GOT A UKULELE - Ukulele reviews and beginners tips

15 Jan 2017

LesFest - A Testimonial Musical Extravaganza for Les Hilton

Long time readers of Got A Ukulele will know how much I think of the duo that is Chonkinfeckle. In fact anyone in the ukulele world should know Chonkinfeckle!


LesFest ukulele festival


It was therefore a massive shock to hear that ukulele pal, and one half of the Chonks, Les Hilton suffered a stroke just before Christmas that, despite making progress, has currently left him with mobility issues leaving him unable to play music, work or drive. Considering music IS his means of earning a wage, he and his family are understandably concerned about what happens whilst he gets on the road to recovery.

Ukulele players tend to stick together though, and a bunch of them came up with the idea of a festival day to raise funds for the Hilton family. It takes place at the Bellingham Hotel, Wigan, Lancashire on 19 February 2017. It's free to attend, but there will be lots of money raising opportunities on the day, including a raffle. As part of that, some top ukulele performers are appearing at a concert on the day including Phil Doleman and Ian Emmerson, Peter Moss, Michael Adcock, The Quaintest Show On Earth, AD Cooke, Ric McCormick and many more. There will also be an open mic stage and workshops too! It all starts at 2pm on the 19th and carries on until late.

chonkinfeckle ukulele duo
Tim Cooke and Les Hilton - Chonkinfeckle! (Credit -Dylan Chubb)

Tim and Les mean a lot to Got A Ukulele and me personally - in fact they were early supporters of mine long before the ukulele thing got quite so big as it has become these days and I consider them good friends. I've even played on stage with the pair of them on more than one occasion! (On one occasion that they may wish to forget!).  If you are within reach of the north west UK on the day, I'd encourage you to do the same! Les is one of the good guys.

The event page on Facebook with updated details is at:

https://www.facebook.com/events/146158879214160/

And if you can't make it, but want to help out - there is a JustGiving page here

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/lesfest?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Yimbyprojectpage&utm_content=lesfest&utm_campaign=projectpage-share-owner&utm_term=QnJAM2Nje

Hopefully see you there!

http://chonkinfeckle.co.uk


14 Jan 2017

Ohana SK-14 Soprano Ukulele Review

Another Ohana Ukulele review for you, and back to their entry level range with this one. Their new SK-14 Soprano ukulele.

Ohana SK-14 soprano ukulele


Regular readers will know that I am usually pretty impressed with Ohana offerings across their range. They usually do well on quality control fronts, and actually offer pretty tremendous value for money in my opinion - that is, if you can tear youself away from the ultra cheap brands out there that are flooding the market. But then, you probably know that I try to steer readers up from those.

So this is new entry bracket model from Ohana as I say, and we have an all laminate soprano scale instrument in standard sort of shape and size. You may recall that a couple of years back I pitted a number of entry level sopranos against each other and that featured the Ohana SK-10 ukulele. It was a close run thing, but one of the things I didn't like so much about the SK-10 was how plain it was compared to the others. The SK-14 takes that standard model though and improves on the looks in various ways as we shall see.

So we have a laminate mahogany body, but this time it is edge bound with black white black purfling on the top edge, and black edging on the back. We have similar black and white detailing around the sound hole and in both cases this binding edging is inlaid, so not a transfer. I think it gives the whole instrument something of a lift it was lacking and delivers an extremely classy looking ukulele. Like all Ohanas, that classy look seems something of a trademark for them, so it's pleasing to see that uplift from the otherwise plain SK-10.

Ohana SK-14 soprano ukulele top


The top and back seem to be made of single pieces of laminate as do the sides and the whole thing is finished in a satin coat. I must say that the finish is absolutely flawless on this one without an issue anywhere I can see.  The back, incidentally, is very slightly arched and it seems very slightly deeper on the body depth than the SK-10. All in all though, a very traditional looking soprano body. It's clearly owing a debt of gratitude in style to the traditional Martin mahogany sopranos, but if you are going to doff your cap to anyone, Martin is a good place to start!

We have a typical Martin style slotted bridge mounting for easy string changes  and that is fitted with a synthetic cream coloured and uncompensated saddle. I like how the ends of the saddle piece are tapered to match the outer curves of the bridge mounting. Little things like that do get noticed by me!

Ohana SK-14 soprano ukulele bridge


A look inside shows a tidy build and that the laminate woods are not too thick. The bracing is fairly delicate though the kerfing is not notched (a sign of a cheaper instrument as it's easier to make). Otherwise though, no complaints yet.

Ohana SK-14 soprano ukulele back


Moving on to the neck, this is a fairly typical Chinese profile and width. The wood type isn't specified, but I think it is mahogany. It's made of three pieces with very well disguised joints at the heel and headstock.

Topping the neck is a rosewood fingerboard which is in good condition and is even in colour. It's missing the nice end shaping that the SK-10 has where it overlays the body, but this is more than made up for by the number of frets. They are made of nickel silver and we have 12 to the body but 15 in total. This is great to see as a lot of people can be put off by most entry level sopranos having frets that only total 12. Extra frets are always to be welcomed. The edges of the fretboard are unbound, but stained to hide the fret edges and those fret edges are finished very tidily. No sharp edges!

Ohana SK-14 soprano ukulele fingerboard


We have pearloid dot inlays in the face of the fingerboard at the 5th, 7th and 10th spaces, and whilst these look classy as they are not mere white plastic, they are sadly not repeated on the side.

Past the nut, we have the traditional curvy Ohana shaped headstock faced in a darker mahogany. This shape coupled with the classy Ohana logo in pearloid and more of the same edge binding we saw on the body gives this part of the ukulele a particularly classy look too. Regular readers will know that I don't go for bling, but this isn't bling.  This is just an example of how little details can lift an instrument beyond the ultra-plain without being too in your face.

Ohana SK-14 soprano ukulele headstock


Flipping it over, we have the same sort of generic chromed open gears as the SK-10, but thankfully with much smaller, classier white pearloid buttons. Sure, I would always prefer friction pegs on a soprano, but these don't look half bad at all.

Ohana SK-14 soprano ukulele tuners


The deal is completed by Aquila strings, what else. The list for this ukulele is interesting at about $117, which I would actually say was a little high for what you are getting. Thankfully though, despite them not being in a massive number of stores, with some shopping around I think you can pick these up for about $80. Yes, that's a markup on the SK-10, but I think the additions in the finish are worth it myself, and that still represents decent value for money for a well made laminate.

In the hands, the SK-14 is light to hold and nicely balanced at the mid point of the neck. Particularly important in something as slight as a soprano I think. That finish is also nice on the hands too. The setup on this one was also just as I would like it and don't think it needs any adjustment myself. Maybe I would take the bridge down a touch, but that is just personal preference. Importantly the setup is not affecting intonation.

I did find the tuners a little on the loose side I suppose. That is not to say they slip or have play on them, just that I found myself easily overshooting tuning, which is odd for gears. Still, that is a minor gripe though.

Ohana SK-14 soprano ukulele sound hole


Sound wise, this one projects well and sounds,... well.... suitably soprano! What I mean by that is it has some punch and staccato that I think is really exactly what you want from a soprano. Sure, it's not quite got the 'melt your face off' punch of their solid wood SK-25 ukulele (that one wass a real pocket rocket!), but this is still really respectable as a beginners instrument.

Strangely, I slightly prefer fingerpicking on this one, which is odd for a soprano, but it seems to carry more sustain than I expected at this price point. Really quite sweet actually. Strumming it hard though and you get that staccato punch you know and love from sopranos. It's also much warmer sounding than the SK-10 which I noted sounded a bit thin and muted. This one doesn't feel quite so strangled. In fact I was really pleasantly surprised at how the bass and treble notes come through on this signifying some range to the sound. It's not one dimensional.

