Category Archives: Ukulele Reviews

Hive Spruce Maple Tenor

This is a custom tenor from Jake Maclay in West Virginia. Jake built Compass Rose ukuleles for years before breaking off to start Hive Ukuleles.

Click on gallery above for more pictures and specifications.

When I first grabbed this ukulele out of its beautiful Ameritage case I felt it’s light weight and excellent balance. The build is extremely clean, seemingly flawless. The quilted maple is like a stormy sea of golden beauty. The striking tiger maple neck feels perfect and the setup is right on point. But what blows your socks off is this huge, warm, rich tone. So lush it’s amazing.
If you are in search of the biggest experience that the ukulele has to offer your senses, then Hive should be considered. This ukulele is sensational!

I decided to do a sound sample of myself playing this uke because Corey is such a fantastic player and most of us are, well, normal. But you don’t have to be a great player to sound great. That has much to do with the quality of the instrument and joy being had on it. No matter what level of player you are, the tone and feel will matter. How much it matters is subjective. But tone is tone, and Hive is in my top five.


Listening to Ukuleles Online

From the beginning of music stores, the main thing that we provide is a place for people to hear, see, feel and acquire musical instruments. Ideally salesman are knowledgeable musicians that can show the potential or at least basic tones to those getting into it or share their experiences and of course the newest toys coming out to their fellow musicians/ gear enthusiast.

The difference in our market now? Not much except that we can service the world thanks to the advent of the Internet. So we took a proud stand on this years ago and we only sell to one race: the human race! Our mission is to provide the best ukulele shopping experience for life. But right now I only want to explain one aspect of this: our video sound samples.

So the question is: “Can you really hear the true and often subtle tonal differences on your desktop, laptop iPad, phone device etc., with a really accurate, unaltered (i.e., “dry”) recording?” I’d say…no.

I do think you can hear many aspects of the instrument. But often our customers are trying to listen beyond the music and get some true comparisons. Well our video samples can provide these details, but it requires quality reference monitors or headphones made for mixing (not for enhancing). If you don’t have these tools, then do your musical inspiration a favor and get one or the other. You’ll enjoy the energy of your favorite players and albums. For those too far to visit the store, it will allow our resources for comparing the sound of different ukes to be beneficial, especially with our “listening booth”

As real as there are differences, there is the reality that some instruments, even made with different woods, can be very similar. I get asked regularly about these three models/woods and how they compare. These are all the same brand, size, batch, finish, and made with woods of similar density. Bottom line is, the Pono Acacia (AT), Mahogany (MT) and Mango (MGT), tenors are not so different. Just for perspective on that, the lbs/ft specific gravity for spruce is around 25-30. Macassar ebony 65-70. Those are quite different. But Mango, Mahogany, and Acacia are all within 38-42 lbs/ft. Those are averages. Wood is only one factor in tone. Builder’s methods, player’s style and ukulele size also matter.

This was a requested listening booth. It sounds like what I heard in the
room.

I do hear very subtle nuances, maybe even better in the video with the back-to-back. But, if you are choosing one of these, trust me, your musical satisfaction probably won’t hang on which one you choose. But who knows. Here’s one data point for you.

These reviews are, above all, for your enjoyment. When shopping for a uke, my best advice is, follow your heart and have fun. Aloha!

For more videos in this format go HERE
;. We will continue to add more of these
so keep checking!

Ukulele Humidification Tools

Having a wooden stringed instrument requires some attention to the humidity levels where it is kept. Too much humidity can cause swelling and lead to a number of problems. But too little humidity can be much more scary. It can quickly cause detrimental effects, namely cracking of the wood.

While some people would think that a smaller instrument needs less humidification, you have to consider that the panels of wood on an ukulele are thinner than almost any other instrument. On top of that, the best instruments are often built lightly for resonance which can be all the inspiration and tones you need, but can also require even more regulation of humidity.

So the first step is to know what your humidity is. In this regard, note what Dave Hepple from Oasis points out

Because relative humidity varies so much, even inside your home, we recommend that you keep your hygrometer close to your instrument.

What is closer than the case in which it lives? Oasis came up with a pretty good system to get a reading of what the humidity is right at the body of your instrument. This is the Oasis Hygrometer Kit OH-2. With your ukulele flat in its case, this hygrometer is thin enough to set on the top of your ukulele, over a piece of cloth so it doesn’t scratch the finish. Shut the case, but don’t move it around because the hygrometer might slide around. Just leave it flat for at least four hours. Now when you open the case, be ready to look at the hygrometer. You only have a few seconds to see what the humidity was before you opened the case. A well-humidified ukulele in its case will have relatively stable humidity readings, so you don’t have to measure the humidity all the time. But it comes with a clip and you can clip it in your case all the time.

So… once you get the reading what should you do? If your humidity is over 40% and under 65% you are fine. If your level is lower than 40% then you need to take action. If you are not currently using a humidifier then you should be. There are many ways to humidify an instrument but we chose the Oasis humidification system because we think it’s the best solution on the market. Other ones we have tried had leaking issues or were not as effective. If you’re anywhere from 25%-40% our standard Oasis OH-18 should work well and with your hygrometer you can measure that and make sure. We are now offering a more powerful humidifier and for those with 25% or less relative humidity where the instrument is stored for any period of the year it is needed. The Oasis OH5+ will emit more humidity to your instrument and we had them make it with the ukulele clip attachment. If you are currently using a humidifier and still are not above 40% in the case, consider switching to or supplementing with this humidifier.

In the pictures you see that the OH5 gives 50% more humidity than the regular Oasis. Note: The OH-18 emits half that of the regular Oasis. So the OH5+ is essentially 150% more than the OH-18.

Another key to this maintenance is the Oasis Humigel Replacement Kit. Joel covers the reasons for this along with a lot of great information.

So if you are in an extremely humid area, a dehumidifier in a closet can be a good solution. Also for absorbing excessive humidity in the case, one product is the Planet Waves Humidipak. We have this at our store but haven’t added online yet. Air conditioners also dry the air but you have to be careful because they can take it to the other extreme if running high consistently.

So that’s some info to help you understand how to care properly for the ukuleles that you love.

Mahalo for tuning in to The Ukulele Review. Share your thoughts or questions below.

Ko’olau Master Series – Orchid Dragonfly Brazilian Rosewood Tenor

Once every year or so Noa and John from Ko’olau design a one of a kind instrument for what they call, The Master Series. For this one they worked with one of the most famous and talented inlay artists, Larry Robinson. This concept started a few years back with just orchids but more recently Noa sent it back to Larry to add dragonflies. The result is both stunning and tasteful. Like Aaron says, there’s an elegance that this instrument just exudes.

As far as the sound, I can say this. I had to stop the recording to turn down from my normal levels because the microphones were clipping. It’s loud! The tone is super punchy, lively, with excellent clarity, sustain, and, overall, one of the most resonant instruments I’ve played.

Noa had been saving this Brazilian rosewood back and sides for years with this exact instrument in mind. He doesn’t have another set like it. He actually doesn’t have any Brazilian at the moment. This wood is pretty rare at this point and practically never looks this spectacular. The resonant qualities of this strain can add definition and sustain to the rich quality rosewood is known for. Coupled with a German spruce top, all hide glue construction, and a perfect glassy nitrocellulose finish from Ryan, this is an ultimate musical instrument and a special treat to the senses.

Congratulations in advance to whoever acquires this masterpiece. I can’t say we will see one like it again so naturally I’m preserving it here at The Review.
Enjoy a look/listen to certainly one of the coolest ukes to ever come through.

Pictures open to gallery.

