Bass Ukulele

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The bass ukulele is the second largest and lowest string instrument of the ukulele family of instruments after the contrabass ukulele. It is a chordophone that stretches roughly 32 inches in length and is often tuned like an electric bass guitar in EADG, although it is an octave higher. A bass ukulele can refer to multiple different designs of this instrument including the electric u-bass and ukulele bass.
History of the Bass Ukulele
The history of the bass ukulele dates back to its Portuguese origins. Its likely ancestors are small string instruments known as a machete or cavaquinho, thought to have developed in the Madeira region. These instruments made their way to the islands of Hawaii with migrants in the 1800s and soon there were new Hawaiian influenced designs produced. Migrants such as Jose do Espirito Santo, Augusto Dias and Manual Nunes are widely regarded as the first luthiers to create the recognisable ukulele design. By the 1890s, the first instruments being sold as “ukuleles” were becoming popular. Since the creation of the ukulele in Hawaii, many varieties have evolved including the banjolele, concert ukulele and baritone ukulele. The bass ukulele developed as ukulele ensembles required an instrument to fill the lowest region of the ensemble’s range. Early versions of the bass ukulele were reportedly constructed by famous Hawaiian luthier Samuel Kamaka, though they were never mass produced. In the early 21st century, innovations involving rubber-like polyurethane strings allowed the low bass range to be properly heard of the small ukulele size body. Early inventors of this u-bass design include Owen Holt of Road Toad and American manufacturer Kala. The u-bass (or u-base) and bass ukulele have since gained popularity as an addition to acoustic pop music bands.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

£100 - £500

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How to Play

A larger version of the ukulele, pitched lower than the tenor ukulele. Played by strumming or plucking the strings.

In Popular Music

The hit song 'Shape of You' by Ed Sheeran allegedly uses a u-bass or a ukulele bass in the track, though it is uncredited. The ukulele bass may have also been played by Vance Joy on 'Riptide.

Famous Players

Arthur Godfrey, Jonty Bankes

Close Relations

Concert Ukulele, Baritone Ukulele
Video Credit: CharlesBerthoud
Understanding the Bass Ukulele
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