The ukulele and Bass are both some of the most fun instruments I have played. If you play either, there are some skills that will carry over to the other, while some won`t. Most importantly, you might be wondering: Are bass and ukulele chords the same?
Bass and ukulele chords are not the same. Soprano ukuleles are tuned GCEA while bass guitars are tuned EADG which requires different finger placements.
This is not to say that you can`t play songs you know on the bass on the uke or vice versa. However, if you pick up a bass and try to play it the same as a ukulele it will sound disharmonic.
Below you will learn more about why chords sound different on the two instruments. I will also show you how to transition between the two instruments. Lastly, we`ll take a look at the issues of tuning a bass like a uke, and how to go about it if you do decide to give it a try.
Do the ukulele and bass have the same chords?
Soprano, Concert, and Tenor ukuleles are generally tuned G4-C4-E4-A4. These are the most common types of ukuleles, Soprano being the small mainstream variant most of us are familiar with.
The bass guitar is tuned E1-A1-D2-G2. In some genres, the bass is tuned even deeper, but most turnings still retain the same interval between the strings.
This means that if you strum a bass chord the same way you would on a ukulele, it will sound dissonant.
You can still play any song you have learned on both the Bass and the ukulele. Both instruments still use the chromatic 12-tone scale that is widespread in contemporary music. However, you need to learn how the chords are played in different tunings.
Thus, any of the bass chords in this chart will have to be played with different finger positions on the ukulele. When starting out, this will require practice and memorization. If you are inexperienced, It might even feel like you have to learn the song twice.
As you get more proficient at both instruments the transition between the Bass and Uke will become seamless. When you have memorized how different chords are played on both instruments it will feel a lot more like you are learning 1 song, rather than 2.
Can you play bass songs on a ukulele?
Most songs that can be played on the bass can also be played on the ukulele. Due to the ukulele being tuned more than two octaves higher bass lines will sound thinner, which can be unfitting in a band setting.
When it comes to bass lines on the ukulele, it’s not so much a question of whether you can, but whether you should.
Playing bass songs on a Ukulele is more of a fun thing to try for yourself. It is not a good way to use the uke as an accompanying instrument.
Songs that have simple bass lines that mostly consist of playing root notes will sound better on the ukulele if you play the full chords. Also, if the song you have in mind includes guitars or pianos, the ukulele is more suited for playing the same chords as these instruments.
Basslines that are more complex can sound good on the ukulele. However, due to the higher pitch of the ukulele, these lines will sound more like melodies than bass lines.
How do you play bass on the ukulele?
Soprano, Concert, and Tenor ukuleles cannot fill the role of bass due to their pitch. To play bass on the ukulele you will need a Bass ukulele, which is a slightly larger instrument that is tuned like a bass guitar.
The Soprano ukulele that most of us are familiar with is 21“. A bass ukulele, or U-bass, is 30“ to 32“ in size.
In terms of look, the U-Bass resembles a ukulele, in terms of sound it is more resemblant of a bass.
If you are looking to play ukulele in a band setting and fulfill the role of a bassist, you will need a bass ukulele. The U-Bass is also a great option if you are playing with another ukulele player and you want to make your music sound more dynamic.
Being that I love both ukulele and bass it is one of the most fun instruments I have tried. It doesn’t play anything like a soprano uke. The smaller size of it took some getting used to when approaching it like a bass, but it didn`t take long before I was able to play some of my favorite bass lines without too many mistakes.
Watch the video below to see Rob Scallon play and share his thoughts about the bass ukulele:
Can you tune a bass like a ukulele?
It is possible to tune a bass GCEA like the Ukulele. However, the strings will become too loose or too tight when doing so. This means that the bass will sound clicky and the strings will have a higher likelihood of snapping.
The main reason that tuning a bass like a ukulele is a bad idea, is that bass strings are typically made to be tuned EADG. Some bass strings are suited for drop turnings such as DADG, but there are no bass strings available that are made specifically for GCEA.
You can buy single strings to assemble a custom set of bass strings that fits this tuning though. For GCEA this would require gauges of about 90-75-65-45.
If you are looking to tune your bass like a ukulele, do so as a fun experiment if you are fine with the possibility of strings snapping. There are few if any basses that will sound good when tuned like a Ukulele, but it is perfectly possible to tune it that way.
As you can see, trying to play ukulele chords on a bass and vice versa poses some challenges.
You are better off considering them two completely separate instruments for most purposes. The ukulele is also a more popular instrument than the bass, and bass players are more in demand than ukulele players.
If you are looking to learn songs on both the bass and uke, this will be significantly easier once you have learned some common chords on both. Trying to play the two instruments the same way without proper knowledge of how chords and scales work on both is going to be difficult.
The bass ukulele is a great middle-ground if you want the sound of a bass and the look of a ukulele. A U-Bass is a fun instrument in its own right and saves the hassle of trying to make a bass out of a uke, or a uke out of a bass.
Strummed ukulele chords usually won`t sound too great on the bass. However, this holds true when strumming any type of chord on the bass. To learn more about why read my article on why bass chords sound muddy.