So What Exactly is a uBass Anyway?

In a nutshell, a uBass is a hybrid acoustic-electric instrument. It’s a combination of a Baritone Ukulele and a Bass Guitar. The uBass produces the same pitches as a standard bass guitar and is tuned in traditional bass tuning (EADG).  The uBass is the result of a collaboration between the Kala Brand Music Co. and Owen Holt of Road Toad Music.

“Our most unconventional offering is the new U-BASS. This instrument is turning the collective Bass community’s head,” says Mike Upton, founder of Kala Brand Music Co. in Petaluma, CA. “When people hear the sound and then see that it is coming from this little bass they are blown away. It sounds amazing, is fun to play and is easy to transport.”

Available in three different body woods–Spruce, Mahogany and Acacia–each Kala uBass features proprietary Polyurethane Strings, a passive pickup system with 4 individual piezo elements, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, and a solid mahogany neck. The uBass is available in both fretted and fretless models.

I asked Mike what the difference in sound is with the different woods.

“The Mahogany is all solid wood, where the Spruce-top is solid but the back and sides are laminate. Sound-wise the Mahogany does have a deeper sound, which I prefer. The Spruce-top is a bit brighter and punchier,” he told me.

The Kala uBass is basically a mass-produced version of Rod Toad Music’s Big Bufo Baritone Bass Ukulele (seen here at right).

The heart of the uBass are its strings. Bass players may be familiar with the Pahoehoe strings from their Ashbory bass. The Ashbory bass comes equipped with silicon rubber strings, which are prone to easy breakage and “sticky” to play. The Pahoehoe strings are polyurethane and don’t break as easily. They also enable your fingers to slide easily across them.

The Pahoehoe strings on the uBass are tuned EADG, just like a regular bass and were developed to play in the same octave range as an upright bass, according to Owen Holt of Road Toad Music. Hence the big sound from the little instrument. String diameters range from .070″ to .185″.

The Pahoehoe strings are available in two versions–standard black and the colorful “Dreads,” which are a black E string, green A string, yellow D string and red G string (seen at left).

The Pahoehoe strings can be purchased from the Road Toad Music store, or at Just Strings.