Sound samples are unaltered and unmastered so use quality playback sources for a more accurate listening experience. A hui ho from Hawaii. Share your thoughts and questions below.

Hoffmann Lutherie – A Style Custom Tenor

Aloha friends! We have a cool new uke to show you from a custom luthier in Missouri named Jerry Hoffmann. From 2005-2015 Jerry built under the name of Boat Paddle Ukulele Co. He is now operating under the name Hoffmann Lutherie. This is the first time we have gotten an instrument from Jerry and I’m truly impressed with the unique design aspects, the feel (it’s a real joy to play), and the musical quality (tone and intonation are excellent).

This is not your average ukulele. You first notice it has the shape of an A style mandolin and two side ports instead of a sound hole. On closer inspection you can see it has a 3 piece neck with the two outer pieces of mahogany cut and bent to connect and flow down the sides. I’m not sure exactly what his theory or reasons for doing this are but I can say this; 1. It looks super cool. 2. It makes for an extremely strong neck joint. and 3. It helps reinforce the area around the two side ports. The next thing I noticed was pins in the nut holding the strings in place rather than nut slots. I don’t know what he calls this but I call it a great idea. With the break angle and tension of the strings this works perfectly. Go ahead and bend up a full note. Try your best Stevie Ray Vaughn licks. These strings are not going anywhere and you don’t deal with any of the issues you can have with slotted nuts. I’ll stand up and slow clap for this. It’s one of those ideas I wish I had. Maybe others have done it but I haven’t seen it and I’ve been looking at stringed instruments my whole life. It makes a lot of sense and works perfectly. Major respect to Jerry for this design aspect.

Other noteworthy features are the classy and unique pearl fretboard makers and bird inlay, the gorgeous kamagong ebony back and sides, and the modest satin finish that shows this wood in its raw beauty. This custom ukulele from Hoffman Lutherie has a clean construction and a sleek design. Hopefully we will be getting more instruments from Jerry and show you more of his unique line up.

The thing that was keeping this uke from sounding its best was the action. It was at 1.75mm at the 12th. This is really low action and it didn’t have the dynamics and body it does now. I made a new saddle for it and wow, it sounds awesome!

We do final setup work on 99% of the ukes that we send out. This is our expertise. We don’t just sell and review them. We consider ourselves to be part of the process in getting you the best quality ukulele. Before I started Hawaii Music Supply I did warranty repair work and for 10 years did all of the finishing and final setup for Ko’olau ukulele. Joel and Chris have setup over 50,000 ukes in the last 7 years. This is what we bring to the table and a service we provide at no charge. With that said, our goal is to offer the finest instruments on the ukulele market and this is certainly one of them.

Mahalo for tuning in to The Ukulele Review. Share your thoughts or questions below.

New Ukes from Pono!

Here’s a listen to some of the new Pono models that just arrived. Soon you’ll see them at our store – The Ukulele Site. These videos are all from one session where the Mics and levels are untouched so it’s a fair listen to the different instruments being sampled. Pono is consistently experimenting and revising their line up and these new models are super nice!

The 2 series have a cedar top and a radius fingerboard, like many of the pro classics. These were previously in a satin finish but given the nature of cedar, Pono opted to do these models in gloss for the protection it offers a cedar top instrument. Not that you won’t ding a gloss finish but…It looks good and how’s the sunburst? Very nicely executed. Pono builds with a custom quality and focus. In finishing, sunburst is a fine art. The color and fade of this finish is so smooth and beautiful.

These 3 tenors all have a cedar top and all sound very similar but much of the differences you can hear is the strings. The MTD-2 has a Southcoast HML-RW low G set. The ATD-2 has a Ko’olau Gold wound 3rd set, and the MTD-2SB has the Ko’olau Mahana all plain.

Both me and Corey were surprised by the thin body Acacia tenor. The prototype didn’t sound as warm as the one we pulled out to sample today. This is a real contender. Something unique and musical. It came stock with an all plain Ko’olau Gold set.

Next you can hear some of the best baritones on the market. These Pro Classics are not priced in the highest range but they will rival any bari in quality and tone. I hear the Spruce ans more focused and the cedar more spacious. Both excellent. We have other models like the EBSHC that we haven’t gotten to yet as well. Pono gives a sharp line up of baritones and then takes a giant step into the tenor guitar size 23″ scale nylon 4 string a.k.a Baritone Nui. The added scale and body add sustain and overtones like the best classical guitars you hear. Just beautiful tone from this big bari.

What you sacrifice with the Nui is fairly obvious but we should cover it anyway. We can’t just say it’s a baritone that sounds unreal. That is true, but it’s considerably larger in size and scale so chords can be a stretch and certain physical aspects of playing become more difficult. So it’s a give and take. One of the reasons that having many instruments is reasonable. Each can excel in their own unique ways. Mahalo for tuning in to the review. Please share your thoughtsw and questions in the comments below.

Moore Bettah Ukulele- Mermaid Tenor

Aloha! Here’s a new Moore Bettah uke and, even though it would sell without the pictures and video here, I always feel compeled to document Chuck’s instruments. They are visually and tonally rich. But one thing that I can’t display is the feel, so let me say this. For the way I like to play, Chuck consistently nails the feel, final setup, the whole shebang. You just don’t get more on the money out of the box. The rest of it you can see and hear in the pics and video. Specs are at the galleries. See more MB video reviews here.

Click on images for specs and gallery.


This is how she looks in the dark!

Our sound samples are recorded for true reference and have no alteration or enhancement. Use quality playback for the most accurate listening.

Beau Hannam Maccaferri Style Custom Tenor

This is a Beau Hannam Maccaferri Tenor ukulele custom made for someone that had to pass on it and we scooped it up to show you guys. If you don’t remember I reviewed one in 2013 here-. That one sounded great and we were eager to hear another. Let’s take a look at it first and get some specs and features covered.
I would consider this to be under the “jumbo tenor” category. The lower bout on this uke is about 10.5″ and it best fits in an Oahu baritone case, but it’s a 17″ scale tenor. It’s made very solid at 32 ounces in weight but has a nice balance and feels comfortable. The neck is a nice medium thickness and the action is low.


This larger Maccaferri style is actually less boomy than the regular Hannam tenor we reviewed, but the sustain and note clarity are incredible on this new style. It’s controlled on the lows which is great for recording, almost a guitar like compression. There’s a lot to admire visually, the sunburst is beautiful, love the trapezoid fret markers, many other little features.
There are a few minor cosmetic things we can take care of. First thing that caught my attention was along the binding at the neck, a few little spots where the finish was eaten through. Perhaps by superglue run off from fretwork or something like that? This is something we can fix properly because our workshop is in the same building as Ko’olau. In a few weeks, it’ll be like that finish flaw never happened! Beyond that, I think the back just needs a good buffing (as they say in Australia?) The scratches on the back scared me at first, but they’ll buff out. It’s not in the wood, just odd surface scratches. Only other little thing is that, I’ll take the G forward a touch on the saddle. It’s a hair flat on just that one string but there is plenty room to get it dead on.

It’s not uncommon for us to work on an instrument. Final QC is what we do. Beau is a really talented luthier with a good design; tone, feel, and look.

Hopefully, with the help of Aaron, I captured this rare beast. It’s a great ukulele, without a doubt. Mahalo for tuning in. Enjoy~

Ko’olau CS Models – 3 Custom Orders

Most of the Ko’olau instruments that come through are custom orders and we often don’t have time to document them, but each one is an amazing musical instrument. The woods just color the beautiful voicing that they have, all sound good, but when choosing hopefully this will help a little. This is 3 custom ordered CS model Ko’olaus that are just now ready to go out to their joyful owners.

To order a CS model visit this page – Ko’olau CS Custom Order Page, or contact us for help.

