Okay, so I’m still fighting off the upper respiratory disaster, but, I’m sitting in a chair at this point, not melting into a ten foot high pile of pillows, so I’m going to count that as progress, even if my nose mostly feels like it’s on fire, and I’m basically in the middle of a battle of wills between my desire to, for the first time in close to a week, have an unmedicated thought process, and the sudafed sitting on my desk going ‘is the sinus pressure too much to endure yet?’ I’m not sure whether my desire to think in full sentences or my need of sinus relief is going to win the war, but I’m resisting the temptation to medicate for now. I hate taking the stuff, because I’m kind of loopy enough all on my own, without the added help.
That said, my ukulele bass arrived, so I figured I should take a few minutes to talk about that while the only thing impeding my ability to think coherently is a headache and stuffed up sinuses.
For starters, here’s the backstory on why I decided to buy an uke-bass. I had it on the list as an ‘eventually’. I was thinking I’d buy one as a reward when I get somewhere with this bass thing. I shopped around a fair deal, and there are a really limited number available for us lefties. Given the extreme difference in width between the E string and the G string on an uke bass, restringing a righty was just not going to be a very functional option; for starters, it would be a tuning nightmare.
The most cost efficient left-handed uke bass on the market, by far, is the Hadean model sold by Rondo Music, so the last time I saw it, I kind of made a mental note for later. Then, it sold out in the blink of an eye, and I regretted not buying it while I had the chance for the price (a very reasonable $149.95+shipping). It spend the next several months out of stock. I told myself to keep an eye on it, and that I’d be an idiot not to snatch it up while I could when it was in stock again. They don’t make many lefty models, and I didn’t want to miss out on it, especially given my weird bass practice habits.
I started thinking an uke bass might actually make me practice more often. The logic was simple: I don’t live alone, and my roommate has the TV on every second that he’s awake, and it’s loud. I live in a fairly old house, and the furnace is just as old. When it kicks on, it’s not quiet. It’s not oppressively loud, but I’ve actually had guests ask me what it is. And, I live next to train tracks. Put all these things together, and it means if I want to practice bass and actually be able to hear what I’m doing, I need an external sound source. I ended up pretty chained to rocksmith as a matter of convenience, and mostly use my vox headphone amp the rest of the time, but I burn through batteries in the headphone amps pretty fast, so prefer not to use them when I don’t have to. That works fine in guitar land, since I also have an acoustic to work with. Bass…not so much.
So, when I was on amazon buying a few of life’s necessities, and saw in my ‘saved for later’ that the hadean lefty uke bass was back in stock, I did two things:
First, I cursed. The timing wasn’t great for unnecessary expenditures. Then, I sighed, and put it in my cart. I remembered my promise to myself to just go for it when it was in stock again, and I remembered kicking myself for not doing it the last time. It’s inexpensive enough that it won’t put me too far back on saving for that new couch, and I didn’t want to regret not buying it a second time.
So, I grit my teeth and bought the darn thing. It arrived a week earlier than estimated, and I bounced with glee…until I opened it and found Rondo had shipped me the right handed model. I saw on amazon that this had happened to another customer, who reviewed claiming it took a month to get the item replaced. Awesome.
I was going to put in to exchange it for the proper one on amazon, but saw that all you could do there was return, not exchange. A-ha! I thought, this is why it took a month. The reviewer had to return the item, wait for that to be processed, then reorder and start from the top. I decided to cut out the middle man, and suggest this for anyone who might run into the same issue: emailing Rondo directly cuts a significant amount of time off of the exchange process. I explained to them that they sent me the wrong model, and asked what the most expedient method of getting it resolved would be. They had me fill out the exchange form on their site, sent me a free return label, and told me that they would process the correct model as soon as they got notification that I’d dropped the other one off with UPS, without waiting for it to reach them first. This turned what, via amazon, would have been a month-long waiting game into a quick and easy exchange that took about a week.
Now, when we unpack it, we’re looking at an instrument that’s a bit bigger than my tenor uke all around, so I would guesstimate that it’s probably roughly the size of a baritone uke.
So, what’s worth noting here? The string through construction I think is of note – you’re going to have to unscrew this if you ever want to change the strings. That said, it’s a pretty minor thing, since I’m told that uke-bass strings last pretty much into eternity.
The Hadean uke-bass is strung with Aquila Thundergut strings.U-bass strings in general are going to cost a pretty penny, and Aquila are one of the better brands. But, see above comment – uke-bass strings last damn near forever.
There is a built in tuner, which does appear to be fully functional. The instrument is acoustic-electric, with a watch battery that’s easily removable via the port. The ease of access on this hatch is a win for me. My guitar has a trap door for a battery that you’ll destroy your fingers every time you have to open, so I appreciate how easily this latch pops open, even though I likely won’t need to access it frequently.
Overall sound acoustically is quiet. When I attempt to record without plugging in, the E string is barely picked up by the mic:
but, it is louder than my regular bass unplugged, which means it does reach the criteria I was hoping for when I purchased it. It means I now have a bass that I can easily pick up with no fuss and hear over the ambient noise in the house without outside assistance, which means, hopefully, that I’ll work with it more.
The uke-bass strings are going to take a little getting used to. There’s a much gentler touch to get a good tone. It’s stupidly easy to get a clean hammer on or pull off, but getting a slide that doesn’t buzz seems to take a bit more finesse than you really need on an electric bass. The strings are a rubbery material. I’ve heard people refer to this as ‘sticky’ or ‘tacky’. That’s not the word I would use, but I have fairly dry skin. I can see how someone more prone to moisture on the hands might find they aren’t sliding along the strings easily. This, again, I think comes back to that finesse I just mentioned. It takes only a very gentle touch to get a clean sound, and the temptation to press the strings more firmly because I’m used to metal strings is definitely there. Uneven pressure as you slide will cause buzz on the tail end, so there’s a degree to which I think the uke bass is going to train a bit more precision into me, as a matter of course.
I haven’t tested it out plugged in yet, but am not anticipating any issues on that front. Overall, for the price it seems to be a good purchase, even if only to have a really portable little bass to practice on on the go. Of course, if I plan to use it to that end, I will at some point need to look into what sort of cases are available for it, but I don’t expect to be bringing it any further than the living room for a while, so I can worry about that later.
Until Next Time, hoping the new toy means I’ll even out my practice schedule a bit.