GOT A UKULELE - Ukulele reviews and beginners tips

25 Mar 2017

World Of Ukes Pioneer T1 Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

What better way to mark the opening of your ukulele store than to spec a ukulele just for YOUR store. That's what Matt Warnes of World Of Ukes did late last year with the Pioneer T1 Tenor.

World Of Ukes Pioneer T1 Tenor Ukulele

This is not the first ukulele store 'own brand' instrument i've come across and in fact it's not the first one that Matt himself has specced. You see, prior to opening World Of Ukes, Matt was at Omega Music in the UK and was behind the design of the Zedro and Klasiko ukuleles. He subsequently opened a dedicated ukulele store in Carlisle called World Of Ukes (the brand also behind a host of ukulele events and the marvellous UKE Magazine) and decided to do another uke. I previously reviewed the Zedro uke on this site and thought it was a great instrument. The question therefore is, has he done it again?

I say 'specced' by Matt, that is to say that he came up with the design choices rather than sitting in a workshop at the back of his shop with a pile of wood and some tools.. And because of that, this is made in China, but Matt explains that he chose a very small hand-made workshop for the build rather than going for a re-badge of something else (like so many brands do). This is not a generic instrument from a large factory line.

The Pioneer is an all solid wood instrument made from acacia wood. And it's very beautiful acacia at that. This has some great stripe and colour variations on the top back and sides that range from paler sandy colours through to chocolate and coffee stripes. I think it's beautiful. Yes I know that acacia is naturally like this, but still - it's a good choice I think. Both the top and back are in two backmatched pieces and we have two piece sides as well. The bookmatching on the back is particularly effective as it shows off the paler heart wood down the centre, but that isn't to say the top is a slouch! I think the photos show what I am getting at better than words!

World Of Ukes Pioneer T1 Tenor Ukulele body


Decorating the top is an abalone inlaid purfling ring around the sound hole and some mahogany edge purfling against the black / white / black ebony (I think) edge binding.  I would have liked the decoration choices to match here, by either having abalone round the edge or making the sound hole ring from the same edging mahogany so the design cues tie up, but it's a minor gripe. They are still inlaid really well and set it off nicely.

The back is dead flat, but also benefits from some more of the black edge binding. The sides are actually smaller front to back than many tenors giving a shallower bodied instrument than some. That makes for a very nice instrument to hold, but we shall see if it has affected the volume and projection.

World Of Ukes Pioneer T1 Tenor Ukulele back


Bridge wise, this is a tie bar style with a white detail trim, fitted with a compensated bone nut. No complaints here.

And the whole body is finished in gloss which really makes the acacia colours pop and shimmer. Matt explains that because these are made in a small workshop, one can expect imperfections in the finish, but really, I think he is doing these a disservice. Sure, there are one or two wrinkles if you inspect it closely in the light (and only like many other mid level gloss instruments I see), but on the whole it's a great mirror finish. There are no runs or pooling on this review model and in fact seems to me to be one of the better gloss finishes at this price I have seen.

And of course, I have to come on to the butt of things... This is perhaps the thing that most people will notice first about this. Matt specced this to have an assymetrical base with a kind of offset, and to use that offset to hold the strap button. I think it's really effective and certainly a talking point. Does it affect the tone and playability - no, of course not. But so what? It looks brilliant! I like little touches like these that make instruments just slightly different. A talking point if you will.

World Of Ukes Pioneer T1 Tenor Ukulele tail


A look inside shows a very tidy build too. We have notched kerfing linings and delicate braces with absolutely no glue drops or wood shavings.

Up to the neck and this is made of mahogany in four pieces. If that sounds excessive there's a good reason, as you will see. Whilst we have a joint at the headstock and heel like on most Chinese instruments, the neck is also made from a sandwich along it's length, housing an inner strip of darker wood giving it a skunk stripe. I love these and have seen some very high end luthiers employing this technique. It works for me and provides another nice visual touch that's just a little different. Incidentally, the back of the neck is in more of a satin finish which will please those who don't like the feel of overly glossy necks.

World Of Ukes Pioneer T1 Tenor Ukulele neck


Topping this is a rosewood fingerboard which is nicely and evenly dark. It's fitted with a generous 20 nickel silver frets in total with 14 to the body joint and they are all dressed very nicely. The edges are bound in black which hides the fret ends nicely. We have pearloid dot position markers at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th spaces, with the 12th marker being a double. Thankfully these are repeated on the side too.

World Of Ukes Pioneer T1 Tenor Ukulele fingerboard

Past the bone nut we have a nice shaped heastock - no three pointed crowns here! This is faced in glossed rosewood and the World Of Ukes marque is inlaid in pearloid. It looks classy. It's a simple shape but with enough 'design' about it to make it interesting.

World Of Ukes Pioneer T1 Tenor Ukulele headstock


Flipping it over and we have unbranded open geared tuners with small black buttons. They are not the most high end tuners in the world, but are not ultra cheap either and work well so again, no complaints. There are one or two tooling marks on the back of the neck if you go looking for them and some polish marks too, but again, I suppose this goes back to the small workshop source of the instrument. They don't bother me.

World Of Ukes Pioneer T1 Tenor Ukulele tuners


Completing the package are Worth Brown strings and this comes in at £279 in the tenor scale. Matt also offers it with a MiSi Pickup for a bit extra. I think that price is pretty decent really for a solid instrument of this build quality and looks.

So an excellent build quality throughout, and a nice light and balanced instrument too. It feels good in the hands on account of the slighter body depth and the glosses feel nice and not sticky. Setup is good too and I wouldn't find myself adjusting the nut or saddle on this one from where it is.

And the good news is that the body depth hasnt't affected the volume or projection either. Both are good and the ukulele sings proudly in a typically acacia voice. It's a jangly sound that is a signature of that wood that has mixtures of bright and bassier notes working together. In fact I would say this sounds more like the Pono acacia tenors than it does of the Kala acacia tenors which I find are a bit muddier or muted.

This really shines through when strummed and gives you a bit of that 'have I got more than four strings here?' feeling. It's about the harmonics of the strings combining to give a rich sound. Yet it's still not muddled and every string has it's place in the mix. Really enjoyable and full of character.

And fingerpicked it's no slouch either, with great sustain and a bell like sound that really makes you want to keep playing it. A really rather a nice instrument I would say.

These are also available in soprano and concert scales too, and Matt advises that they will be in a limited run like the Zedro and Klasiko were. So not only is this one highly recommended by Got A Ukulele, but if you are mulling over another instrument and want one with striking looks and a great tone, i'd be seriously thinking of heading over to the website to grab one.

A great ukulele!

http://worldofukes.co.uk

UKULELE PROS

Stunning looks and beautiful wood
Assymetric body works great
Excellent construction
Jangly rich sound with great sustain
Good price

UKULELE CONS

Some small tooling marks, if such things bother you
Would prefer consistency in purfling inlay materials

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 9.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW




19 Mar 2017

Kala KA-ABP-CTG Baritone Ukulele - REVIEW

It's nice to have Kala brand back on the Got A Ukulele reviews bench, and this time we wheel out the big guns in the form of a baritone scale ukulele. The Kala KA-ABP-CTG.

Kala KA-ABP-CTG Baritone Ukulele

This one certainly is a looker as you can probably see from the pictures. We have a standard baritone scale ukulele with a double bout shape. It's actually quite a narrow almost elongated lower bout that gives it the look of folky parlour guitars that I really like. The top of this one is made from solid cedar, whilst the two piece sides and slightly arched back are made from laminate acacia. It's a contrasting combination that works really well, and a far cry from the endless runs of spruce tops and laminate zebrawood backs that seem to be pouring out of other Chinese factories in massive numbers these days. Instead, it's a classy contrast with an acacia wood on the pale side working well with the top.

We have decoration very reminiscent of the Comfort Edge series I looked at in Padauk wood with thin black edging. This edges the top, back and a piece in the tail together with the sound hole rosette. It's a pinky red coloured wood that I think looks rather wonderful. Finishing off the body is a gloss coat that is typically Kala, in that it is very nicely applied, and mirror finish. No pooling and no
flaws. Really nice.

Kala KA-ABP-CTG Baritone Ukulele body

At the bridge we have a tie bar style mounting in rosewood with some detailed inlay, and this is fitted with a nubone saddle piece. Nothing much more to say about this! Very standard.

Kala KA-ABP-CTG Baritone Ukulele bridge

A look inside shows a build that is very tidy which is typical for Kala. We have notched kerfing linings and delicate looking bracing. Also interesting is that you will spy a hex nut which marks the end of the truss rod in the neck. This is the first Kala I have seen with a truss rod. I have never found the need to adjust a truss rod on a ukulele like I do on a guitar, but there you go. It will, I guess, give you confort that in the long term, if the strings have started to pull the neck that you will be able to compensate for it.

Up to the neck itself, this is made of mahogany and glossed in the same way as the body. It's in three pieces with a joint at the heel and one at the headstock. It's quite a chunky neck, particularly at the nut end with a round C shaped profile. I have large hands, but this feels a little too chunky for me. Perhaps it's that chunky in order to house the truss rod. Minor critisism. We are at about 38mm across at the nut.

Topping this is a rosewood fingerboard in good condition. The edges of this are bound with more Padauk wood which is a nice touch and works well. We have 19 nickel silver frets with 14 to the body which I would say is normal, unlike the recently reviewed Ohana BK-70 Baritone which came with one less. They are dressed well with no sharp edges, not that you see the edges because of the binding. We have circular pearloid position markers at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th and these are repeated in small dots on the side. The end of the fretboard curves around the top of the sound hole as you can see. All very nice.

Kala KA-ABP-CTG Baritone Ukulele fingerboard


Past the nubone nut we have one of the standout features of this ukulele in the slotted headstock. I am always drawn to these, but this one is even more special on account of the edge detailing in black and white stripe that shows through the slots. It's absolutely lovely. At the three pointed crown end we have the Kala logo in black which I think is engraved or stamped and stained.

Kala KA-ABP-CTG Baritone Ukulele headstock


Even more good news at the headstock end are the tuners. These are excellent Grover open gears in chrome with vintage shaped buttons. Much nicer than the rather disappointing tuners on the Ohana BK-70 in my opinion. Top marks here.

Kala KA-ABP-CTG Baritone Ukulele tuners

Completing the deal are Aquila strings on the 1st and 2nd and wound strings on the 3rd and 4th. To the best of my knowledge, Aquila don't make wound strings, so not sure who made these ones. Either way, wound strings are not my preference and I would be swapping them out regardless. And all of that is coming in at about £270 in the UK, which I don't think is a bad price for a baritone at all. It will certainly be there up against something like the Ohana BK-70 which is quite a bit less, though still a solid top / laminate back instrument. You can compare the scoring of these two though on this site to see which I prefer and why!

So you can probably tell I like the looks of this one. It's also pretty light for a baritone, but very (and only very) slightly body heavy in the balance. Nothing that would bother me though and a pleasant instrument to hold.

Kala KA-ABP-CTG Baritone Ukulele back


Rather like the Ohana, it's not the loudest baritone I have played, but still is no slouch compared to other scales of ukulele. I suspect a bigger lower bout would have increased the volume, but it's not a major critisism as I really do like the body shape as it is.

What it does have in spades is sustain. Tons of it. It's incrediby satisfying to fingerpick for that reason allowing you to really have notes running into each other, and deploy vibrato quite easily. It's a very nice woody tone too that is rounded and rich and reminds me of cedar topped guitars I have owned in the past. Very satisfying.

Strumming really shows off the bassy nature of a baritone and this does just that. But it's never overly strident or brash. Certainly not muddy either. All well balanced really.

Kala KA-ABP-CTG Baritone Ukulele tail


All in all, I think this one should certainly be on your list of considerations if you are in the market for a baritone. It's got some nice details that surpass similar models in the price range, such as the edge detailing and the great tuners and headstock. But the sound is great too. Yet again, Kala don't disappoint.

Recommended

https://kalabrand.com

UKULELE PROS

Classy looks
Great construction and finish
Wonderful headstock
Superb tuners
Looooong sustain
Warm rounded tone

UKULELE CONS

Slightly chunky neck
Slightly body heavy


UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 9 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.9 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW




12 Mar 2017

Chris Perkins T25 Makore Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

Time for something rather special on Got A Ukulele as we take a look at a luthier built instrument from the UK, crafted by Chris Perkins.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele

Chris is a luthier based in Staffordshire who makes a variety of stringed instruments to some high level acclaim and who has also been building ukuleles. Chris doesn't take commissions, but as he explained it to me, he builds to his own tastes on individual instruments and then moves on to the next one. I was delighted to meet him recently and take one of his tenor ukuleles on loan.

This one is in standard tenor scale and shape with a very curvy lower bout and made of all solid Makore wood. That's not a wood name I had heard of before, but it's more commonly known as African Cherry. And boy is it pretty. The two piece top, back and sides on this one are simply stunning with a colour verging on the red end of the scale and rather beautiful flaming that moves and shimmers under lights. Certainly one of those instruments that made me say 'wow' when I opened th case, as Chris himself saw when he dropped this one off with me.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele top


The body is finished in a hand sprayed gloss which surprised me as most small scale luthiers don't tend to do this as it's both difficult and time consuming. Chris chooses to though, and has clearly put the effort in and taken great care - we are talking many thin coats here and lots of sanding back, as he has created an impeccable mirror finish on this wood that really makes the Makore wood pop and shine.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele tail


The back on this one is very delicately curved to assist with projection. Like the top, this really shows of the wood pattern and is nicely bookmatched.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele back


Bridge wise, this is a pin bridge style and quite complex in it's build. It's made from American walnut with a burr walnut cap and sycamore stripe detailing. The pins themselves are made of boxwood and the saddle is made of ebony. Phew! It looks incredibly pretty and that use of walnut and sycamore becomes a motif that repeats in other parts of the ukulele as you will see. The first repeat of this is in the tail which is inlaid with a walnut burr and sycamore edged detailing stripe and houses the tortoiseshell strap button.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele bridge


Glancing inside and we have an extremely tidy build, delicate fan bracing, delicate kerfing and absolutely no mess. The linings and bracings are made of Sitka Spruce. Even the makers label looks extremely classy, with the instrument numbered and signed by Chris. In fact the whole body build is clearly extremely nicely done with no gaps or issues. That top wood is also supremely thin and a tap of the body shows the resonance of a drum.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele sound hole


Up to the neck, this is made of a single piece of mahogany with a heel cap of walnut and sycamore matching the tail and bridge.  Like I said, this detailing repeats around the instrument and I really do like that. Or rather, I really DON'T like instruments that use a confusing mix of detailing as if they have just thrown everything to hand at it during the build. Repeating details show an attention to detail in the styling that really matters to me. The neck profile is very traditional and shallow at the nut end and is also finished in the same gloss. At 39mm it's also wider than the average factory built neck which is wonderful. The neck is bolted and glued in place which I think is a sensible choice as in the fullness of time it means it can be more easily removed and adjusted if needed.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele heel


Topping the neck is a fingerboard of flamed black American Walnut with dressed edges. It always surprises me that many ukuleles don't use the fingerboard to show of more attractive woods, yet Chris  has done just that here. It shimmers under the light with the flame look running in diagonal stripes down the board. It's stunning. The fingerboard itslef also runs down over the body and is shaped over the top of the sound hole.

Fitted into this are 20 nickel silver frets which are pleasingly chunky and dressed impeccably. We have no outward facing position markers, as Chris explained to me, why would you want to detract from that flaming on the wood? I personally think small delicate dots would set it off myself though. Thankfully we DO have side position markers at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th in small inlaid pearl dots. The nut follows the saddle in that it is made from ebony.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele fingerboard


Up to the headstock and we have more pretty. It's a simple design, and thankfully not another Martin clone. It's face in the same burr Walnut over a sliver of Sycamore and is simply beautiful. In fact when you look at it, your eye is immediately drawn to the headstock.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele headstock


Fitted into this are Grover open geared tuners with gold metalwork and cream buttons. They are tuners I regularly recommend as they are extremely decent and it's good to see them here.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele tuners


Chris supplies his ukuleles with a pod case and Titanium D'Addario strings and in this sort of spec you would be looking at a price of around £895. I actually think that is an extremely keen price when you consider that this is hand made and take int account the level of detailing on display here.  And bear in mind, as I say, Chris doesn't build to order. His ukuleles are all 'one-off's' and no two are the same. In that sense you really are getting something unique with each one.