The Rebel Ukulele

Rebel is an ukulele maker from Thailand. The company is run by a bright young man named Peng. I got to meet Peng at NAMM as well as a few of the team there, and the instruments they brought were very impressive. So much so that we brought 4 of them back to show you and put more on order. I knew they made the KoAloha Opio line, which is fantastic, but I wanted to know more about them so I messaged Peng for some background info on Rebel; who they are, where they’re going, why they’re so rebellious.. Here’s Pengs response and some insight into this new ukulele company.

Hey Andrew. Howzit?

“The Rebel” team is a small team of ten people who love doing something different. We have full-time graphic designers and professional luthiers working together collaboratively. The guy I introduced to you at NAMM, “Yo”, is the head of the design team. He received many awards from his work of arts and films and he loves ukuleles and guitars! He was the man behind the limited KoAlana box (later became KoAloha Opio), Baan Ukulele’s website, accessories, leather bags and many of our ukulele and guitar custom works.

All of our craftsmen had been trained by KoAloha folks for years from the ground up when we first built the factory in Bangkok in 2011. Our lead luthier named “Chote” was once Paul Okami’s apprentice. He was a fine carpenter with over 20 years of experience and he now leads the Rebel custom shop and oversees the KoAloha Opio production. We further studied from Wiroon, the best guitar-making teacher in Thailand who was once Jose Romanillos’s student.

I first learned how to build an ukulele in 2009 from Mike Uyeno, a private teacher in Hawaii, who has a small workshop in his own garage. Every steps mostly done by hand in old-fashioned ways. Later that year, I was trained by Paul and Griz to understand the ins and outs of KoAloha building methodology. I learned the craftsmanship, technology, creativity and the Aloha spirit that go into every instrument. That was the seed and the beginning of our journey. We couldn’t have made it without all our teachers and those helping hands.

The Rebel is young and reckless! …hahaha. We know we still have a lot to learn. The direction and goal we have for “The Rebel” is to create something different for the music community especially for ukuleles and guitars. Never forget to give back to the community and never forget where we came from. With the blend of good taste in design and fine craftsmanship, we’re trying our best and couldn’t be happier for the support we’ve got! Mahalo for your friendship!

Well, what can I say, Peng and the crew seem like genuinely cool guys with something really special to offer. We’ll try our best to stock these super sounding ukes at the store and online at The Ukulele Site. Hopefully you will experience the quality and value Rebel is coming with. If you have an Opio KoAloha, you already have experienced it.

Craig Chee & Sarah Maisel’s GHS “Artist Curated” Strings

These two incredible musicians have been working with the folks at GHS and designed these new string sets to best suite their style. Maybe you will like them too. They are available now at our store here GHS Artist Curated.

Sarah’s is a Low G tenor set with monofilament nylon strings and a fluorocarbon low G. Craig’s set it actually tuned like a baritone but reentrant, so high D G B E. This is a special set to play a tenor size at this lower tuning and still project clearly.

In finding their sound as a duo Craig decided to take it down a 4th to the key of G (dGBE). This gives his accompaniment a more mellow attack, but with reentrant voicing. This compliments Sarah’s punchy linear set in the classic ukulele key of C (GCEA).

Craig and Sarah are both playing their custom DaSilva ukes. As you can hear, the tones blend perfectly as do their vocals. A beautiful rendition of an Alison Krauss song from Chee/ Maisel (You guys nailed it!). These two also have a killer new website. Check it out- http://www.cheemaisel.com/

Also learn more about these strings at the GHS website on these pages-
http://www.ghsstrings.com/users/2575126
http://www.ghsstrings.com/users/2575122
And look out for them at our store and online at The Ukulele Site.

Share your thoughts or questions below. Enjoy~

Ukulele Restring Tutorial – 4 Bridges & 2 Headstocks

Many of you already restring your own ukulele, and of course there is more than one way to string a uke, but could there be beneficial techniques you are not aware of? Is it possible that they could improve your overall experience by minimizing issues like string slippage, breaks, or even potential intonation problems?

Joel is a key member of our team. He’s a methodical and intelligent young man that has most likely set up more ukes than anyone of any age. Not only that, but he studies best practices and learns from other experienced luthiers. If you can take the time to watch this lengthy video and concentrate on what is being shown, you can most likely take away something to try as you restring your ukulele. If something passes too quickly for you, it will most likely be shown again at a different angle. Hope this is a useful reference for stringing techniques from the head of our setup department here at The Ukulele Site.

Let us know with any questions or share your experience below. Also, we now have a support center where me and Joel as well as others in the ukulele community answer questions and share our expertise. Visit our new Support Center. Mahalo!

A Visit from John Nash and a Tribute to Edgar Dang

Today a friend John Nash from the bay area stopped by our workshop. We had been in touch and wanted to meet and talk. Crazy thing happened today that affected both of us, our friend Edgar Dang of Aloha Warehouse in San Francisco passed away. John was telling me how he bought this Kanile’a from Edgar. I suggested we tribute a song to him on it. I really valued Edgar as one of the few true enthusiast. He was genuinely passionate about having quality ukes and there is only a few people I share this bond with. He was a really nice man and he left us way too soon.

This is an original composition by John.

John has more music and free resources at his website Ukulele Inspired

Mahalo for tuning in. This one is in honor our our friend and a great business parter, Edgar Dang. A Hui Ho Edgar! Our thoughts are with your ohana.

A New Body Shape from DaSilva

This is a new design from Mike DaSilva with a wider lower bout. Who doesn’t love a big bootie when it looks this good!

I declare quilted maple king of figured wood!

A very different tenor from DaSilva, bigger and more gorgeous than ever, And the sound….

Our sound samples are recorded for true reference and have no alteration or enhancement.
Use quality playback for the most accurate listening.

At the Listening Booth w/ Andreas David

Aloha friends! This is another video for the listening booth and we had the pleasure of recording a very cool musician from Berlin named Andreas David.

What we’re sampling is 4 similar models in Pono’s Pro Classic line. These are all tenors. We have spruce rosewood, then cedar rosewood, then spruce mahogany, and finally cedar mahogany. So if you are wondering whether to go with spruce or cedar, or whether to choose mahogany or rosewood for your back and sides, this video should be a good data point for you. Listen on quality playback to hear the differences and let us know your opinion. Aloha, see you next time.

Shop Pono.
pono spruce banner

Our sound samples are recorded for true reference and have no alteration or enhancement.
Use quality playback for the most accurate listening.

Ukulele at NAMM 2015- Day 4

I’ll close up this years coverage of NAMM 2015 with some final videos and thoughts. I’ll start by just mentioning that there’s a new Misi pickup system that I thought was really cool but it’s still in the works for ukulele I beleive. It’s a whole different concept using capacitors in a similar way my Schoeps mics do when they “pickup” the sound for our sound samples. Speaking of which, lets check out some jams and sound demos from Day 4.

First off is the two tenors that Michael DaSilva brought for us and I was lucky enough to get a sound sample from the cool and creative couple from Cali, Craig Chee & Sarah Maisel. The tenor Sarah is playing is a new shape and design from Mike with a wider lower bout. He calls this the Jumbo Tenor. Craig plays the thin-body tenor model that was introduced 2 NAMM’s ago and both are spruce topped and feel amazing. Big mahalos to Craig and Sarah!

