How to Get the Best U•BASS Tone
A frequently asked question among our U•BASS players is how exactly to achieve the very best tone with their instrument. While a great deal of bass tone comes down to preference, as well as external variables such as the player’s amplifier and pedals, having an understanding of tone & playstyle fundamentals, as well as the EQ controls found on our various U•BASS models, are both important steps in feeling in control of your U•BASS tone.
While the following are guidelines to get started, it is important to keep in mind that there is no real right or wrong way to find your desired U•BASS tone for each setting. Recording at home, practicing with others, and playing on stage may all call for unique changes and adjustments to your tone to better fit within the mix. Always use your ear as your guide.
Now let’s explore some of the fundamental basics to a good U•BASS sound!
- Know the EQ Controls on your U•BASS: Depending on the model of U•BASS, there are three main EQ controls outside of volume: Bass, Mid, and Treble:
- Bass - is the EQ control for the lower frequencies of your U•BASS (~25 Hz - 180 Hz). Turning this knob up and down will boost and cut these lower frequencies, also referred to as “sub.” A full-bodied and deep bass tone is one of the fundamentals of an ideal U•BASS tone; in general, keep this knob at 50-100% for the best results.
- Mid - is the EQ control for the middle frequencies of your U•BASS (~300 HZ - 2 kHz). Turning this knob up and down will boost and cut these middle frequencies, also referred to as “midrange.” While used to create overall balance, too much Mid can lead to a flat or muddy tone; in general, keep this knob at 0-50% for the best results.
- Treble - is the EQ control for the higher frequencies of your U-Bass (~3 kHZ - 11 kHZ). Turning up this knob and down will boost and cut the high frequencies, also referred to as “presence” and “brilliance.” The Treble boost is used sparingly to better enunciate your notes and gain a crisper tone, but too much of a boost to the Treble can lead to a scratchy or whirring tone; in general, keep this knob at 25-75% for the best results.
While navigating your U•BASS EQ controls, it is important to remember that amplifiers commonly have EQ controls of their own. Whenever possible, try to prioritize the EQ controls on your amplifier rather than your U•BASS, using the above as a rough guide. However it makes the most sense for your set-up, the key will be a lot of experimentation of settings while keeping in mind what each EQ control does.
- Know your U•BASS strings. The various styles of U•BASS strings offer a very different experience and sound for our players. Take a moment to learn more about the strings on your U•BASS and how their tones compare to one another:
- “Rubber” Strings (Road Toads and Aquila Strings) - Crafted from a proprietary polyurethane or nylgut materials, the family of “rubber” strings are the thickest, stretchiest, and lowest tension U•BASS strings. These are the most commonly used on the U•BASS, with the classic Road Toad strings being the best able to capture the familiar sound of an upright bass. Always approach these strings with a very light touch at first and be as precise as possible with your fretting. As the lowest tension strings, experimenting with playing closer to the bridge is advised here. Consider boosting your treble more when using these strings.
- Kala Round Wound Strings - Silver plated windings around a nylon core, the Kala Round Wound Strings are higher tension with exceptional intonation and an overall brighter resonance. Kala Round Wound Strings afford players the ability have a bit more of the biting tone of an electric bass guitar, while maintaining the full body of a U•BASS. As round wound strings, be cautious of creating too much fret noise by sliding your fingers along the strings; muting the strings at the bridge with your palm will help to control your tone. These are the U•BASS strings that provide the most natural treble, so consider dialing back the Treble EQ significantly in favor of more Bass.
- Kala Flat Wound Strings - Chrome steel around a nylon core, the Kala Flat Wound Strings are the highest tension that, tonally, can be regarded as a phenomenal middle ground. The flat, smooth surface of the strings allow your fingers to glide more freely than the Round Wound strings, although palm muting still creates clean and sleek results. These U•BASS strings have less treble than the Round Wound strings, so consider turning up your Treble to get more punchy and clear voicings.
- Approach the U•BASS with a lighter touch than an Electric Bass Guitar. The strings of a U•BASS have considerably less tension than traditional bass guitar strings. Because of this, U•BASS players are afforded a much greater response and output from a softer pluck of a U•BASS string than other basses. Keep this in mind while playing yours.
- Experiment with playing closer to the bridge. Given the low tension playing experience of its strings, the U•BASS offers a unique opportunity in the added viability of playing the strings from the middle of the soundhole to the bridge. A more uncommon zone of play on an electric bass guitar, fingerpicking in this area of the U•BASS offers a bit more tension and allows you to dig into your notes with a bit more intensity.
- When possible, keep the volume knob on the U•BASS itself all the way up and raise/lower your volume from your amplifier or audio interface. Also referred to keeping your volume knob “wide open,” this provides your amplifier with all of the volume and natural tone your U•BASS has to offer. Keeping your instrument volume all the way up allows you to dial in your pedal and amplifier volume around that fixed point. PLEASE NOTE: When finding the right volume, start with your amplifier at zero and slowly raise the volume to an appropriate level.
- Remember to change your strings over time. U•BASS strings, especially the classic Road Toad U•BASS strings, are unique in that old & over-played strings will take a very long time to show signs of physical wear, meaning that they will experience a loss in tone and intonation first. We recommend changing your U-Bass strings every 3-6 months, though we have heard of players playing their strings for a much longer time period while keeping an ear out for any loss in intonation.
- Ensure your instrument cable is working well. A basic, but essential step in setting up your live sound is to ensure that your instrument cable is providing a full and clean audio connection from your U•BASS to your amplifier. If you are experiencing crackling or intermittent audio, it is time to swap in a new instrument cable for your U•BASS.
While finding your own U•BASS playstyle, watching performance videos and live U•BASS sessions online is a great way to see the range of possibilities. Keep an eye out for a new article featuring U-Bass performances coming soon!