Introducing the jazz ubassist + “Chameleon” Bassline

Today is my 35th birthday, and to celebrate, I’m relaunching my site as “the jazz ubassist”! My ubass (or ukulele bass) has made playing so much fun (and super-convenient)! I played a friend’s ubass a few years ago and have been wanting to get one ever since. My goal is to offer weekly lessons (and eventually build a Skype studio) for jazz ubass – aka the world’s coolest genre on the world’s coolest instrument. To kick things off, here’s the bassline for Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon” on ubass (see above for notation and below for GIF showing fingering pattern).

Ubass GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


Finger #: The great thing about ubass is not needing to shift in the lower position. The finger numbers correspond to the fret positions (although my ubass is fretless…) There’s one shift up to the third fret (1-1 on beat 1 of bar 2), then you use the rest to get back down to the lower position.

Scale Degrees: As we’ll see in future posts, jazz basslines are built on chord tones, other scale degrees, and chromaticism (pitches outside of the chord-scale). The bassline emphasizes the root (1) and b7 and uses a chromatic “walk-up” with both thirds leading into each measure.

Rhythm: Don’t worry about counting the 16th-note subdivisions. Instead, listen to the original recording, play along with it, and learn to feel it intuitively.

Next Week

The story behind “the jazz ubassist” and Charles Mingus’ “Haitian Fight Song.”