The next video shows a spontaneous jam session at the Ko’olau booth with three musicians from Hawaii representing jazz with undeniable skill. I wan’t to listen again but it’s too late in the day, the adrenaline keeps me up! Hope you take a listen, these guys are the best.
After that Corey sound samples a few of the D’Angelico soprano scale archtops. I was asked how this compared to the new Eastman Archtop. Obvious question given that they are both brand new archtop sopranos, which is not exactly a big category in the ukulele market. They both have pickups and I haven’t compared that, but acoustically I would say the D’angelico has a more scooped mid range and warmer voicing while Eastman has a very forward mid range voice almost reminiscent of a resonator ukulele, or with a similar vintage coloring tot he tone. The D’Angelico and the Eastman both very are cool in their own way.

Next we hear a revamped version of Kiwaya’s K-Wave tele style uke. For a few years they stopped making this model because China copied them pretty well. They brought it back because they re-voiced it and it sounds better than the cheaper versions now on the market.

We’ll close out this year with a listen to a few Kanile’a ukes that are now new models we will try to stock regularly. They no longer will be making the UV SILK and will simply have the lacquer sprayed UV cured gloss finish and the varnish hand applied satin finish, which both of these models have. The first one has the CS feature or cobra slot head with stealth Gotoh tuners. The second one features their new cutaway which takes minimal soundboard by just taking a little scoop to the edge of the body. More sound samples will be showing up from these new models in the next few weeks.
Even though I couldn’t get to all the pictures and footage I took this weekend, we regularly review the newest ukes on the market here at the ukulele review and we also choose only a few hundred models to stock at our store and website from thousands on the market. Our goal is to show you the best products on the market and this happens all year round. So I’ll wrap it up there and be back with more reviews real soon. Mahalo for tuning in. Leave comments or questions below and I’ll try to answer them as I can.
Her is links to the first 3 days of the 2015 NAMM Show
Aloha!

Ukulele at NAMM 2015 – Day 3

Aloha and thanks for tuning in to our coverage of ukulele at NAMM 2015. When I get back to Hawaii I will be posting many more videos including a wonderful young Kamaka artist named Kayln Aolani, a video of Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel playing two DaSilva ukuleles we just picked up, and much more. It was a fun show and the talent and professional quality in the ukulele world has never been more apparent. I’ll have that final post in this series up within a few days so check back soon.

We’ll start off today with some sound samples from Larivee. We stocked Larivee guitars for a few years so I got to touch base with old friends with the company and try their revamped ukulele line. Unfortunately their new ukes were heavier in weight compared to their previous uke line, especially in the headstock area which was chunkier here than before. I expressed to them this concern and they told me that they were planning on adjusting that and also using a lighter tuning key to achieve a better balance. We plan on picking up the line because they sound nice and have a very clean, quality construction.

Then we show a few videos from a local maker, Imua. We have seen continual growth from and this Hawaii company and we’ll be bringing more in soon for you to try.
Then we stopped by Cordoba and I was very pleased to discover what’s now my favorite affordable guitar-lele on the market. This new instrument they call the Mini is a longer 20 inch scale compared to the 17″ guitar-lele they have been offering for the past few years. Plus it has a wider 50mm nut width which I think is much more comfortable than the other 46mm nut width on their smaller guitar-lele model. In my opinion, this is far superior instrument and will come in three wood options, all of which we should have in stock in about one month. These feature a solid top and a fantastic price point. If you are considering a quality guitar-lele with a modest price tag, I put this new model as my top recommendation. They also introduced a new master series classical guitar line made in the USA and I was so impressed with it that I commissioned a run of ukuleles to this custom quality that we will most likely see in another year or so.
Next booth over from Cordoba is Kala so we decided to sample a new model from their cedar top series that has a florentine cutaway and arm bevel.Keep a look out for these to come soon to our store and website. There are a few other new models from Kala that will reach the site soon too so keep your eyes peeled for those.
Next we visited the the Chinese violin makers from Eastman that have been impressing me with their guitars for many years. The hand carved ukulele archtops they advertised as concerts were actually a soprano scale and while I don’t think they sounded as warm as the new D’angelico, they have a punchy cool vintage tone and we’ll bring in one of each for you to see! We’ll just bring some of the mahogany line from them too and see how the response is. I think the ones at NAMM would be really good if set up a little better.
Mike DaSilva showed up today with two amazing instruments for us including the first ever jumbo tenor body size that sounds and look amazing. I’ll be getting these in on wednesday.
We’ll leave today with a few videos from the master, Benny Chong. Enjoy the music and see you soon!!

Ukulele at NAMM 2015 – Day 2

Uke News from NAMM – Day 2

Aloha friends. Thanks for tuning in to day 2 of our 2015 NAMM coverage. I am late releasing this because last night my internet went out and when I went to save, it disappeared! (face palm). I had no time to write it again until after today’s session. But anyway, enough of my sad story and on to the good stuff; sound samples of these awesome new ukes! I should note that this portable recording rig uses the most transparent mics and field recorder. There is no post production, and no enhancement or compression. So even though this is NAMM, and there is background noise, the tones should come through as they truly are if you listen though quality monitors or headphones. Nothing is like actually playing an instrument yourself but we try to provide the next best thing.

We started off at the KoAloha/ Rebel booth. This first one demo’d has been asked for many times and it’s finally in production, the KoAloha Opio Tenor! It’s everything I’d hoped it would be. KoAloha tenor tone, but with that mahogany warmth, and for half the price! You’re gonna love it, I guarantee! Next we see their new KoAlana line. As I mentioned in Day 1’s blog, these are laminate instruments, but take a listen. They sound great and will compete in the entry level price range. KoAloha is now covering all price points and doing it well! We’ll give you one more sound sample from KoAloha for now, the new “Rosette” series tenor. Just a bit more cost than a regular KTM but with a tasteful and unique rosewood rosette.

Next Corey plays some of the Rebel ukes I was telling you about. These solid wood instruments range from around $400-$1200 dollars and the quality is among the best you will find in their price range. The first two are a thin body soprano and concert. I thought these had a loud, punchy, “KoAloha like” tone. The next two are from their custom line with artistic, detailed appointments and an open bell like tone I really like. I think you’ll be impressed with these tenors. They’ll be up at the shop in about a week so stop by if you can and try for yourself.
Next up we hear a concert and tenor from custom Japan builder Teruyuki Tashiro. This is a one man custom shop and the quality and design reflect their higher price range. They are as comfortable to play as any of the best ukes I’ve played. They’re very light in weight and have fantastic volume and sustain. I’ll give detailed pictures and more videos when we get back to Hawaii.
Next we’ll look at a new line from Kala that’s been years in the making. This is their custom built line made in Petaluma California by a group of 7 talented luthiers. For a few years they have been making Ubasses and Banjo ukes but this is the first launch of their regular ukuleles they call the Elite series. The tone is big and warm more indicative of the best Hawaiian makers. We saw the early prototype for this line but they have really improved in every aspect. Corey first samples a gorgeous Koa tenor and after gives us a quick listen to their 10 year anniversary model redwood topped koa tenor. The next elite model is a concert, also with a perfect gloss finish but with koa binding and a tasteful koa wood rosette. This is sampled by an old friend of ours, Neil Chin. Neil also samples for us the basic model satin finish Elite.
One thing Kala just implemented for their custom shop is the UV cured finish that Kanile’a and Taylor guitars uses. This is quite an investment and tells me that Kala is ramping up to achieve a steady production from their California shop. We are promised to be the first to get this wonderful new line so keep a look out for them here and at our website.
There’s some other new models from Kala’s regular line that we’ll highlight tomorrow. Here’s a sneak peek.
Last stop for the day is the Ko’olau booth were I caught a slew of amazing musicians. First is a musician from Berlin Germany named Andreas David. Andreas gigs full time in Germany with ukulele. Every year the ukulele becomes more recognized worldwide as a serious instrument and it’s beautiful voice is getting discovered daily by professional musicians. Here Andreas samples a BN-30 spruce rosewood baritone nui. We had a few of these models already but will be getting another dozen or so at the beginning of march. Mr. David then samples a spruce/koa Ko’olau CS that will be available at our store.
Next we get a real treat with some rippin’ jazz musicians you most likely already know. Hawaii’s own Abe Lagrimas Jr. and Reggie Padilla serve us some rip-roarin’ bebop like double shot of espresso. Enjoy!
Tomorrow I’ll post a few videos of Benny Chong with Abe, as well as sound samples from D’angelico, Kanile’a, Kamaka, and many more pics and highlights from NAMM 2015.

So even though I’m behind a day I’m off to the Kanile’a party and I’ll try to post Day 3 and 4 before I head back on monday. Can’t miss the Kanile’a party though. It’s always a rager. Last year Bruce Shimabukuru poured a glass of water on his head and did the worm! I didn’t see Bruce this year though. Maybe we’ll get Corey to do that. Now that would be a good video!

Ukulele at NAMM 2015 – Day 1

Uke News from NAMM – Day 1

Aloha friends. It’s that time again. NAMM! I am gonna space this out because I’ll be posting every night of the show so I’ll just go over some of the cool new brands and models I bought today. First off I’ll mention the KoAloha booth since it was their first year setting up at NAMM. There is a new series from them that will only be about $80 more than their standard series but with a unique wood rosette. We bought the three they brought to the show that you can see in the gallery below. I was using a new lens and will get it down better tomorrow. I see now my f-stop was a bit too open. Also Corey and Zach just showed up this evening so starting tomorrow we’ll be doing sound samples of all these models. We also got a real cool Red Label solid body that you can see Alan holding. Other news from KoAloha is that they have finally released the tenor Opio! We got 30 on order so stay tuned for those to arrive. Also, they released a new KoAlana series made in Indonesia. They are laminate and very affordable but they sound great! The last picture here shows them behind a few Rebel ukes that they shared the booth with. Speaking of Rebel…

Rebel Ukuleles are made in Thailand by the folks that make the Opio line for KoAloha. They shared a booth with KoAloha and it was great to meet the kind Thai brothers doing such great work. We bought most of the ukes Rebel brought because, well, they sound and look amazing. I’ll take some better pics and give you some sound samples in the coming days. They sound good. REAL good! Also the leather bag you see in the last picture is coming back with us and we’ll be ordering more from Rebel though they say it is very limited in production. Let me know if you are interested and I can share more info on these super stylish gig bags.

From there I’ll take you over to the Takumi booth where I snagged some uber cool ukes I think you’ll like. The D’Angelico ukes are electric archtop sopranos made in Japan and I LOVE them! They have previously only been available in Japan but I bought the three that Nobu and Hitomi brought. They sound and feel so good and come with a really nice custom case. Even though they are soprano they are extremely comfortable with wonderful tone and a quality pickup system. At Takumi’s booth I also hand picked a half dozen LoPrinzis that I thought were an exceptional value. We also bought the Kiwaya Telecaster style ukes. Kiwaya made some improvements to this design and we are excited to bring them back to The Ukulele Site.

Speaking of the website…Today we launched a brand new version of the site I have been working on for months. In the next few months I’ll be adding many features and improving on it but it’s up running so check it out HERE! Ok, back to the show.

A few booths over from Takumi I found an amazing custom builder from Japan named Teruyuki Tashiro. Without hesitation I bought a spruce top concert and tenor that sound and look top notch. Real top of the line quality from this one man shop and I can’t wait to show them to you.

A great company I haven’t ordered from in a while (who knows why) is Fluke. Their Firefly banjo uke is one that I have been meaning to reorder for a long time so I have more of those coming and also got the last of a limited edition run of Mandala Fireflies. I also ordered some of the fleas for us to stock. We only order from Fluke with the wood fretboard and metal frets so that we can adjust as we need to and maintain our standard quality control as needed. Flukes are all American made and they simply have a great product. There’s no reason for us not to be supporting these great folks and soon you will see them back at the store and website. I also odered a new double CD from Jim Beloff that includes the sheet music for all of the songs as well as a new book they are putting out from Fred Sokolow. See samples of these in the gallery below.

Oh, I forgot, they are also coming out with a UBass fluke that sounded and felt good. I ordered for our store though we most likely won’t be listing them online.

So let’s visit some of the other Hawaiian makers that we love so much. Kanile’a just introduced a new scoop cutaway and the one Joe is holding will be coming home with us. This style cutaway takes very little from the soundboard while still offering easier access to the highest frets. On a side note Islander introduced some mini guitars that are quite an impressive value. We’ll have a few of these in the store though they won’t make it on the website. Inquire for more info on these.

Kamaka is always a fun booth to hang out at with fantastic artists like Benny Chong, Bryan Tolentino, and Kalei Gamiao. I am gonna try to catch some sound samples of their new prototypes with these guys before the end of show. These models include the slothead tenor and (for the first time) slothead concert, as well as a sweet new tenor with a headstock inlay of a honu riding a wave! More pics and videos will come so stay tuned throughout the weekend.

We pre-bought most of what Ko’olau brought including a mind blowing CS slothead we’ll show you later in the show and the first ever slotted headstock CS you see here.

We also pre-bought the Collings ukes they brought and I’ll be showing you those and many other ukes as the show goes on. Check back tomorrow for more ukes from NAMM 2015 and sound samples to go along with them! Also, feel free to comment or ask any questions below, and let me know if there are any models or brands you want us to sample. Aloha from Anaheim. A hui ho~

I’m off to look for this guys coverage-

KoAloha & The Legend of Naupaka

KoAloha is never afraid to go “outside the box”. This new model that will be available in their 3 sizes at about the same price as the regular models is the yin and yang of two lovable Hawaiian woods. It looks cool in my opinion, but the reason I really like it is because the tone is sweeter. It mellows out the highest frequencies while still having the KoAloha volume, which is always impressive. I’d say you have to played a half koa half mango ukulele “Naupaka” and experience it for yourself.

So What’s the name Naupaka mean? Here’s some info from aloha-hawaii.com/

One of Hawaii’s most famous legends is built around naupaka, a shrub found in the mountains or near the beach. The flower’s unique appearance—it resembles a half-flower, with petals missing—caused early Hawaiians to believe it was the incarnation of an ancient native separated from her lover.
The Legend
In ancient times, one version goes, there was a beautiful Hawaiian princess known as Naupaka. One day, the villagers noticed that Naupaka looked very sad. They told her parents, who approached Naupaka and asked her what was troubling her.
“I have fallen in love with a man named Kaui,” replied the princess. “But Kaui is not of noble birth—he is a commoner.” According to Hawaiian tradition, it was strictly forbidden for members of royalty to marry people from the common ranks.
Distressed, Naupaka and Kaui traveled long and far, seeking a solution to their dilemma. They climbed up a mountain to see a kahuna who was staying at a heiau (temple). Alas, he had no clear answer for the young lovers. “There is nothing I can do,” he told them, “but you should pray. Pray at this heiau.”
So they did. And as they prayed, rain began to fall. Their hearts torn by sorrow, Naupaka and Kaui embraced for a final time. Then Naupaka took a flower from her ear and tore it in half, giving one half to Kaui. “The gods won’t allow us to be together,” she said. “You go live down by the water, while I will stay up here in the mountains.”
As the two lovers separated, the naupaka plants that grew nearby saw how sad they were. The very next day, they began to bloom in only half flowers.

KoAloha says,

Our interpretation tells a more joyful story. Our Naupaka unites the unlikely couple of of koa and mango to produce an ukulele with a truly unique aesthetic and tone.

