First there was plastic, then LEGO, now there are ukuleles made of flax fiber

Some people may march to the beat of a different drummer, but as a fan of 4 stringed instruments you might strum to the rhythm of a different ukulele. We’ve reviewed ukuleles made of plastic like the Flea and the BugsGear, and we’ve even shown you a ukulele made of LEGO. But how about a ukulele made of flax fiber? The Blackbird Clara ukulele is made of eco-friendly Ekoa composites. It’s the first flax-fiber string instrument on the market. Prices for the Clara concert ukulele start at $1150. Visit the Clara page to learn more.

Alternative for a MONO case

A friend of mine who has recently started playing ukulele saw my post for the MONO cases and sent me this note:

“Last night I realized I have a case that seems to be almost exactly the same thing at a fraction of the cost.  The Lanikai Sidekick Printed Ukulele Hard Bag (http://lanikaiukuleles.com/product/lanikai-sidekick-printed-ukulele-hard-bag/) is available for all four sizes of ukes for $45 for concert or soprano and $49 for tenor or baritone.  All the bags have a rigid shape, 25mm of padding on all sides, three moveable cushions to support the neck and keep the uke in place, and a zippered pocket on the outside for tuners, microfiber cleaning cloths, and the like.  They have a zipper closure with 2 zipper heads, sturdy plastic “briefcase-style handle on the side, a rubber reinforced grab handle at the headstock end, and backpack-style shoulder straps that can be hidden away if you don’t want to use them. The bags are available in a floral or a tribal design.  There’s a similar solid black “hard” bag that is cheaper, but I haven’t seen one to know how they compare.

I have the Tribal design, and I love the bag.  It’s much nicer for carrying my uke to lessons than that hard tweed case, because it has shoulder straps so I still have my hands free to carry my music books and my stupid purse.  ;o)  The only thing I don’t like about the bag is the giant white rubber badge on the front, but I used the scissors on my tiny Swiss Army knife to nip the threads and removed it.  Now it’s perfect!  And I ordered mine off eBay instead of directly from Lanikai, so it was considerably cheaper.”

Thanks Janet!

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Tune your ukulele anywhere with this keychain tuner

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Never misplace your tuner again with the Seiko Chromatic Tuner Keychain. This tuner is small enough to use as your keychain fob, so you can always have it with you – even sitting around a campfire with your favorite travel uke.  It has a range of A0 to C8, and it indicates  “note deviation in 1 cent increments”.  It has a built-in microphone to listen to the notes as you pluck the strings, and to save battery, it will automatically power off after two minutes of inactivity.  The Seiko Chromatic Tuner Keychain is available for $16.50 at Peripole in the US and for $14.99 at L.A. Music in Canada.

The Tofukulele is not made of soy, it’s made of LEGO bricks

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I’ve seen ukuleles made of cigar boxes, cookie tins and gourds, but this the first ukulele that I’ve seen made from LEGO bricks. And the thing is that it’s not just a one of a kind novelty instrument. It’s a real ukulele sold by Elderly Instruments with a patent pending design. They have three of them right now that are made from a colorful assortment of bricks. They are soprano sized and feature a fretless fingerboard, Grover friction pegs & Aquila strings. Would you pay $275 for a ukulele made of LEGO bricks? I guess the answer would depend on how it feels to play it (it looks pretty uncomfortable and challenging to me, especially since it doesn’t have any frets) and even more important, how it sounds. Click through to see a video of the designer playing it.

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It’s a stylus, a pen and a one-stringed guitar. Wait, what?

If your four stringed ukulele has more strings that you can handle, check out the FretPen. It’s a Kickstarter campaign that will start on April 22, for a one-stringed guitar. It interfaces with a smartphone, which by the little info we have so far, might just be iOS devices. The video shows that the pen snaps into a guitar shaped body that has a four button D-pad that allows you to change notes so that you can play actual songs on this thing. No word yet on how much it will cost, so sign up at http://signup.fretpen.com/ to be notified when the project goes live.

BugsGear Aqulele plastic ukulele review

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Plastic ukuleles can be considered to be both retro and modern. They were really popular back in the 1950′s with plastic ukes from Maccaferri and other brands. Over 60 years later, plastic instruments are enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Why would you even want a plastic ukulele? Because it’s an instrument that you won’t have to worry about. You can throw it on the couch, leave it in the back seat of your car, give it to a child to play with, take it camping, etc. All things you might not what to do with a nice solid wood ukulele. I’ve only tried three plastic ukuleles, so I’m not an expert on them by any means. But I do have a real interest in owning one, so when the opportunity was presented, I volunteered to review the new BugsGear Aqulele plastic ukulele from EleUke.

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This uke makes a great egg slicer. Wait, what?

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Here’s one for those uber uke fans out there… It’s an egg slicer in the shape of a ukulele. The Tropical Tunes Slicer is a kitchen gadget shaped just like your favorite instrument – right down to the strings. Well, true uke fans will scratch their heads when they take a close look at this slicer as it has 8 “strings” instead of 4. And the strings are steel instead of nylon. But hey, it’s a cute little gadget that might bring a smile to your face every time you use it. The Tropical Tunes Slicer is priced at $11.99 and is available from ModCloth.

ToneRite claims to bring vintage tone to new ukuleles

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People who play guitars and other stringed wooden instruments often covet vintage instruments because they usually have better tone due to years of vibrations from being played. But no one wants to wait 50 – 100 years for their newer instrument’s sound to “open up” and resonate more. ToneRite is an electronic device that uses special frequencies to vibrate the wood, simulating playing the instrument without actually strumming the strings. There are versions of the ToneRite for the guitar, violin, mandolin, viola, cello, ukulele and double bass. The unit is placed to come into contact with the bridge without touching any of the instrument’s varnish. According to the claims, two to three “treatments” of 72 hours will result in added volume with a fuller and more balanced sound. The price for accelerated aging is $149 for guitars and $199 for ukuleles.

I’m actually waiting for a custom ukulele and think it would be interesting to try a gadget like the ToneRite to see if their claims are real or just imagined.

For more info, visit ToneRite.

Amp it Up: 3 Amazing Electro-Acoustic Ukuleles (guest post)

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If you love the ukulele but you really want to kick out the jams, the answer could be an electro-acoustic uke. An electro-acoustic ukulele allows you to plug into an amp and crank it up to pump out some real volume. You can also play with your amp’s settings to find your unique sound – and you could even use pedals to increase fuzz, reverb and numerous other sonic effects. Read the rest of this entry »

Ohana re-issues vintage models that salute the original “Dias uke”

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Ohana Ukuleles is reissuing 2 ukuleles: the SK-28 and the CK-28. The Ohana SK-28 is a vintage re-issue of the Portuguese model first introduced to Hawaii in 1879 by cabinet-makers Manuel Nunes, Augusto Dias and Jose do Espirito Santos – the first ukulele luthiers. Ohana’s CK-28 is a concert-sized version of the SK-28.

Both models feature a sound hole rosette, rope binding and inlay along the fingerboard and headstock which are closest to the Dias model, although Dias’ original had a figure eight-shaped headstock. During an intensive development process of the two models, Ohana aimed to closely mirror the original binding, inlay embellishments, as well as the size and shape of the original Dias/Nunes/Santos models. Additionally, Ohana used premium all-solid mahogany wood to produce the SK-28 and CK-28 models, as well as the vintage rub-on process on the finish to give the ukuleles both a special vintage look and sound. They are priced at $369 and $469 respectively.