Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bohemian Rhapsody on the Mya-Moe

I've been playing Bohemian a lot in the last month or so, in hopes of being able to play it better than I did when I posted a video of this song a couple of months ago. I definitely feel like I've improved (I mean, I better be after practicing for two months right?), but it's still a work in progress. Then again, I'm not sure I can play any song cleanly, especially in front of a camera. With the arrival of my Mya-Moe concert, I thought I'd post a couple of videos up with it, and Bohemian Rhapsody is the first one.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Early Bird

In my last post, I said that Mya-Moe has completed my myrtle concert ukulele ahead of schedule. Well, it appears that UPS also got into the early bird act because two days ago while checking the tracking number, UPS indicated that the package will be delivered ahead of schedule, on 4/26 instead of the original 4/27 date. Lo and behold, the ukulele showed up today! I'm not sure if I'll experience this kind of ahead-of-the-schedule-ness for the rest of my life, but I'll take it this time! I must say the Mya-Moe experience has been really exceptional. Their awesome uke tracker kept me up to date on the progress of the uke. The build was complete ahead of schedule. And they even upgraded my case to a deluxe case (the Uke Crazy case seen in the picture above). Before the build, Char even checked with me to see if I was interested in another piece of curly myrtle she found in her shop. She could have easily just built the ukulele using the piece of myrtle I've already chosen, instead of making the effort to check with me on the new piece of wood. I really think they provide exceptional service, which is consistent with everything I heard about them before deciding to place an order.

Since I've only had this ukulele with me for half a day, I can only share some early impressions. The first impression is very good. I opened the case and saw a very well made ukulele with some seriously curly myrtle. I love curly wood and this makes me happy! (hey! get yer head out of the gutter!) The Mya Moe headstock, which I have to admit wasn't exactly my cup of tea from all the pictures I've seen, looks really good in person. The headstock is well executed and there is a thin layer of ebony between the veneer and the mahogany, giving it a nice higher-end look. I have not gone through the ukulele with a fine-tooth comb (and probably won't. I generally don't do that.), but there are no noticeable cosmetic issues on the exterior and the interior looks clean. I ordered a K&K pickup and it is neatly installed and wires are affixed to the side of the ukulele so it doesn't dangle around. The neck is of a one-piece construction, which is something I personally really like. I just really like it when a ukulele doesn't have a stacked heel and multi-piece headstock construction. Gimme a neck carved out of one piece of wood! Dammit! (LOL!) Anyway, going onto the fretboard, it appears to have a bigger radius than any ukulele I currently own. But as with my other radiused fretboards, it isn't something that's consciously noticeable, so the radius isn't too large and it feels comfortable. Another detail that I like a lot is the small angle carved into the outer edges of the fretboard. It is meant to prevent the fret ends from ever sticking out far enough to cause discomfort. It's a nice little touch, and hopefully the fretboard is well seasoned so it won't shrink in the dry winter here to cause any fret-end sticking out issues. This ukulele feels relatively heavy, at least compared to my feather light Collings concert. I was kind of expecting it to be super light like the Collings, but the weight isn't anything that bothers me. After all, it is still lighter than my heavy duty William King ebony concert that remains my favorite ukulele.

So the Mya Moe is pretty much a homerun in terms of looks and workmanship. As for the sound and playing feel, the first impression is not quite as rosy. This ukulele certainly sounds good, and when picked, it seems to be in the same level as my other custom concert ukes. However, when strumming it, I felt that it seemed a bit tight. I don't recall ever thinking that playing any of my other custom built concerts or the Collings. Played side by side with the William King concert and the Collings concert, those two did feel more open when strummed. Of course, Mya Moe did send a note saying that the ukulele should open up with consistent play over several months, so hopefully this slight tightness in the sound would go away in time. As is, it's still a very nice sounding instrument, but playing it next to my other ukes, I think it would do well if it opened up a bit in the future.

The ukulele came with about average height setup. I didn't measure it, but it feels that way to me. Given that it's a concert scale, I didn't need it to be super low because the string tension is relatively low. It is easy to play and the vibrations while playing it feels good, as it should on a luthier built instrument.

Overall, my first impression is very positive for this ukulele. The only improvement I would like to see is for the strummed sound to be more open, and I'm hopeful that it will open up a little bit in time. If that happens, this would truly be a great ukulele. I will try to record a video or two with it soon. Until then, here are a few more pics of the new addition to my stash 'o ukes:

The back of the myrtle concert. I like it!

The sides have matching curls.

Hanging out with a couple of other concert ukes with one-piece necks.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mya-Moe is completed!

How about that! A custom ukulele actually completed ahead of schedule! Woohoo! Ok, so I don't actually consider Mya-Moes to be true customs, since you don't get to design every aspect of the ukulele's look and you can't really get custom inlays on it, but they are still bespoke instruments made by two people only, so they can't be considered a factory instrument either. Either way, my Mya-Moe concert is now completed. The original promise date was April 27th, and they've beaten that by almost a week. If you look at the uke tracker for my uke, it appears that they even took a vacation between April 6th and April 19th, so it could have been even earlier. Anyway you slice it, I'm impressed by how accurate they were on their promise date.

And another word about their Uke Tracker. It has to be the coolest thing any ukulele luthier has ever put on their website. It's so nice to be able to punch in your ukulele number and follow the progress as it builds. There's no guessing on where they're at with your instrument. No need to email for updates. And it's just plain cool to have this level of traceability for a bespoke instrument.

Anyway, it's supposed to be shipped out today, so I should be seeing it sometime next week. Judging from the pictures, I'm very pleased with how it turned out. I love tight reflective curls and this is pretty much what I envisioned when I went with this piece of Myrtle. I trust that the uke will sound and play wonderfully, but I'm still very anxious to try it out. This will be the least adorned custom ukulele I've ever ordered, with no bindings or even position dots on the fretboard face, but I was going for a basic look with this one, and I like what I see on the pictures.

Since I have not learned any new songs since posting my rather broken Bohemian Rhapsody attempt, so maybe I'll try to make a video playing Bohemian Rhapsody (hopefully a better attempt) and perhaps something else that I can play in my sleep (maybe Gently Weeps) as a demo of this ukulele. Anyway, I will probably try to post a couple of videos with this ukulele.

Well, I will have more to post once this uke arrives. Until then, here are the other pictures from the Uke Tracker:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Eddie Vedder's ukulele album

A few weeks ago I noticed on the forums that Eddie Vedder will be coming out with a solo album titled Ukulele Songs. While I can't say that I was especially excited, since these days I'm more into ukulele instrumental music, I was certainly happy to know that Eddie Vedder will release a ukulele-centric album. I've been a Pearl Jam fan since I was in high school (that's like 20 years ago! Damn I'm old!) and the very first song I learned to play on the ukulele was Eddie Vedder's Soon Forget, so this is a album I'll be getting for sure. The release date is May 31st.

In other happenings, it appears that my Mya-Moe custom concert ukulele is ahead of schedule. In this day and age of delays after delays, it's pretty refreshing to see someone meeting a promise date, much less improve upon it. The pictures on the uke tracker is looking really good. The curly Myrtle is looking great and I look forward to checking it out to see if Mya-Moe is as good as advertised.

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: