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THE BASS UKULELE is one of the newest instruments to become popularized by the trend towards portable instruments. The Ukulele Bass also known as the U-Bass is small enough to fit into a backpack and big enough to create a massive sound. With a growing selection of Bass Ukuleles, there are several great options available. Both beginner ukulele players and professional bassists have enjoyed this special instrument.
The Ukulele Bass was once considered to be a novelty item, until influential bass players began to use them in their shows. Bass players including Felix Pastorius and Bakithi Kumalo used the U-Bass in live performances. Now the U-Bass is growing in popularity and with it has come more options. With our Bass Ukulele Buyers Guide we can find the bass U-Bass that matches your needs.
WHAT IS A BASS UKULELE?
A bass ukulele can either be seen as a large ukulele with thick strings or a miniature bass guitar. The solid state bass ukulele is more like the miniature bass guitar and the hollow body bass ukulele is more a large ukulele, which it essentially is. Both the solid state U-Bass and the Hollow Body U-Bass use mainly polyurethane strings to help achieve the deep tones on the small instrument.
HOW IS BASS UKULELE TUNED?
The bass ukulele is tuned like a standard 4 string bass guitar with E-A-D-G strings. The bass ukulele starts and octave up from the standard electric bass, while the contrabass ukuleles are tuned the same as an electric bass guitar. To play standard ukulele chords, try tuning to G-C-E-A.
ARE BASS AND UKULELE CHORDS THE SAME?
The ukulele and the bass are tuned different in their octave range and it changes how one would approach playing. The bass ukulele and the bass guitar and tuned the same so the chords would technically be the same however, you rarely play chords on a traditional bass guitar.
IS UKULELE EASIER THAN GUITAR?
The Ukulele is easier to learn than the guitar because it’s a small instrument with soft strings. While the ukulele has nylon strings the ukulele bass using polyurethane strings, both of which are more forgiving on your fingers than steel string guitars.
THE SMALL SIZE of the bass ukulele makes this an ideal travel bass. What is incredible is how deep the tone of a U-Bass can be. It really defies the size and makes it’s convenience even more valuable..
THE COMPACT SHAPE is typically the look of a ukulele, but only bigger. There are now solid body U-Bass guitars that look like a normal bass guitar but smaller, like a baby bass guitar.
The variations give you the option of having a portable ukulele bass that sounds like an upright bass, or a double bass, and the sound of a traditional electric bass guitar.
Typically, the U-Bass is associated with the hollowbody bass guitar shape that has the upright bass tone.
THE COMFORTABLE STRINGS that are generally associated with the U-Bass are polyurethane strings. Polyurethane strings are high density strings.
These bass guitar strings are special in that they are able to produce a deep and rich tone despite being on a short instrument. The size of the ukulele bass limits the options for getting deep tones out of traditional bass guitar strings.
Fortunately, the polyurethane strings achieve the goal of a deep authentic bass tone despite the limitations on the size of the u-bass.
Not to be confused with the Bootsy Collins “Rubber Band” the feel of the polyurethane strings can have the feel of a rubber band.
After a couple of weeks of breaking in the strings, they should feel very smooth and easy to play.
The Ukulele Bass has polyurethane strings available as well as the less known bass ukulele strings that are made out of a mix of silk and nylon. There are options that include copper and silver plating which are fairly expensive. They are nice but come with a higher price.
The benefit of using the nylon/silk strings is that they feel more like standard bass strings. That’s a benefit if that is what you are looking for in a bass string. The polyurethane strings are very fun to play, so either way you are in good shape.
FRET VS FRETLESS is something debated in the world of bass players. While the fretless versions of the U-Bass are solid, they are more akin to an upright bass than Jaco Pastorius’ bass of doom.
When it comes to a ukulele bass, the fretless bass has a good amount of benefits. In general ukuleles are known to have some intonation issues. The fretless U-Bass allows the bass player to manipulate the tone and slide up the neck to work with the intonation of the polyurethane bass strings.
The nicer ukulele bass guitars have solid intonation so don’t stress the intonation too much. The fretless bass isn’t for everyone. If you are interested in learning fretless bass, this is a good place to get started since it’s a small guitar neck.
THE RANGE OF THE FRETBOARD varies depending on if you are getting a bass ukulele or if you are getting a contrabass ukuleles.
Both of these are fairly similar. The only difference is that the u-bass starts one octave above where a traditional bass would begin and the contrabass ukulele is the same as the standard bass.
The contrabass ukulele is nice and fun to play and should be an option when you are looking for a bass ukulele.
If you need a bass for travel, the bass ukulele is smaller than the contrabass ukuleles, so that is something to consider. Some of the U-Bass models are able to fit in your backpack.
THE PICKUPS in a bass ukulele is typically a piezo pickup for the hollow body uke bass guitars and the more traditional active pickups for the solid body ukulele bass guitars.
The piezo pickups which are commonly used by Paul Reed Smith in his hollow body and semi hollow body electric guitars. The Microphone pickup allows the options of getting the direct bass tone or the acoustic natural sound picked up in the piezo mic.
The solid state active pickups are what you would expect from an electric bass guitar.
The well made bass ukuleles are set up with nice pickups and have the ability to really thump.
These bizarre instruments look almost comically small & toy-like, but good LORD they sound enormous when amplified. I first heard Bakithi Kumalo using one with Paul Simon, and I literally did not believe my eyes/ears. Later I sought one out, and sure enough, this tiny little chihuahua of a bass does indeed make that enormous upright-like sound. Astonishing. It weighs like -10 ounces, fits in a backpack, sounds great unplugged, and when amplified has subs that have to be experienced to be believed. Amazing.
The Hadean UKBE-24 is an impressive Electric Bass Ukulele at a surprisingly affordable price.
The swamp ash body is well designed and the preamp design is solid and helps to project the deeper tones. A feature with the preamp that not all bass ukuleles have is the Hadean UKBE-24 has knobs for volume, bass, mid and treble controls.
The portability of these Bass Ukulele is a very convenient feature. The light wood design varies depending on if you go with the UKBE-23 which is made with a mahogany body or the UKBE-24 which is made with a swamp ash body.
For improved tuning control, Hadean went with Aquila Nylgut strings as they absorb less moisture than the traditional polyurethane strings. A slight bonus, however many of the polyurethane strings are solid as well and do a good job staying in tune.
The Kala Rumbler is a sweet U-Bass. The natural satin finish on the Mahogany wood looks exceptional. The Mahogany neck and walnut fretboard enhance the already elegant look of the mahogany body.
This short scale electric-acoustic ukulele bass is perfect for traveling and looks great for a stage.
The built-in tuner is solid as Kala continues to put out solid instruments. While this is one of the more affordable ukuleles in Kala’s arsenal of U-Basses, it certainly didn’t lose any of the punch you can expect from a Kala Ukulele Bass.
The shadow pickup and EQ really help boost the tone when using the Rumbler in an electric setting. Even if you are unplugged the tone is great.
The Silver Rumblers are awesome too.
The Kala Journeyman Acoustic Electric U-Bass is a beautiful Ukulele Bass that has the look of a violin or cello with it’s unique design with it’s two F-Holes set on a Mahogany body.
The UK-500B Piezo pickup captures the tone extremely well, offering both exceptional acoustic and electric tones. With a standard bass tuning and a baritone range, the Journeyman is an excellent U-Bass.
With the Kala Journeyman U-Bass using silver-wound strings, this bass ukulele has the feel of a standard bass. This features sets the Journeyman apart from some of Kala’s other bass ukuleles as many of their other models use polyurethane strings.
Overall, this is a solid Bass-Ukulele and offers nice variety to more traditional models.
The Luna Ukulele Bass has the name that matches the look. This Baritone Uke has a Tattoo etched into the body which gives it a distinct look and style. The artistic look is definitely something that catches the eye.
Beyond the look, this Baritone Uke Bass is well made. The ukulele is constructed of a Mahogany Body, Sprue Top and Rosewood Fingerboard.
It is an absolute joy to play this Bass Uke.
Be sure you are looking for a bass ukulele. While this is a baritone ukulele, the strings are that of a Bass Ukulele. The strings are also flat-wound which has benefits and drawbacks for a ukulele this size.
Ultimately, It has a rich tone as a result and it’s quite nice. Some owners of the LUNA BASS replace the flat round strings with the polyurethane strings found on the KALA U-BASS.
The Kmise Electric Acoustic Bass Ukulele is a well designed U-Bass. The Built-In EQ is very solid for the cost featuring controls for volume, bass, mids and treble. The design is well made and could work for a professional bassist as well as a beginner.
The accessories offered with the u-bass are a bonus as well. The gigbag that comes with this bass ukulele is better quality than alot of the included soft cases that we have seen with other U-Basses. There is also an included Allen Wrench with an easy-access to adjusting the action. This is particularly handy for professional bassists that are particular about the action on their instruments.
Kmise did a nice job constructing this bass ukulele and it looks well made. The mahogany not only looks great but it sounds great as well. The added adjustment knobs on the bass neck help keep the U-Bass in tune, which can sometimes be an issue with other models.
While Kmise is a lesser known brand that Kala, they managed to put out a very competitive instrument, both in price and quality.
This Acoustic Electric U-Bass is outstanding and looks spectacular. The Scout Mahogany Acoustic Electric U-Bass comes in fretted and fretless bass styles.
The wood choices and finishes that Scout has for their U-Basses are beautiful. The cutaway Mahogany Acoustic Electric Bass has a Spalted Maple Top, Back and Sides, with a Mahogany Neck and Back Binding.
With the Satin Finish and the Rosewood Fretboard, this U-Bass has a stellar look.
The Scout line of U-Basses are from the Kala Brand which continues to provide some of the best consumer and professional music products when it comes to their ukuleles.
Oscar Shmidt makes a solid Bass Ukulele at a fair price. I mean, his name is Oscar Shmidt, have you ever thought about that?
Good old Oscar is using Mahogany to craft his U-Bass. With a Satin Finish, Osc’ was able to make a very good looking instrument.
Old Mister Schmidt made a solid piece of equipment and should be proud of himself. We also should be proud of Ol’ Oscar. Old Oscar Schmidt. The man that made the bass Ukulele that we all love and adore.
Thanks Oscar Schmidt.
The Ortega Guitars Lizard Series 4 String Ukebass is an extremely well made U-Bass.
The Acoustic Electric, fretless Ukebass has a stunning Acacia wood top, back and sides that really shines with the gloss finish. The Mahogany neck and walnut fretboard and bridge almost complete the classy design. This particular model has the added bonus of an Abalone style shell purfling which you rarely see on bass ukuleles.
The venetian cutaway projects the acoustic tone very well and the Ortega MagusUkeBass preamp/pickup system does a great job of projecting the tones of this beautiful instrument. The use of Aquila Thundergut Short Scale Uke-Bass strings work with the design as the more traditional bass strings would likely have hard time staying in tune on this type of design.
Ortega Guitars have really dialed in a solid tone that is reminiscent of an upright bass guitar, especially when plugged in to a bass amp.
The Island Bell 30 inch Baritone D Bass Ukulele is a contrabass ukulele with an amazing contrabass sound.
The solid mahogany body has an amazing natural reverb that creates a tone that avoids the downfalls of some of the intonation issues that other ukuleles can be challenged with.
The Island Bell Ukulele has the signature ukulele sound associated with relaxing on the beaches of Hawaii.
As a 30 inch fretless bass ukulele, this model is great for the traveling bass player that needs a bass for practicing on tour, or just something easy to travel with.
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