Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Glyph mezzo soprano sound sample (Hula Girl)

NatoUkulele on Youtube is a very talented ukulele player. Not too long ago I saw a video of his arrangement of Jake Shimabukuro's "Hula Girl" and thought it was pretty cool. I really liked the original song, but because it's meant to be played with backing music and percussion, I had not played the song much on my own. NatoUkulele's arrangement of it is a solo version and soon after seeing it I tried to learn it from watching his video. It's a bit of a hand twister in spots and as with most songs I learn I have not been able to consistently play it smoothly. However it's quite short so I could at least play it through reasonably. I took a video of it played with the new Glyph mezzo soprano using an HD video camera so you can see my screw ups more clearly. The Glyph has sounded good to my ears since I've gotten it, and I think the sound from the video is a reasonable representation of its sound.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Alternate tunings

When it comes to the ukulele, I've been pretty much a traditionalist in terms of tuning. I had tried some low-G tuning, but currently every one of my ukes is tuned re-entrant C (GCEA). I guess part of it is because all the songs I know uses re-entrant tuning, but for some reason I've been reluctant to learn more low-G songs.

A couple of days ago someone at Ukulele Underground asked me to try tuning my Koa Works tenor to EAC#F#. He also owns a Koa Works and found this tuning to bring the best out of the ukulele. I figured I'd give it a shot and tuned the Koa Works down to EAC#F#. I liked what I heard but because the Koa Works already has pretty low string tension and very low playing action, the strings felt too loose and slappy. I thought perhaps the 18" scale on my William King tenor would handle this tuning better, and sure enough, it gave about the same sound without the loose strings of the Koa Works tenor.

This tuning made the King tenor sound like a mini-guitar. There is more sustain and more warmth to the sound. I thought it sounded pretty cool. The person who referred this tuning to me said he tries to tune many of his ukuleles (he has more than I do!) with a tuning that maximizes the potential of the particular ukulele. I don't think I know enough about sounds to do something like that, but I think I'll be experimenting with a couple of my ukes for sure. It's pretty cool to hear a different character from ukes you've played for a while.

I just learned the Beatles' Imagine as played by Aldrine Guerrero from Dominator's tabs, and I thought this song worked pretty well with this tuning. So I shot a quick video of it this morning. I only had time for about 2 takes and I was far from perfect (as usual), but maybe this will give you some idea what EAC#F# sounds like. Try it at home today!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Some shots of the Glyph "Mini-Jake"

While taking the comparison shots for the previous post, I took some pictures of the Mini-Jake by itself. I'm really digging this ukulele right now. Besides nailing the looks for me, the ukulele is also sounding great to my ears. It sounds similar to my Koa Works tenor and Kepasa Gypsy Rose in that it has a fairly boomy but crystal clear sound. I guess it's a sound typical of a high-end koa ukulele, which it is. The scale length, being pretty much the same as a concert sized ukulele, is easy for me to play, although the high frets past the 12th is understandably more cramped compared to my King long-scale concert (by far my most played ukulele since its acquisition). But it should be easy to get used to that.

Let's go to some pictures:

This shot shows the monogram of my initials on the fretboard as well as the matte looking sheen the French Polish gives off for the surface finish. You may see a different reflection at the upper bout. That's from the clear pickguard Dave installed for me. I tend to scratch up the upper bout quite a bit, and this being a really thin French polish finish, I figured some protection is a good idea.

The tail graft with custom inlay. At one point I thought about replacing the inlay with a pickup, but decided later to keep the inlay. I have enough other ukes with pickups anyway, and I figure on a smaller ukulele it's better to not have more things inside than necessary.

The slotted headstock with the Gilbert tuners. I'm a huge fan of Gilbert tuners, and had to have it for this uke. But they do require a rather thick headstock. While I love the thick look, I was a little worried that these tuners would be too big for a mezzo soprano. Now that I have the uke in hand, that concern proved to be unfounded. I personally think the headstock look great and well proportioned for the uke.

I thought the slotted headstock might make the weight bias toward the head too much, but the ukulele turned out really well balanced. I feel pretty much no head-heaviness while playing it.

The wrap-around fret markers. I had actually asked Dave to go with just traditional side markers so that the only thing on the fretboard would be the monogram, but I guess he missed that detail. It might be good that he missed it though, because I like these wrap-around markers. I think they're pretty cool.

A shot of the body. I asked for red lines around the purfling and rosette because Jake Shimabukuro's uke had red highlights in those areas. Yes, I'm a fanboy...

The back. I think the koa looks nice on this ukulele.

That's a quick introduction to the Glyph "Mini-Jake". I will try to post some videos with it soon. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Size comparison of Glyph Mezzo Soprano

So exactly how big is a Glyph mezzo soprano? To answer that question, I took a few pictures comparing several different sized ukuleles:

From the left, it is: Kiwaya KTS-7, Glyph mezzo soprano, Collings UC-1, & William King ls-concert. As you can see the body size of the mezzo is somewhere between a standard soprano (Kiwaya) and standard concert (Collings). The scale length is just a little bit shorter than the concert.

Compared to a Kanile'a super soprano (right), the mezzo soprano has a slightly larger body and longer overall length.

I guess technically this ukulele is a long-scale mezzo soprano, since the scale length is lengthened a bit over the regular mezzo soprano because I wanted the neck join at the 14th fret. Dave builds 14-fret ukes with a longer scale length to get the bridge at the sweet spot on the sound board.

So now you know how big a Glyph mezzo soprano is. I'm not sure how useful that information is, but just in case anyone wonders...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Glyph Mezzo Soprano: The unboxing!

So the Glyph Mezzo soprano has arrived! I don't think I've ever ordered something three and a half years in advance, but I guess there's a first for everything. Anyway, the ukulele is sweet and let's go into the unboxing right away. I'll post some initial thoughts at the end of the post.

The shipping box. Get those bubble wraps out of there!

There is the case. The Glyph is so close I can feel it.

Cool little touch. The case has a Glyph logo plate on it.

There it is, the Glyph "Mini-Jake" in all its glory!

Closeup of the body. The koa is nice and curly. Notice the matching wave pattern on the bridge and fretboard-end.

Slotted headstock on this bad boy. It is somewhat modeled after Jake Shimabukuro's slotted headstock, with the same Gilbert tuners. The Chinese character of my last name appears pretty much exactly as the graphic I sent to Dave. Very impressive.

The monogram on the fretboard. Dave Means totally nailed it. I don't think I could have imagined it being any better then what he came up with. Also notice the wrap-around fret markers on this and the last pictures. It's pretty cool but does take a little getting used to.

Another shot of the koa body.

Soundhole label. It looks like this was the 18th Glyph Mezzo Soprano made.

This ukulele is for all intents and purposes, a super-soprano. I compared it with my Kanile'a super soprano and found the body size to be about the same while the scale length is maybe a few millimeters less. The Glyph's total length is longer than the Kanile'a thanks to the slotted headstock. Despite that big headstock, the Glyph feels pretty well balanced to me, with no detectable weight bias toward the headstock. The entire ukulele is pretty light too, which I knew was a hallmark of Dave Means' ukes. It definitely feel nice to hold. I will try to post some pictures of the Glyph with other ukes to give an idea of it's size soon.

It sounds really nice too. The uke came strung with Aquila strings, which I normally do not use and will probably switch to Worths sometime soon. But it still sounds very nice with those string. It has a very resonant body and the notes really ring out. I think the sound is similar to the Kanile'a super soprano but it is tighter and seems more focused. Sound is always hard to describe for me, so I will post a video impression of this uke sometime soon.

Overall, this uke is definitely worth the wait and I think I'll be playing it very often. Is it my favorite? It's too soon to tell, but my guess it will reside at the very top of the rotation with the King long-scale concert in the long run.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Glyph is finished!

Well, almost three and a half years after placing an order for the Glyph ukulele on April 4th, 2007, it is finally completed. Dave has sent me the final set of construction pictures and it is set to ship to me at the end of the week. Woohoo!

When I placed that order in 2007, it was only about 2 months after I played a ukulele for the very first time. I was already well on my way to an out of control UAS wild ride that has seen over 20 (maybe even 30) ukuleles pass through my hands to this day. At the time, I recognized that a custom Glyph was quite a bargain and I figured that by the time the ukulele is complete, I'd be somewhat proficient at playing the instrument to justify a nice uke. Now that I think about it, it was quite a big leap of faith. I mean, I was only 2 months into playing the instrument and ordering the Glyph was basically an instant 3 year commitment to playing it. It turned out that sticking with playing the ukulele was never an issue for me, but I could have easily lost interest during the time between order placement and now. Luckily for me, here we are, I'm still addicted to playing the ukulele, and I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of this "mini-Jake" ukulele!

Here are the final set of construction pics:

Leveling the frets

Checking the frets with precision straightedges of different lengths

Dressing the fret ends

Gluing on the bridge

Front of the ukulele after stringing up (Notice the wave shaped bridge to go with the wave at the end of the fretboard)

Back of the ukulele after stringing up

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: