Kala KA-SMHGCE-C

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I bought a Kala KA-SMHGCE-C from an eBay seller the other day.  It’s a concert sized, solid top, all mahogany Ukulele with some nice features.   It’s a close out, it seems everyone is blowing out this Ukulele.  Maybe there’s a new model, whatever.  Or maybe, it’s got problems… More on that later.

It arrived today, a nice surprise since I didn’t expect it until Thursday or Friday.   For the record, I’m writing this on a Monday.   I opened up the packaging and found a very nice looking Uke.  All mahogany and a nice reddish color. The black and white purfling with the faux tortoiseshell binding is a little odd looking but I might get used to it.

This Ukulele is very light. I think Kala makes a thin bodied Ukulele, and it’s tone is sweet and not loud, but indefinably hear-able.  I hope the solid top will open up with time and playing.  The frets are silver-nickel and are very nicely finished.  The tuning machines are Grover open back, and have a 14:1 tuning ratio.  The jack port appears to be quite heavy duty.

groversHere is the factory list of features:

2-1/4 to 2-3/4 Arched Back Body depth, 1-3/8 At Nut
Solid Mahogany Top, Sides and Back
Faux Tortoise Shell Binding w/ Black and white purfling
20 Silver Nickel Frets
Fret position Marks at 5th,7th,10th and 12th frets on neck and top of fingerboard
Rosewood Fingerboard and Bridge
Simulated Bone Nut and Saddle
Mahogany neck, Satin Finish
Chrome Die-Cast Tuners
Premium AQUILA NYLGUT Strings

I have not tried it plugged in. The preamp has a volume knob and treble and bass sliders.  the battery is easily accessible but the wiring is easily seen though the sound hole and is ugly.

Now for the bad stuff…

The preamp does have built in tuner.  It seems to tune sharp. I tried two other tuners, headstock mounted, and they tuned it the same as each other, while the built in tuner tunes sharp.   That may have to do the intonation problems and the tuner being at the saddle.

actionThis uke has bad intonation. It’s sharp as you go up the neck. At the 12th fret my tuner shows it to be +15 degrees.  How hard is it to intonate an Ukulele?  It’s made in a factory, and they ought to be able to glue a bridge in the right spot.  This Ukulele has $479 MSRP. You’d think they get it right.

Also the action is high towards the bridge.  It’s 4mm at the 19th fret. Too high.  Perhaps that’s the issue with the intonation. Again: This Ukulele has $479 MSRP. You’d think they get it right.

I am going to have to lower the saddle and hope that brings the intonation into line.  In the meantime, it’s strum-able. A player who plays up the neck would find this intolerable.  Myself, I strum chords at the top of the neck, so the intonation, or lack thereof, is suffer-able.

That’s a shame, I expected more from this Ukulele.  Unless I bother to lower the saddle, and IF that resolves the intonation, this thing is going to go into a case and get relegated to to the back of the room.

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The Outdoor Ukulele

It’s been a long time since my last post.  Life got hairy, scary and not a lot of fun.

Anyway, I got some very cool stuff I’ll share later.  Stuff like a KoAlana Soprano and a Seagull Coastline Grand Parlor Guitar.  

The previous post here, so long ago…  mentioned a entrepreneurial effort to create a modern injected plastic Ukulele.  Back then it looked like the project tanked, but it’s back up and soon be in production.  The Uke has a new name, The Outdoor Ukulele, and I am ramped up to get it.  Facebook says a preorder system is going up soon.

http://outdoorukulele.com/

http://www.facebook.com/OutdoorUkulele

It looks like the price is right on these things. $100 is not too bad, I’m looking forward to it and will order one as soon as the pre order site is up.

The Plastic Ukulele Kickstarter Project

KickStarter is a site where creative inventor/entrepreneurs can present a plan for a product or project and “investors” can make small investments on proposed products or projects they like. The dividend varies and typically entails getting product or variations thereof.  A required baseline is given; the dollar amount needed to tool-up and produce the item.  The investor is only billed when the baseline is met. If the baseline is not met, the investor is not billed.

Scott Seelye, a Bend, Oregon industrial designer has come up with a KickStarter plan for a plastic soprano ukulele.  He designed a model, and has presented his plan on KickStart.  Here’s the link: Plastic Ukulele.

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As a uke player with a bad case of UAS*, I’ve decided to plunk down the tentative payment towards the version with the Grover friction tuners.  The uke has a squarish neck, but since my thumbs bend out not in, I don’t use them for playing anyway (Well, I strum with the right one).  The black color is nice looking, and it has some other nice details.

I’m intrigued, I hope Scott succeeds, the world needs more ukuleles.

For some fun videos on other plastic ukuleles, click here.

*Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome

Circle Of Fifths

The Circle of Fifths is a great tool for the musician trying to write new music or trying to determine what chords or notes are used in an existing or new song.5ths

Western music is based on a specific relationship between notes. Certain distances between a certain set of notes in a chord or series sound better or at least different than other sets of notes with other relational distances.  The Circle Of Fifths is a chart showing how these notes relate to each other and is laid out in a manner that complimentary notes are next to each other.

Links below will provide more detail on how the Circle Of Fifths actually works, I just want to make you aware of this musical protractor and hopefully it will help you as well.

First link is an interactive Circle Of Fifths:

http://randscullard.com/CircleOfFifths/

Following links are explanatory of the tool:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circle_of_fifths

http://readsheetmusic.info/circle-of-fifths.shtml

Let me Google that for you!

 

Adding To The Flock

Gretsch Clarophone AdI got a new banjolele. WooHoo!  It’s a fairly new product, a Gretsch G9740 “Clarophone”.  It came Monday, I’ve got a only few hours playing on it, not as much as I wanted, but some previous appointments, tendonitus and few days sick ate up my time.  Anyway, now I have time and I am feeling great.

I’ve wanted a banjolele for a little while. I’d been researching them and was it kind of a toss up between this one, the Luna 8″ Banjo Uke and the Eddy Finn EF-BU2.  Now, I have never seen any in person nor played one.  The local music shops around here don’t carry them.  So I read about them on forums or reviews on the vendor websites.

Searching YouTube I saw this video and it has the sound I wanted and Ed Roland was playing it the way I try to play (or want to play). I sounded good with Ed playing it.

So the search went on, until last week. This Clarophone, as I will new henceforth ever refer to it, is a neat little banjolele.  I bought the Clarotone from Amazon.  The price was what everyone else was asking, and the shipping was free.  I liked the looks and I liked the fact it was a Gretsch.

The Clarophone… It’s an 8″ concert size old timey inspired banjolele.  The sound is kind of old sound, I gretschheadstockguess that from the uke strings on it.  The sound is not particularly bright. It can get loud, especially if you use a pick and hammer away with it.  Factory action is not bad and with a movable bridge, intonation is not an issue.

I do have a problem with the factory strings.  The high G is a little over weighted compared to the CEA gretschheadsidestrings. So when you strum, you hear this high string pinging just a little over the top.  So sooner or later I need to find the right set. Here’s my take on the problem:  The Clarotone is concert scale, but being long at 15 1/2″, the strings are tense and I think that make that G ping like it does.  I’m leaving the factory strings on for a little while. I have two tenors sitting that has the same but much worse G problem, caused by my obsessive need to change strings on everything.

It’s stained an old looking orange color, perhaps a bit too orange. The finish is matte. It’s got a nice looking gretschfretsdotsRemo 8″ FiberSkyn head, and the nickel hardware looks real old time.  The neck is U shaped and slippery enough, frets are jumbo and the woodwork is maple.  Amber fret dots really look cool. The back is a maple disk with a little space between it and the drum, that helps the sound get out.

Tuners are friction and were a little loose out of the box. An application of the included banjo wrench/screwdriver tightened the tuners up nicely.  Tuning is interesting with friction tuners as a little gretschdrumbridgeturn goes a long way. I hope the strings are still stretching as I have to tune it every time I pick it up. It sounds really lousy if not in tune; in tune – it sounds great. Like it was 1922 again.

It does not come with a case.  There is an optional gig bag, but I do not like gig bags. For now I’ll use a gretschbottombanjo case I have. Later, I’ll find me a proper banjolele case. I wish they had a nice tweed or tolex case with Clarotone or Gretsch splashed across the side.

Would I recommend the Clarophone? Maybe.  I think it’s possibly the same as the Luna with different trimmings.  I’d love to try an Eddy Finn or a Gold Tone, but I don’t know where I could try one. I like to play old time music strum-style.  The Clarophone sounds great for that.  Just fix that G problem and get a proper case and I’ll be set.

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Buckeye Uke Society

I’ve mentioned it before, The Buckeye Uke Society  met this AM again, and it’s quite a nice group.

Buckeye Uke Society

Mickey Maguire showed up today.  He’s the publisher/editor to the online magazine, Ukulele Player.

I ‘ve been reading Ukulele Player for few months now, it’s been published for a few years already and I’m still catching up on back issues. I was quite surprised to find the magazine comes from my hometown, Columbus, Ohio.

Mickey showed up with three great ukes to share.  He had two KoAlohas in tow, one of them a very nice pineapple and an also nice standard shape.  Both were concert size.  I do not remember the model numbers, I was not taking notes. He also brought a lovely prototype Ohana. All three ukes were passed around allowing all present to have an opportunity to play three truly fine instruments.

The BUS is fun group, with attendees ranging from ukulele beginners to guitar instructors to sing-songwriters, and now a publisher of the only Ukulele magazine I know of.

A good time, a sharing on knowledge, and making of friends was had by all.

Music Self Played Is Happiness Self Made.

About a year ago I saw the phrase “Music Self Played Is Happiness Self Made” on a picture of an old ukulele.  That phrase has become my motto since.  That’s just the first time I saw the phrase, but it’s apparently commonly used. You can Google it, it’s all over the internet.  Other blogs use the phrase and the great Robert Crumb mentioned it the cover of a 78rpm record they pressed in the 70′s (now that was retro).

I think the fact that that phrase is so pervasive is the fact that it is so obviously true.  I can play something on the ukulele or guitar or just shake my tambourine for a while and my blood pressure certainly must drop, stress leaves my body, my mind clears, and I forget any troubles I may have.

Ukulele Clubs

Ukulele Clubs are great. Any playing club is great. When you play with others, you not only have fun, but you get better.

I joined a Ukulele Meetup group, the Buckeye Ukulele Society. The first meeting was today and 9 people showed up . For a first meeting that was a lot folks, in my opinion.  The founder was a new player and all came to learn and have fun.  The weather was great and we met on the sunny patio of a coffee shop.

We played from a book by Liz and Jim Beloff, The Daily Ukulele. It’s a nice book, 365 songs long and it uses chords that really make the songs sound interesting.  It’s available in paper or Kindle.

The Meetup had nice variety of players from younger to older, all young in heart.  A variety of ukes  were there, and oddly, three players had Mainland Ukuleles. I’d seen them online but never in a store or in person.  I brought my Luna Ukulele Suitcase Amp and my Luna Concert Cutaway.  More on those in a  later post.

The Ukulele is a social instrument and socializing with is they was it ought to be.  Join your local Ukulele Club. If there is none, start one.