Category Archives: Ukulele Reviews

Charlie Fukuba’s I’iwi Ukuleles

Here’s a look at two new ukes from custom builder Charlie Fukuba. Charlie is a full time custom builder in Makakilo and he makes some of the nicest ukes you will ever find. These two really blew me away. Both are just incredible in all ways. The sound and feel of this tenor is right there with the absolute best I’ve ever played. Seriously amazing instrument. The concert too! The sound is so impressive on both of them I just want to take them home! This job is rough. Take a look and listen here, and come up to the store and try yourself. They are some of the finest I’ve ever played.

These will soon be available at The Ukulele Site.

Moore Bettah Rope Bound Koa Tenor Ukulele

Chuck Moore makes phenomenal ukes. Every time we get one, it’s a treat. This is an all koa tenor with rope binding. Real vintage style rope binding. Rope is now commonly used as a purfling that goes inside of a binding, but this way is the classic look. Of course Chuck takes classic ideas and makes amazing art. Beyond the visual though, is the feel. The edges of the body are sanded and rounded to be soft against your arm and body as you play, and the action is nice and low. Easy and comfortable. And there’s also other features I could expound upon but I want to mainly highlight the aspect that made me a true fan of Chuck’s creations… The tone!

Sound sample from the one and only, Corey Fujimoto.

Why do Moore Bettahs sound so great? Well… this artist/craftsman, with a driving work ethic and incredible talent, grew from years of ukulele experimentation and luthier meditation, until he finally reached enlightenment. Now the wood obeys him. The sound waves line up like Waimea Bay during the Eddie Aikau. The magic of nature!
Recording is with stereo Schoeps mics, a Canon 5D mrk2 camera, and this awesome lens, Canon 200mm f/2L (my friend, Selwyn in Singapore loaned me). This lens is so good! Just like the uke, I can’t imagine any better!
There’s a big difference in this $6,000 lens and my $1,000 one, and the same is true in the ukulele department. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have taken the time to show you this instrument that’s already sold. But showing the best ukes in the world is my favorite part of the job. Another passionate ukulele player from Europe joins the MB Ohana! Much More Moore Bettah most likely to come. (Try saying that 5 times fast!)See more MB Video Blogs Here.

New Models from Pono

Here’s a sneak peak at a few new models that are about to hit our store – The Ukulele Site

The first model here is an AT2. The 2 series have a cedar top and a radius fingerboard, like many of the pro classics, but with the less expensive lineup. These will be around 500 with a case and also comes as an MT2 with mahogany sides and back.

The second model is gonna hit next year mostly. We only have two of them now so they most likely won’t be for sale long but we are getting more in another few months. It is a deluxe Acacia tenor but with a slimmer body depth (under 6mm). This gives it a different tone and slightly different feel, more comfortable for some to hold and play. (less reaching around the body)

The pics and videos were done with a Canon 5D mark 2 (like always) but now with a Canon 200mm f/2L lens that I have courtesy of my friend Selwyn in Singapore. He sponsored us with a really amazing piece of gear. Nothing can match a 3 dimensional first hand beauty as you hold an instrument. But this is the closest I’ve seen. No editing at all. Just like when I bought good mics I could stop editing my audio, so it is with a real piece of glass like this. Enormous mahalos to Selwyn for true Aloha from across the ocean!

12 Tenor String Sets on Kamaka HF-3

New Kamaka Tenor HF-3’s are extremely consistent. They have been making ukes for 98 years now so there is a wide variety of Kamakas out there, no doubt, but new Kamakas are as uniform as you will find. In fact I would say that this model is as good as it gets for a test like this. Now I’ve done many string comparison videos in the past, but I haven’t done any in the last year since I obtained better microphones that don’t color or compress the sound, along with a good AD converter for accurate conversion. Still, there is always some compression when uploading, and you are probably not listening to this on true studio monitors but with descent speakers or headphones and focused listening I think you will hear the individual voicing of the different strings.

There is a lot that is similar but there is also factual audible differences. Don’t get me wrong. This is not meant to enlighten you in the way personally trying these on your tenor can. This is just one person (Corey Fujimoto!) playing a few songs, comparing strings on a video. But you can still use it as a data point and consider this, you can never listen this closely in time when you try these sets yourself. This back to back listening is something we can only do with a recording.

Let’s talk about the strings now. First off Kamaka strings are D’addario Pro Atre J71’s dyed black. The Kamaka sets high G is .0285 instead of .0290. Every other string is exactly the same. Ko’olau Mahana strings are also D’addario Pro Arte but in a slightly thicker gauge. They all sound the same because they are all the same material made by D’addario. Peter D’addario worked with these companies before D’addario was offering ukulele strings. This material is high quality nylon rectified for great intonation and with a warm tone. It can be too “dry” for some, and just right for others. Jake uses these strings. I think he chooses it for the balance, how it handles dynamics, and how they sound when plugged in.



Check out our string selection at our website – The Ukulele Site Strings

Ok, so then we get into the Fluorocarbons. Yes, it’s fishing line, but let me just say, nylon was also used for fishing line for many years and it still is. Fluorocarbon is just a new type of material that doesn’t absorb moisture as much and carries a higher tension per diameter. Even though the different brands of fluorocarbon are all 100% fluorocarbon, the make up and production processes vary and you can hear and feel a difference when trying the various options on the market. The Fremont, Oasis, and Worth are each unique in subtle ways. All of them sound great with Kamaka in my opinion. Then we get to the Aquila, a very unique nylon. The “New Nylgut” is actually not the newest one, which is the “Super Nylgut”. The “New Nylgut” is the most popular set and has been for a few years (I like them considerably more than the new “Super Nylgut”). And the last set, South Coast, is fluorocarbon with a brass wound 3rd.Then we added low G strings. The Kamaka, Oasis, and Aquila are a silver wrapped nylon. The Fremont soloist and the new Southcoast HML-RW low G strings are a brass wrap polished to be smooth, no squeak, and the Worth is a plain fluorocarbon low G. So that’s the low down. Thanks for tuning in to the review! I want to know what you hear and what you liked. Mahalo!

Pepe Romero Series 5 in 3 Wood Options

Today Pepe Romero hand delivered these 5 series 14 fret to body tenors. The 5 series has top of the line woods (as you can see), and usually abalone purfling going around the top, and a super fat abalone rossette, but this koa one is the first of it’s kind and features a unique wood rope purfling and rossette. All 3 that Pepe brought us are truly gorgeous instruments with a powerful sound that I love. Pepe’s 14 fret to body instruments have an extra vibrant tone with great note clarity even when played lightly. So here’s some pictures and videos with the talented Corey Fujimoto sampling these 3 very special instruments that Pepe just brought us. Share any thoughts or questions in the comments below. Aloha!
Click on photos for gallery.

Hive Ukulele Review

Today we have the pleasure of featuring a great luthier that was the ukulele builder at Compass Rose for years. Recently he’s been stunning players with his own line, called Hive. We just received this spruce top, rosewood side and back tenor from him. We’ll take a close look and listen, and you can see what you think. Share your thoughts in the comments below if you’d like.

After Robert-Venn (School of Luthiery) I went to Santa Cruz to work with Rick and he was the best boss ever. I was building the Compass Rose ukuleles and he really let me take my time to do good work. I learned a lot and it was great, but eventually I left to pursue my own line.

As much as Jake enjoyed Santa Cruz, the cost of raising his family there was not conducive with his desire to be an independent luthier. So he ended up going back to his roots in West Virginia and built a beautiful workshop on his property. We are so glad to see the quality and value he is now offering.
Click on photos for gallery.

Jake has a rare and refreshing dedication to excellence along with the experience and ability to execute that vision. Only a few people have such flawless technique, and the design is original, creative and modern with a classical touch, very nice. Add to that the finest tone woods, Waverly tuners, and an included Ameritage case. As far as features that matter most, this ukulele is extremely easy to play with very low action that just refuses to buzz! It’s a 12 fret to body tenor and the sound …. well, I recorded three different sound samples for a variety of styles. Tell us what you think.

This ukulele will get listed at See more Hive soon (hopefully) and see more now at Hive’s Website Aloha and mahalo for checking out The Review. A hui ho!

New from Moore Bettah Ukuleles!

At the far east corner of Hawaii’s largest and oldest island there’s an artist in a solar powered shop making ukuleles that just epitomize what I consider to be great tone. Chuck Moore’s instruments always have their own unique voice. Very balanced, not boomy, but rich and with a sparkling sustain that really captures you in the sweetness of the sound.

This is a dry, unaltered stereo recording.
The strings on both are Southcoast HML-RW but any strings would sound great on these instruments. Oasis, Fremont, and Worth are also excellent choices. These two instruments were also recorded under the exact same circumstance (mic placement, levels etc.) So it should be a fair comparison but remember there is more than just wood that differentiate between these two. What other design features should be factored into this comparison? Soundhole size and placement, and headstock slotted or flat. Did you like one more than the other? What differences do you hear?
Either way most of us should be able to agree that Moore Bettah is not the most sought after custom ukulele for looks alone. It’s the tone! You’re not just paying for art. Both professional and aspiring musicians are inspired by the quality of sound, the feel, and the beauty of Chuck Moore’s instruments. Here is two classic examples that arrived today. Listen on quality speakers or headphones to hear true tone. Click on the pictures to see the whole gallery. (Specs to come soon)
See more MB Video Blogs Here

Maui Ukulele Festival 2014

I have been to dozens of ukulele festivals and it’s always nice to see performers and old friends. But we just got back from Maui’s 9th annual Ukulele Festival and for the first time I decided to do a photoblog on it here. I didn’t record videos because to get a sound worth publishing I would need to get a line from the board along with the acoustic mics and I figured they had enough to worry about and might not want me recording anyway. With that said, if I could have it over I would have asked Roy if I could do just that. Why? Because the music was unreal. It was just packed with great talent and every single performer was fantastic!

