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31.3.15

Got A Ukulele Spring Competition - Win a Moselele Electro Concert!

Time for another competition giveaway courtesy of Got A Ukulele and the fine folks at Moselele. Yes, you can win yourself a Moselele solid bamboo electro concert complete with gig bag!


Moselele ukulele giveaway

I do try to mix up how to enter my competitions, so this one is available on Facebook.  You may have seen my recent review of this model of uke - http://www.gotaukulele.com/2015/03/moselele-solid-electro-concert.html Well - now one could be yours!!

RULES

1. Go to the Got A Ukulele Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/GotAUkulele
2. Like the Facebook page
3. Find the competition post with the image above in it and Share that post to your timeline

That's it really. Sorry but due to some horror stories with international shipping, this is open to people in the UK and EU ONLY!!

Competition closes on 19 April 2015 and after that date I will make a random draw from the names. You must have shared the post and have liked the page to enter!!

Please read the terms below and GOOD LUCK!

1. Competition  ends at midnight GMT on 19 April 2015
2. To be eligible for the draw you must enter have liked the Got A Ukulele Facebook page and shared the competition post to your timeline.
3. I reserve the right to reject entries that are duplicates, offensive or anything else unsavoury!  My decision on this is final.
4. After the draw day, a winners name will be drawn from a hat (or hat shaped receptacle).  My decision on the winnersis final and no correspondence will be entered into.
5. The winner will be selected within 7 days of the draw day, and will be announced on this site.  I will also contact the winner by Facebook and they will need to provide a postal address for shipping.
6. This prizes have no alternative cash value.
7. No purchase necessary
8.  No responsibility can be accepted for entries that are lost or delayed, or which are not received for any reason
9. The prize is not transferable to another person
10. The prize  will be shipped to the winner direct. Got A Ukulele, Moselele or Barry Maz are not responsible for carriage of the prize and cannot be held responsible for problems with delivery. Your shipping address is critical as this is where the prize will be sent!
11. Got A Ukulele will NOT use any personal data submitted by you in entering this competition except as required under the terms of this competition
12. Got A Ukulele reserves the right to substitute, in their reasonable discretion, the prize with a prize of equal value

29.3.15

Grand Northern Ukulele Festival - A Main Stage Preview

Well, only about a couple of months to go before one of the worlds most 'feel good' ukulele festivals takes place in Huddersfield. Time, I think, for a preview of some of the leading acts on show this year.


The trouble with this post though, there are so many acts performing this year, that I couldn't possibly feature them all in one post. Your browser and your internet connections wouldn't thank me.... So first up, let's take a look at some of the headliners for 2015.

Grand Northern Ukulele Festival logo


Manitoba Hal Brolund

A regular in the headline slot in festivals all around the world, and a top end performer. Hal has a natural 'blues gift' that transcends the ukulele he chooses to play it on. I've featured him on Got A Ukulele before which was a joy! Not to be missed.

Here he is performing at the UK's Southern Ukulele Store last year.




Sarah Maisel

Sarah made her UK debut in 2013 and absolutely blew the audiences away. Another Got A Ukulele interviewee, and another performer who not only oozes talent but is one of the nicest people you would ever meet. Can't wait to see her again.

Here she is performing in the UK in 2014. Sublime.



The Quiet American

The Quiet American are husband and wife duo Aaron and Nicole Keim from the USA, who deliver a great set of old time Americana with some style. I've not yet seen them live or met them, so I am really looking forward to this one.

Check out the video what also includes Keim Jr!



Craig Chee

Whilst understandably associated with Sarah Maisel since he became engaged to her (!), Craig has been an extremely well known name in his own right on the ukulele circuit and someone else I will be meeting for the first time this year.

Have a listen to him performing with Sarah and Ukulele Undergrounds own Aldrine Guerrero here.



Phil Doleman

Where would a UK festival be without an appearance from one of the UK's best loved stars - Phil Doleman? A real 'players player' and a jolly good egg too. Cover star of the new UKE Magazine as well don't you know?

Here he is at last years Uke East festival in Norwich.



Zoë Bestel

When she performed at her first ukulele festival last year at GNUF 2014 she absolutely knocked the audience sideways. I should know, I was there! A true rising star who is going to go on to great things in the world of music.

Oh boy that voice!


And there you go - she says herself that the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival was the best festival she has ever played at EVER! Wise words Zoë!

So that's about it for this main stage round up - but there are 30 plus artist in total across several stages. Really something for everyone. Hope I may see you there!

I know that tickets may well have run out now - but now it's time to book your Workshops!!

http://northernuke.com

What Do You Mean by 'Over Built' Ukuleles?

You may have noticed me use the term 'Over Built' when describing my thoughts on particular ukulele models. What do I mean by that and why should you be concerned?

Martin T1K Tenor Ukulele
Martin T1K - an example of a well made, thin resonant solid wood ukulele. Bags of volume!


There are a variety of factors that come in to play that influence how a ukulele is going to play and sound, and it certainly goes beyond the usual suspects that people focus on of 'solid tone woods and strings'. You see no matter how nice a piece of tone wood has been used in the construction of the instrument, it is always going to let you down with its sound if it has been badly built. And 'Over Built' is a term I use to describe the heavier built ukuleles, most commonly put out by the cheaper end ukulele brands looking to provide a solid wood offering (because people assume they are 'better').

Now we have talked before on here about the huge myth that surrounds solid woods and laminates (and the horrible tendency for some to buy cheap solid wood ukes and immediately claim they are automatically better than any laminates) so we won't go over all that again. But it does tend to be the preserve of those cheaper 'buy me!!! I'm SOLID wood' types of instrument that exist.

Generally speaking a good sounding ukulele needs a nice mix of tonal clarity and volume projection and those things come in a large part from the way it has been built. More specifically in how the sound board wood has been finished and then braced. In a perfect world a ukulele would have very thin woods in the soundboard and the bracing that keeps the soundboard in one piece, but it's a balancing act between keeping things light and not creating an instrument that will implode and split under the tension from the strings. This is why good laminate ukes can be much thinner, as the laminate wood is naturally stronger.

Think of the sound box of the ukulele as a taut drum, and in part it is the tension of those strings keeping the sound board top (the bit that does most of the work) tight and resonant. It's the vibration of the strings travelling down through the bridge and creating vibrations in that taut sound board that gives the ukulele it's tone and projection. Consider an over built ukulele as being like a drum that has a bunch of old rags stuffed inside it... Alternatively, you would never buy a drum whose head was made from thick plastic.

So how do they over build them? Well, the most obvious casualties are seen in the thickness of the soundboard (and to an extent, the back and sides) and in the thickness of the bracing. I have found that at the cheapest end some of the main culprits of this practice have used noticeably thick sound board woods and bracing that look like pieces of skirting board taken from a house! Add on top of that there is the common tendency for these sort of instruments to come with an extremely heavy gloss finish (these makers seem more concerned at how they will look on the wall of a music shop than how they actually sound) and you have another factor in killing that tone and volume. The more you add to that vibrating body and the more you are going to dampen the sound.

Hang on Baz.. we are talking cheap ukes here -why would they use MORE materials? Surely they would skimp on materials wouldn't they? Well, no actually. The use of a thick soundboard or heavy braces is not, in the bigger scheme of things, really any more expensive than thinner / smaller ones. In fact the process of getting a thin soundboard made to a standard that will not split yet sound resonant and a brace into a nice thin delicate scalloped shape takes time, effort and skill. And that time effort and skill costs money.

And there is another reason this tends to happen (and, indeed where I see many examples of this from the 'guitar makers ukes' - you know - the famous guitar brands who have stuck their name on the headstock of a generic Chinese instrument in order to climb on the ukulele bandwagon...). You see the heavier a uke is, the less likely it is to split and crack and that means less chances of a return or bad reviews appearing online thus damaging their reputation. Any ukulele can split with the wrong treatment, and even the highest end ukes can suffer if there is an inherent flaw in the finely balanced woods it is made from. But if you work in a numbers game, importing factory made ukuleles at a budget from China, and if you have a respected brand name attached to the headstock, the last thing you want is a flood of returns.

So for such builders, it's not only cheaper and quicker to build a ukulele without much care and attention to tone and volume, but it's safer too.

So how can you tell? Well first of all, bear in mind that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Do your homework and compare prices at all ranges in the uke world. If something stands out far too noticeably in the 'how can they make a solid ukulele at that price' stakes,  then chances are you may want to take some care. But most of all you are really best advised to play the thing before you buy it. How does it feel compared to other ukes? Does it feel heavy in the hands? Warning sign! It should not be heavy! Does it feel resonant? Tap the soundboard with your fingers - does it sound like a drum or does it sound dead? I would argue that a ukulele body that doesnt function as a half decent hand drum  with some snappy response from the fingers will never really sound great as a ukulele. Play the thing - ukuleles are not really known for their sustain, but you should get some. Do the notes just die off very quickly? How is the volume? A well made ukulele can get a surprising amount of projection and volume, but that will quickly be sapped by heavy woods and braces.

I'm no luthier who would be able to explore all sorts of other factors that come in to play, such as brace placement, bracing shapes and patterns. In fact there are also plenty of armchair enthusiasts who will debate this subject until the cows come home (time better spent playing the thing I say). But the general rule of thumb has to be this. If the uke is built with too much wood and too heavy a construction, it will kill the tone and resonance. There was a reason why, as children, we strung rubber bands around tissue boxes and not around bricks....

And finally, to repeat an old theme. Just because it says solid wood does not been it's 'better'. If you are in a shop and play a few and the laminate model projects and sounds better - get the laminate. Because after all, eye candy and misconceptions are not what playing a ukulele is all about. Surely it should be about sound and playability. So to the builders who just throw them together with little care other than making sure they are shiny and that your makers logo is applied in sparkly mother of pearl... Shame on you. Why not direct your efforts into making a good sounding instrument instead?

(Also note, that whilst the over built cheap uke is almost certainly the most common, there are also some cheaper end models where they have gone for ultra thin cheap woods in order to make that projection stand out. Sadly, I've seen countless examples of these that have split or bowed. I think it says more about their quality control standards on building and lack of expertise than anything else. A nicely made, thin, light solid wood ukulele takes the skill of a builder to pull off. Go carefully!)



23.3.15

Should You Worry About Solid Woods Opening Up on a Ukulele?

In the world of stringed instruments, particularly guitars, if there is one topic that seems to create more disagreement than any other, it's the concept of solid wood tops 'opening up' with time. So in what may prove to cause exactly the same sort of debate, lets look at that concept with ukuleles.


Solid wood ukulele



First up, if you are playing a laminate or plastic uke, then this doesn't apply to you. Nothing wrong with those ukes, it's just that they will never open up with time by virtue of their very nature, as I will explain below. I'm certainly not excluding you for any other reason than that, and I too own laminate instruments. Just beware any salesperson claiming that they will open up and change with time. They won't.


22.3.15

LR Baggs Venue DI Pre-amp - REVIEW

I've spoken before on Got A Ukulele of the benefit of a pre-amp box if you are plugging in to an amplifier. Last time we looked at this model from Fishman which is rather good. Time to look at what may be considered a luxury option, particularly with a price tag of around £300. The LR Baggs Venue DI. But does that cost make sense?


LR Baggs Venue DI


I've been a fan of LR Baggs gear for some time, particularly their Gig Pro series of belt clip pre amp boxes. They just sound incredibly clear and natural with acoustic instruments and far more so than any many other pre amp boxes which can still leave the ukulele or guitar with an electric guitar type sound. Above the GigPro is the Baggs Para DI which adds some more detailed tone shaping controls to the mix. Now we have the Venue DI which takes those technologies and adds more.


19.3.15

Got A Ukulele Beginners Tips - Ukulele Scales and Sizes

Thought it was about time to put up a clearer comparison of the different sizes of ukulele.

And lets stop this nonsense that any one uke size is in any way better than another - they all have their place. It's all about differing tones. It's not about upgrading as they get bigger, or some being easier than others.

Beware the myths!




15.3.15

Moselele Solid Electro Concert Bambookulele - REVIEW

Regular readers of my blog will remember my review of the Moselele Bambookulele from last year. That was a UK created laminate wood bamboo finish uke created by the Moslele Ukulele club as an answer to what uke to recommend their beginners. I loved it and it also went on to do really rather well in sales. Well, Daz Wright from Moselele has been in touch and let me have a look at a new model in their range - this time a solid wood offering with an onboard electrics!


Moselele Solid Electro Bambookulele


So for now this is available through Moselele in Concert scale and comes in at about £140-£150. Considerably more than the original laminate Bambookulele, but then still a GREAT price for a concert scale uke in solid wood with pickup fitted. Oh, did I tell you that it comes with a  really nice branded padded gig bag too? Once again, Daz has challenged the market with a superb value instrument here.


14.3.15

I Don't Really Get Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome...

It's something that you will see mentioned a LOT on social media. UAS or 'Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome'. A tag name given to the fact that there is an assumption that all uke players can't stop buying new ukuleles... Well, a confession. I used to suffer from this, but strangely not any more..


ukulele collection


The concept is not new, and in the world of guitars the term 'Guitar Acquisition Syndrome' (with a far funnier acronym of GAS) has been talked about for years. I suspect it actually happens with all sorts of instruments, or in fact anything that had a community side to it.

So what is it? Well, as simple as the name suggests, it's the compulsive buying of more and more instruments, just because they are there. Think of it like mountain climbers or bird spotters who have to bag more and more of them just because 'they are there'.. (well like mountain climbers and bird spotters but with the added bonus of them costing lots of money..)


11.3.15

There's Good And Bad Ukuleles Whether Solid Or Laminate

Something I am seeing more and more of lately is the misconception that a laminate bodied ukulele is automatically 'junk' and a build made of solid wood is somehow a ticket to guaranteed 'great' quality. Wrong, wrong, wrong. You are buying the myth if you think that.

Kiwaya laminate ukulele
Kiwaya Eco Series - example of a great laminate


I touched on this in my recent blog post about badly described ukes on dealer websites but wanted to go further. You see what prompted that post, and indeed what I think prompts sellers to be 'economical' with the truth is that they are riding on the myth amongst many buyers that laminate equals bad and solid equals good. It doesn't. You see, as with most things in life, there is good and bad in both of those types of uke construction.


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