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Ukulele Geekdom – Week 2 – Sounds and Subtleties

Hello Folks,

So in my last post I explained a few of the different shapes and sizes of the ukulele. This week I would like to show you some (but not all!) of my collection. I have written a bit of technical info on each of them here and I have made a video with a little demo of each instrument, you can find the link to this at the bottom of the page.

Kala Mahogany Concert Ukulele – This is my most used ukulele and it is a brilliant all rounder. It has the standard tuning of GCEA and is tuned with the traditional ‘reentrant’ high G string. It has a gorgeous warm tone, bright but not ‘too’ bright, which is due mainly to it’s solid (not laminate) mahogany body. It is an electro-acoustic instrument, which means it has a pick up installed inside which leads to a simple jack output socket. It feels great to play, it is lightweight but solid and is smooth to the touch – with a gloss finish, apart from where I’ve played it so much it has turned matte! You’ll notice the cutaway shape, this is is designed to allow you to reach up to the higher frets with ease. It is well used by me now so has a few indents and markings but that makes it all the more suited to my playing. Lovely for general use – and suitable for all styles of playing (strumming/finger picking etc.) It is super reliable, I’ve yet to break a string on it and stays in tune beautifully.

Recording King Concert Resonator Ukulele – This was my first ukulele, I bought it because I saw someone playing one at a festival and I liked the look and the sound of it. It has the same tuning as the Kala. As resonators go it is a fairly cheap model but that really doesn’t seem to matter, as it has the perfect sound I was looking for. It is loud and has a harsh/trashy/twangy sound due to the metal body and the resonator cone at the bottom which gives it some natural amplification. It is hard to mic up, I have tried a range of clip/stick on mics, the best option was using an external SM57 instrumental mic set up by the cone – but I found it hard not to hit it with my strum arm! It’s got a great look, with some nice etchings and it really suits a more retro, bluesy sound.

Banjolele – This instrument is a true antique, I have had it looked at and it is thought to be well over 100 years old. It has it’s original case and looks to have it’s original calf skin head too. Like most Banjoleles, it has the body of a banjo but the neck, strings and tuning of a ukulele. This instrument has got a resonator plate on the back which is beautifully etched, not all banjoleles have a resonator – some are left open at the back and this varies the volume and the sound quality quite a bit. The intonation is pretty bad, the lower frets are so worn down that the strings move in to places they shouldn’t! It has an amazing sound but is not hugely gig-able due to the tuning issues and it is difficult to mic up, I also wouldn’t want to work it too hard – he’s an old boy and deserves a quiet life. But it gets 10/10 for it’s vintage look, feel and quality of sound, I think it sounds like it’s being played through an old gramophone!

Risa LP Electric Tenor Ukulele, Cherry Sunburst – This is the latest addition to my collection and ‘oh my’ the possibilities are ENDLESS! I am just getting to grips with it really and have only experimented with a few of the sounds but so far I have found that it can range from a beautiful jazzy mellow sound, to a harsher country twang, to full on distortion in just a few adjustments. It is modelled on a classic Les Paul guitar and has the same duel pick up capabilities, with the same three way switch to go between them. It is tuned with a low G string at the top, which gives the overall sound more depth but also opens up melodic and soloing options a bit more. The biggest difference with this instrument I have noticed so far is the sustain. Typically, being such a small bodied instrument, the ukulele has a notoriously poor sound sustain. But with this ukulele I can use higher chord inversions up the neck, hold on to them and the sound won’t disappear! I plan on running it through an amp rather than through the PA like I usually do with my other ukuleles – so that I can control the tone and volume better. It is gong to take some getting used to and it won’t be appropriate to use in all situations but it is an amazing addition to our TTWU arsenal!

Handmade Concert ‘Pineapple’ Ukulele – Finally I couldn’t finish showing you my collection without showcasing this beautiful hand made ukulele, made for me by my husband as a wedding gift. I will be doing a post later on about how it was made, with step by step photos, but had to include it here too. ’Pineapple’ refers to the shape of the instrument and it is made out of Sapele. It has a super smooth, yet surprisingly loud, tone and I just love it. It is not an instrument I gig with, but it is my most precious uke and my most used at home.

Here is the video demo, I’m aware the sound quality isn’t spot on, once I get this sorted I hope to post some videos of each uke played alone so you can really hear them properly:

 

Thank you for indulging me and reading/viewing this post. I have so enjoyed playing though my ukes and remembering what it is I love about each of them. I really don’t claim to be a ‘gear expert’  but if you have any questions or would like to chat about anything ukulele, do post a comment below or contact me at our email address: tiltherewasuke@aol.co.uk

If I can’t help you, I’m sure I will be able to put you in touch with someone who can.

Bye for now xx

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About tiltherewasuke

Take two music loving ladies. Brew a friendship for twelve years. Add a quirky instrument. Stir in an idea. Leave to stand for a couple of months. You should be left with a duo who call themselves 'Til There Was Uke. A Vocal/Ukulele duo featuring Lucy Broddle on Ukulele and Stacey Rae Hobday on Lead Vocals. With our blend of original arrangements, whistle solos, creatively inspired looks and attention to detail we hope to entertain our audience with a mixture of well know and long forgotten classic tunes that have been administered with the TTWUke treatment! That treatment takes many guises and ranges from an old school Greenday standard with a time signiature change twist to an Amy Winehouse number sprinkled with a latin feel.

One response »

  1. I love the Les Paul!

    Reply

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