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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
If you are interested in learning about the history of the ukulele and C.F. Martin Company’s role in it, you might want to check out a new book from Hal Leonard Books. The Martin Ukulele details how the famous Nazareth, PA guitar company started producing ukulele’s back in 1907 though the 4-stringed instrument’s roller coaster ride of popularity in the 20′s and 50′s, the drop to almost obscurity in the 1990′s and now the current rejuvenation in the last several years.
Written by Tom Walsh who is co-founder and board member of the non-profit Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum, this book features many photos including some of the company’s rarest ukuleles and also provides a list of the model numbers of each style of ukulele ever made by the company. It’s a history book and a ukulele reference book all rolled into one 214 page color illustrated volume.
The Martin Ukulele by Tom Walsh is available now for $30.00 from book stores and online through Hal Leonard Books.
MONO Cases offer protective gear for keyboards, acoustic and electric guitars / basses. Now they are introducing a ukulele case. The M80 features their patented headlock protection that suspends the headstock of the uke in the case. This adds extra protection from impact in the event of a drop. The M80 also features an ABS inner shell that offers hardcase protection in a fraction of the weight. The outer case covering is called Sharkskin and provides a waterproof barrier between the outside and the padded inside of the case. A shoulder strap allows you to wear your uke on your back for those quick dashes through the airport or a leisurely walk to your next gig. Protection doesn’t come cheap, MONO’s M80 is priced at $140 and is available in soprano and concert sizes. I’m surprised that they don’t also offer a tenor size, but hopefully they are coming soon.