So, what’s the attraction in playing ubass? Find out at 11 reasons why being a bass player is awesome. Experienced musician and performer, Cath McCourt, summarises the ubass experience.
“Playing ubass is the most satisfying instrument. You’re the rhythm, the beat, tone, soul and sweet melody. Especially when you’re in a room full of ukuleles, the bass mellows them out.”
There’s something for everyone. But here are the ubass basics.
Getting to 1st Base
Here are a few things that you need to know about playing ubass.
- You need an amp.
- The strings are soft & made out of nylon core.
- You pick instead of strumming the strings
- You can learn patterns that make it easy to play a song in any key
- Learn to read bass tabs (at Guitar Command or at Study Bass).
Ubass … no Treble
Bass is a lead instrument. Your right hand can’t strum a bass like a guitar or ukulele. So, to play along to songs, you pick the notes — pluck one string at a time, either use your thumb, or ‘walk’ the fretboard with your index and middle fingers. The notes of the ‘open’ strings are found on the bass clef!
Today’s popular song structures are mostly based on a 400-year-old classic, Pachelbel Canon. The article, ‘There are four chords at the heart of every pop song’, explains how many of today’s pop songs have been condensed to 4 chords. In each key, use the I, IV, V and vi chords of the key. That means that in the key of C, use C, F, G, Am. In the key of G, it’s G, C, D, Em.
Watch Axis of Awesome – 4 Four Chord Song (with song titles) by Australian group, Axis of Awesome, to see what can be done with just four chords.
For bass players, this means that for each song, you often only need four notes.
It helps to know where some of the notes are on the fretboard.
It’s best to familiarize yourself with the first 5 frets, especially on the low E and A strings (the low notes) of the bass.
The strings are E A D G – ‘Eat And Drink Grapes’. These are called ‘open strings’.
Playing the Root Note
There are usually 16 frets on a ubass. This diagram shows the 1st five frets, and the numbers represent the frets.
Most songs have three chords. For example, for a song in key of C, the root note of the song is C, and F & G will ensue.
You’ll find all three of these notes on the 3rd fret. Look for more C, F & G notes on the 12-fret diagram.
The same goes for the key of G. The root note will be G, and the song will also include C & D. Look for them on the 5th fret.
Ukulele songsheets show which chords to play on the ukulele. However, some chord names have two parts. The first part (the capital letter) is the root note of the chord. The root note might be followed by a sharp (#) or a flat (b), letters and/or numbers.
Most of the time, bass players only need to think about the root note, and the chords that go with the root note. The root note for G7 is G, and for Am it’s A. But the root note for Bb is still Bb.
Some chords have more than one name, e.g. the open chord of C6 is also called Am7. This doesn’t matter for a ukulele player. But it is important for bass players. The root note for C6 is C, and the root note for Am7 is A. A more in-depth explanation is given in U-Bass Bass-ics: Bass Ukulele.
3 Questions: Playing The U-Bass with Ron Saul (Jim d’Ville 6 min 52 sec)
- What is the tuning, scale length etc of the Kala U-Bass?
- How does one get started learning to play the U-Bass?
- What about your right-hand technique?
U-bass Beginner Lesson: The Major Scale! (stephencoxbass 10 min 31 sec)
- Introduction (1 min 27 sec) https://youtu.be/hKk2-8u34Lc
- Anatomy of a Bass Ukulele (6 min 6 sec) https://youtu.be/CLBl0irLuug
- Tuning a Bass Ukulele (3 min 28 sec) https://youtu.be/YPWotOFTMCE
- Picks, Plucking and Positions (4 min 21 sec) https://youtu.be/4RqlydoaGZU )
- Root Notes (4 min 7 sec) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oddDumBLNY4
- Rhythms and Rests (3 min 44 sec) https://youtu.be/WhWtw54A3oM
- Octaves and Fifths (5 min 53 sec) https://youtu.be/T4ow3qMIMC4
2 Simple Riffs on Bass Ukulele (7 min 47 sec)
Percussion Bass Uke (5 min 55 sec)
Return to the Ubass, No Treble web post to meet our local bass players.