Fretless UBass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Christian H, Jan 9, 2022.


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  1. Christian H

    Christian H

    Apr 18, 2019
    So I’ve been thinking about getting a fretless UBass to get as close as I can to that real woody upright sound. I’ve read quite a few posts both here and in other forums saying that really short scale without frets is difficult to play (in tune). Violins are fretless and absolutely tiny in comparison and many violinists seem to manage. Is there anyone in TalkBass land that has one and/or a fretted one for comparison? I have a Fender Mustang at the moment and previously had a regular old P Bass so I guess I’m getting smaller.
    I’m also sure that I was 1½ inches taller 25 years ago too!
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2022
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  2. jd56hawk

    jd56hawk Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    Tried them quite a number of times...the size was a big disappointment, the strings...rubber ones, that is, were an even bigger turnoff, and the tone I get from my Dean Exotica acoustic bass is every bit as woody...not to mention, the preamp is far, far more versatile.
    Plenty of love for the U basses here, as you'll see when the U-folk chime in, but I think it's best to listen to the opposing side, too...because when you're in love, you're viewing the world through rose-colored glasses, right?
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2022
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  3. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    Vermont
    I have a GoldTone 23” fretless bass - nice instrument. It gets that very woody faux upright sound. I’d prefer unlined but I’m not sure if they make one. The slightly longer scale helps with the adjustment from EB, and if that isn’t enough, they make a 25” scale as well. Either you like the rubbery Aquila strings or you don’t, and many think they’re “sticky”, but I think they’re very important to “that” sound. I actually like them a lot - great fun to play!
     
  4. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass

    Nov 22, 2017
    I would not buy a U-bass expecting it to sound like an upright. Not sure where this trope comes from. There's a guy who comes over here to rehearse with my husband's band; he's an upright player. Now and then he gets lazy and brings his U-bass instead. The U-bass sounds like he's playing the bottom four strings of an amplified classical guitar. It sounds nothing like his upright.

    So, that's as much as I know, but I always question this idea that they make good substitutes for an upright. I personally do not think that they do.
     
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  5. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    Vermont
    Nothing sounds like an upright except an upright. I think my uke sounds pretty cool - so do band mates and others. …two different things, both good!
     
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  6. spatters

    spatters

    Mar 25, 2002
    The 25" scale Gold Tone fixes all the problems of a standard Ubass.
    The extra scale gives the strings much more tension, makes it much easier to intonate properly, and gives it much more acoustic projection.

    All the people who say "A U-bass can't sound anything like an upright" are wrong. (As long as you're talking about pizzicato, obviously.)
    Here are some videos to prove it.
    The first guy, in particular, gets an alarmingly convincing upright tone.





     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2022
  7. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass

    Nov 22, 2017
    Maybe so but that is much, much larger than the U-bass my friend brings over here, so not at all what I have in mind when someone mentions a U-bass. At that size, what's the difference between that and an acoustic bass guitar, exactly? Is it just the type of strings, the way it's tuned, some combination of things?
     
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  8. spatters

    spatters

    Mar 25, 2002
    A "standard" Ubass, or bass ukulele, generally has 20-21" scale. (Note that Ubass is a Kala trademark, so other manufacturers can't use it. It's like "jet ski", which is a Kawasaki trademark even though no one ever uses the term "personal watercraft".)

    The generally accepted difference between a Ubass and a regular acoustic bass guitar is the extremely thick synthetic strings.
    Gauges on a typical set are .197 - .165 - .118 - .94!
    These strings, the extremely low tension they're played at, and the sound they make through a piezo bridge, are what gives a Ubass its distinctive tone -- as opposed to the steel or bronze rounds found on a typical ABG, which are under much higher tension as well, due to the longer scale.

    (Even if they made 34" scale UBass strings, you probably couldn't get them up to tension, as they're too stretchy and would likely just snap.)
     
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  9. Starthief

    Starthief

    Dec 21, 2021
    St. Louis-ish
    That was my thinking when I went for a fretless bass uke, rather than fretted. It's been ages since I played violin, but it -- and more recently but much less, mandolin -- set my expectations for scale length. And where it comes to bass, I just prefer the fretless sound overall.

    I've only owned mine about two weeks, have not put in anything like serious intonation practice yet (mostly getting a feel for intervals across the fretboard). I just checked myself with a tuner yesterday. I'm certainly not dead-on, but not too bad considering. Certainly better than I was after two weeks with a violin :laugh:

    That said, I'd probably be much more lost if I had an unlined fingerboard (...like a violin). Maybe someday I'll go that route.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2022
  10. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    It's not difficult to intonate. A U bass is basically the same scale length as a short guitar at 21". Also, I think it has a unique sound, but it isn't an upright sound either.
     
  11. ClassicJazz

    ClassicJazz Bottom Feeders Unite!! Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2005
    Delray Beach, Florida
    One big issue with those rubber strings is you can't really slide on them like a regular metal string. When you do you end up pulling the string out of tune. I have that issue with my fretted UBass.
     
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  12. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass

    Nov 22, 2017
    Thanks :) Makes sense that the string would make a lot of the difference.
     
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  13. KohanMike

    KohanMike Gold Supporting Member

    I only play bass uke/mini bass guitars. They do have a very nice tone that aren't exactly like a double bass, but deep in their own way. I also had a custom fretless made with lines, which as any fretless does, allows the player to control the note, not the fret (I couldn't get used to it, so sold it).

    My first was a Gold Tone 23" GT MicroBass with Aquila Thundergut white strings, but didn't like the stickiness, so I changed them to black Road Toad Pahoehoe, which are much smoother. But in humid conditions, they also got sticky. I finally got tired of that, and the need to restring often because of how much the poly strings stretched, so I replaced them with Kala/Galli flatwound nylon core. FYI, Aquila just announced a re-formula of their black, red and browns to make them non-sticky. Here's my collection.

    Bass Collection.jpg
     
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  14. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass

    Nov 22, 2017
    So, what is available in a fretless U-bass? I could achieve my quest for a short scale fretless bass instrument with one of those. Now am intrigued.
     
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  15. dalkowski

    dalkowski It's "rout," not "route." Supporting Member

    May 20, 2009
    Massachusetts USofA
    I bought a UBass precisely because when I heard one live (John Hiatt's bass player), I thought I was hearing an upright before I laid eyes on it. I've gotten some double-takes playing it at my own gigs.

    Mine's fretted; if I got some mad money and a pre-owned fretless came around, I'd take a flyer on it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2022
  16. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass

    Nov 22, 2017
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  17. Starthief

    Starthief

    Dec 21, 2021
    St. Louis-ish
    There are both flatwound and roundwound strings made for U-bass as well. My Hadean had flatwounds on it when I bought it used, but I went back to the Thunderblack that it originally shipped with, for the authentic U-bass experience. Yeah, they're a bit stickier, and on long slides you have to go farther up the neck than you'd expect because of stretching. But I like that mellow tone.

    Of course right now it's winter and the air and my skin are both dry; maybe in summer I'll have a less pleasant experience with the Aquila strings. And now that I've played a bit more with the onboard EQ and with effects plugins, I can probably get very close to that mellowness with the flatwounds anyway.
     
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  18. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    Vermont
    As I mentioned I’m very fond of mine, at 23”, no frets. The 25” sounds about the same, based on the YouTubes I’ve seen. Wish it were unlined, but no biggie.

    I keep it around the living room and it’s my quick “ learn a new song” bass. The unamped volume is just right to play along with YouTubes on the couch :).

    Oh, and I love the Thunderguts too.
     
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  19. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
    May 24, 2022

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