Is it a Bass or a Ukulele?

Ohana Ukuleles OBU-22 Uke Bass

Ohana Ukuleles OBU-22 Uke Bass

 

It looks like Kala has created a monster. These days uBass clones are popping up everywhere. And that’s a good thing. Competition is good for the industry and for the consumer.

There also seems to be a trend to make Ukulele basses that use traditional metal bass strings, instead of the polyurethane Pahoehoe string the uBass uses. Manufacturers do this to distinguish their instruments from all the others out there.

At Winter NAMM this year, Ohana Ukuleles debuted their OBU-22 Ukulele Bass. It features a 25″ scale and metal strings. Like the beloved uBass, it’s tuned like a regular bass (EADG). According to Ken Middleton of Ohana, it shouldn’t even be called a Ukulele.

“I suppose strictly speaking, like most basses, it’s not really a Uke,” Middleton told Aldrine Guerrero of Ukulele Underground.

And he’s correct. It really isn’t a Uke. It’s a bass. A small bass, but a bass nonetheless. Anything larger than a baritone Uke body takes it out of the Ukulele range and into the short scale bass range.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the Ohana bass. I’ve been a bass player for more than 30 years and prefer short scale basses (that’s why the uBass is right up my alley). And the Ohana OBU-22 looks really nice and sounds great. But we don’t need to call it a Ukulele. It isn’t. We should just call it a bass and leave it at that.

Ken Middleton told Aldrine at NAMM that the reason Ohana went with metal bass strings, rather than Pahoehoe strings, is because the market “seems to be a little bit saturated” with uBass instruments. He stopped himself short of saying the market is already over the sound of the uBass (probably because he knows that’s not true). It’s that upright bass sound that makes the uBass what it is. If it sounded like a regular bass (which the OBU-22 does) it would just be another small acoustic bass.

You can watch Middleton and Aldrine discuss the Ohana’s ukes here. The OBU-22 discussion starts at 5:20 in the video.

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3 thoughts on “Is it a Bass or a Ukulele?

  1. Regarding strings:
    I have tried a new string that is kind of in between the pahoehoe and a metal string…A test will come soon at playubass.com

    If I compare my quite old (bought in 1998) acoustic bass guitar with the acoustic Ubass it sure is a big difference. It isn’t hard AT ALL for me to decide what to bring to a gig. Although my acoustic bass guitar is quite good it still is a bit to close to an electric bass sounds wise. I guess that’s why it sits in the stand most of the time…

  2. While very short scale basses (less than 30″) have been on the market for some time, I’ve never seed one with an acoustic body and steel strings like the Ohana OBU-22. Ohana makes beautiful instruments but this one does not compel me to trade in my U-Bass anytime soon.

    • Hi Grant. The sound of the uBass is what sold me on it. I have a Republic acoustic bass that is similar to the uBass, same scale, but uses metal strings. It sounds nothing like a uBass. It sounds like an acoustic bass guitar. The Ohana’s body is a bit large for a ukulele, even a baritone. Though I’m sure it’s fun to play. It’s a small bass. Nothing wrong with that. Basically I guess Ohana is trying to market them to Uke players, as evidenced by Daniel Ho introducing them at NAMM.

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