No, it's not a high end complex tone, but this is far nicer to my ears than most entry level sopranos I have played cheaper than this one. About the same price you may find some equal contenders though, and I accept that. But the SK-14 seems to also carry with it some of those classy touches that set it apart. Added to that, the build quality is really good and there are no flaws in the construction or finish that I can spot. So it all adds up to a sound choice I think.

This is still a very cheap ukulele and of course i'm not trying to pretend it isn't. The best way I can put it this - if I had never played ukulele before and this was my first instrument, I suspect I would stick witht this one far longer than I did with the cheaper ones I actually DID start with! As such, I think this makes a great beginners first choice ukulele and hope more people look at this sort of price for a reliable starter. Of course, they won't, and that's rather sad, but there you go.. it's not my money.. For me though -   I have really rather grown to like this one. Shop around on price though.

Not bad at all.

http://www.ohana-music.com/

UKULELE PROS

Classy looks
Great build quality and finish
Punchy sound with surprising sustain and warmth
15 frets!

UKULELE CONS

A little expensive at list price (shop around!)
No side fret markers
No friction pegs

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 8.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8 out of 10
Sound - 8.5 out of 10
Value for money - 8 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.3 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW




9 Jan 2017

Kmise Carved Cat Concert Ukulele

Back to the ukulele reviews bench for 2017, and we move on with a new brand for Got A Ukulele. The Kmise Mahogany 'Carved Cat' Ukulele.

Kmise Carved Cat Concert Ukulele


In fact this is something of a special post in that it marks the 100th detailed ukulele review on the site! (Pull the party poppers!). So we shall see if this one lives up to the prestigious review slot it happened to fall into.

Kmise is a Chinese company that deal a dizzying array of musical instruments (not just ukulele), parts for instruments and a host of other things nothing to do with music. So at first glance they strike me as a brand that sells anything that they think is popular. The confusion continues in their broad array of ukuleles and the fact that the product descriptions keep changing, as do the packages they come in. In fact, I've had this one waiting review for about 2 months and since it arrived with me I see it now comes pre packaged with a gig bag and tuner which this one didn't come with. Hmmm. (Incidentally, you will mainly see these on Amazon, but also one or two other world sellers like Alibaba - so not a brand you are really seeing in specialist music shops...)

And that confusion continues with the name. On Amazon this is billed as the (wait for it)... 'Concert Ukulele 23 inch Hawaii Guitar Mahogany Carved Cat'.... I kid you not. Heck, it would be just too easy for me to tear that name apart as it's so silly, but lets just give them the benefit of the doubt and put it down to something being lost in translation. One thing it isn't though is a guitar... Or Hawaiian..

Let us move on.. This Kmise model is a standard concert shaped and scaled ukulele made from all laminate mahogany. The product descriptions dont say it's laminate which is a usual bugbear of mine, but when you know that these are available for £39 or $55 (at the time of writing) you should KNOW it's a laminate.  But that's not the detail you want me to get into is it? Go on, say it. You want me to talk about the cat...

OK, OK.. Carved into the top of this one is a cartoon cat, with a couple of sound holes punched through for the eyes. Cats you may say? You love cats? Cartoon cats? What's not to like? Well, I am not personally big on cartoon images and carvings on ukulele tops (or carvings full stop for that matter), but if you are going to go with a cartoon cat, you could at least make it cute couldn't you? This is less Hello Kitty and more 'Hello Your Worst Nightmare'. I think the idea is the cat is supposed to look 'street' or 'tough', (it does appear to have a chain running from his ear), but I think it just looks damn scary and crass. No, I don't like it, and for me i'm just thankful Kmise also make some plainer looking ukuleles too. But fair enough, I'm an old bloke, so maybe I am just not getting it and I accept that some of you may be looking at this and saying, 'Awesome!!'. Be my guest. Anyway, enough with the cat...

Kmise Carved Cat Concert Ukulele top


So, cats aside, we have a standard looking concert ukulele made from laminate mahogany. The edges are unbound, but it's generally well put together on the core construction. The whole thing is finished in a satin coat which could have been applied a little better in places. There isn't pooling as such, but a couple of bare patches on the back and on the front what looks like the remains of a bubble of finish that has burst, then scratched and now sits as a noticeable white mark. We've also got some finish bubbles on the bridge plate and an odd raised line of finish in the grain on the headstock too.

The sides are made from a couple of pieces and the join at the butt is rather roughly finished. The back is slightly arched and made from a couple of pieces of laminate. This part intrigued me, as despite being made from laminate the back is actually rather pretty. It's well bookmatched, and the mahogany has a stripe to it that shimmers in different lights. If only the two piece top could have used the same wood as instead it's made from one of the roughest, plainest looking pieces of laminate I have seen. It seems an odd choice, but hey, at least the top does have a scary cartoon cat on it... The wood is plain and the joint is visible in some lights on account of a line of filler between the woods on the lower bout. In fact, when it comes to the scoring on this one, I was concerned that the kitty would sway my score on that front too much. Thankfully, (or unthankfully depending on your point of view), I have marked it down a little anyway as I don't like the quality or look of the wood on the top regardless.

Kmise Carved Cat Concert Ukulele back


You may also have noticed something else on the side, and that is a sound port on the upper shoulder. I was pleased to see this, not least because I just like them and you rarely see them at this sort of price, but also because I was concerned about low projection on account of those small eyes (sorry, soundholes) on the top. We shall see how that helps things.

Kmise Carved Cat Concert Ukulele sound port


The bridge is a very standard, screwed in place rosewood tie bar style, holding an uncompensated bone saddle. As I say, very standard, but not much to complain about either. They work.

Kmise Carved Cat Concert Ukulele bridge


Assisted by that side port, I can take a good look inside and it's actually very tidily put together. We have notched kerfing and the bracing doesn't look to be over thick. This view shows that the laminate used in this ukulele is certainly not thin either. It's not the thickest I have ever seen (this is no cheap Mahalo) but it's not pleasingly thin either.

Up to the neck, this is made from pale Okoume wood out of three pieces. The joints are in the heel and the headstock, and sadly the wood colours differ dramatically making the heel joint extremely noticeable. The neck is finished in satin and is otherwise pretty generic Chinese factory in profile.

Topping this is a rosewood fingerboard which is actually in pretty good shape and even in colour. We have one or two finish marks on it (which always stand out more on rosewood) but I have seen much worse. The fret edges are not bound meaning you see the ends, but it appears to have been stained to hide them.  We have pearloid inlaid position markers at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th spaces and thankfully these are repeated with side dots.  We have 18 nickel silver frets in total with 14 to the body joint and the end finishing is sadly terrible. In fact they are dressed so badly a fast run up the neck could well take some skin off your fingers. The nut width is very typically Chinese factory too at about 35mm. Nothing remarkable there, but playable.

Kmise Carved Cat Concert Ukulele fingerboard


Beyond the bone nut we have a relatively generic crown shaped headstock but at least it has a bit of 'sweep' to it that makes it different enough. The Kmise logo is applied in adhesive lettering that looks like something you would get on a cheap homemade Christmas card. It looks cheap because it IS cheap, and the edges of the stickers seem to be either lifting or are just discoloured. Ugh.. I'd rather there was no logo than this. You can probably spot that ugly line of finish flaw at the top left edge too.

Kmise Carved Cat Concert Ukulele headstock


Flipping it over we have pretty generic chrome sealed geared tuners. Sadly some of them have been slightly mis fitted so they are not quite lined up. Things like this annoy the OCD in me. To be fair to them though, they work ok and don't grind or have any play in them. Being gears, they should hold ok too.

Kmise Carved Cat Concert Ukulele tuners


And completing that thirty quid / fourty dollar price tag are Aquila strings, what else.. As I say, if you buy one now, chances are it will come with a gig bag and tuner too for the same money.

