Monthly Archives: June 2014

Meet Clara

Blackbird Guitars Clara Ukulele

Blackbird Guitars Clara Ukulele

 

Ukuleles come in many shapes and types of materials. There’s Koa wood, Mango, Maple, Spruce, Cocobolo, Mahogany, to name a few. They even come in plastic and composite materials like carbon fiber. Now you can add Ekoa to the list of materials used to make a Ukulele.

Meet Clara. A new Concert-sized Ukulele from Blackbird Guitars that uses composite materials–Ekoa to be exact–and claims to have a tone just like vintage wood.

According to the company that produces Ekoa:

Ekoa natural composites are even lighter than carbon fiber yet offer superior tensile strength and vibration dampening.

Sounds good, but I’m not too sure about the vibration dampening part. I would think you would want a Ukulele to vibrate freely, to get a good, loud sound from it. But that’s just me.

Blackbird says its Clara Ukulele is the result of years of research using the eco-friendly composite. It features a proprietary hollow neck and unibody construction.

Clara is the loudest concert ukulele with the widest frequency range available yet compact enough to fit in a backpack— the perfect instrument to have around in all circumstances. With the tone of vintage wood and the durability of cutting-edge sustainable composite construction, musicians get what was previously unobtainable: the experience of a vintage old-growth wood instrument in a lightweight, durable package, notes Blackbird Guitars founder Joe Luttwak.

You can check out the Clara in action in this video.

Here are the detailed specs for the Clara:

Construction: Ekoa natural composite
Top: Ekoa natural composite
Neck Material: Ekoa natural composite
Neck Shape: C shape
Neck Reinforcement: Composite assembly
Nut Material: Graphtech Tusq
Headstock: Ekoa natural composite
Headplate: Ekoa natural composite
Fretboard Material: Richlite
Scale Length: 15″
Fretwire: Nickel silver
Number of Frets Clear: 12
Number of Frets Total: 17
Fretboard Width at Nut: 1.4″
Fretboard Width 12th Fret: 1 3/4″
Fretboard Side Markers: 5,7,10,12
Bridge Material: Richlite
Bridge String Spacing: 1.6″
Saddle: Graphtech
Tuning Machines: Gotoh
Recommended Strings: High G/Low G
Case: Heavily padded soft case
Electronics: Optional Mi-Si Pickup
Finish: Natural
Dimensions: 24″ x 7.75″ x 3″
Weight: 1.2 Lbs

The Blackbird Clara Concert Ukulele starts at $1,150.00. With the optional electronics, the price is $1,350.

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New Plastic Ukes on the Way

Kics Ukuleles

Kics Plastic Ukuleles

 

Coming this Fall is a new line of plastic Ukuleles called Kics, from the people who brought you the Kanaloa Ukulele and the Diamond Head Ukulele. Their marketing tag line for the Kics Uke is “Play one just for kicks.”

According to the guys at Kanaloa:

Kics Ukuleles are a high-tech design of injection molded plastic instruments that recreate the tonal qualities of wood.

Each Kics Uke will be supplied with a gig bag and comes with a Limited Lifetime Warranty.

Kanaloa are debuting their Kics line at Summer NAMM. They are expected to be available sometime in the fall. No word on pricing yet though.

Since the Kanaloa Ukes are made in Indonesia, is suspect the Kics line will be produced there as well.

 

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Top 10 Ukulele No Nos

Moore Bettah Doubleneck Tenor Ukulele

Moore Bettah Doubleneck Tenor Ukulele

 

The Ukulele has been around for more than 100 years and in that time it has evolved in many ways. There have been trends over the years–some practical and some downright silly. With some you say “Ok. That makes sense.” And with others you scratch your head and wonder who thought of them and why.

Herewith are my Top 10 Things That Should Never, Never, Ever, Not At All, Don’t Even Think About Doing It, My God Why? Things that should not be done to a Ukulele (in no particular order):

1. Double Neck Ukulele

A Ukulele with two necks? Why? What’s the point? Who buys these things anyway, Jimmy Page? Please stop. Just don’t

2. Electric Ukes

The Ukulele was developed as an acoustic instrument. Obviously, since there was no electricity at the time it was developed. I guess you could call it progress, but I just don’t see the point of an electric ukulele. Sure, some are real cool and sound great. But I don’t get it. The Ukulele was meant to be acoustic. Electricity is not needed. If you play live in front of lots of people and need to be heard, you could always mic your Uke. And in a similar vein, adding an EQ to a Uke seems like a waste of time. Running a Ukulele through an amp changes the character of the sound. It no longer sounds like a Ukulele. It sounds like an annoying, tiny high-pitched guitar.

3. Metal Strings

This, I guess, is in keeping with the above. Since the Ukulele is meant to be acoustic, there is no need for metal strings–at least on an acoustic Uke. I get it for an electric Uke. But on an acoustic Uke metal strings just sound horrible. Not to mention they can trash your fingerboard and warp your neck. Just say no to metal strings.

4. More than  Four Strings

It’s a Ukulele, not a little guitar. You don’t need five, six, or eight strings on a Ukulele. If you do need more than four strings, buy a guitar. Then you can choose from six, seven, eight, nine, 10 or 12 strings. With more than four strings, your little instruments starts to veer off from that beloved Ukulele sound and enter into Harp territory. Blech!

5. Funky Shaped or Placed Soundhole

It’s called a Soundhole because it’s a round hole that projects the sound from the Ukulele. It’s not called a Celtic Cross Hole, or a Star Hole or a Squirrel With Nut Hole. Funky shaped soundholes may look cool, but it’s just an affectation. And, depending on the shape, they can negatively affect the sound quality of the Uke’s sound. If you want to fancy up your soundhole, get some Abalone Rosettes.

Similarly, don’t put the soundhole on the back of the Ukulele! How do you expect it to be heard if the player is covering up the soundhole with his body? And don’t put the hole on the side or bottom of the Uke. The Soundhole is placed on the front “soundboard” (you think they call them that for  no reason?) so it can project outward and be heard.

6. Make Them Look Like Tiny Guitars

Don’t. Just don’t. They are not tiny guitars. The Ukulele is a totally different instrument, even if it does resemble a small acoustic guitar. Electric Uke makers are generally guilty of this, but there are a bunch of acoustics out there that fit the bill too.

7. Funky Shaped Ukes

Ugh! It’s bad enough some manufacturers make the soundhole in weird shapes. But entire Ukuleles have been made in strange shapes. And it needs to stop. I’ve seen Flying V Ukes, Snail-shaped Ukes, and one shaped like a Mutant Goldfish Cracker. There’s no need for this people. Just stop. Please.

8. Slotted Headstocks

Yes, that’s right. I said it. There is absolutely no need for a slotted headstock on a Ukulele. It’s not a classical guitar. They just look ridiculous. Not to mention the fact that they’re a pain to restring. Thanks a lot Jake! Some companies are smart about it and offer slotted headstocks as an option. Others offer certain models only with a slotted headstock, which is think is a stupid marketing decision. One of my favorite Uke manufacturers does this and I think it’s unwise.

9. Macramé Bridges

Ok, they’re not actually called Macramé Bridges, they’re called Tie Bridges. But you have to have some wicked Macramé skills to tie your strings these days. And when did this happen anyway? What ever happened to just tying a good old-fashioned fat knot on the end of the string and running it through the bridge? When did stringing a Ukulele get so fancy?

10. Big Ass Ugly Slapped On Logo

The logo is an integral part of the Ukulele. It may not add anything to the sound of the instrument, but it sure adds to the look and appeal. It should be elegant and understated. It can be inlaid, painted on, a sticker or burned into the wood. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s aesthetically pleasing. One of the biggest offenders in this area is Lanikai. They recently changed their logo from This nice, classy understated logo to This butt ugly logo on some models. And they have the nerve to call it their “Prestige Lanikai Logo.”

I Bet it Sounds Huge

Michael Jones and his 12' Ukulele

Michael Jones and his 12′ Ukulele

 

All the way from Australia comes this tale of one very large Ukulele.

According to the Fraser Coast Chronicle:

The proud owner of a 3.6m-long ukulele, Mr Jones stopped at the Hervey Bay Regional Gallery on Tuesday for a get-together with members of the local ukulele club before heading off to the Cairns Ukulele Festival which starts on July 1.

For those of us living in the States and elsewhere, 3.6 meters works out to about 11.8 feet! Now that’s a big Uke.

Jones, known as The Living Poet, told the paper that he built the Uke in two nights and taught himself how to play in three weeks.

So what size would that Uke be considered, an Uber-Baritone?

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Surf Music on a Ukulele?

YouTuber Juca Coyote playing Dick Dale's "Misirlou" on a Kala Soprano Uke

YouTuber Juca Coyote playing Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” on a Kala Soprano Uke

 

Seems like the perfect match to me.

This is just too cool to be missed. It’s Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” on a Kala soprano Uke.

In case you’re interested, here’s the man himself playing the song.

Awesome.

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And This One’s For The Ladies

Guys with Ukes

 

You didn’t think I would forget about the ladies, did you?

Not a chance.

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This One’s For All The Guys Out There

Ukulele Lovlies

 

A couple of lovely ladies playing the Ukulele for your viewing pleasure.

You don’t have to thank me.

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