Category Archives: News

New, Handmade Uke on the Way from Kala

Kala Brand Music Co.plans to add a Ukulele handmade in the USA to its lineup next year.

Kala Brand Music Co.plans to add a Ukulele handmade in the USA to its lineup next year.

 

The Kala Brand Music Co., well known and highly respected for producing well-constructed and playable Asian-built Ukuleles for little money, plans to add USA-made models to its lineup next year.

Mike Upton, the founder of Petaluma-Ca.-based Kala, told Musical Merchandise Review magazine that the company plans to introduce at least one Made in America model soon.

Kala will introduce a ukulele handmade in the U.S. at our Petaluma, California shop at the 2015 NAMM Show.

He did not say if it will be introduced at Winter NAMM or Summer NAMM, though.

Kala already produces a line of Acoustic/Electric Ukulele Bass models in California, so adding a USA-made model Uke makes sense. No word on how much it will cost or what woods will be available, however.

 

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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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Heavy Metal Ukes from Dean Guitars

Dean Guitars ML Concert Spruce-Top Ukulele

Dean Guitars ML Concert Spruce-Top Ukulele

 

Dean Guitars, well known in the guitar community for its heavy metal designs, has branched out into Ukuleles. That’s right, Dean is now making Ukes.

The company currently has 9 models to choose from, 6 Concerts, a Soprano, a Concert-sized 6-String and a Concert-sized Travel Uke. They sport the usual woods: Spruce, Koa and Mahogany. But Dean also has two nice Flame Maple designs–a Trans-Green and a Trans-Amber model.

Priced at between $89 and $199, these are obviously laminates, but they sport some unique designs (particularly the two ML Concert models).

“Dean ukes will open this instrument to new customers who may not have ever played one before,” Curse Mackey, Director of Marketing for Armadillo, Dean’s parent company, told Music Trades magazine. “We’re also working with exotic woods and beautiful flame maple tops, so we’ll have a very artistic appeal as well as some uniquely shaped pieces, which is something we certainly specialize in.”

For some reason, the two ML series Ukes come with a padded gig bag, but the others don’t.

“Dean is really pushing the envelope in terms of what the average user thinks when they hear the word ‘ukulele,’” says Mackey. “We’re known for bringing energy, edge, and a rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, so you know we’ll be offering ukuleles for rockers to have some fun with.”

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New Aquila Strings on the Horizon

Aquila Fluorcristal Strings

Aquila Fluocristal Strings

 

This just in from the “As If We Really Need Another Set of Strings” Department: Aquila is working on a new set of strings.

This is good news and bad news. The good news is there will be another set of strings to try on our Ukes. The bad news is there will be another set of strings to try on our Ukes.

Called Aquila Fluocristal, they’ll most likely be similar to fluorocarbons, though maybe not.

There is no information on the new strings on the Aquila web site. Mimmo Peruffo, Aquila’s head honcho, said in a thread on Ukulele Underground that the new strings should be available this summer.

This is about all Mimmo would say about the new strings:

What I can say right now is that these strings are very very transparent, they has a very low gauge tolerance and are well balanced in each set. This because I can do all the gauges I want by extrusion. This is a big advantage upon the standard gauges available in the market because these follow the fishing line’s gauging criteria and so they do not meet the ukulele necessity completely.

 

Sounds to me like they will be fluorocarbon clones. But maybe not. One thing is for sure is they will be clear. Which in my book is a plus. I really don’t like the look of the white Aquilas. They remind me of the strings on all those cheap Ukes.

Aquila makes quality strings. The new Fluocristals will probably be very nice strings. But how will they be different from Martin M600 Standard Crystal Nylon Ukulele Strings, or D’Addario Pro Arte Strings, or Galli Bionylon Strings? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

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Soprano Uke Built From Century-Old Detroit House

Soprano Ukulele made from reclaimed Detroit wood.

Soprano Ukulele made from reclaimed Detroit wood.

 

In 2013 Detroit-area luthier Gary Zimnicki was given some advice from a friend–why not use reclaimed wood from abandoned homes to build instruments? So that’s what he did. Zimnicki built a Soprano Ukulele from reclaimed wood. And it’s a beauty.

“…I had no idea how to go about it,” he told Ukulele Magazine. “I wasn’t about to grab a flashlight and a crowbar and just start taking a house apart.”

Luckily he found out about Reclaim Detroit, a project that takes abandoned Detroit homes and sells everything that can be sold–right down to the floorboards–for use in new products and projects.

The Soprano Uke was made primarily from woods that came out of a house in Detroit built in 1910. The maple in the back, sides and neck came from the house’s floorboards. The Douglas Fir soundboard came from a section of ceiling joist. The contrasting dark lines are Black Walnut, from a locally grown tree that was harvested a couple of decades ago. Since the maple was originally used as floorboards in the house, it has some nail holes, but Zimnicki says that’s OK.

“I don’t mind nail holes though, because they can be filled and they serve as a reminder of where the wood originated,”he told the magazine.

A mother-of-pearl likeness of the house is inlaid into the peghead of the Uke.

Zimnicki has gotten enough wood from Reclaim Detroit to build two more Ukes and a mandolin.

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