So a mixed bag really. No, I don't like the cat, but recognise that you may well disagree. But there are some bad finishing issues on this one regardless, mixed with some nice touches such as the back, the fret markers and the sound port. There are clearly some quality control issues going on here on what might (I stress, 'might') have had the makings of a decent enough beginner instrument. I knew this one wouldn't be so easy as merely blaming the cat..

To hold, the ukulele is actually quite pleasing. The weight is good and light and it feels nicely balanced in th hands at the mid point. These are ticks in the right boxes for me, and it's nice to see that despite being a budget instrument they didn't throw it together with absolutely terrible woods and braces making it feel like a log. That said, I am still concerned about the thickness of that top.

For people new to my reviews, I do always comment on the action at the nut and saddle out of the box. Yes, I know these things can be adjusted (and should be by a good dealer), but I do so to give you an indication if the brand got it hopelessly wrong, or if their QC has let an instrument out of the door that really should have been recalled. I consider it to be an indicator of how haphazardly or otherwise they put their instruments together. The action at the saddle on this one is just about ok at the saddle (though I would personally take it down a touch), and high at the nut. It's fixable, and perhaps a beginner may not notice it as it isn't massively high and throwing notes out that much, but it does need work.

Playing it, despite that light feel in the hands is a little underwhelming on account of the low volume. You really find yourself having to dig into this one to get it to project. Perhaps it's the thick woods, but perhaps it's also the minimal sound hole size. You can get some feedback from the side port, but in terms of forward projection it just seems to be lacking to me. You may listen to the video and think it sounds fine, so you just have to trust me on this. The video has gain added to it so you can hear me!

This is a shame, as the tone is surprisingly sweet for a ukulele of this price. In fact, in pure tone stakes this is right up there at this price point and beats many other entry level instruments hands down. It's got a bell like chime that is particularly nice fingerpicked, but also comes through on strumming. It sounds like a concert ukulele should - that mix of soprano staccato with a bit of extra richness and sustain. It's such a shame that the volume is low. Don't get me wrong, it's a thirty quid ukulele and I am not saying it sounds like a K brand.. it's just not offensive at all.. if it projected.

Kmise Carved Cat Concert Ukulele engraved cat


And I think that kind of sums up where I am with this one, and it's something I hinted at above. It's a mixed bag really. Some nice touches let down by poor quality control in other areas. A nice sound let down by poor projection. In fact it's as confusing as the name they gave it, or that poor cat which doesn't know if it wants to be cute or something from a horror film. Admittedly a lot of the faults with this one could be weeded out by a good dealer, the fret ends could be filed back, the action adjusted... but they are not being sold in dealers that I can see. You are buying these factory boxed from Amazon so they will come with no checks beyond the factory. That means you might get a good one.. equally, you might not..

With so many other Kmise instruments out there, you may want to give them a go. Hey, not all of them have cats on them, but based on the quality control issues on this one that escaped the factory, I would personally go forward as 'buyer beware'. I think you can do better for the money myself.





PROS

Light weight and balanced
Generally good core construction
Side dots!
Nice chiming tone
Good price

CONS

Quality control issues on finish throughout
Sharp fret edges
Minimal volume
Badly fitted tuners
Hideous makers logo on headstock
..... the cat...

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 7 out of 10
Fit and finish - 6.5 out of 10
Sound - 7 out of 10
Value for money - 7 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 6.9 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW




5 Jan 2017

My Ukulele Doesn't Hold Its Tuning - What Can I Do?

Probably one of the most common beginner gripes this one, and a subject I continue to see so much terrible advice about online. A Ukulele that doesn't hold tuning.

Actually, I am going to start this post from another angle as this was the one that prompted me to go over this subject again.. That is the completely unhelpful advice I regularly see given out to people who are asking for ukulele recommendations. That advice goes along the lines of...

"I recommend [Brand X] because this one holds tuning really well..." 

ukulele strings


What?? You are recommending a ukulele purchase based on the fact that yours holds tuning and some others don't?

Here's the thing... ALL ukuleles can be set up to hold tuning and ANY ukulele (even a $3000 plus model) can have tuning that slips (if the setup is wrong!). Saying to someone that 'this one holds tuning' as a recommendation that it is in some way a 'good' ukulele and not bad is completely flawed and fails to address what the actual issues could be. Holding tuning is not the mark of a good ukulele per-se and slipping tuning doesn't mean your ukulele is bad.  In most cases it means something needs to settle or get adjusted. Yet still I see that being trotted out with recommendations for instruments every day.

So lets get back to the root causes here - and remember - these can affect any instrument, good, bad, cheap, expensive!

The most common gripe with a ukulele losing tuning is in the strings stretching, or rather with NEW strings stretching. This is perfectly normal and something you will have to deal with - simple as that. Strings made of nylon or fluorocarbon DO stretch over time, and keep stretching until they reach a point where they stabilise. If you put a new set of strings on a ukulele and tune them to pitch, they will go out of tune very quickly. This is the natural stretching of the string. So you tune up again, and sure enough they stretch again. Frustrating for a beginner, sure, but perfectly normal!

There are lots of conflicting theories as to how to speed this up, but for me, the only sensible way to do this is to just keep playing and keep tuning. This allows the strings to stretch naturally through the action of the vibration they were designed to deal with. Yes it can take time, but it does work. How long it will take will depend on how much you play it. Giving it 15 minutes  a day will mean the strings may take weeks to settle! I personally recommend some good hard fast strumming for about 30 minutes (treat it as practice time!) and keep tuning as you go. They may still take a day or two to settle and you may need to keep doing it, but it will speed it up.

But I have to move on to the thorny issue of pre-stretching strings. That is the process of tugging or twisting the strings to get them to hold pitch quickly. I DON'T recommend it myself, and that is based on discussions with string makers who don't recommend it, and also advice from people like Frank Ford at Gryphon (a VERY highly regarded stringed instrument tech). The advice from these experts is that manually stretching strings this way can create thin spots on the length of the string where they shouldn't be. This can lead to intonation issues and ultimately shorten the life of the string. I stress, this is NOT just my advice, but advice taken from a number of very reliable sources. Does that mean I don't do it? Well, no, I have done it and lots of professionals do too. But I have done it where time was of the essence. If you have a gig and you pop a string 20 minutes before show time (or worse, during the set) - what are you going to do? Refuse to play because your new string is still stretching? Of course not - you make do and get the instrument as ready as you can for the performance. But if that happened, I would then change the string again for a fresh set the next day when I had more time!

For some reason this pre-stretching issue gets really emotive. At the end of the day, you can do what you like, but I've read the advice against doing it on nylon  strings for years and will personally stick with that. You may have done it for years and not had an issue. Great! Not looking for an endless discussion on this subject, but it's not for me or many others, particularly string makers! At the end of the day, if you have the time, I think it's best to do it the natural way. What's the rush?

So lets now move on to the other obvious cause for losing tune - the tuners themselves. Unfortunately this is another area where bad advice seems on the rise, and I have lost count of the amount of people I have seen saying, 'just tighten them'. Yet that advice just doesn't apply in many cases as I shall explain.

ukulele friction pegs


On a ukulele you are really only going to see two main types of tuning peg. Either friction pegs that work through friction from the back to the front of the headstock to create resistance, or geared pegs that use a gear mechanism to create the same thing. ONLY friction pegs can be tightened by turning the screw on the peg. The screw on the peg of a geared tuner merely holds the peg on the post. Nothing else. The screw on the open gear mechanism of a geared peg merely holds the gear in place and in no way alters the resistance. If you have a geared peg that is turning in reverse under string tension, you quite simply have a broken tuner and no amount of tightening it will fix it. Replace the tuner!

So it's only with friction pegs where a lack of tightness at the peg can cause the peg to reverse when the strings are tight and cause them to lose tuning. You counteract this by tightening the screw on the peg (and it's sometimes a thumbscrew) to increase the friction. In my experience you often have to tighten this more than feels comfortable to get them to hold, particularly with cheap tuners, but it does work. Sadly with cheap friction pegs you trade off this ability to hold tuning with the peg then becoming hard to turn. So I suppose that cheap friction pegs ARE the bane of cheaper ukuleles but you can still get them to hold. In fact, in all my years of playing hundreds of ukuleles with friction pegs I think I have only come across one example where the pegs were so poor that no amount of tightening would make them work. Just one. Many were horrible and stiff when tightened but they can still be made to hold!

In short, if your friction pegs are slipping you CAN make them hold with the right adjustments and even loose friction pegs on a high end ukulele can (and will) slip. This is not necessarily the mark of a bad ukulele. I've had ukuleles come through my hands at the $1000 mark with friction pegs that needed a quick tighten. And why? Because the tuning was slipping! Didn't make them bad instruments though!

I suppose that brings me on to a final issue that brings both strings and pegs together, and that is down to the strings themselves slipping on either the pegs or the bridge. Frankly though, this one is down to user error and not the mark of a bad instrument in any way! If your strings are slipping on the peg posts it's down to there not being enough winds on the peg, and if they are slipping off the bridge slots it is down to the knots at that end not being secure. Either way, the blame lies with the person who installed the strings and not the ukulele itself. Properly instralled strings will not slip at either end, simple as that.

So essentially that is it. If your ukulele is losing tune then in the VAST majority of cases it is down to something needing to settle (strings) or something needing adjustment (pegs). It is very rarely anything to do with the quality of the instrument itself. Please don't judge a ukulele badly because it is slipping tuning and you don't understand why! Some rare cases may cause issues with slipping tuning that are more structural, but rare is the word and in most cases a bit of user adjustment is all that is needed no matter what the price of the instrument. Should all instruments come without the need for any adjustment or settling? Well, I suppose, but then we don't live in an ideal world! Saying that, I really don't see it is for a dealer to settle your strings down for you or tighten your pegs to how you like them either...

If you have a ukulele that holds tune, it means only two things. That your strings are settled and your pegs are tight enough.

As a foot note - this is, of course, all about staying in tune. Many people confuse this with 'playing' in tune - that is, the ability for the instrument to be in tune at the nut then go out of tune when you fret it. That is a whole other issue and is down to intonation and setup. And guess what? In most cases, that can be adjusted too!

Some links on these subjects for some further reading below!

Friction pegs

A look inside different friction pegs for ukulele

Dont be afraid of ukulele friction tuners

Strings and tuning

How to tune the ukulele

Changing ukulele strings

Intonation

What is ukulele intonation

Adjusting ukulele setup at the saddle





31 Dec 2016

Got A Ukulele - Review of the year 2016

Hoping you all had a good 2016. Certainly not a year to be remembered for lots of people, and a lot of musical legends lost to us. Still, we must press on and make each year ahead the best it can be.

For Got A Ukulele, it was also a slightly quieter year, but that was a case of me trying to find some balance between real life and writing, but I think I now have it how I want it! Looking back though, I think this was one of the busiest years for ukulele reviews. It's the part of Got A Ukulele I enjoy doing more than anything else, so that figures I guess! If you are new to Got A Ukulele, consider this a potted history of what I think are the 'best bits' of 2016. Plenty already in the pipeline for 2017 too!


January saw us kick off with a couple of instrument reviews. One wasn't all that memorable in the form of a Mahalo Baritone ukulele, but one was certainly different and put the cat amongst the pigeons, in the form of the Deering Banjo Ukulele. What a great instrument!  I was also thrilled to end the month with an interview with a ukulele performer I had wanted to speak to for ages - Danielle Ate The Sandwich.

Deering Banjo Ukulele



February saw a mix of reviews and advice pieces (and rants of course!). Firstly I tried to once again put to bed the endless silly myth spread by the media that the ukulele is automatcically easy, (sadly something I STILL see being repeated) and that was followed by one of my favourite music releases of the year from Phil Doleman and Ian Emmerson. I then worked up an advice guide on gear that you should take to the ukulele gig and ended with a look at a pleasing, but new to me brand, called Aiersi.

In March I tackled the much debated (and much badly advised) subject of ukulele performers insurance and was delighted to see a debut on Got A Ukulele for a brand that had been absent from UK shores for some time in the form of the aNueNue Africa Mahogany Concert.

April and May were varied. We kicked off with rants about a couple of things. Firstly, the endless debate about the pronunciation of the word 'ukulele' and then the assumption that everything has to be tinged with something Hawaiian, even though most of us have never even been there. New brands were featured in the form of a concert ukuleles from Mabuhay and Ashbury, and there was guide to adjusting the ukulele saddle for accurate intonation. Ending the month was a review of one of the nicest instruments I've ever played in the Pono ATDC Tenor uke.

Pono ATDC ukulele


In June, I looked at another Mahalo ukulele. Not the best instrument but a far cry from some of their ealier ones. And I was delighted to take another step in trying to dispel the myth that ukulele friction tuners are bad by looking at these marvels from Waverly.

July brought some controversy with a post looking at what I considered to be an overload of ukulele festivals and the risk that posed to some organisers. Sadly, looking at the diary for 2017, it's going to be even worse in the year ahead... Reviews wise I looked at the rather wonderful Clearwater Roundback Baritone and the Cordoba 20TM uke. The Clearwater is still a ukulele that I would highly recommend for the money.

August is school holiday month in the UK, so writing was reduced as family time took precedent. I did manage to look at the marvellous Ziricote Tenor ukulele from Kala and a cool double gig bag from Fusion though.

Full steam ahead into September with my favourites being the advice guide showing you how easy it actually is to play ukulele in different keys, a review of the hugely fun Duke Banjo Uke and a look at some great clip on tuners from D'Addario. Wow... two banjos on Got A Ukulele in one year...

Duke banjo uke


There was a real mix of reviews in October. We ranged from one of the lowest scores ever on Got A Ukulele in the form of this soprano uke from Kaka, and then one of the highest in the delightful Blackbird Clara Concert. I also looked at some accessories including ukulele capos and the rather wonderful Logjam Travelog 2 stomp box.

November was all about me being spoiled.  I took a look at another instrument from Cocobolo in their Super Soprano ukulele, and I also got my hands on one of the new Ohana O'Nino Sopranino ukuleles. Crowning the month, in fact crowning the year was the highest review score ever on Got A Ukulele in the aNueNue UT200 Moon Bird Tenor Ukulele. Wow..

Moon Bird Tenor ukulele


And so we came to the close of the year. December had a few reviews including a welcome return for Snail Ukuleles and a rather wonderful concert pineapple uke from Ohana, but then slowed down for the Christmas break. Phew!

The year has been a lot of fun, and you may have also noticed that the ukulele festival calendar is up and running again which seems to suggest this current ukulele trend shows no signs of slowing.. Over 11 million pages read on the site in total now too! Looking forward, the reviews bench is overloaded with instruments for the new year, including some really interesting ones and discussions underway for even more.

Thanks SO much for your support of the site and positive feedback during 2016. It really is appreciated. All that remains is for me to wish you and yours all the very best for 2017 wherever you are. Will be interesting to see how the ukulele world develops in the year ahead!







22 Dec 2016

Season's Greetings from Got A Ukulele

A short note as we approach the Christmas holidays wishing all Got A Ukulele readers the very, very best!

christmas tree ukulele


And if Christmas isn't your thing, perhaps happy hanukkah, joyous kwanzaa, eid mubarak or yuletide felicitations... Whichever, just be nice to each other!

Enjoy yourselves, play some music, spread some joy and be sure to let me know about any new ukuleles you found under the tree this year!  And thanks ever so much for your continued support this past year.

I'll be back at the turn of New Year with a look back over my favourite posts of 2016, and then I have a host of new instrument reviews and articles lined up for the year ahead!





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