I have always loved the tone on both Koa and Mango ukes. These new KoAlohas have positive tonal qualities from both woods. The power of koa and sweetness of mango. A truly wonderful sound and super fun to play with, the Naupaka is definitely different. It makes a statement. What do you think Naupaka says?

Charlie Fukuba’s I’iwi Ukuleles

Here’s a look at two new ukes from custom builder Charlie Fukuba. Charlie is a full time custom builder in Makakilo and he makes some of the nicest ukes you will ever find. These two really blew me away. Both are just incredible in all ways. The sound and feel of this tenor is right there with the absolute best I’ve ever played. Seriously amazing instrument. The concert too! The sound is so impressive on both of them I just want to take them home! This job is rough. Take a look and listen here, and come up to the store and try yourself. They are some of the finest I’ve ever played.

These will soon be available at The Ukulele Site.

Moore Bettah Rope Bound Koa Tenor Ukulele

Chuck Moore makes phenomenal ukes. Every time we get one, it’s a treat. This is an all koa tenor with rope binding. Real vintage style rope binding. Rope is now commonly used as a purfling that goes inside of a binding, but this way is the classic look. Of course Chuck takes classic ideas and makes amazing art. Beyond the visual though, is the feel. The edges of the body are sanded and rounded to be soft against your arm and body as you play, and the action is nice and low. Easy and comfortable. And there’s also other features I could expound upon but I want to mainly highlight the aspect that made me a true fan of Chuck’s creations… The tone!

Sound sample from the one and only, Corey Fujimoto.

Why do Moore Bettahs sound so great? Well… this artist/craftsman, with a driving work ethic and incredible talent, grew from years of ukulele experimentation and luthier meditation, until he finally reached enlightenment. Now the wood obeys him. The sound waves line up like Waimea Bay during the Eddie Aikau. The magic of nature!
Recording is with stereo Schoeps mics, a Canon 5D mrk2 camera, and this awesome lens, Canon 200mm f/2L (my friend, Selwyn in Singapore loaned me). This lens is so good! Just like the uke, I can’t imagine any better!
There’s a big difference in this $6,000 lens and my $1,000 one, and the same is true in the ukulele department. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have taken the time to show you this instrument that’s already sold. But showing the best ukes in the world is my favorite part of the job. Another passionate ukulele player from Europe joins the MB Ohana! Much More Moore Bettah most likely to come. (Try saying that 5 times fast!)See more MB Video Blogs Here.

New Models from Pono

Here’s a sneak peak at a few new models that are about to hit our store – The Ukulele Site

The first model here is an AT2. The 2 series have a cedar top and a radius fingerboard, like many of the pro classics, but with the less expensive lineup. These will be around 500 with a case and also comes as an MT2 with mahogany sides and back.

The second model is gonna hit next year mostly. We only have two of them now so they most likely won’t be for sale long but we are getting more in another few months. It is a deluxe Acacia tenor but with a slimmer body depth (under 6mm). This gives it a different tone and slightly different feel, more comfortable for some to hold and play. (less reaching around the body)

The pics and videos were done with a Canon 5D mark 2 (like always) but now with a Canon 200mm f/2L lens that I have courtesy of my friend Selwyn in Singapore. He sponsored us with a really amazing piece of gear. Nothing can match a 3 dimensional first hand beauty as you hold an instrument. But this is the closest I’ve seen. No editing at all. Just like when I bought good mics I could stop editing my audio, so it is with a real piece of glass like this. Enormous mahalos to Selwyn for true Aloha from across the ocean!

12 Tenor String Sets on Kamaka HF-3

New Kamaka Tenor HF-3’s are extremely consistent. They have been making ukes for 98 years now so there is a wide variety of Kamakas out there, no doubt, but new Kamakas are as uniform as you will find. In fact I would say that this model is as good as it gets for a test like this. Now I’ve done many string comparison videos in the past, but I haven’t done any in the last year since I obtained better microphones that don’t color or compress the sound, along with a good AD converter for accurate conversion. Still, there is always some compression when uploading, and you are probably not listening to this on true studio monitors but with descent speakers or headphones and focused listening I think you will hear the individual voicing of the different strings.

There is a lot that is similar but there is also factual audible differences. Don’t get me wrong. This is not meant to enlighten you in the way personally trying these on your tenor can. This is just one person (Corey Fujimoto!) playing a few songs, comparing strings on a video. But you can still use it as a data point and consider this, you can never listen this closely in time when you try these sets yourself. This back to back listening is something we can only do with a recording.

Let’s talk about the strings now. First off Kamaka strings are D’addario Pro Atre J71’s dyed black. The Kamaka sets high G is .0285 instead of .0290. Every other string is exactly the same. Ko’olau Mahana strings are also D’addario Pro Arte but in a slightly thicker gauge. They all sound the same because they are all the same material made by D’addario. Peter D’addario worked with these companies before D’addario was offering ukulele strings. This material is high quality nylon rectified for great intonation and with a warm tone. It can be too “dry” for some, and just right for others. Jake uses these strings. I think he chooses it for the balance, how it handles dynamics, and how they sound when plugged in.

 

 

Check out our string selection at our website – The Ukulele Site Strings

Ok, so then we get into the Fluorocarbons. Yes, it’s fishing line, but let me just say, nylon was also used for fishing line for many years and it still is. Fluorocarbon is just a new type of material that doesn’t absorb moisture as much and carries a higher tension per diameter. Even though the different brands of fluorocarbon are all 100% fluorocarbon, the make up and production processes vary and you can hear and feel a difference when trying the various options on the market. The Fremont, Oasis, and Worth are each unique in subtle ways. All of them sound great with Kamaka in my opinion. Then we get to the Aquila, a very unique nylon. The “New Nylgut” is actually not the newest one, which is the “Super Nylgut”. The “New Nylgut” is the most popular set and has been for a few years (I like them considerably more than the new “Super Nylgut”). And the last set, South Coast, is fluorocarbon with a brass wound 3rd.Then we added low G strings. The Kamaka, Oasis, and Aquila are a silver wrapped nylon. The Fremont soloist and the new Southcoast HML-RW low G strings are a brass wrap polished to be smooth, no squeak, and the Worth is a plain fluorocarbon low G. So that’s the low down. Thanks for tuning in to the review! I want to know what you hear and what you liked. Mahalo!

Pepe Romero Series 5 in 3 Wood Options

Today Pepe Romero hand delivered these 5 series 14 fret to body tenors. The 5 series has top of the line woods (as you can see), and usually abalone purfling going around the top, and a super fat abalone rossette, but this koa one is the first of it’s kind and features a unique wood rope purfling and rossette. All 3 that Pepe brought us are truly gorgeous instruments with a powerful sound that I love. Pepe’s 14 fret to body instruments have an extra vibrant tone with great note clarity even when played lightly. So here’s some pictures and videos with the talented Corey Fujimoto sampling these 3 very special instruments that Pepe just brought us. Share any thoughts or questions in the comments below. Aloha!
Click on photos for gallery.

Hive Ukulele Review

Today we have the pleasure of featuring a great luthier that was the ukulele builder at Compass Rose for years. Recently he’s been stunning players with his own line, called Hive. We just received this spruce top, rosewood side and back tenor from him. We’ll take a close look and listen, and you can see what you think. Share your thoughts in the comments below if you’d like.

After Robert-Venn (School of Luthiery) I went to Santa Cruz to work with Rick and he was the best boss ever. I was building the Compass Rose ukuleles and he really let me take my time to do good work. I learned a lot and it was great, but eventually I left to pursue my own line.

