slap-and-pop
machine). On one end of the spectrum, you can
dig in with your fingertips toward the bridge and
get a really plunky tone reminiscent of dead flatwounds
in the ’60s. At the other end, use all the
meat of your thumb and the tone gets round
and beefy. A third alternative falls somewhere
between these two—play gently with the thick
part of your fingertips right up against the neck,
and you can get another faux-upright sound.
Left-hand finger placement makes a big difference,
too. If you get too close to the frets—playing
right behind them like on an electric guitar—
you’re likely to get some buzzing notes. I also
found I had to adapt my left-hand fingering to
the U-Bass’ 20" scale. I’m an upright player, too,
so going from the 41"+ upright to the U-Bass
sometimes caused me to overshoot a fret. Even
if you play a regular 34"-scale electric bass,
there’s some need to adapt. I usually play with
1-2-4 fingering, but with the U-Bass I achieved
more accurate fretting with 1-2-3 instead.
I tried the U-Bass in two musical settings. First,
I toted it and my mini-amp to a gathering of
the local ukulele society, where I joined up with
about a dozen players strumming ukes. Aiming
for a big, round sound, I used the U-Bass to
provide a pillowy foundation for that pack of
little nylon-stringers. Happily, the group liked
what the U-Bass brought to the music. They
asked if I could sit in for the whole night, and I
was invited to return for a future gig.
The second setting was a rehearsal with my
blues band, a four-piece group with guitar, harmonica,
drums, and bass. In that group, I usually
play electric bass and electric upright, so I wondered
if the U-Bass could do it all. I’m happy to
report that it was credible in that setting, much
to everybody’s surprise. The sound can sometimes
be a bit plunky, but that seems to disappear
in the musical mix. To my relief, I never had
a feedback problem despite this being a hollowbody
instrument. And if you need further proof,
check the Kala website for their A-list endorsers.
The Final Mojo
The U-Bass is a well-designed, gig-worthy
instrument, if somewhat of a novelty item.
The build is solid, the components are topnotch,
and it serves up sounds you can use in
a variety of settings.
you’re into novelty instruments that
can serve real musical purposes.
you need to play a conventional
instrument or your self-image won’t
allow you to play a uke-shaped
object in public.
|Street $499 - Kala Brand Music Co. - ubass.com