Over the past fifteen years, ukulele basses have proven that they’re not simply a novelty and that they hold a legitimate place in the world of low end. Compact in size and extremely fun to play, the appeal of uke basses is obvious, even at a glance. Of course, the first question bassists have is: Does the sound of a uke bass hold up to that of a traditional bass? With the revisions and improvements made in their evolution since 2007, the answer is, Yes. So it’s only natural that Fender, the biggest builder of electric basses in the world, has joined in on the action with the introduction of the Fullerton Precision Uke Bass.
Unlike earlier versions of uke basses, Fender has retained the iconic look of their Precision headstocks, bodies, pickguards, and fretboards, while offering two finish options: classic Olympic White and Tri-Tone Sunburst. Boasting a 20.25” scale and an 18-fret, “C” shape maple neck with walnut fretboard, the instrument’s compact proportions maintain the familiar playability of a full-size bass guitar. The Fullerton Uke bass has solid construction to the touch, and its durability is an important feature to have in a portable instrument destined for travel. Additionally, an onboard digital tuner makes it even easier for playing on the go.
Little Bass, Big Tone
We decided to test the Fullerton Precision Uke Bass unplugged first, to see how much a bass of this size would project. The notes are clear and articulate and loud enough for practice in your room or anywhere you might be compelled to play it. It holds up jamming alongside an acoustic guitar, but like most acoustic basses, can get buried with the addition of percussion or drums. Luckily that’s not an issue at all, because this bass comes to life when it’s plugged in. Engaging its Fender FE-BU01 preamp and volume and tone controls, we were impressed with the FPUB’s big, clear tone through an amp. There’s no shortage of low end in the deeper registers and the mid-to-high range sings beautifully, with great articulation.
The tone knob offers a dynamic range of sounds that vary from low and almost upright-sounding, with the bass rolled on, to a punchy, cutting midrange that’s perfect for chords or soloing. We tested this bass through an Ampeg Venture 350 head and 110 cabinet, which presented a great portable set up for a smaller, intimate show. Unlike other uke basses out there, the Fullerton embraces more of an electric/acoustic sound, despite its miniature size, which is akin to Fender’s Kingman acoustic basses. Next, plugged into a Markbass Casa Classic Series full stack, the sound was gigantic. After playing through that set up for an extended period, it was easy to forget that we were playing, to put it bluntly, a very tiny bass.
On that note, another question bassists have about ukes is how the fretboard and neck feel, as us low-enders are obviously used to navigating long stretches on jumbo frets. While the familiar “C” shape maple neck does evoke some bits of muscle memory, we admit that we had to look at the fretboard more than we’re accustomed. However, after a solid week of using this small but mighty P-Bass, we acclimated easily and felt right at home grooving away on it. Chord shapes are easy to pull off, and having access to longer stretches made it fun to explore new patterns and scales.
Additionally, the bass stays in tune better than you might expect of an acoustic instrument. As a testament to the construction of the model, we barely had to adjust it or use its handy onboard tuner. When we did, the regular size die-cast tuners felt exactly like those of other Fender basses, and provided precise tuning every time. This is a plus for traveling bassists who are going to encounter changes in climate and humidity along their journeys.
To revisit our initial question, are ukes legitimate tools for gigging bassists? Absolutely. From Bakithi Kumalo [Paul Simon], Stefan Lessard [Dave Matthews Band] and Hutch Hutchinson [Bonnie Raitt] to Nathan East, Nik West, and Scott Mulvahill, we’re seeing and hearing more and more players bring uke basses into the spotlight onstage and on recordings. Are we going to trade in our Precision and Jazz basses to make this our number one instrument? Probably not, though our shoulders and backs sure wish we would. Did we finally get to experience what it must feel like to be Nirvana’s 6’7″ Krist Novoselic rocking out on a regular sized bass? Yup.
To sum up, the Fullerton Precision is an awesome new evolution of the ukulele bass. Fender’s attention to detail and ability to bring their iconic and familiar designs to this new creation is a big success on all fronts. And let’s be honest, based on looks alone, this is a new piece of gear that most every bassist will want to get their hands on. With a price tag of $299, it’s affordable enough to serve as a wonderful practice or travel bass, though it will hold up on any stage you step foot on.
Controls Volume, Tone, Integrated Electronic Tuner with On/Off Switch, Low Battery Indicator Light
Body Solid Okoume
Top Laminated Spruce
Binding 1-ply tortoiseshell
Number of Frets 18
Scale Length 20.25″
Tuners Die-cast Sealed
Nut Synthetic Bone
Electronics Fender FE-BU01 Preamp
Strings Nickel Wrapped Nylon Core .045-.110
Finishes Options Olympic White & 3-Tone Sunburst
Made in USA
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