As much as Jake enjoyed Santa Cruz, the cost of raising his family there was not conducive with his desire to be an independent luthier. So he ended up going back to his roots in West Virginia and built a beautiful workshop on his property. We are so glad to see the quality and value he is now offering.
Click on photos for gallery.

Jake has a rare and refreshing dedication to excellence along with the experience and ability to execute that vision. Only a few people have such flawless technique, and the design is original, creative and modern with a classical touch, very nice. Add to that the finest tone woods, Waverly tuners, and an included Ameritage case. As far as features that matter most, this ukulele is extremely easy to play with very low action that just refuses to buzz! It’s a 12 fret to body tenor and the sound …. well, I recorded three different sound samples for a variety of styles. Tell us what you think.

This ukulele will get listed at TheUkuleleSite.com See more Hive soon (hopefully) and see more now at Hive’s Website Aloha and mahalo for checking out The Review. A hui ho!

New from Moore Bettah Ukuleles!

At the far east corner of Hawaii’s largest and oldest island there’s an artist in a solar powered shop making ukuleles that just epitomize what I consider to be great tone. Chuck Moore’s instruments always have their own unique voice. Very balanced, not boomy, but rich and with a sparkling sustain that really captures you in the sweetness of the sound.

This is a dry, unaltered stereo recording.
The strings on both are Southcoast HML-RW but any strings would sound great on these instruments. Oasis, Fremont, and Worth are also excellent choices. These two instruments were also recorded under the exact same circumstance (mic placement, levels etc.) So it should be a fair comparison but remember there is more than just wood that differentiate between these two. What other design features should be factored into this comparison? Soundhole size and placement, and headstock slotted or flat. Did you like one more than the other? What differences do you hear?
Either way most of us should be able to agree that Moore Bettah is not the most sought after custom ukulele for looks alone. It’s the tone! You’re not just paying for art. Both professional and aspiring musicians are inspired by the quality of sound, the feel, and the beauty of Chuck Moore’s instruments. Here is two classic examples that arrived today. Listen on quality speakers or headphones to hear true tone. Click on the pictures to see the whole gallery. (Specs to come soon)
See more MB Video Blogs Here

Maui Ukulele Festival 2014

I have been to dozens of ukulele festivals and it’s always nice to see performers and old friends. But we just got back from Maui’s 9th annual Ukulele Festival and for the first time I decided to do a photoblog on it here. I didn’t record videos because to get a sound worth publishing I would need to get a line from the board along with the acoustic mics and I figured they had enough to worry about and might not want me recording anyway. With that said, if I could have it over I would have asked Roy if I could do just that. Why? Because the music was unreal. It was just packed with great talent and every single performer was fantastic!

Click on images for more pictures and specifications. Mahalo for tuning in. Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below.

Andrew Molina got the crowd pumped up early with his excitement that you can just feel. He was backed by his dad Jay Molina that has been a professional bass player for years and recently has been playing guitar to back up his son. This is the first time Andrew was trying out his Shure wireless instrument system so he was able to walk around the field with no cord to stop him. It sounded great and spiced up the visual aspect of his performance.

Find more about Andrew Molina here- http://andrewmolinaukulele.com/

Next up was an incredibly talented musician that has amazed me quite a few times. In fact every time I see Willie K I am in awe. Elevated and elated. He did this Nina Simone song that just blew me away. After which he backed Oahu’s hip soul singer, Yoza! Yoza is always seen with a guitar but wow, does she sound incredible over an ukulele! Willie too. Those big soulful voices sit over ukulele frequencies in a way that pulls you in even harder than guitar.

Learn More about Yoza here- http://www.yozamusic.com/

Brittni is a really exciting young talent originally from the Big Island and now on Oahu. I think she will really break down some walls in the next few years. Electronica influence+UkE+amazing talent =…well just wait. I love Brittni and hope she lets us promote the next chapter in her development as an artist. I truly believe in it!

Learm more about Brittni here – http://www.brittnipaiva.com/Taimane was up after and she really gave it her all. It was intense. My daughter said it “made her heart beat fast in a good way”. I think of Taimane as a great role model. She’s so genuine and happy and when she takes the stage she really rocks the house.
Learm more about Taimane here- http://www.taimane.com/main/

Next up was a long time friend and incredible talent. Paula Fuga is invigorating and inspiring to hear. She has such a sweet and powerful voice.


Learn more about Paula here- http://www.paulafuga.com/
Unfortunately I had to leave without seeing Raiatea Helm backed by Bryan Tolentino. That would have made it even sweeter. Next time. Thanks for tuning in. Aloha!

 

Special thanks to Roy and Kathy Sakuma. They have done so much for the ukulele community, and of course this was a free event just like all of their festivals. They have been doing these non profit events to spread aloha and perpetuate the ukulele for over 45 years now. The educational resources and inspiring events they have given have changed our islands and beyond, in a very positive way. Learn more about Roy’s festival and lesson programs here- http://www.roysakuma.net/

The 2014 LFDM Custom Tenors-

Just like musicians, luthiers show their soul in what they create. Luis Feu de Mesquita (LFDM) brings his talent and experience in the classical and flamenco guitar world over to the ukulele with astounding success. He continues to refine his art and I am genuinely in awe of these four instruments. All four are different, but each one is phenomenal.

Why am I excited about this untraditional Canadian luthier? Because these instruments are SO musical! The sound is something you have to experience for yourself. The resonation, dynamic ability, and sustain are all outstanding, as in, they really stand out with their own warm, clear voice.

Other features I love; Very light in weight, the necks have a slightly slender shape but are extremely comfortable, super easy to play for hours, and go ahead and dig in for those dynamics, No Fret Buzz! Add to that beautiful woods and admirable craftsmanship. These are among the best tenor ukuleles ever made.

I want to thank Luis for allowing us to share these inspiring musical instruments with you. Luis, you are the man!

Click on images for more pictures and specifications. Mahalo for tuning in. Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below.

In last years review of LFDM I go over some of the technical aspects that makes the ukes so different. Check out that here- http://www.theukulelereview.com/2013/08/11/lfdm/

The Man, The Music, The Mic, & The Ukulele

The Man-
Corey Fujimoto works (for lack of a better word) full time at The Ukulele Site. He plays most of our sound samples for the website (TheUkuleleSite.com). And he has a solo album you can learn more about here- Corey Fujimoto “Fables”

The Music-
Pachelbel’s Canon is the name commonly given to a canon by the German Baroque composer Johann Pachelbel. It was speculated that the Canon may have been composed for Johann Christoph Bach’s wedding, on 23 October 1694, which Pachelbel attended. Johann Ambrosius Bach, Pachelbel, and other friends and family provided music for the occasion. Johann Christoph Bach, the oldest brother of Johann Sebastian Bach, was a pupil of Pachelbel. Like most other works by Pachelbel and other pre-1700 composers, the Canon remained forgotten for centuries and was rediscovered only in the 20th century.

The Mic-
This was recorded with one microphone made by a Slovakian company called Flea. It’s a direct copy of a Neumann U47 tube mic that hasn’t been in production since 1965. The vintage U47 is a true classic, the preferred choice for Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Johnny Cash, and loads of other amazing vocalist. But it’s also been popular for instrument miking. For instance George Martin used it for the strings on “Elenor Rigby”. Lots of horn players like Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins used it. The U47 was also used in classical recordings like Mercury Records’ ‘Living Presence’ series. Unfortunately, all the original U47’s are over 50 years old and usually over 10 grand in cost. So I was glad to find this company, Flea, making a great copy of the U47. In this recording there is no EQ, compression, or reverb. Just a mono signal in a fairly “dry” room. Nothing fancy, just a good musician playing good music recorded with a good mic,..and that just leaves one more key element that also needs to be good, the instrument.

The Ukulele-
This is a Collings mahogany tenor (UT1) that Corey recently bought to have an ukulele tuned one step up. So he used Fremont soprano strings to allow for the tension caused by tuning higher. The tuning is one step up so A D F# B.

Mahalo for tuning into the Ukulele Review. Share any thoughts below.~

Flea mic copy3

Kala – Michael Aratani Model

Anyone that knew Mike knows that he would love what Kala did for him here with this limited run all solid tenor commemorating his contribution to the ukulele.

Click on the image for more pics.

I like that it’s called the Michael Aratani model and that they used this Paint style picture instead of his caricature MGM persona. It looks like Mike, lovin’ life with an ukulele in hand and excitement in his eye.

He truly celebrated life and his indulgent embrace with severe UAS was inspiring, to say the least. What else is there to do but salute him by acquiring his commemorative model. I’m gonna have to give a free case with this one. And drinks are on the house. To Mike!

This sound sample from Corey Fujimoto is completely “raw”, untouched, uncompressed audio using the most transparent mics that do not color the tone. Use quality speakers or headphones for the most true listening experience. Specs will come to TheUkuleleSite soon!

I asked Corey to play the sound sample licks Mike did. There you go Corey. Now that’s a sound sample!

TODA – Incredible Japanese Builder!

Aloha friends! I have something exciting and fun to share today. We just got in a tenor from a custom luthier in Japan named TODA and it’s AWESOME! This is truly one of the finest ukes I’ve ever played. The tone is a balance of everything you could dream of; open, full, warm, clear, true, and focused with bell like sustain all the way up the neck. The design and craftsmanship are both clever and clean with appointments any luthier would admire. So who is this builder? Well, I don’t exactly know, but I’ll tell you how I found out about him.

I am always on the hunt for the greatest ukes in the world. My brother Noa actually makes some of them, Ko’olau, and I trust his opinion on ukulele quality probably more than anyone. After a trip to Japan he told me that he was most impressed with a builder named TODA. However, he couldn’t visit this builder because he has no public phone, email, website, or any of that. He basically doesn’t want to be bothered. He just wants to build instruments. He only deals with Masa at Ohana Ukulele in Japan. Fortunately, Masa said he would supply us as a distributor when possible. This one here made with sitka spruce and Indian rosewood was just finished for Asada at Ribbee Ukulele in Thailand but he was kind enough to let me buy it when he saw that I wanted to try one. Mahalo to Masa and Asada for letting me show you such a phenomenal instrument.

This is not a flashy build, but is extremely precise inside and out. Every miter joint is perfect. Set and relief of the neck, fretwork, and intonation: perfect. Visually attractive with artistic flow and intelligent design in the body shape, bridge, koa pickguard, abalone dot outlay, and the super cool twisting wave at the top of the headstock. Above all though, the sound on this TODA VT tenor ukulele is just fantastic! Looking inside I see almost like a miniature steel string guitar bracing. X brace with a transverse brace below the asymmetrical bridge patch. Very different from other ukulele builders and the result is impressive. Take a look/ listen and share your thoughts below.

Click on the images for more pics.

This sound sample from Corey Fujimoto is completely “raw”, untouched, uncompressed audio using the most transparent mics that do not color the tone. Use quality speakers or headphones for the most true listening experience.

I have been asking myself all day if I was going to keep this one for myself. If I thought I could not get another I definitely would, but this one will be going up at The Ukulele Site to share with our audience there. I know I will eventually get a Toda though. I consider this uke to be among the best I have ever played.

Ryan Condon Carves a New Sound in Ukulele

This gorgeous creation comes to us courtesy of Ryan Condon, 2nd half of Ko’olau’s custom shop led by Noa Bonk. Ryan has built some arch top guitars and a few years ago started hand carving Ko’olau tenors. He makes a few each year, all of which are seemingly flawless in build quality and quite the treat to look at. However, the most noteworthy aspect is an extremely unique dynamic attack and throw. I say extremely unique because this is a very different sound from any flat top ukulele. Ryan uses arching height calculations, tap tuning, and other traditional luthier techniques to carve these two big blocks of wood into their maximum musical potential. This oval hole sunburst tenor one can be heard from across the room with a bell like clarity. Up and down the neck it’s like no other ukulele you will find.

If you’ve been around acoustic stringed instruments, you likely know that a hand carved arch top instrument is much more expensive than it’s flat top counter part. This is especially true with the top notch custom makers. The fanciest Collings ukulele comes in around 4 grand while the mandolins top off well over 10 grand. Why is this? First of all, Ryan starts with a block of European spruce and master grade koa thick enough to make 4 regular flat top tenors.

I just like the process of carving, taking a block of wood and removing everything except what is supposed to be there

He book-matches the set at about 18mm and at finish it is between 2-3mm, carving away all but the beautiful curving woods that you see. Not only do you need 4 times the top and back wood but the process takes about 3 times as long as a flat top. What an amazing thing you get though when done just right. Great for “chompy” jazz chords or finger-style work like Corey demonstrates.

Just in case you’re wondering, this is nothing like the Kala archtop. I say that with all due respect. The pricing is drastically different to say the least. This is hand carved by one of the finest builders in the world and it’s acoustics are a whole different experience. For someone that truly loves the ukulele and has a passion for the finest craftsmanship, this has something different from any other ukulele you will find. And it’s not just unique, but a uniquely beautiful sound.

Thanks for tuning in, share your thoughts below. Click on the images for more pics & Specs.
 

Corey Samples

This tone would shine even more in a “lively” room where it had room to bounce around with sustain and harmonics. But this is for “raw” sound sampling so use good speakers or headphones to truly hear this remarkable hand carved archtop tenor ukulele from Ko’olau, soon to be at The Ukulele Site

Aloha friends. A hui ho!

Ko’olau Redwood/ Milo Strikes Again

Here is a look and listen to a new Ko’olau that our friend Eric ordered from us about 10 months back. He kindly awaited.I snapped a few shots after Noa built the body-

We rarely will have a Ko’olau available. But we do regularly get gorgeous ones like this for customers that ordered on our website or in the store. Though waiting for a custom order can require a painful amount of patience, it’s totally worth the wait! Eric, you’ll be in ukulele heaven soon! :D

Thanks for tuning in, share your thoughts below. Click on the images for more pics & Specs.

Corey Samples

Then Kimo stops by today!

Aloha friends. A hui ho!

Moore Bettah- Artist Series

~Two Very Special Instruments~

We have had the superb privilege of featuring some world class instruments here at The Review. But the ultimate is when we get to feature the custom work of Chuck Moore.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles are made 100% by Chuck Moore in a solar powered work shop in a remote corner of Hawaii’s Big Island. When Chuck first moved to Hawaii he lived on Molokai doing scrimshaw art (scrimshander). In a previous post The Art of Moore we show some of his scrimshaw work. Scrimshaw is carving ivory (tooth or bone sometimes) with a blade. Both of these new ukes feature this type of art with 40,000 year old mastodon ivory etched out to create dimension in the flowers on the spruce top model, and the wahine’s face in the all koa model. Chuck mentions in conversation

The artist series can take me three times as long to build as a basic uke…. I sometimes think about these projects a year or two before I execute them. 

His meditation on art and lutherie has become a gift to the world and it’s our honor to showcase it. We consistently have the best ukes in the world (The Ukulele Site).  But once in a blue moon we get some Moore Bettah Ukuleles from the adroit and audacious Chuck Moore. And they are glorious! For those that can afford one, they are worth every penny (and more). Galleries open for more pics and specs. Enjoy!



Aloha friends. A hui ho! See more MB Video Blogs Here

Aloha!