Sunday, December 14, 2008

Touch (with background singer!)

I've been meaning to take a video of me playing Jake Shimabukuro's Touch for a while now, but either haven't been able to play it smoothly enough or haven't had time to do it . Well, I decided to give it a try today while my daughters are taking their naps. A couple of takes into it, my 3-year old came downstairs and wanted to "help" me with the video. So she sat on the floor behind me and started singing some song she made up when I started the camera. I ended up with about 4 or 5 takes and each time when I restarted she started singing her song. It was pretty cute even though I have no idea what she was singing. She didn't get tired of singing through the retakes either. Each time I restarted she just started singing. After it was done, she wanted to climb up to my chair and watch the video too. It's so much fun having little kids around. I need to make sure I savor these moments because they grow up in a blink of an eye.

So here we are with a video of Touch played on the William King LS-tenor, complete with background singing by my daughter. Enjoy.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I had seen a video of the Eagles' Desperado on ukulele quite some time ago by NatoUkulele on Youtube and thought it was really cool. When Dominator put the tabs on his website, I knew I had to learn it. I've learned this song for a while now, but have not gotten around to posting a video of it until now. It's pretty easy to play and sound decent on the William King long scale tenor with its low action and crystal clear notes. Hopefully you'll enjoy it.

Yeah, I screwed up toward the end. Perhaps I'll try another take sometime later....

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pineapple Delight

KoAloha Ukuleles is known for building great sounding ukuleles that are a bit "different" from other ukuleles. From the pointy headstock to the Musubi soundhole to the Unibrace, KoAloha builds some of the more distinctive ukuleles available today. One of the more distinctive models they offer is the Pineapple Sunday.

When I first saw one of these it was love at first sight. The normal "pineapple" ukes had not been something I was too interested in, but this looked great to me. Everything on it contributed to what I consider a "true" pineapple look. It has the pointy headstock. The bridge has a spiky appearance. The upper bout has a pointy shape. And of course, its top is debossed with a pineapple pattern. The ukulele just looked great to me. I had also read many testimonies from various internet forums regarding this ukulele. In just about every instance, it was held in very high regard. So I knew it was a great sounding ukulele as well.

At around June of 2007, I decided to pull the trigger on one of these babies. At the time, the Pineapple Sunday was close to be retired, as KoAloha had planned to offer a new "Masterpiece Series" ukulele soon. (they have since brought it out of retirement due to great demand) I thought if I wanted one I had better act soon. So I found one from Hawaii Music Supply.

I had very high expectations for this ukulele at the time, and I was more than satisfied with it upon receiving it. It looked as good as the pictures indicated. And it played and sounded much better than anything I had experienced at the time (admittedly I was only about half a year into ukuleles and the best uke I have a the time was a G-String soprano). It was my first venture into the high-end of ukulele world, and I was blown away.

So what do I think of it now, about a year and a half after acquiring the Pineapple Sunday? I still think it is a marvelous ukulele. It remains the easiest player in my collection, with action lower than both the William King and Koa Works tenor. (this is not a given on Pineapple Sundays though. I played one in Hawaii in January, 2008 that had almost unplayable action) Because it is strung with Worth BL (light) strings, the string tension is pretty light. Coupled with the low action, it is really easy to play. The Pineapple shape also works very well. It is easy to hold, and the upper bout is essentially like a cutaway, so access to the higher frets is very easy. It is quite neck heavy though, since it is more or less a super concert sized uke with a pretty heavy headstock that has sealed Grover tuners. Some might not like the neck-heaviness of this uke. I personally don't have an issue with it, but I do notice it each time I play the uke.

Sound-wise, I would describe it as a mix of ukulele, mandolin, and a pinch of resonator uke. It is higher pitched sounding than most ukes and has excellent volume. I've come to prefer a more percussive and boomy sound produced by bigger bodied tenors such as the William King tenor and Kanile'a super tenor, but the sound of the Pineapple Sunday is still first rate and definitely very unique.

I think my Pineapple Sunday is probably from the middle or end of the first run of these ukes before its first "retirement". It has a Pineapple Sunday specific soundhole label and Tusq nut and saddle where the early ones have a standard KoAloha soundhole label and ebony nut and saddle. Current production Pineapple Sundays have a few different details. It now has a rectangular bridge with ebony reinforcement instead of the spiked all koa bridge mine has. I believe it's due to the problem of strings cutting into the softer koa on too many of these ukes. Mine also had this problem but the cut was not too deep into the wood and I have since made some "grommets" from old credit card to to prevent the strings from digging into the wood (you can see in the above picture). I think the old version of this bridge looks much cooler, but I guess KoAloha had to do something to stop the "bridge cutting" complaints. The other updated detail seems to be koa bindings on the fretboard instead of ebony bindings. I personally think the ebony bindings look a bit more classy. I suppose KoAloha is trying to find way to maximize their koa stock, and I can't blame them in this economy.

All in all, the Pineapple Sunday is a very good and very unique ukulele. It plays and sounds great and probably has a lot of collector's value down the road. If you enjoy a higher pitched sound from your ukulele and like the styling of this uke, I would highly recommend it.

Here's an old video of me playing the Pineapple Sunday a little over a year ago. Yes, I sucked at playing ukulele even more back then.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Koa impluse

Over the last few weeks, I let my curiosity get the best of me and pulled the trigger on 2 tenor ukuleles that I probably should not have gotten given how many tenors I already have in my possession. It didn't help that musicguymic lowered the price on both of these tenors while the Microsoft cash back deal was at 25% & 30%. So I essentially got the Kelii tenor for about $350 and the Kanile'a super tenor for $580, assuming the cash back actually happens. If not, they were still good deals, so I was comfortable pulling the trigger on them. (I will really need to get rid of some ukes from the "inventory" though :P)

The reason I wanted the Kelii is because it has a slightly longer tenor scale at 17.25" and I had not tried one in Hawaii. I've heard good things about Kelii ukes for a long time now so I've been curious about them. It seemed that Kelii ukes are in the class of other Hawaiian made ukes (such as KoAloha & Kanile'a) at a much lower price, so I wanted to see for myself.

As for the Kanile'a super tenor, I had been curious about it's larger body since I first saw it online. I thought it looked really ugly (reminded me of a fat kid's face with puffy cheeks) but when I was in Hawaii last year and saw a few in person they didn't look as bad, and I liked the deeper/fuller sound the larger body produced. MGM had one in his ebay store for a while that looked like it had some really nice koa. When he put that one up for sale a on black Friday, coupled with the 30% cash back, I could not resist it.

So now I find myself with 2 new koa tenors basically bought on impulse. The Kelii arrived last week and the Kanile'a arrived this week. Both are impressive in their own ways. I've only had them for a very short time, so I can't really review them. But here are some quick thoughts:

Kelii Tenor:

-Nice bright sound. Very good sustain.
-Action was a bit high, and there wasn't much room to lower it.
-Good looking wood. More curly than the average production ukulele.
-The back is much more rounded (a bit of a bowl shape) than other traditional ukes.
-The thinner than normal body does not compromise sound or volume at all.
-Has a nice and beefy neck. Feel thicker than any other tenor I have. I like it.
-I really do not like friction tuners on a tenor ukulele.
-I'd probably slot it in at the #8, behind the Honu concert and in front of the Compass Rose tenor on the most recent ranking list.

Kanile'a Super Tenor:

-Nice deep sound. Boomy. It's near custom level.
-Feels good to play. Has some of the "feedback" that the custom ukes has.
-I think changing the strings to Worth might improve the sound. The Aquilas seem a bit restrained. The sound is not as crisp as it could be. If the Worth strings provide a crisper sound, this would really be an outstanding uke.
-The action is a bit high, but there is a lot of saddle to take down.
-The super tenor shape is still kind of ugly to me, but it does serve it's purpose.
-The large body seem to have less internal volume than my William King long-scale tenor. It's not as deep and long as the King.
-The neck is probably thinner than average. It's actually thinner than my Kanile'a supersoprano that's over a year old. Perhaps Kanile'a changed their neck thickness between then and now. I kind of prefer a thicker neck but this one feels good and I have no issues with it.
-Right now I'd rate it at #4 on the ranking list.

What I really need to do now is to move some ukes from my collection. I suffer from TMUS: Too Many Ukes Syndrome!

Which uke should I bring on my next trip to Oahu???

What's the maximum you'd spend on a ukulele case for your best uke?

If you could steal one of my ukes, which one would it be???

How curly do you like your koa? (preferably on a uke)

What's the maximum number of ukes a perfectly sane person should have???

Poll: How often do you play the ukulele???

Poll: Which guitar company's approach to ukes do you prefer???

Poll: What's your favorite type of headstock???

Poll: The new basic Collings concert uke (UC-1) sells for about $1k, your reaction is: