There’s Good News. And Bad News.

 

Mike

Mike Upton says Kala is working on a Ubass newsletter. Photo: Kala

 

The good news that now there’s a new source of uBass information you can sign up for.

The newest entry is from none other than Kala themselves. They’ve been sending out an Ukulele-centric newsletter for years. Now they’ve decided to do a uBass-centric newsletter as well.

Really, Kala?

Just kidding. We welcome the company.

Besides, what could be better than getting the info from the horse’s mouth, as it were.

According to Mike Upton:

We received feedback requesting a separate newsletter solely focused on the U-Bass. We took your advice, and you can now sign up to receive our brand new U-Bass newsletter.

You can sign up for just the uBass newsletter, just the Ukulele newsletter, or for both. At the bottom of every page on the Kala web site there’s a sign-up box. Just put your email in and you’re good to go.

If you’re already a subscriber to Kala’s Ukulele newsletter, you can update your preferences to include the new newsletter on their web site.

We can’t wait for the first issue to hit our mailbox.

And now the bad news: Kala says they are discontinuing the acoustic California Series uBasses, in order to make room for new and improved models.

In a note on the Kala Facebook page, the company had this to say:

The Kala Acoustic California UBasses will be discontinued and production on these beautiful basses will cease to exist as we put our heads down and start work on the development of our next generation of Kala California Acoustic UBasses over these next six months.

The company notes it has two fretless and one fretted Koa model available for purchase. Get them while you still can. Once they are gone, that’s it for the current Acoustic California uBasses.

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Magnus Demos the Paddle Bass

 

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Magnus Sjöquist puts the Kala Paddle Bass through its paces.

 

Our friend Magnus Sjöquist of PlayUBass fame, posted a video of himself and his bandmates putting the new, as yet unreleased, Kala Paddle Bass through its paces.

Check out the video here.

As Magnus demonstrates in the video, the one-string bass can be adapted to any genre of music and can be played on the lap, mountain dulcimer style, or it can be held like a guitar and played that way.

He also did a Facebook Live video, explaining how the Paddle Bass works. Check that video out here.

 

Kala Affected by Rosewood Restrictions

 

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East Indian Rosewood is one of the Rosewood species restricted for export.

 

Like all companies selling instruments and products containing Rosewood, Kala is affected by the new regulations restricting Rosewood species sales across borders.

The company has placed this disclaimer on its web site:

INTERNATIONAL ORDERS
Please bear with us—due to new International Export Regulations regarding all species of Rosewood there will be an undetermined postponement of orders containing Kala Elites, California U-Basses, and USA Banjo Ukulele shipping outside the United States. We hope to have this resolved as soon as possible.

The Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) held a conference from September 24 to October 4 this year in Johannesburg, South Africa, where it was decided that all species of rosewood under the genus Dalbergia and three bubinga species (Guibourtia demeusei, Guibourtia pellegriniana, and Guibourtia tessmannii) will be protected and its export restricted, according to Reverb.com.

The restrictions went into affect January 2.

Kosso – sometimes called African rosewood (Pterocarpus erinaceus) – will also be protected, they note.

While Brazilian Rosewood is was already under CITES protection, now all the nearly 300 other species of rosewood are under similar regulation. This includes East Indian rosewood and Honduran rosewood – as well as woods like cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa) and African blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon) – that are widely used in the manufacturing of stringed instruments, marimbas and some woodwinds.

Rosewood is the world’s most trafficked wild product, according to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, accounting for a third of all seizures by value, more than elephant ivory, pangolins, rhino horn, lions and tigers put together.

So, if you’re an overseas customer of Kala’s, prepare for delays if you buy an instrument form them. Sales shipped within the United States are not affected. If you already own an instrument with rosewood and have it in your possession, there’s no need to worry. You can also travel with previously purchased instruments with no restrictions.

Acoustic Bridge Names Us One of Top 23 Ukulele Blogs of 2016

 

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A big Thank You to Andy and the guys over at Acoustic Bridge blog for naming the uBass Appreciation Society one of their “23 Ukulele Blogs You Need to Tune Into This Year.” He also provided this cool badge for us to use on our site.

We were listed 18th among the 23 Top Ukulele Blogs, though I don’t think the blogs were listed in any order. With blogs like Uke Hunt and Ukulele Underground on the list, we’re in pretty good company.

Here’s what Acoustic Bridge had to say about us:

This site focuses on those who are interested in the Kala brand uBass, which is a combination baritone ukulele and bass guitar. They offer playing tips, news and lots of info!

In case you’re not familiar with Acoustic Bridge, they cover piano, ukulele and guitar for beginning musicians and those interested in acoustic instruments. Go check out the blog and tell Andy the uBass Appreciation Society sent you.

The Mike and Ukulenny Show

Kala's Mike Upton and Ukulenny jamming on Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On"

Kala’s Mike Upton and Ukulenny jamming on Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”

 

Mike Upton of Kala Brand Music Co. not only talks the talk, but he also walks the walk.

Here’s Mike accompanying Uke player Ukulenny on the uBass to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”

Check out the VIDEO  HERE.

Kala “Made in USA” Ukes Get Major Coverage in Music Press

Kala's USA Ukes are the subject of a major article in the October issue of Music Trades magazine.

Kala’s USA Ukes are the subject of a major article in the October issue of Music Trades magazine.

 

Kala’s newly opened U.S. Uke factory is the subject of a major story in the October issue of Music Trades, an industry magazine. While the article focuses on Kala’s new U.S. factory and not specifically on its uBasses, it does mention the U.S.-made uBass.

The article does offer some interesting bits of information about Kala, such as the fact that the first USA-made Ukes should be available in January at the Winter NAMM show. The U.S.-made line of Ukes is expected to sell from $700 to $1,800.

The piece also points out that Kala posted sales of $13.2 million in 2013 of Ukes and related products. The company plans to add some new models to its Asian-made Uke line in 2015. Six and eight-string Uke models are slated for 2016.

Let’s hope they have a new uBass or two in the works.

To read the article in PDF version, click here: Music Trades 10-14 Kala Article

When is a Kala uBass Not a Kala uBass?

The Sakura Uke Bass "prototype"

The Sakura Uke Bass “prototype”.

 

When it’s a “prototype” uBass made from Kala parts and sold on eBay by someone called ukester, that’s when.

I troll eBay often, looking for bargains in musical instruments (which are getting fewer and far between these days), and have noticed this seller occasionally having a “uBass” for auction. He claims they are prototypes he made for a “nephew” who wanted an upright bass sound. But since there was no uBass at the time (this was apparently before the Kala uBass came out), he had to improvise. He also claims to have invented the uBass.

Here’s how he describes it on eBay:

before kala ever made a uke bass, i was told by a young hanai nephew that he wanted to play upright bass to keep with the sound of Traditional Hawaiian Music. He was just too small to handle an upright bass. I did a little research and became familiar with Mr. Owen Holt and ROAD TOAD MUSIC. Owen is the creator of the modern ukulele bass and the Pahoehoe uke bass strings. [You know the frog logo on the top of kala uke basses ?…dats ROAD TOAD’s logo]  I also discovered that Fender had produced a similar solid body bass called the “Dog Bone” way back in the 1980s using silicon strings. I found and bought one of each. I quickly saw why the Dog Bone Bass with the silicone strings never really did well. The intonation was terrible mainly due to the stretching of the silicone strings. Owen Holt’s uke bass was outstanding but cost over $1,500. He is a fantastic luthier and much of the cost went into the basic instrument and the rest went into the top of the line components he used like the Custom Hip Shot tuners and the K&K Super Double Bass Pickups along with the Pahoehoe strings, mammoth ivory nut and saddle, etc…. so i went into da garage and began prototyping to make an affordable uke bass mainly for kids. My thoughts were and are that the top end components to reproduce the low bass frequency are more important than the quality of the body itself. To prove this i made a one string uke bass from a cardboard shoe box with a wooden ruler for a neck, it sounded pretty good !!! I have also made a great sounding 4 string uke bass from a Corn Flakes box!  So i went into da garage and began “chopping” ukes into uke basses copying Owen using the same high end components. I am not a luthier and used regular hand tools from the hardware, my horseshoeing rasp and sandpaper. I experimented with Kala, Ohana and vintage Harmony ukes mainly. They. at the time, were great quality and i got good deals on them. I am also not a businessman and contacted Kala about the possibility of everybody going in together to make an affordable uke bass for kids. I still have my email records from my conversations. The emails stopped abruptly and da rest is history……

I give him props for giving credit to Owen Holt at Road Toad Music. But as for the rest of his tale, it sounds a bit suspect to me.

First off, as far as I know Fender never officially released a bass called the “Dog Bone.” I think he’s referring to the Ashbory bass (which is and 18″ scale fretless bass using silicone strings and is shaped like a dog bone). They also went by the name DeArmond Ashbory Bass, Ashbory by Fender, and the Guild Ashbory Bass. It was called by players the “dog bone” because of its shape, but it was never called that by Fender. They did, however, make an amp handle called the “dog bone” handle.

Turns out ukester runs a vintage Ukulele business out of Hawaii called Uncle’s Garage Vintage Ukuleles. He currently has five Uke basses on his web site, three of which he claims are prototypes. One that is available on eBay is called the “Sakura.” It’s made from a Kala Baritone Uke body.

He describes the Sakura like this:

an UNCLES GARAGE early prototype ukulele bass, baritone size, solid mahagony, fretless, slimmed down neck without varnish, Custom HIPSHOT Ultralite tuners, Pahoehoe strings by Road Toad Music, Double K&K Pure bass pickups,  handcarved water buffalo horn  nut, cherry blossom applique on headstock, fingerboard and body…comes in a new hard/soft case, .a great high quality bargin…the parts would cost more than this

On his web site, he’s asking $400 for the Sakura. On eBay he wants $450 plus $77.20 for shipping.

Curiously, on his web site, he makes no mention of Kala, other to say that the Sakura is built around a Kala Baritone Uke body. But on his eBay auctions, he uses Kala to market his “uBasses.” He describes the Sakura as “The 1st ‘Kala Uke Bass’ ever made !!!!…a prototype by UNCLES GARAGE UKULELES.” He has Kala in quotes and doesn’t actually say it’s a Kala uBass, just a prototype based on a Kala. But he’s definitely promoting it like it’s a Kala product–and the first one at that.

Now, I have no problem with someone selling a Ukulele bass that they made or even put together from parts. I’m even cool with them marketing it as “similar to” a Kala uBass in style and sound. But I do have a problem with someone trading off the Kala name to sell their product as if it’s an actual Kala product. Although ukester doesn’t say outright that he’s selling a Kala uBass prototype, that’s definitley the impression he’s giving in his auction for the Sakura. He does call it the “1st ‘Kala Uke Bass’ ever made” and by putting Kala in quotes he’s acknowledging that it’s not actually a Kala prototype. That may cover him legally (I’m not a lawyer and I don’t even play one on TV so I don’t know for sure if it does cover him or not). But I do know it’s coming very close to unethical. A casual reading of the auction will lead you to think you are bidding on an early Kala uBass prototype when you are not. The Sakura, as he says in the auction’s description, is made from parts he “copied from Road Toad.”

So he’s using a Kala Baritone Uke body, Pahoehoe strings from Road Toad Music, and components he’s copied from both companies. And this makes it a Kala uBass prototype.

I’m sure that would be news to Mike Upton at Kala and Owen Holt at Road Toad Music.