Category Archives: Ukulele Reviews

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

Fender Revamps Their Ukulele Line

There is no doubt that Fender has been inspiring guitarists for over 60 years. Leo Fender was an innovator that changed the music world forever. But Fender has only been making ukes for 5 years now. We have carried them from the time they were released. They definitely have a “cool factor” with their Tele headstock and Fender logo, and the tone has been on par with it’s price range. But until now I haven’t done an article here showcasing them. Ukes get featured here when I’m really excited about them, impressed by their quality or value. That’s how I’m suddenly feeling about Fender ukes! Why? What changed?

Many of you know that Fender owns other brands, one of them being Gretsch, and that Gretsch released an ukulele line a few years ago as part of their “Roots Series” which models vintage Gretsch instruments along with a few new designs with a similar “vintage” style. If you follow our blog and website you also know that we have loved this new Gretsch line from the moment we played them at NAMM 2012 where we claimed them to be the best new ukulele line. There were dozens of new makers that year but these had great tone, even on the really affordable laminate models. The reason they were great right off the bat was because the Gretsch roots line was headed by Mike Lewis. Mike’s a musician, historian, engineer and one of the key visionaries at Fender for many years.

In the early 90’s he revived their classic tube amps. Richard McDonald, vide president of Fender said “Mike did an incredible job of getting us back on track by taking a step back with the historical element of our legacy and making it right, with the Vibro-King, Blues Deluxe, Blues Deville and so on” . Mike then went to the guitar department at Fender, then Guild (when Fender bought them), and of course Gretsch.

The Gretsch ukulele line has been a big seller for us. Last year our Fender rep asked me why the Gretsch ukes outsell the Fender ones. My reply was something like, “The Gretsch ukes just sound so good. When people play them in the store they love the tone.” Considering the continuing popularity of the ukulele, Fender did the obvious and asked Mike Lewis to revamp their Fender ukulele lineup.

Mike certainly succeeded at this task. We just received a shipment of these newly upgraded models and they sound and play significantly better. They have new bracing patterns, arched backs, thicker fingerboards, thinner headstocks, compensated saddles, and a thinner finish. The tone is more articulate and they project much more. They are now among my favorite affordable ukes and I give them my top recommendation.

Are they more like the Gretsch ukes now since Mike Lewis headed both projects? No they are both very unique. The Gretsch line was patterned after the original Gretsch ukes. The necks are thicker giving a different feel and the look is more of a vintage replica. The Fender’s have slimmer necks along with more modern features like geared tuners on all models, compensated saddles, and Tele headstocks. They are also made in different factories. Fender ukes are made in Indonesia and Gretsch in China. Basically the only thing they share in common is that they both sound good and offer a great value to the ukulele community. Big mahalo to Mike Lewis (pictured below) for his excellent work on both lines.

esq-27-mike-lewis-1012-de

In the next week I will be redoing the sound samples and photos for all Fender models at our website -TheUkuleleSite-Fender- But here’s a few images and sound samples from new models that just arrived.

Thanks for tuning in, share your thoughts below. Click on the image below for more pics.

Aloha friends. A hui ho!

2014 Photo Contest Winners

Aloha friends. First off, mahalo to everyone that participated in this contest. I apologize for any imperfections involved in the setup. Honestly we just don’t have the time to really run a contest tightly and properly. But we did what we had to to make sure the popular vote was correct. With that said, our winner was Michael Horn. On all of these pictures, if you click on the image, they enlarge and have comments on why they were chosen, or in this case, why they won.

Congratulations to Michael.  The next 10 photos were selected based on their quality, creativity, and composition and will be awarded $100 in their customer account at http://theukulelesite.com

There were many that we liked but we only had 10 spots to fill. Thank you for your kind understanding.

Click on the photos to enlarge and see some thoughts on why it was chosen.

Leave comments and questions below. If you are one of the winners maybe you can share with us the equipment you used, if you want. Thanks again and visit our store -The Ukulele Site

Moore Bettah -Skull Island/ Tiki Love

The Birth of Bettah

This is a striking and unique masterpiece from Moore Bettah custom builder Chuck Moore. It’s a depiction of the Island as young Charles experienced it when he first washed up on shore many years ago. The mountains were flowing with lava and foreigners were commonly given to the tiki gods. Luckily, Chuck knew how to make a coconut ukulele which the natives proclaimed as “Moore Bettah!”. And that’s how it began. Or so goes the legend.  But just to clarify, I asked Mr Moore about his exact inspiration. He replies,

I really wished I lived in Hawaii in the 50’s when Donn the Beachcomber had his bar where the International marketplace was. BTW, if it weren’t for this man Waikiki would be full of high rise office buildings…..I’ll bet you didn’t know that there is an official Don the Beachcomber day in Hawaii. He was awarded that by the state of Hawaii for all the work he did in Waikiki. Sadly, much of his legacy is gone today. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

He also sites Arthur Lyman recordings and tiki art and culture as influences for this one of a kind tenor. More than anything, I’m impressed with the sound and the feel. Just absolutely perfect in my opinion. I’d say Chuck Moore is the Mick Jagger of Ukulele builders. The LeBron James of inlay. I could go on but it’s past my bedtime. Summing up the review, this uke rules.

It’s not surprising, but still exciting to see such a great instrument. Chuck seems to be an open faucet of creativity.  It’s a beautiful gift  and our pleasure to show you the finest.  Galleries open for more pics. Enjoy!

Aloha friends. A hui ho!

Southcoast String Set HML-RW

This review is not on an ukulele but a specific string set I have been using. If you play tenor and are open to a low G, or linear tuning, then this one could be the sound you have been looking for. The G and C string are a thin phosphor bronze wrap and the E and A strings are a thin high density fluorocarbon.

Compass Rose Tenor 
The first video on the left shows this Compass Rose with the stock Aquila low G set that they come with. I think Aquila strings work great on some ukes and on others they don’t quite hit the potential tone. It doesn’t really have to do with the quality of the uke but more of the way it was built. The video to the right of that one shows the Southcoast set that we are reviewing here. These videos were shot a day apart. The camera angle and lighting is different but the audio was recorded with the same mic placement and using unedited wave files.
Maui Music Spruce Maple Tenor
So this comparison is less of a fair playing field because the first video is a Hilo high G set and the second of course the Southcoast Low G set that we are reviewing. And Corey is not playing the same thing. And on top of that the mic placement is slightly different. Still, you can still hear the overall tonality being very different. In my opinion the Southcoast set can activate a sweet and “woody” quality in certain instruments like this one.

Compass Rose Tenor w Aquila Low G set

Maui Music Spruce Maple Tenor w/ Hilo Strings High G

Compass Rose Tenor w/ Southcoast HML-RW

Maui Music Spruce Maple Tenor w/ Southcoast HML-RW

 

All of our sound sample have no reverb, compression, or mastering. Listen on good headphones or speakers to hear true tone. We have these strings in bulk and they are available to be set up on your ukulele. They are not our recommendation for every ukulele so inquire with us if you are not sure. I love them on Pono tenors, Kamaka tenors and many other high quality tenors. In my opinion the SC string set can “open up” the natural voice of certain tenors. When fingerpicking you get a rich yet articulate sound, and when strumming your get a sweet jangle similar almost to a steel string guitar. We can set up your new ukulele with this set but are not currently selling them separately. We plan on doing that eventually, but until then, you can buy these from our friend Dirk who designed the set -HERE. The instruments used for this demo are available at our online store – TheUkuleleSite.com So what do you hear in these comparisons? Share your thoughts/ questions/ & opinions in the comments below. Aloha~

I recently changed the strings on my Ko’olau-

Maui Music – New for 2014

mm copyPeter Lieberman formed Maui Music when the only “k” brand was Kamaka. On december 27 2000 a fire burned down his factory forcing him to close down. He was soon back to building, but instead of running another crew and factory production, he decided to be a one man custom shop and focus on the highest quality. Both the “pre-fire” Maui Music and Peter’s custom ukes are among the most loved Hawaiian instruments in the world. This nearly came to an end last year. Health problems made him unsure if he would ever build again. Peter tells me,

I almost died last year. When I recovered and came back to work I decided to make the best ukes I had ever made in my life.

And that’s what he did. And he says that is his plan for every year to come. That’s awesome!

Mango Soprano 
Behold mango in all it’s craziness. This Big Island wood is alluring with all kinds of figure to enjoy. On top of that is has a super punchy tone! This must be the first time I have seen a side port on a soprano. Have you guys seen that before?
Concert Long Neck
So this koa beauty has a concert body with the 17″ tenor scale. This gives the feel and tension of a tenor with a more classic uke, smaller body, tone. All of these are framed off with abalone purfling and wood binding. Green wood strips sit in between making the greens in the abalone pop. Super beautiful design!
Spruce Top Maple Tenor
This tenor features a Spruce top and some of the most eye-popping gorgeous maple I have ever seen. This wood is so glorious I had to force myself to stop taking pictures. Notice the details like purfling going around the end jack. Touches like this show the artist and designer that Peter is.
Spruce Top Cocobolo Tenor
Cocobolo is like rosewood but twice as sexy. This tenor has some jaw dropping looks and rich yet articulate tones. A very unique instrument.
2 Koa Tenor Deluxes
So this first koa deluxe has the oval soundhole that Peter introduced 10 years back. We had these in our store from MGM when he still had his ebay store. He was always pimpin’ us out with awesome ukes. Great to see this design back for atleast one of these ukes. I love the look. The next koa deluxe tenor is more to Peter’s 2014 design with the side port, which I think is great. It really gives the player more volume and clarity to their ears. Let’s face it, we play for ourselves, and the side port releases the sound where we can hear it best.
Mango 6 & 8 string Tenors
Of all these amazing instruments the one I personally covet the most is this 6 string. I love the sound of a good 6 string and this might be the best I have ever played. So easy to play and just sings with wonderful tones. Budget model 6 and 8’s can really turn players off. These are easy to play, easy to keep in tune and sound amazing even with Hilo strings.
The only thing I am not crazy about with these instruments is the Hilo strings. IMO they don’t do justice to the potential tone. I reckon I’ll be slowly switching them out for other strings when I get a chance. But that’s just my opinion and an easy thing to change. Overall these ukes from Peter exceeded my expectations and I am grateful to him for letting us show them off.
Peter builds differently than any other custom builder I know. He basically does one batch each year of around 100 ukes. He truly kicks some luthier butt doing this quantity and quality all solo, and even while fighting health problems, taking care of his mother etc..he’s an awesome guy. These are the first of his to introduce the side sound port, even on the soprano! Look and listen to these 2014 Maui Music masterpieces. They will soon be listed at our website but contact me if you see something you want. Each picture opens to a gallery. Enjoy, and let us know if you have any questions.

View available at TheUkuleleSite

All of our sound sample have no reverb, compression, or mastering. Listen on good headphones or speakers to hear true tone.

 

Mahalo and Aloha from your friends at HMS. Share your thoughts/ questions/ & opinions in the comments below~

Installing an L.R. Baggs 5.0

If you want to install this pickup in your uke, this tutorial could be of crucial help.
Almost every ukulele we sell can get a pickup install included. The L.R. Baggs 5.0. has been a very popular choice for our customers and Joel has installed hundreds. We did this tutorial because we like the 5.0 and want to help you guys install one if you are keen to such DIY projects. Joel shares ways of avoiding future problems. Wires running all over will cause weird overtones at certain notes. The frequency activates a vibration with the electronics that you don’t want. This can be eliminated using some of Joel’s techniques shown here so look and think about what you can take away and also what you can share with us. We are not beyond growth as well so join the site and help us and our visitors as well.

There are a number of steps Joel goes over that are not covered in the official Baggs installation instructions. Hopefully this will be of aid but feel free to add any ways you do it different, any comments on the process showed here, or any questions you have.

Aloha friends. A hui ho!

Blackbird Tenor Ukulele through Roland Guitar Synth Pedal

Sometime last year I was talking with Joe from Blackbird and said, “You guys should make a uke that can get synth access.” His reply was, “we already have”. You just have to get the RMC preamp to convert to 13 pin. So I ordered one from him and it came in last week. A few days ago I got the RMC and have been trying to learn how to use the GR-55 pedal. This kind of stuff is a real toy, for me at least. I think some people would not be into this, making crazy sounds is not why they grab a uke. But for me it’s both fun and gives me an excuse for another uke. I only keep ukes that serve a different purpose from what I already have. And this is different.

So we have another on order with Blackbird. It’s not perfect tracking but I think I can learn the pedal better so it doesn’t stutter and has better balance. Thanks for checking out The Ukulele Review. Share your questions or comments below.

Aloha friends. A hui ho!

Ko’olau CS – Sinker Redwood/ Hawaiian Mahogany

Today we were handed a new tenor from Noa at Ko’olau and it’s quite impressive. The refinement of a Ko’olau really sets them apart.

This is one of the lightest Ko’olau ukes I have played, partly due to the Madagascar rosewood and bridge. This wood is very light yet dense and has become Noa’s favorite for the bridge and fingerboard. Bone bridge pins also have become his top choice. All of us here at HMS are in awe of ukes like this. It’s truly a pleasure to see, play, and hear this level of musicality and master craftsmanship.

This CS tenor has a sinker redwood top that was harvested on the west coast in the 1920’s. The middle of the tree was submerged in water at the time giving the dark stripe in the center of the top. The mahogany was grown here on our island and this is what Ko’olau has to say about it-

The other Mahogany we use is Swietenia Mahogani, or commonly named West Indian Mahogany, Spanish Mahogany, or Cuban Mahogany. This type, the West Indian Mahogany is more expensive due to being considered commercially extinct, however over 100 years ago this Mahogany, Swietenia Mahogani was planted here on Oahu. Although we have relatively few Swietenia Mahogani (or as we call it Hawaiian Mahogany) on Oahu, on occasion we are able to acquire this rarely harvested lumber. Our cost of acquiring this lumber is higher than most Koa. Hawaiian Mahogany is a beautiful red-brown color, but more dense and closed grained than the more common Swietenia Macrophylla. As compared to Swietenia Macrophylla, Hawaiian Mahogany (Mahogani) is slightly heavier and more dense. Weight is 40 lb/ft and specific gravity is .64.

The pattern you see on the back of this ukulele is the beginning of spalting. In the crevice of the trunk where the tree branches start, if water sits long enough it seeps into the wood and causes this effect. Hawaiian mahogany is rare, but this piece is truly one of a kind.

CS Tenor- Sinker Redwood/ Hawaiian Mahogany

Aloha friends. A hui ho!

Aloha!