Friday, January 22, 2010

I can smell it now...

I have alluded to the fact that I had a Glyph mezzo-soprano on order for almost 3 years now. The order was placed in April of 2007. And now, I finally have tangible evidence that the uke will be in my hands soon!

Dave Means has sent me the first of the construction progress photos for my custom ukulele. Although I have received 4 custom built ukuleles so far, I have never received in-progress pictures from the luthier building my uke. So this is a new experience for me, and it definitely builds excitement in anticipation of the upcoming ukulele.

So I guess there's finally something semi-juicy at the Ghetto! On to the pics!

This is the joining of one of the bookmatched plates. I guess the sandbag applies the force to keep the plates flat while the clamps hole the two plates together.

Sawing out the plate profile. The koa is looking gooooooood! I opted for AAAA koa when the order was placed. This set of koa definitely looks good to my eyes.

Thickness sanding. It still looks great!

Spraying the sides with water in preparation for bending. Nice looking sides too.

The sides coming out of the bender.

Bent sides drying in the mold.

Gluing the heel and tail blocks.

Sanding an arch to the bottom of the back braces in the 12' radius sanding dish.

Gluing the braces in the go-bar deck.

Profiling the back braces with a finger plane.

Ramping the brace ends with a paring chisel.

Gluing the back graft.

So those are the first of the pictures Dave sent me on my uke. He is gluing the back and sides together and routing the cavity for the tail-graft next, as well as starting the Spanish cedar neck. This uke will be highly customized with custom shapes and inlays, so it will be basically be mine forever. It's certainly cool to follow the progress of the build. I'll post photos to share the progress as I get them.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What to bring to Hawaii???

The last poll I posted was about which uke I should take with me on my upcoming trip to Oahu. I let the poll run for 10 days and as a result there were 54 votes placed on the poll. About 3/4 of you voted for buying a uke at Oahu instead of bringing one. I was kind of expecting that since it makes too much sense to just buy a uke at ukulele paradise, but I was hoping there would be more opinions on which uke I should actually bring. While I appreciate all of your opinions, I'm pretty set on bringing one with me, because I don't think I'll have all that much time to shop for a uke. Last year, when we went to Maui, I didn't get my Kamaka tenor until the next to last day of the trip. I REALLY wished that I could strum a ukulele from day one. Of course, I never say never, and even if I bring a uke with me, there is still a chance I could buy one there under the right circumstances. Say if I run into a KoAloha concert Sceptre for a very good price, I might not be able to resist....

Let's see, of the 14 votes that went for bringing a uke to Oahu, 6 went to the King LS-concert and 4 apiece went to the DaSilva and Mainland. My original thought was to bring the DaSilva, since it is the most portable uke I have and is very nice in its own right, but the more I got to thinking about it, the more I thought maybe I should just take the King. As nice as the DaSilva is, I vastly prefer playing the King. And the thought of taking the King to Hawaii appealed to me. I mean, it is a ukulele, so it should visit Hawaii at some point of its life right??? Ok, maybe not.

So as of now, I'm going to bring the King LS-concert with me to Oahu (yes, those 6 votes actually helped me solidify the decision). It's a slight risk bringing such a high-end uke on the road with me, but I went on a trip to Taiwan last year with my Collings without issue (well, except I almost left it at the Taiwan airport...), so I think it'll be fine. It will be great to play the King while sitting at the balcony facing the ocean. I thank all of you who voted on the last poll.

Oh, by the way, there is a decent chance that I'll be posting some in-progress pictures of my Glyph this weekend! Stay tuned for that!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ukulele usage analysis

I'm curious about the actual usage of each of the 14 ukuleles I currently own (I don't count the Sunny D tenor because it's cracked and I've essentially wrote it off as a total loss), so I'm going to analyze right here how each uke has been played in the last several months or so. Ukes are listed in random order, pretty much as they come to mind:

William King LS-tenor: This uke was my favorite before receiving the King LS-concert. Now that I'm on a bit of a concert kick, this uke actually has not been played all that much. I think I've played it about once every two weeks or so on average, which is entirely too little playing time for such a fine instrument. But I'm finding myself a little lazy to stretch out my finger on a long scale tenor lately, so I guess it may be on this playing schedule for a while yet.

William King LS-concert: This uke is my current undisputed favorite and gets played probably at least 5 days per week. A lot of times it gets played every day.

Kepasa Gypsy Rose: I play this about the same frequency as the King LS-tenor these days. So that's about once every two weeks. When I remember that I own ukes other than the King concert, this usually gets a spin because it really is an awesome sounding uke.

Kamaka HF-3: Lately I think this uke got played maybe once every 3-4 weeks. The last couple of times I played this uke, I really felt that it's a notch below most of the other tenors I have. Of course, those tenors are mostly customs, so it's not unexpected. But I'm basically keeping this uke because it's a Kamaka.

Koa Works tenor: I've been taking this one out for a spin about once every two weeks. I'm re-developing an appreciation for this one lately. It has such a pleasing sound and is the easiest playing tenor I have. I actually thought I'd try to sell it at some point, but I think I'm hanging on to it now.

KoAloha Pineapple Sunday: It was being played maybe once a month, but lately, after reading a post on Ukulele Underground, I've gained new appreciation for this one and it has been played more often. My copy of the P.S. has super low action and is from the first production run that has the pointy bridge, ebony fretboard bindings, and de-bossed pineapple grid pattern (new P.S. has a KoAloha concert bridge, koa fretboard bindings, and laser cut grid pattern). It's always been a nice sounding uke, and I'm re-discovering it a little bit.

Kiwaya KTS-7: Believe it or not, I'm playing it a little bit just about every day. Not because it's become my favorite or because I've become a soprano guy, but because it's the uke I keep at my office at work! It is a nice uke though, and I really like the Martin style 3 styling. One could do worse than having this little guy around for a few strums each day at the office.

DaSilva Santo reproduction: This uke gets played maybe once a month. It's a wonderful little guy, but for whatever reason the sound doesn't quite grab me as much as the concert & tenor ukes. Probably just a personal preference thing. It might be the best looking uke I have though. I should probably take it out more often just to admire it or something. I just changed strings on it last night though, so it'll get some extended play at least over the next week or so to settle in the strings.

Aaron Taylor milo/spruce tenor: This uke gets played about once a month. It has very nice sound but the action seems just a tad high and there isn't any room to lower it at the saddle, so it hasn't been a uke I reached for often. I wouldn't say the action is too high, but just a bit higher than where I like it and feels like a little bit of a chore to play compared to say the Koa Works tenor. I love having a milo uke in my collection and it has my last name on the headstock, so it's not going anywhere.

Bluegrass Ukes cigar box tenor: I think I've played this uke maybe twice in the last half a year or so. It'll always be in my collection as it has Jake's autograph on it and my name on the label, but it's not a uke I'll favor over the other ukes I have for playing purposes. That actually says more about the other ukes I have than about this uke. It's really a very nice sounding uke and has great playability. It does have fretwire that sticks out a little bit and that has always been the one thing that's bothered me about this uke.

Bushman Cedartone baritone: I don't think I've played this more than once or twice in the last year. I'm not a baritone guy and have felt no urge to play this uke other than for a couple of curiosity strums. But I do like having a baritone in the collection, and since it's more or less worthless in the open market, I'll probably always have it.

Collings UC-1: Since the last post about the Smackdown between the Collings and Mainland, I haven't played this uke a whole lot. Maybe once every 2-3 weeks. I do plan to finish off the Smackdown (sometime, I promise!), I'll need to play it more often to get a better opinion on this uke. It's a fine uke, but not quite at the level of my customs.

Mainland slotted headstock concert: Same playing time as Collings. It's a great uke for the money, but the King concert has a strangle hold on my ukulele playing time, so it doesn't get a lot of play.

Kanile'a Custom SS: I think I've played this one maybe once in the last half a year. It's kind of weird because I really feel that this is a great sounding uke. I'm not sure why I've played it as little as I have. And it has some really nice looking koa too. I'm puzzled. And I've thought that I would sell this one to make room for the upcoming Glyph mezzo-soprano, but I guess we'll see. It's such a nice uke.

So there it is. I guess the moral of the story is not to buy too many ukes because you end up not playing them enough. And to think, I have an upcoming trip to Hawaii and a Glyph coming in the not too distant future! Seriously though, I think I do need to play some of these nice ukes more often if I'm keeping them around.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Jake Shimabukuro coming to MN again

I was just checking the Jake Shimabukuro website for the first time in quite a while last night and noticed that he is scheduled to come to Minneapolis again on May 23rd at The Cedar. That makes it three straight years that Jake is making a stop in Minnesota during his tour. Three years ago I was thinking that I might never be able to see Jake play in person, so it's really cool that he has come here as often as he has. I guess either he must like it here or there are a lot more uke fans around these parts than I thought. The first time I saw Jake in concert was at a Jazz restaurant. I sat in what was essentially the "nose bleed" section as I was so far away from the stage I could barely see him. The second time was at the Ordway theater. I had a better view of him on stage but since it was a 1500+ seat venue, I wasn't close enough to see his techniques up close. This time, the show is at a 465 seat venue and no assigned seats, so hopefully I can finally see Jake play the ukulele up close. Oh yes, I definitely plan on going again!

Friday, January 8, 2010

An update!

Someone on Ukulele Underground reminded me that I have not updated this blog for quite some time. I guess I just have not had much in the way of interesting ukulele contents to post. But since I fully intend to keep this blog going, I'll discuss what has been going on with me with ukuleles and what plans I have, as well as whatever ukulele related items I can think of to post here.

First off, I have not really learned any new songs for a few months now. I think the last song I learned was $5 Unleaded. Since then, I have not sat down and really tried to learn a complete piece. I wouldn't say it's a lack of motivation because I still want to learn new songs, but perhaps because what I want to learn is too difficult. As I've posted before, I want to learn 3rd Steam, and right now I feel that my skills are light years away from being able to play that song passably. Now days I seem to just play the same songs over and over again (Gently Weeps, Piano Forte, Blue Roses, etc, etc...). I guess I'll need to learn something new eventually. Gotta find some motivation!

I have been free from UAS for the most part for the past 6 months or so. Other than the Mainland slotted headstock concert, which I really got because of my desire to do that Smackdown comparison with Collings (I will finish it off, I promise!!), I have not had the desire to acquire new ukuleles. I look at what I have right now and I'm thinking about how I could thin the herd, but the problem is just about everything I have left are keepers for one reason or another (the current "collection" picture is outdated, I'll need to take another group shot at some point). I'm sure I'll end up with some new ukes down the road (heck, I have a Glyph that was ordered almost 3 years ago that's about to be started soon), but I'm really satisfied with the ukes I have now and it's pretty much impossible to justify anything more unless I sell off more ukes. It seems that right now is a great time for me to NOT be wanting to buy new ukes because it appears that prices are still rising. It would suck if I wanted to buy a uke that I know I could have gotten for less not too long ago!

It's been eons since I last did a lineup ranking. Truth be told, the longer I play ukuleles, the more difficult it is for me to distinguish the sound quality of the ukes I have. I seem to hear the good from lesser ukes more than I used to, so everything sounds pretty good to me. That said, the elite ukes still sound elite and there's always aesthetics and playability to consider. Hmm, I think I'll do a quick top 5 right now! Keep in mind I have sold off the awesome Kanile'a super-tenor, otherwise it would probably be in the top 5.

1. William King LS-concert: It has such a high fidelity sound and is so easy to play, I tend to reach for this uke 9 out of 10 times. I think the sound has improved since I first got it too. Seems a little more full-bodied and even more "alive". Awesome!

2. Kepasa Gypsy Rose concert: Well, I'm more or less a concert guy now, and this uke has always sounded awesome to my ears. It gives me a near-tenor sound in a concert-sized package. I still love the custom headstock that I drew too.

3. William King LS-tenor: Since the arrival of the King LS-concert, this one really has not been played a heck of a lot. But whenever I bust it out, it still sounds great to me. I really wish I had specified Gilbert tuners on the headstock of this one. That would have made an even better looking (to me) ukulele.

4. KoAloha Pineapple Sunday: For quite a while I had not ranked this uke very high on my list. But I've always liked the styling and I think I'm appreciating its great sound more than before. It sounds pretty similar to the King LS-concert with perhaps a touch less "liveliness". But it's just as easy to play and I'm digging the fact that it was a first run Pineapple Sunday that's getting a little rare.

5. Koa Works tenor: This ukulele strikes a balance between the thumping power of the King LS-tenor and the crystalline high fidelity sound of the King LS-concert. When I play this uke it still strikes me by how good it sounds. I had neglected this uke for some time now, but the bottom line is that it's still one of the best I have.

OK, so that's a quick current top 5 in my collection. I would say the King LS-concert is my clear favorite right now, while the other ukes are all kind of in 2nd place. It's hard for me to rank them and the order probably would change depending on the day I rank them.

What else? My Glyph mezzo-soprano could be started this month. I very much look forward to its completion, but I don't have any feeling of anxiousness about it. I guess what's another couple of months after a near three year wait right? I'll be posting progress pics here if I get them from Dave Means.

Anyway, that's it for this in-coherent update. I hope to have more interesting things to post here in the not to distant future.

Which uke should I bring on my next trip to Oahu???

What's the maximum you'd spend on a ukulele case for your best uke?

If you could steal one of my ukes, which one would it be???

How curly do you like your koa? (preferably on a uke)

What's the maximum number of ukes a perfectly sane person should have???

Poll: How often do you play the ukulele???

Poll: Which guitar company's approach to ukes do you prefer???

Poll: What's your favorite type of headstock???

Poll: The new basic Collings concert uke (UC-1) sells for about $1k, your reaction is: