7

I'm quite taken with the idea of the Kala U-Bass - it's a bass in the form-factor of ukulele using special super-thick rubber strings.

They look pretty well-built and the price suggests they are not a toy - but still I wonder if they can really be seen as anything other than a gimmick?

5

I've used one in a normal covers rock band, and found it great fun, but not massively flexible. They don't sound like a conventional bass guitar as the sound doesn't have a lot of highs or sustain, but you can get a nice mellow double bass-like sound out of them, and the close fret spacing also allows the playing of very tight, fast bass parts with very little finger strain. As the strings are rubber, you aren't going to get the clang and grind that's important for a lot of rock bass sounds, so in a really rocking setting you won't sound (or, necessarily, look) the part. In a jazz band, a coffee-shop semi-acoustic band, or something softer/quirkier, it could be great.

You do, of course, need it to be amped up to get much sound out of it at all, and I've had problems with noticeable hum from the piezo pickup - plug in, turn up, and make sure yours doesn't suffer from that problem before you commit to it.

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    I know a bass player who plays one because of its sound: for two or three ballads in a two-hour set of groove songs which he would normally play with a double bass but doesn't feel like bringing one just for two songs. If you close your eyes, you could swear he was playing double bass. – Jörg W Mittag Jun 21 '16 at 12:37
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Their sound is pretty solid. They don't sound 100% like a electric bass guitar, but they don't sound that different. To an untrained ear, I think this difference will pass unnoticed.

They are being used in more than just gimmicks. People use them like they would use a normal bass guitar:

But even if they were used only as a gimmick, if you like the sound, there is no one stopping you from using them as you would use a normal instrument.

2

I think it really depends on the setting! For a coffeehouse acoustic gig it might be the ideal instrument. There is a lot of discussion about them on bass guitar forums, which makes me think that the bass community, at least, considers them to be legit.

From my time as a bassist I know that 95% of the audience don't even count how many strings you are playing, 4% think that all basses are 'Fenders' and the remaining 1% want to know what brand of flatwounds you use!

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    From my experience, 95% of the audience will think that bass is a guitar – Shevliaskovic Jun 21 '16 at 10:40
  • Oh well, audiences... I think it's not far off that the 95% don't know what a bass is at all, but those who do know will also have some more opinion. I'm almost always asked what's funny about this contrabass after concerts by someone, but those who know it's a cello will usually ask why it has five strings. – leftaroundabout Jun 21 '16 at 18:02
0

"In a jazz band...it could be great."

Based on my experience, it would be a big mistake to show up with a ukulele bass to a jazz gig. "Serious" jazz musicians listen with their eyes as much as (or more than) with their ears, and would undoubtedly not take seriously any bassist who tried to play a gig with a uke bass.

As for the sound, in my opinion, despite numerous comments online to the contrary, the U-Bass and other similar instruments do not sound much like an upright bass. They suggest the sound of an upright (just as a standard electric bass guitar can, if played with the appropriate technique), but if the two instruments were played side-by-side, it would be easy to tell the difference.

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