Click on images for more pictures and specifications. Mahalo for tuning in. Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below.

Andrew Molina got the crowd pumped up early with his excitement that you can just feel. He was backed by his dad Jay Molina that has been a professional bass player for years and recently has been playing guitar to back up his son. This is the first time Andrew was trying out his Shure wireless instrument system so he was able to walk around the field with no cord to stop him. It sounded great and spiced up the visual aspect of his performance.

Find more about Andrew Molina here-

Next up was an incredibly talented musician that has amazed me quite a few times. In fact every time I see Willie K I am in awe. Elevated and elated. He did this Nina Simone song that just blew me away. After which he backed Oahu’s hip soul singer, Yoza! Yoza is always seen with a guitar but wow, does she sound incredible over an ukulele! Willie too. Those big soulful voices sit over ukulele frequencies in a way that pulls you in even harder than guitar.

Learn More about Yoza here-

Brittni is a really exciting young talent originally from the Big Island and now on Oahu. I think she will really break down some walls in the next few years. Electronica influence+UkE+amazing talent =…well just wait. I love Brittni and hope she lets us promote the next chapter in her development as an artist. I truly believe in it!

Learm more about Brittni here – was up after and she really gave it her all. It was intense. My daughter said it “made her heart beat fast in a good way”. I think of Taimane as a great role model. She’s so genuine and happy and when she takes the stage she really rocks the house.
Learm more about Taimane here-

Next up was a long time friend and incredible talent. Paula Fuga is invigorating and inspiring to hear. She has such a sweet and powerful voice.

Learn more about Paula here-
Unfortunately I had to leave without seeing Raiatea Helm backed by Bryan Tolentino. That would have made it even sweeter. Next time. Thanks for tuning in. Aloha!


Special thanks to Roy and Kathy Sakuma. They have done so much for the ukulele community, and of course this was a free event just like all of their festivals. They have been doing these non profit events to spread aloha and perpetuate the ukulele for over 45 years now. The educational resources and inspiring events they have given have changed our islands and beyond, in a very positive way. Learn more about Roy’s festival and lesson programs here-

The 2014 LFDM Custom Tenors-

Just like musicians, luthiers show their soul in what they create. Luis Feu de Mesquita (LFDM) brings his talent and experience in the classical and flamenco guitar world over to the ukulele with astounding success. He continues to refine his art and I am genuinely in awe of these four instruments. All four are different, but each one is phenomenal.

Why am I excited about this untraditional Canadian luthier? Because these instruments are SO musical! The sound is something you have to experience for yourself. The resonation, dynamic ability, and sustain are all outstanding, as in, they really stand out with their own warm, clear voice.

Other features I love; Very light in weight, the necks have a slightly slender shape but are extremely comfortable, super easy to play for hours, and go ahead and dig in for those dynamics, No Fret Buzz! Add to that beautiful woods and admirable craftsmanship. These are among the best tenor ukuleles ever made.

I want to thank Luis for allowing us to share these inspiring musical instruments with you. Luis, you are the man!

Click on images for more pictures and specifications. Mahalo for tuning in. Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below.

In last years review of LFDM I go over some of the technical aspects that makes the ukes so different. Check out that here-

The Man, The Music, The Mic, & The Ukulele

The Man-
Corey Fujimoto works (for lack of a better word) full time at The Ukulele Site. He plays most of our sound samples for the website ( And he has a solo album you can learn more about here- Corey Fujimoto “Fables”

The Music-
Pachelbel’s Canon is the name commonly given to a canon by the German Baroque composer Johann Pachelbel. It was speculated that the Canon may have been composed for Johann Christoph Bach’s wedding, on 23 October 1694, which Pachelbel attended. Johann Ambrosius Bach, Pachelbel, and other friends and family provided music for the occasion. Johann Christoph Bach, the oldest brother of Johann Sebastian Bach, was a pupil of Pachelbel. Like most other works by Pachelbel and other pre-1700 composers, the Canon remained forgotten for centuries and was rediscovered only in the 20th century.

The Mic-
This was recorded with one microphone made by a Slovakian company called Flea. It’s a direct copy of a Neumann U47 tube mic that hasn’t been in production since 1965. The vintage U47 is a true classic, the preferred choice for Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Johnny Cash, and loads of other amazing vocalist. But it’s also been popular for instrument miking. For instance George Martin used it for the strings on “Elenor Rigby”. Lots of horn players like Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins used it. The U47 was also used in classical recordings like Mercury Records’ ‘Living Presence’ series. Unfortunately, all the original U47’s are over 50 years old and usually over 10 grand in cost. So I was glad to find this company, Flea, making a great copy of the U47. In this recording there is no EQ, compression, or reverb. Just a mono signal in a fairly “dry” room. Nothing fancy, just a good musician playing good music recorded with a good mic,..and that just leaves one more key element that also needs to be good, the instrument.

The Ukulele-
This is a Collings mahogany tenor (UT1) that Corey recently bought to have an ukulele tuned one step up. So he used Fremont soprano strings to allow for the tension caused by tuning higher. The tuning is one step up so A D F# B.

Mahalo for tuning into the Ukulele Review. Share any thoughts below.~

Flea mic copy3

Kala – Michael Aratani Model

Anyone that knew Mike knows that he would love what Kala did for him here with this limited run all solid tenor commemorating his contribution to the ukulele.

Click on the image for more pics.

I like that it’s called the Michael Aratani model and that they used this Paint style picture instead of his caricature MGM persona. It looks like Mike, lovin’ life with an ukulele in hand and excitement in his eye.

He truly celebrated life and his indulgent embrace with severe UAS was inspiring, to say the least. What else is there to do but salute him by acquiring his commemorative model. I’m gonna have to give a free case with this one. And drinks are on the house. To Mike!

This sound sample from Corey Fujimoto is completely “raw”, untouched, uncompressed audio using the most transparent mics that do not color the tone. Use quality speakers or headphones for the most true listening experience. Specs will come to TheUkuleleSite soon!

I asked Corey to play the sound sample licks Mike did. There you go Corey. Now that’s a sound sample!

TODA – Incredible Japanese Builder!

Aloha friends! I have something exciting and fun to share today. We just got in a tenor from a custom luthier in Japan named TODA and it’s AWESOME! This is truly one of the finest ukes I’ve ever played. The tone is a balance of everything you could dream of; open, full, warm, clear, true, and focused with bell like sustain all the way up the neck. The design and craftsmanship are both clever and clean with appointments any luthier would admire. So who is this builder? Well, I don’t exactly know, but I’ll tell you how I found out about him.

I am always on the hunt for the greatest ukes in the world. My brother Noa actually makes some of them, Ko’olau, and I trust his opinion on ukulele quality probably more than anyone. After a trip to Japan he told me that he was most impressed with a builder named TODA. However, he couldn’t visit this builder because he has no public phone, email, website, or any of that. He basically doesn’t want to be bothered. He just wants to build instruments. He only deals with Masa at Ohana Ukulele in Japan. Fortunately, Masa said he would supply us as a distributor when possible. This one here made with sitka spruce and Indian rosewood was just finished for Asada at Ribbee Ukulele in Thailand but he was kind enough to let me buy it when he saw that I wanted to try one. Mahalo to Masa and Asada for letting me show you such a phenomenal instrument.

This is not a flashy build, but is extremely precise inside and out. Every miter joint is perfect. Set and relief of the neck, fretwork, and intonation: perfect. Visually attractive with artistic flow and intelligent design in the body shape, bridge, koa pickguard, abalone dot outlay, and the super cool twisting wave at the top of the headstock. Above all though, the sound on this TODA VT tenor ukulele is just fantastic! Looking inside I see almost like a miniature steel string guitar bracing. X brace with a transverse brace below the asymmetrical bridge patch. Very different from other ukulele builders and the result is impressive. Take a look/ listen and share your thoughts below.

Click on the images for more pics.

This sound sample from Corey Fujimoto is completely “raw”, untouched, uncompressed audio using the most transparent mics that do not color the tone. Use quality speakers or headphones for the most true listening experience.

I have been asking myself all day if I was going to keep this one for myself. If I thought I could not get another I definitely would, but this one will be going up at The Ukulele Site to share with our audience there. I know I will eventually get a Toda though. I consider this uke to be among the best I have ever played.

Ryan Condon Carves a New Sound in Ukulele

This gorgeous creation comes to us courtesy of Ryan Condon, 2nd half of Ko’olau’s custom shop led by Noa Bonk. Ryan has built some arch top guitars and a few years ago started hand carving Ko’olau tenors. He makes a few each year, all of which are seemingly flawless in build quality and quite the treat to look at. However, the most noteworthy aspect is an extremely unique dynamic attack and throw. I say extremely unique because this is a very different sound from any flat top ukulele. Ryan uses arching height calculations, tap tuning, and other traditional luthier techniques to carve these two big blocks of wood into their maximum musical potential. This oval hole sunburst tenor one can be heard from across the room with a bell like clarity. Up and down the neck it’s like no other ukulele you will find.

If you’ve been around acoustic stringed instruments, you likely know that a hand carved arch top instrument is much more expensive than it’s flat top counter part. This is especially true with the top notch custom makers. The fanciest Collings ukulele comes in around 4 grand while the mandolins top off well over 10 grand. Why is this? First of all, Ryan starts with a block of European spruce and master grade koa thick enough to make 4 regular flat top tenors.

I just like the process of carving, taking a block of wood and removing everything except what is supposed to be there

He book-matches the set at about 18mm and at finish it is between 2-3mm, carving away all but the beautiful curving woods that you see. Not only do you need 4 times the top and back wood but the process takes about 3 times as long as a flat top. What an amazing thing you get though when done just right. Great for “chompy” jazz chords or finger-style work like Corey demonstrates.

Just in case you’re wondering, this is nothing like the Kala archtop. I say that with all due respect. The pricing is drastically different to say the least. This is hand carved by one of the finest builders in the world and it’s acoustics are a whole different experience. For someone that truly loves the ukulele and has a passion for the finest craftsmanship, this has something different from any other ukulele you will find. And it’s not just unique, but a uniquely beautiful sound.

Thanks for tuning in, share your thoughts below. Click on the images for more pics & Specs.

Corey Samples

This tone would shine even more in a “lively” room where it had room to bounce around with sustain and harmonics. But this is for “raw” sound sampling so use good speakers or headphones to truly hear this remarkable hand carved archtop tenor ukulele from Ko’olau, soon to be at The Ukulele Site

Aloha friends. A hui ho!

Ko’olau Redwood/ Milo Strikes Again

Here is a look and listen to a new Ko’olau that our friend Eric ordered from us about 10 months back. He kindly awaited.I snapped a few shots after Noa built the body-

We rarely will have a Ko’olau available. But we do regularly get gorgeous ones like this for customers that ordered on our website or in the store. Though waiting for a custom order can require a painful amount of patience, it’s totally worth the wait! Eric, you’ll be in ukulele heaven soon! :D

Thanks for tuning in, share your thoughts below. Click on the images for more pics & Specs.

Corey Samples

Then Kimo stops by today!

Aloha friends. A hui ho!

Moore Bettah- Artist Series

~Two Very Special Instruments~

We have had the superb privilege of featuring some world class instruments here at The Review. But the ultimate is when we get to feature the custom work of Chuck Moore.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles are made 100% by Chuck Moore in a solar powered work shop in a remote corner of Hawaii’s Big Island. When Chuck first moved to Hawaii he lived on Molokai doing scrimshaw art (scrimshander). In a previous post The Art of Moore we show some of his scrimshaw work. Scrimshaw is carving ivory (tooth or bone sometimes) with a blade. Both of these new ukes feature this type of art with 40,000 year old mastodon ivory etched out to create dimension in the flowers on the spruce top model, and the wahine’s face in the all koa model. Chuck mentions in conversation

The artist series can take me three times as long to build as a basic uke…. I sometimes think about these projects a year or two before I execute them. 

His meditation on art and lutherie has become a gift to the world and it’s our honor to showcase it. We consistently have the best ukes in the world (The Ukulele Site).  But once in a blue moon we get some Moore Bettah Ukuleles from the adroit and audacious Chuck Moore. And they are glorious! For those that can afford one, they are worth every penny (and more). Galleries open for more pics and specs. Enjoy!

Aloha friends. A hui ho! See more MB Video Blogs Here

Fender Revamps Their Ukulele Line

There is no doubt that Fender has been inspiring guitarists for over 60 years. Leo Fender was an innovator that changed the music world forever. But Fender has only been making ukes for 5 years now. We have carried them from the time they were released. They definitely have a “cool factor” with their Tele headstock and Fender logo, and the tone has been on par with it’s price range. But until now I haven’t done an article here showcasing them. Ukes get featured here when I’m really excited about them, impressed by their quality or value. That’s how I’m suddenly feeling about Fender ukes! Why? What changed?

Many of you know that Fender owns other brands, one of them being Gretsch, and that Gretsch released an ukulele line a few years ago as part of their “Roots Series” which models vintage Gretsch instruments along with a few new designs with a similar “vintage” style. If you follow our blog and website you also know that we have loved this new Gretsch line from the moment we played them at NAMM 2012 where we claimed them to be the best new ukulele line. There were dozens of new makers that year but these had great tone, even on the really affordable laminate models. The reason they were great right off the bat was because the Gretsch roots line was headed by Mike Lewis. Mike’s a musician, historian, engineer and one of the key visionaries at Fender for many years.

In the early 90’s he revived their classic tube amps. Richard McDonald, vide president of Fender said “Mike did an incredible job of getting us back on track by taking a step back with the historical element of our legacy and making it right, with the Vibro-King, Blues Deluxe, Blues Deville and so on” . Mike then went to the guitar department at Fender, then Guild (when Fender bought them), and of course Gretsch.

The Gretsch ukulele line has been a big seller for us. Last year our Fender rep asked me why the Gretsch ukes outsell the Fender ones. My reply was something like, “The Gretsch ukes just sound so good. When people play them in the store they love the tone.” Considering the continuing popularity of the ukulele, Fender did the obvious and asked Mike Lewis to revamp their Fender ukulele lineup.

Mike certainly succeeded at this task. We just received a shipment of these newly upgraded models and they sound and play significantly better. They have new bracing patterns, arched backs, thicker fingerboards, thinner headstocks, compensated saddles, and a thinner finish. The tone is more articulate and they project much more. They are now among my favorite affordable ukes and I give them my top recommendation.

Are they more like the Gretsch ukes now since Mike Lewis headed both projects? No they are both very unique. The Gretsch line was patterned after the original Gretsch ukes. The necks are thicker giving a different feel and the look is more of a vintage replica. The Fender’s have slimmer necks along with more modern features like geared tuners on all models, compensated saddles, and Tele headstocks. They are also made in different factories. Fender ukes are made in Indonesia and Gretsch in China. Basically the only thing they share in common is that they both sound good and offer a great value to the ukulele community. Big mahalo to Mike Lewis (pictured below) for his excellent work on both lines.


In the next week I will be redoing the sound samples and photos for all Fender models at our website -TheUkuleleSite-Fender- But here’s a few images and sound samples from new models that just arrived.

Thanks for tuning in, share your thoughts below. Click on the image below for more pics.

Aloha friends. A hui ho!

2014 Photo Contest Winners

Aloha friends. First off, mahalo to everyone that participated in this contest. I apologize for any imperfections involved in the setup. Honestly we just don’t have the time to really run a contest tightly and properly. But we did what we had to to make sure the popular vote was correct. With that said, our winner was Michael Horn. On all of these pictures, if you click on the image, they enlarge and have comments on why they were chosen, or in this case, why they won.

Congratulations to Michael.  The next 10 photos were selected based on their quality, creativity, and composition and will be awarded $100 in their customer account at

There were many that we liked but we only had 10 spots to fill. Thank you for your kind understanding.

Click on the photos to enlarge and see some thoughts on why it was chosen.

Leave comments and questions below. If you are one of the winners maybe you can share with us the equipment you used, if you want. Thanks again and visit our store -The Ukulele Site

Moore Bettah -Skull Island/ Tiki Love

The Birth of Bettah

This is a striking and unique masterpiece from Moore Bettah custom builder Chuck Moore. It’s a depiction of the Island as young Charles experienced it when he first washed up on shore many years ago. The mountains were flowing with lava and foreigners were commonly given to the tiki gods. Luckily, Chuck knew how to make a coconut ukulele which the natives proclaimed as “Moore Bettah!”. And that’s how it began. Or so goes the legend.  But just to clarify, I asked Mr Moore about his exact inspiration. He replies,

I really wished I lived in Hawaii in the 50’s when Donn the Beachcomber had his bar where the International marketplace was. BTW, if it weren’t for this man Waikiki would be full of high rise office buildings…..I’ll bet you didn’t know that there is an official Don the Beachcomber day in Hawaii. He was awarded that by the state of Hawaii for all the work he did in Waikiki. Sadly, much of his legacy is gone today. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

He also sites Arthur Lyman recordings and tiki art and culture as influences for this one of a kind tenor. More than anything, I’m impressed with the sound and the feel. Just absolutely perfect in my opinion. I’d say Chuck Moore is the Mick Jagger of Ukulele builders. The LeBron James of inlay. I could go on but it’s past my bedtime. Summing up the review, this uke rules.

It’s not surprising, but still exciting to see such a great instrument. Chuck seems to be an open faucet of creativity.  It’s a beautiful gift  and our pleasure to show you the finest.  Galleries open for more pics. Enjoy!

Aloha friends. A hui ho!

Southcoast String Set HML-RW

This review is not on an ukulele but a specific string set I have been using. If you play tenor and are open to a low G, or linear tuning, then this one could be the sound you have been looking for. The G and C string are a thin phosphor bronze wrap and the E and A strings are a thin high density fluorocarbon.

Compass Rose Tenor 
The first video on the left shows this Compass Rose with the stock Aquila low G set that they come with. I think Aquila strings work great on some ukes and on others they don’t quite hit the potential tone. It doesn’t really have to do with the quality of the uke but more of the way it was built. The video to the right of that one shows the Southcoast set that we are reviewing here. These videos were shot a day apart. The camera angle and lighting is different but the audio was recorded with the same mic placement and using unedited wave files.
Maui Music Spruce Maple Tenor
So this comparison is less of a fair playing field because the first video is a Hilo high G set and the second of course the Southcoast Low G set that we are reviewing. And Corey is not playing the same thing. And on top of that the mic placement is slightly different. Still, you can still hear the overall tonality being very different. In my opinion the Southcoast set can activate a sweet and “woody” quality in certain instruments like this one.

Compass Rose Tenor w Aquila Low G set

Maui Music Spruce Maple Tenor w/ Hilo Strings High G

Compass Rose Tenor w/ Southcoast HML-RW

Maui Music Spruce Maple Tenor w/ Southcoast HML-RW


All of our sound sample have no reverb, compression, or mastering. Listen on good headphones or speakers to hear true tone. We have these strings in bulk and they are available to be set up on your ukulele. They are not our recommendation for every ukulele so inquire with us if you are not sure. I love them on Pono tenors, Kamaka tenors and many other high quality tenors. In my opinion the SC string set can “open up” the natural voice of certain tenors. When fingerpicking you get a rich yet articulate sound, and when strumming your get a sweet jangle similar almost to a steel string guitar. We can set up your new ukulele with this set but are not currently selling them separately. We plan on doing that eventually, but until then, you can buy these from our friend Dirk who designed the set -HERE. The instruments used for this demo are available at our online store – So what do you hear in these comparisons? Share your thoughts/ questions/ & opinions in the comments below. Aloha~

I recently changed the strings on my Ko’olau-

Maui Music – New for 2014

mm copyPeter Lieberman formed Maui Music when the only “k” brand was Kamaka. On december 27 2000 a fire burned down his factory forcing him to close down. He was soon back to building, but instead of running another crew and factory production, he decided to be a one man custom shop and focus on the highest quality. Both the “pre-fire” Maui Music and Peter’s custom ukes are among the most loved Hawaiian instruments in the world. This nearly came to an end last year. Health problems made him unsure if he would ever build again. Peter tells me,

I almost died last year. When I recovered and came back to work I decided to make the best ukes I had ever made in my life.

And that’s what he did. And he says that is his plan for every year to come. That’s awesome!

Mango Soprano 
Behold mango in all it’s craziness. This Big Island wood is alluring with all kinds of figure to enjoy. On top of that is has a super punchy tone! This must be the first time I have seen a side port on a soprano. Have you guys seen that before?
Concert Long Neck
So this koa beauty has a concert body with the 17″ tenor scale. This gives the feel and tension of a tenor with a more classic uke, smaller body, tone. All of these are framed off with abalone purfling and wood binding. Green wood strips sit in between making the greens in the abalone pop. Super beautiful design!
Spruce Top Maple Tenor
This tenor features a Spruce top and some of the most eye-popping gorgeous maple I have ever seen. This wood is so glorious I had to force myself to stop taking pictures. Notice the details like purfling going around the end jack. Touches like this show the artist and designer that Peter is.
Spruce Top Cocobolo Tenor
Cocobolo is like rosewood but twice as sexy. This tenor has some jaw dropping looks and rich yet articulate tones. A very unique instrument.
2 Koa Tenor Deluxes
So this first koa deluxe has the oval soundhole that Peter introduced 10 years back. We had these in our store from MGM when he still had his ebay store. He was always pimpin’ us out with awesome ukes. Great to see this design back for atleast one of these ukes. I love the look. The next koa deluxe tenor is more to Peter’s 2014 design with the side port, which I think is great. It really gives the player more volume and clarity to their ears. Let’s face it, we play for ourselves, and the side port releases the sound where we can hear it best.
Mango 6 & 8 string Tenors
Of all these amazing instruments the one I personally covet the most is this 6 string. I love the sound of a good 6 string and this might be the best I have ever played. So easy to play and just sings with wonderful tones. Budget model 6 and 8’s can really turn players off. These are easy to play, easy to keep in tune and sound amazing even with Hilo strings.
The only thing I am not crazy about with these instruments is the Hilo strings. IMO they don’t do justice to the potential tone. I reckon I’ll be slowly switching them out for other strings when I get a chance. But that’s just my opinion and an easy thing to change. Overall these ukes from Peter exceeded my expectations and I am grateful to him for letting us show them off.
Peter builds differently than any other custom builder I know. He basically does one batch each year of around 100 ukes. He truly kicks some luthier butt doing this quantity and quality all solo, and even while fighting health problems, taking care of his mother etc..he’s an awesome guy. These are the first of his to introduce the side sound port, even on the soprano! Look and listen to these 2014 Maui Music masterpieces. They will soon be listed at our website but contact me if you see something you want. Each picture opens to a gallery. Enjoy, and let us know if you have any questions.

View available at TheUkuleleSite

All of our sound sample have no reverb, compression, or mastering. Listen on good headphones or speakers to hear true tone.


