Saturday, October 9, 2010

Evolution of the Glyph mezzo soprano

I mentioned in the last post that the Glyph mezzo soprano started out way different from what it ended up looking like. Here I will go through how it kind of evolved from the original design I had in mind to the final completed ukulele.

This picture below is the first draft of the Glyph design:

As you can see, it obviously looked nothing like the completed ukulele. Well, I guess the tail graft and the headstock inlay made it to the final build. When I drew up that picture, it was April of 2007, and I was young and stupid. Ok, so I was just stupid. But anyway, at the time I played the ukulele for all of 3 months and really didn't know a heck of a lot about custom ukes. I didn't really know what I would come to prefer in custom ukes, but the sketch was based on what appealed to me at the time. I wanted a curly koa uke, and I liked rope style bindings. Because I barely knew how to play the ukulele, I didn't pay much attention about how many frets or where it joined at the body. I had just found Uke Cast and thought the smiling ukulele logo was kind of cool so I asked for a "smiley" bridge. The crown shaped headstock was a play off my last name which means King in Chinese. Had I kept this design, I would have at least specified 18 frets with the neck joined at the 14th fret, and probably would have changed the position markers by either removing them or changed the shape. The original shield shaped position markers were "inspired" by the NFL logo, and let's just say it really doesn't quite fit the design.

Sometime in either 2008 or 2009 (I forgot when), I decided to go a completely different direction with this custom order and sent Dave this sketch:

As you can see, this sketch bears much more resemblance to the actual ukulele. By that time, I had became a huge Jake Shimabukuro fan (I don't think I knew about him when I first ordered the Glyph). Because it was still so early in the process, I could have changed the order to a concert or tenor sized ukulele. But since I already had a couple of custom ukuleles at that point and several concerts and tenors, I thought it would better compliment my stash of ukes if I kept it at the mezzo soprano size. I also did not want to increase the cost more than necessary. Anyway, I got the idea to make this a homage to Jake's ukulele, and made the above sketch. It was not meant to be an exact copy and I didn't particularly study Jake's ukulele that closely. I did notice some red pin-striping around the abalone purfling & rosette so I specified that. And instead of Jake's initials on the fretboard, I obviously went with my own initials. I sent the sketch to Dave and he confirmed that the design is doable. I know some luthiers do not do slotted headstocks for ukes smaller than the concert size, but Dave had already made a few mezzos with slotted headstocks so I knew it was fine with him.

Here is the side-by-side shot of the two sketches:

Quite different if I say so myself. This is actually the only custom ukulele order that I've drastically changed the design on. But then again, this is the only one that had a 3+ year leadtime.

In April of 2009 (as you can see on the picture), I sent Dave a small update:

That was around the time my William King LS-concert was delivered. While I was extremely happy with that ukulele, as mentioned in the last post, there was a detail that got missed when the uke was finished. It was a wave shaped fretboard end. Disappointed with that missing detail, I decided to add it onto the Glyph. In addition to that, I asked Dave to make the bridge into a wave shape similar to the fretboard end. A third detail change had to do with the top of the slots on the headstock. I had noticed that Jake's uke had these slanted slot ends on both the top and bottom of the slots, and decided to add this detail to the top of the slot on my uke. I don't remember why I didn't ask for both the top and bottom of the slot to be slanted, but I'm guessing I was concerned that doing the bottom of the slot would be too difficult or something. I wasn't sure if Dave would be on board with the wave shaped bridge, but I figure it would be fine since he was OK with the smiley bridge from the original design. Dave confirmed that all three changes were fine, so I was happy.

Sometime after that, I asked about using Gilbert tuners in place of the Waverly tuners Dave normally use on his slotted headstocks. I had ordered these tuners with the King LS-concert and they really blew me away. These tuners offered superior feel compared to anything else I've used. Of course, the fact that Jake had these on his uke drove the decision to have them on that King LS-Concert in the first place, but their performance really won me over. Dave checked on sourcing these tuners and agreed to add them to my mezzo soprano. If I'm not mistaken, I believe I ordered the first King and first Glyph with Gilbert tuners. No, it does not make me special, but just thought I'd mention it.

That was basically the end of my modifications on this ukulele. The final product more or less turned out as I've specified, minus a couple of minor things I mentioned in the last pose. Here's a picture of the ukulele next to that first sketch:

I'd say it turned out great. And that fretboard inlay designed by Dave was light years better than anything I could have come up with.

So there's a glimpse into how my Glyph mezzo soprano ended up looking like it does today. I hope you've enjoyed this little documentary.


Anonymous said...

No offense George but my 9 year old could draw a better uke shape than you! : )

Glad too see you back on the blog. I love reading it and getting your insight on everything.

Did you tab out Hula Girl?

Ronnie Aloha

GX9901 said...

Hey Ronnie,

Yeah, those sketches aren't the most precise. My 5 year old could probably draw a better one too. :P

I didn't tab out Hula girl. I'm generally too lazy to tab out stuff. So I guess if I forget how to play it, I'll have to watch some videos to re-learn it.

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: