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.

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