Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Grail ukes

I think for most people who collects stuff, or has a hobby that involves buying physical objects (such as ukuleles!), there usually exists a "Grail". From what I've gathered it's a term used to describe the ultimate prize in a particular hobby/endeavor for a particular person. There can be one grail or multiple grails. And the acquisition of one grail doesn't necessarily end the chase, often resulting in the formation of another grail.

In terms of ukuleles, one can certainly argue that I've had several grails already. At different times in the past couple of years, I coveted (I know, though shall not covet) the KoAloha Pineapple Sunday, William King customs, Kamaka tenor, and other ukes that I eventually acquired. There have also been grail ukes that I really wanted but for whatever reason never got to acquire. As of today, other than a Glyph that's been on order for over two years, I have not felt the urge or desire to get anymore serious ukes. But I thought it would be kind of fun to come up with a few ukes that I considered grails at one time or another.

-Earnest Instruments La-Paula:
The La-Paula is a concert sized ukulele that looks like a Les-Paul guitar. I can't remember if I saw this one first or the Kiwaya K-Wave Les-Paul uke, but I knew I really liked the looks. In fact, the K-Wave was one of the earlier ukes I bought during my UAS odyssey. The La-Paula, especially the sunburst curly maple version, really looked awesome to me. I've always liked the Les-Paul shape, and I loved the idea of playing a Les-Paul shaped ukulele. But at the time I could only justify spending the money on the K-Wave, as the La-Paula cost some serious cash. Had it been $600 like the Earnest Tululele, I probably would have owned one by now. But I eventually sold the K-Wave and kind of forgot about the La-Paula (had my fun with the LP uke). I was looking at the La-Paula last week and kind of thought "wouldn't it be cool to own one of these?" Maybe someday, but the urge isn't big enough right now.

-Moore Bettah custom:
Actually a Moore Bettah is a pretty recent grail uke. It seems to me in the last year or so, MB's reputation has grown by leaps and bounds. I had a chance to play a couple of MB concerts in Hawaii a couple of years ago and came away unimpressed because the ukes were setup super high (so the player can adjust to their liking) and I really could not play them. However, I do recognize the workmanship and beauty of MB ukes. Not too long ago I toyed with the idea of ordering an MB custom concert with a lot of bling. I had even drawn up a sketch of what my MB might possibly look like. But I realistically could not commit to buying such a uke because I already have way too many. What I had sketched would have cost quite a bit of money, and I think the price has gone up significantly in the last half a year or so, so this idea shall remain just that, an idea. Until maybe I win the lottery some day.

-KoAloha 6-string tenor:
A couple of years ago I briefly owned a 6-string Lanikai model O-6. I bought it from Musician's Friend because it was on sale and I was curious. While it had a cool slotted headstock, I wasn't all that enamored with its sound or playability so I sold it not too long after getting it. I have not given the 6-string ukulele any thought until my trip to Hawaii in 2008. While at the KoAloha factory, I played their 6-string model and thought it was absolutely awesome. It sounded great and played well. Since that time I have always had this ukulele on the back of my mind. I know I probably won't play it much even if I did get one, but the sound was truly pretty special and I can't imagine how much better a 6-string could sound. Maybe it's not as great as I remembered, but it would be fun to find out again down the road.

-G-String Sun concert:
My first serious ukulele was a G-String soprano with honu tattoos (I know, it doesn't sound all that serious). It was a great ukulele and I instantly became a fan of G-String ukuleles. Of the models they make, I was most intrigued by the Sun concert. It has that gorgeous abalone Sun inlaid on the fretboard and the uke was surely a great sounding uke (I sort of confirmed this during that 2008 Hawaii trip where I played a few G-String concerts that were outstanding). Back in 2007 musicguymic occasionally had one of these for sale, and I remember a couple of blowouts where he offered another very nice uke for free with the purchase of this one. But again, I could never justify the money at the time so all I could do was drool. I don't think I have seen one of these for sale in quite some time now. If one surfaces, even in my UAS-remission state, I would be pretty tempted by it.

-Another William King custom:
I know, I already have two, why would I want another? Well, one can't really desire too many King ukuleles. At least that's what I think. The reason I still put a King in the grail category is because I wouldn't mind a fully blinged out and feature laden King ukulele. My ebony/spruce long-scale concert is actually pretty close, but if money was no object, I'd have a few more things put onto this ukulele such as abalone purfling on the back and bound headstock & fretboard, not to mention a few more custom touches. Of course, I'm more than happy with my King ukes now, so this will probably just remain a dream.

Anyway, there are plenty of great ukes out there. I'd love to own one of each, but that's obviously not possible. It's always fun to look and think about them though.

(The Ukulele Smackdown will continue soon....)


Anonymous said...

It is not really at "grail" at $750.00, but I really like the LoPrinzi Nova model with the funky sound ports. It looks modern, but has the stain has the look of an aged Martin. Ukester Brown

GX9901 said...

I don't think a grail uke needs to cost a lot of money. It's different for each person. If it's something you want dearly, than it qualifies as a grail in my book, regardless of cost.

David said...

I'd like to get a compass rose uke, a moore bettah uke, or a pete howlett uke. Koa slotted headstock tenor cutaways, preferably

-Vahn from the UU

Brad said...

Chuck Moore's 'ukuleles have gotten phenomenally better over the years. At a recent fest James Hill told Chuck that one of his works was the nicest 'ukulele he's ever played. And yes the workmanship and "bling" is flawless.

crazyDan said...

I have a MB concert and love the thing. Not all blinged out just his 'Not so Basic" model.

As for the Koaloha 6 string. I played a Black Label Sprucetop a while back and want to take it home with me, I didn't due to $$. I didn't really like the 6 strings I played before but this thing was amazing. I want to try out one of the 'regular' Koaloha 6 strings sometime.

harpbeets said...

I don't know how it happened but I ended up with a few Grail ukes myself: Roy Smeck Vita Uke, Gibson tenor, Martin tiple, Compass Rose tenor, LoPrinzi Nova. A Grail need not be uber-expensive but it ought to be somewhat rare. I have a few odd balls too, a baritone octave uke, a fretless concert and a 3 string custom built pickin' stick tuned GCG. My Grail: a Fender Mandocaster. Actually, I have the Risa version, and it's a killer, but not a rarety.

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: