I think we can all agree that a ukulele is a really small instrument. But If you enjoy traveling and are also obsessed with packing as lightly as possible, even a soprano sized ukulele in its case can require too much room in your luggage. Not to worry though, I have a great solution for you. It’s the RISA Uke-Solid Ukulele from the Uke Surfer Shop in Germany.
The Uke-Solid is a solid wood electric ukulele that is available in soprano, concert and tenor sizes. I was sent the concert size for this review. Here are some specs:
|Size||19.7“ x 4.3“ x 1.2” (50 cm x 11 cm x 3 cm)|
|Scale length||15.2“ (385 mm)|
|Tuning||G-C-E-A or A-D-F#-B|
|Finish||Satin clear coat|
|Neck||Maple, width 1.38“ (35 mm) at zero fret|
|Solid maple body|
|Fingerboard||One-piece (neck, body, fingerboard)|
|Pickup||Passive Shadow Piezo|
|Non-geared, Grover 4W|
|Weight||16 ounces / 450 g|
When the Uke-Solid arrived, the first thing I noticed was the small zippered Black canvas carrying case.
The case is soft, so it isn’t overly protective. But, the Uke-Solid isn’t a typical thin acoustic ukulele, so it doesn’t really need all that much protection – as long as you aren’t going to run over it with a car or something.
The interior of the case has a satin material, that looks really nice. Included is an adjustable woven strap that can be clipped to the plastic loops on the carrying case, or on the strap buttons on the ukulele.
The Uke-Solid is made of one piece of Maple that has a smooth satin finish. The design / shape of this instrument is definitely not traditional.
It looks like an instrument that you’d see someone on stage at a rock concert playing.
The concert sized Uke-Solid has 15 frets, not including the first fret, which is a 0 fret.
The 0 fret is used instead of a nut. The Uke-Solid doesn’t even have a peg head. When I saw this, I was a little worried that my favorite tuner (Intelli IMT-500) wouldn’t be able to clip to the top. My worries were unjustified, it works fine.
Each string is fed through a small hole above the 0 fret…
…and is held in place with a knot.
As you can see, there is a metal bridge, with what appears to be a faux bone saddle. The strings rest against this and then proceed around a grooved metal rod. From there, they are attached to the tuners.
The tuners are friction style. That means that they have no gears and do require some extra effort in order to accurately tune each string.
The only problem that I had with the Uke-Solid has to do with these tuners. I’m just not a big fan of the non-geared style. I know that tradionalists prefer them, and that’s fine… For one thing, friction tuners often feel stiff and hard to turn. But the issue here is, that the tuners are quite close together and it is sometimes difficult to turn the tuner buttons with your fingers.. Luckily, once your strings are stretched and settled, you shouldn’t have to tune them every few minutes.
The action on the Uke-Solid is terrificly low. This instrument is really easy to play and feels like an electric guitar for that fact. Well, that’s not far from the truth, since it is an electric uke 🙂
You might notice from these pictures, that the the neck has a more square than rounded shape. The side edges are rounded though and it is comfortable to hold and play.
Because of its small size and shape, you will most likely want to use a strap with it. There is a strap button located at the bottom of the instrument and…
…another one on the back.
The included strap works well for playing while sitting and standing. For me, I rarely play standing up and have found that I don’t always use the strap. I can hold the instrument and play it without one. Playing the instrument did feel a bit awkward at first, but I was able to quickly adapt.
Because the Uke-Solid doesn’t have a peg head at the top, it seems a bit easier to play than a standard uke. You can get your fretting hand in angles that you’d otherwise be unable to do with a traditionally shaped ukulele.
This isn’t an acoustic instrument, it’s an electric instrument. What does that mean? Well, it doesn’t have its own sound chamber like an acoustic ukulele. That means that without some type of amplification, it can’t be heard very well. That can actually be a good feature though, because you can play the Uke-Solid without an amp, when you want to practice without bothering people. That said, it’s not silent… you can hear yourself play if you’re in a quiet room.
Here are two sound samples where I am playing the same song. One without an amp, and one with an amp. I recorded these samples using a BlueMic Snowflake USB microphone and Garageband on my iMac. In the non-amped sample, the microphone was located about 10 inches away from the strings. In the amped sample, I used a cheapo battery powered mini-amp from Hondo and had the microphone pointed at the amp approximately 5 inches away.
This little uke has good sustain even without amplification. It also has excellent intonation thanks to that 0 fret.
The RISA Uke-Solid makes a terrific travel companion because you can stick it in your main luggage or use it as a carry-on item. You can use it as a practice uke unamped, or you can use it with an amp and wail on it. If you think traveling with an amp defeats the purpose of the small size, you can get a little Vox amPlug headphone amp like I did. 🙂 either way, this unique little ukulele is a keeper!
€ 179,00 EUR (US $227.00) – Soprano
€ 215,00 EUR (US $272.00) – Concert
€ 255,00 EUR (US $323.00) – Tenor