Dem bones. Dem bones. Dem dry bones.
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.
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
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.”
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?
From the “Rare as Hen’s Teeth” Department comes this little tidbit: The Holy Grail of Ukes is for sale! That’s right, now you too can own the Holy Grail of the Ukulele world.
Up for sale on various auction sites like eBay and GBase is one 1926 Gibson Poinsettia Ukulele. And for a mere $11,579.00 it can be all yours.
Granted, these are pretty rare Ukuleles. There just aren’t a whole lot of them available anymore. I’m not sure how many exactly were made and how many survived, but I know of at least one other in existence, which is owned by a Ukulele Underground member, who posted about it here a few years ago.
The one being sold now is owned by Distinctive Guitar of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The condition is listed in various places as “Fair” and in others as “VG/EXC,” so take that as you will. The seller does acknowledge that this model has had some cracks repaired.
“This ukulele is in VG/EXC Vintage condition, there were some cracks on the back that were professionally sealed by Third Coast Guitar Service in Chicago, IL a couple weeks ago,” he notes.
According to the seller:
The headstock has “The Gibson” which puts is pre-1928 so this is one of the earliest ones made. Post 1928 you see just “Gibson” on the headstock logo and the fingerboard markers are often painted poinsettia’s instead of hand inlaid designs on the real vintage bakelite.
I’ve often wondered why Gibson made these Ukuleles with Mahogany bodies and plastic fretboards. Bakelite, as you probably know, is a form of plastic, which was used for lots of things in the 1920s. Whole Ukuleles were made of plastic in those days. The fretboards on these Ukes are not Bakelite, however, they are another form of plastic called Ivoroid. Why Gibson chose to make a hybrid wood-plastic Uke is interesting.
According to Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars, the Gibson Poinsettia was available from 1927-1928 and featured “custom floral ornamentation with red poinsettia flowers on body and fingerboard, ivoroid fingerboard and peghead veneer, pearl logo.” They also were available as custom models from 1929 until the early 1930s.
I have to admit, it’s a very pretty Uke. Gibson spent a lot of time and care preparing these models. And with its original case, it’s a pretty cool find. But I’m not sure it’s worth the asking price. Possibly half the asking price is more appropriate, considering this one has been repaired and has wear from use. But it certainly would look nice in anyone’s collection.