So rather wonderful build and rather wonderful looks. You guessed it, but it's also one of those that I worry about reviewing for the simple reason that I am just not good enough of a player to do it justice.

In the hands though this is lighter than you would expect and perfectly balanced. The gloss is also nicely applied all over and in no way feels sticky or grippy as can often be the case with more crudely applied finishes. It really is an instrument that made me smile when I picked it up.

The setup and intonation is absoluetely spot on with both saddle and nut being just about perfect.

The first thing that struck me about this one was the sustain, which is long and deep. Really satisfying for fingerpicking play. And that's where this instrument really shines to me. It has a very pretty tone that was actually brighter than I expected it to be for a tenor - bell like I suppose you could call it.

Strumming is good too of course, with a real jangle to the sound as the harmonics play with each other, but not a confused or muddy tone. One thing I would say is that when strummed it's not as loud as I would have expected it to be. I strongly suspect that this is to do with the Titanium strings as I am not a fan and had exactly the same experience of them on another tenor - lovely for fingerpicking, less to my tastes for strumming. But like I always say, strings are a personal choice and I know many people who like these ones. Personally though, I would change them. It's not a ukulele with a bark or sharp attack, but I guess that would be missing the point a little.

It's a very mature and high quality sounding instrument that is a far cry from the harsher sounds you get at the cheaper factory end of the ukulele world. One would also expect wood of this calibre to open and improve with age.

But the string choice is about the only thing I would change about this one, and that's hardly the fault of the luthier. Absolutely evertything else about this one is from the top drawer, both in looks, build quality, finish and of course the tone.  Just delightful.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele body


You can contact Chris through his YouTube page below, but as I said, don't expect to send him a shopping list for what you want. What you may find though is he will let you know what he is building next and when to expect it. I can think of a few lovers of high end instruments who will be beating a path to his door.

https://www.youtube.com/user/perkinsukulele or email him on perkinsukuleles@gmail.com

UKULELE PROS

Wonderful woods, finish and build quality
Use of repeating wood trims giving it a 'theme'
Love that bridge
Great tuners
Great bell like tone

UKULELE CONS

I would change the strings myself..

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 9.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 9.5 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.3 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW



11 Mar 2017

Gator Jouneyman Series Ukulele Case - REVIEW

Ah yes, ukulele cases. Something that pretty much everybody will consider, but something that you don't see written about all that much. Time to take a look at a new case at Got A Ukulele Towers in the form of the Journeyman Series from Gator.

Gator Journeyman Soprano Ukulele Case

I've been a fan of Gator cases for quite some time. In fact before I had ever picked up a ukulele I was using them for guitars as they seemed to me to have the right balance between quality and price. More importantly for me in a case, they had never let me down with poor quality hinges, handles and clasps. It was therefore something of a no-brainer for me when I came across their new (ish) Journeyman Series to accompany a new soprano ukulele I had acquired.

The Journeyman cases come in a variety of sizes for ukulele and are also available for other instruments. They all share the same cloth outer which is made from a weaved burlap and is pale and cream in colour. The edges are trimmed in a dark brown leatherette and I think the combination is really, really attractive. In fact it's anything but the traditional black tolex outer that 95% of cases come with. Underneath that fabric is a pretty standard plywood case of course, so it should be said - these are cases for general protection only, not something that will resist significant crushing or travel in an aircraft hold.

It's not the first fabric coated case I have seen for ukulele, and I already own a more ubiquitous tweed covered one from Kinsmann, but this seems to me to be a step up in quality from the others I have seen. And the quality rise is most noticeable in the hinges and clasps. These are chunky, finished in an antiqued bronze but look strong. They are all also screwed, not riveted in place and feel substantial. Trust me - these are the things that are going to fail first on cheaper cases.  Naturally, the case is lockable too.

Gator Journeyman Soprano Ukulele Case clasps


Likewise the handle is well attached, well padded and has substantial linkages. Often with cheaper cases, the links on these are overly thin and prone to breakage - not here.

Gator Journeyman Soprano Ukulele Case handle


And I talked about the contrast between the outer fabric and the edges above. That sharp contrasting comes through yet again when you open it and see the deep padded, and rather gorgeous deep blue crushed velvet lining. It's beautiful really. We also have a neck rest and accessory pocket under a hinged flap.

Gator Journeyman Soprano Ukulele Case lining


Adding to the features is a good quality webbing strap with shoulder pad that attaches to the D Rings on the outside.

Gator Journeyman Soprano Ukulele Case strap


They are, it must be said, on the more expensive end of the scale, with this soprano model coming in at just over £60, but to be honest, to protect your investment reliably, it's really not that much on top if you have a more valuable instrument. For me though, looks aside, this one is all about the quality of the clasps and hinges. Oh, and that BLUE!! My only gripe? You can't put stickers on it!

Highly recommended

http://www.gatorcases.com/p/16107-2095/gw-jm-uke-sop

9 Mar 2017

Swapping Ukulele Tuning Pegs

Just a short advice note on swapping ukulele tuning pegs for others and some of the work you may need to do to achieve it

In this first picture you will see a 'before and after' on a Martin Soprano ukulele - previously Grover friction pegs, latterly Gotoh UPT's. A change I wanted to make just for the fun of it.. And really easy to do..

ukulele tuning peg swap

The UPT's look like traditional friction pegs (so suit a ukulele and don't make it look like it has ears), but contain a planetary 1:4 gear system that work like geared pegs. Same sort of weight (or at least a weight difference that is not noticeable), same sort of size. Very clever and very well made. Albeit a little expensive!

gotoh plantetary ukulele pegs

Now often a peg swap will allow you drop the new ones into the holes left by the old. You simply unscrew one and fit the others directly - a two minute job. I was asked however about the steps taken if you find new pegs don't fit in the holes left by the old ones. In fact that was the case with the move from these Grovers to the Gotoh pegs - they needed a wider hole by about 1mm all diameter. All you need to do is to widen them with the right tool for the job. I used a luthiers / carpenters reamer pictured below to do the job. Some would suggest using a drill or a rat tail file, but that is a sure fire way to cause the wood outer to split, or make the hole uneven. The reamer is on a long taper allowing you to create a variety of diameters, but in this case I needed to widen the holes to 10mm, which was the maximum on the reamer. It leaves a very slight taper (very) in the hole, which isn't really an issue in practice as the headstock is not that thick, but if that bothers you, you simply run the reamer in from the other side and repeat. Make sure you cover the back and front of the headstock in good masking tape to avoid the edges splitting and go very SLOWLY letting the reamer do the work.  Takes minutes to do.

Now this is for a hole that needed widening by a fair amount - you may find that your new tuners nearly fit but not quite - for that sort of widening you may be able to do the job with some sandpaper wrapped around a pencil. In my case though, that would have been both long winded and likely to mis-shape the hole. Horses for courses


luthiers peg reamer

Of course, if you decide to go back to smaller pegs that's a much bigger job to reverse if you want to shrink the holes, but thankfully I knew from the start I wanted these UPT pegs, so don't plan to.

One other point I am often asked about is what to do if you move from geared pegs to frictions and leave a screw hole from the geared peg. Personally, I work on the basis that nobody ever sees them anyway (as they are on the back) and ignore them myself. If they trouble you, it's a case of plugging them with thin dowel and matching the colour... This isn't an issue however in swapping friction pegs as there are no screw holes.

There are some other more complex swaps to bear in mind, like collars that require counter sinking and tuners that need a specific taper, but this guide covers the more common straight swaps.

And, why would you want to change friction pegs anyway? Well, because in many cases stock friction pegs can be awful and represent everything that people don't like about them. Good friction pegs however, are a joy. The friction pegs I replaced on this one were actually good ones already, but I just wanted a set of UPT's!

This video will tell you how cheap and decent ukulele pegs can differ quite significantly..



And of course, this process left me with a spare set of Grover tuners - Waste not want not and all that, so they were re-deployed on a Concert Ukulele - I personally don't mind the screw holes, so I filled them with the old geared tuner screws for safe keeping!

Grover friction tuners


Hope that helps!

8 Mar 2017

A Little Imagination In Your Ukulele Headstocks Please!

There's a point you may have noticed me raising often in ukulele reviews on this site, and that's a grumble about less than imaginative ukulele headstocks. Recently I had someone message me asking me more about my gripe, so I figured it would make an interesting discussion piece.

My gripe is quite simple really. From what I can see, there is a massive preponderance of ukulele headstocks that simply choose to copy the Martin three pointed crown style. What is the three pointed crown style? Well, you know it. I am sure you know it. You know it because it appears on SO many instruments. You don't? You DO! They look like this...

martin ukulele headstock shape


But then... so does this


And this...


And this.......


I could go on... And on...

Now. I would very much welcome old time ukulele officianados settting me straight on this point, because I keep referring to them as 'Martin three pointed crown shapes'. In doing that I am 'assuming' that Martin had this shape first. Is that actually the case or is it simply that Martin are the most recognisable brand that use that shape, and have done for MANY years? It's not Martin 'full stop' either, as their guitars are traditionally flat topped at the headstock, so perhaps it's just a ukulele thing. Actually, I am not sure it really matters all that much. Martin IS the brand that is most associated with the three pointed crown, and whether that is original or just through osmosis - it is that most people associate with them. STOP PRESS - Thanks to some friends in the ukulele community who pointed out that some of the earliest Hawaiian ukuleles used a three pointed crown shape - arguably earlier than Martin did. This may be the reason that brands like Kamaka still use them. All that said though, I still don't think it changes the point that the shape is intrinsically linked to Martin these days. And the point is less about ownership and who came first, rather a post about brands copying others as it's easy.

In reality, it's actually a very plain design, but it's also very effective. What is more depressing though is the more I see it on other brands, the less it stands out to me as something 'special'. It almost becomes 'normal' or 'expected'. You just end up thinking 'oh, yeah, that's a headstock'.. But is this just my mind playing tricks on me? I thought i'd check.

So at the time of writing this post, I went back through all my reviews. It's March 2017 now and at this point I have reviewed 108 ukuleles in detail. At the date of writing, only one of those was a Martin ukulele, so excluding that one, that's 107 instruments.

Then I started counting...

Of the 107 instruments I have reviewed, a total of 40 of them are clearly nothing more than three pointed crown shapes, and another 17 fall into the 'almost like a three pointed crown, but a bit more swoopy'.

Now, of course none of this really matters, but it just seems to me like a MASSIVE proportion. Either 40, or worse 57 out of 107 instruments I have reviewed all nod back to the headstock made famous by a single brand? Really? Incidentally, I counted these on individual instruments and not brands, as I have noted there is some variance within same brands that would otherwise skew the numbers.

Then I looked at the ukuleles I haven't formally reviewed yet, but are 'coming soon' - guess what? Same sort of percentages, in fact percentages skewed MORE towards the three pointed crown. They are everywhere!

You may say - well, it's recognisable, it's easy, it's understandable... You may also say it's a case of 'doffing your cap' to a well respected brand.. But I have never been one to shy away from the controversial so I would add into that mix of words things like 'un-imagainative' and perhaps 'lazy'. I fully appreciate that there are not an infinite number of headstock shapes out there and there is only so much wood to play with, but when it gets SO repetitive, I have to say.. it starts to  bore me. I would MUCH rather see a builder choose something fresh and a bit different for a headstock than the 'same old, same old..'  Maybe I am over thinking this, but the proportions on my stats don't lie. There is a massive proportion of ukuleles out there with headstocks that all kind of look the same.

And to be fair, it doesn't correlate to poor quality, although you do see three pointed crowns on more cheap ukuleles than serious ones. Actually they appear on much higher end instruments I regard highly. I just think there was a bit more difference and individuality..

So I say, hats off to the 'different', the KoAloaha's, the Kanile'a's, the Tinguitars and the Koralas, the Flukes, the Fleas and the Riptides... just to name a few.

Just give me different!



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