Mahalo and Aloha from your friends at HMS. Share your thoughts/ questions/ & opinions in the comments below~

Installing an L.R. Baggs 5.0

If you want to install this pickup in your uke, this tutorial could be of crucial help.
Almost every ukulele we sell can get a pickup install included. The L.R. Baggs 5.0. has been a very popular choice for our customers and Joel has installed hundreds. We did this tutorial because we like the 5.0 and want to help you guys install one if you are keen to such DIY projects. Joel shares ways of avoiding future problems. Wires running all over will cause weird overtones at certain notes. The frequency activates a vibration with the electronics that you don’t want. This can be eliminated using some of Joel’s techniques shown here so look and think about what you can take away and also what you can share with us. We are not beyond growth as well so join the site and help us and our visitors as well.

There are a number of steps Joel goes over that are not covered in the official Baggs installation instructions. Hopefully this will be of aid but feel free to add any ways you do it different, any comments on the process showed here, or any questions you have.

Aloha friends. A hui ho!

Blackbird Tenor Ukulele through Roland Guitar Synth Pedal

Sometime last year I was talking with Joe from Blackbird and said, “You guys should make a uke that can get synth access.” His reply was, “we already have”. You just have to get the RMC preamp to convert to 13 pin. So I ordered one from him and it came in last week. A few days ago I got the RMC and have been trying to learn how to use the GR-55 pedal. This kind of stuff is a real toy, for me at least. I think some people would not be into this, making crazy sounds is not why they grab a uke. But for me it’s both fun and gives me an excuse for another uke. I only keep ukes that serve a different purpose from what I already have. And this is different.

So we have another on order with Blackbird. It’s not perfect tracking but I think I can learn the pedal better so it doesn’t stutter and has better balance. Thanks for checking out The Ukulele Review. Share your questions or comments below.

Aloha friends. A hui ho!

Ko’olau CS – Sinker Redwood/ Hawaiian Mahogany

Today we were handed a new tenor from Noa at Ko’olau and it’s quite impressive. The refinement of a Ko’olau really sets them apart.

This is one of the lightest Ko’olau ukes I have played, partly due to the Madagascar rosewood and bridge. This wood is very light yet dense and has become Noa’s favorite for the bridge and fingerboard. Bone bridge pins also have become his top choice. All of us here at HMS are in awe of ukes like this. It’s truly a pleasure to see, play, and hear this level of musicality and master craftsmanship.

This CS tenor has a sinker redwood top that was harvested on the west coast in the 1920’s. The middle of the tree was submerged in water at the time giving the dark stripe in the center of the top. The mahogany was grown here on our island and this is what Ko’olau has to say about it-

The other Mahogany we use is Swietenia Mahogani, or commonly named West Indian Mahogany, Spanish Mahogany, or Cuban Mahogany. This type, the West Indian Mahogany is more expensive due to being considered commercially extinct, however over 100 years ago this Mahogany, Swietenia Mahogani was planted here on Oahu. Although we have relatively few Swietenia Mahogani (or as we call it Hawaiian Mahogany) on Oahu, on occasion we are able to acquire this rarely harvested lumber. Our cost of acquiring this lumber is higher than most Koa. Hawaiian Mahogany is a beautiful red-brown color, but more dense and closed grained than the more common Swietenia Macrophylla. As compared to Swietenia Macrophylla, Hawaiian Mahogany (Mahogani) is slightly heavier and more dense. Weight is 40 lb/ft and specific gravity is .64.

The pattern you see on the back of this ukulele is the beginning of spalting. In the crevice of the trunk where the tree branches start, if water sits long enough it seeps into the wood and causes this effect. Hawaiian mahogany is rare, but this piece is truly one of a kind.

CS Tenor- Sinker Redwood/ Hawaiian Mahogany

Aloha friends. A hui ho!

A Magical Tenor From Mr. Moore

The Lily Pond

This is a new and unique tenor ukulele from the legendary Big Island builder, Chuck Moore. It’s ultra light in weight and has a huge, deep sound not common to koa. Also uncommon is the absolutely perfect setup Chuck does, butter smooth action with no buzz. Isn’t that the norm for high end custom builds? No. Ok, what else…ah, the gorgeous inlay.

Chuck’s talented use of natural materials and scrimshaw ability give his inlay the most amazing dimension. Here he uses 40,000 year old Mastodon ivory to etch out the fairy, the extremely rare South East Asian amboyna burl wood for her hair, and the perfect abalone shell for her butterfly wings. Chuck speaks of his vision for this piece,

This fantasy uke was inspired by the pond we have next to the shop. It’s filled with white and pink lotus blossoms and attracts a lot of dragonflies. I only ever seem to get a fleeting glimpse of the fairies, so that depiction is largely from my imagination.

Truly a one of a kind masterpiece from Chuck Moore. More specs are at the picture gallery. Enjoy another epic Moore Bettah. Share your thoughts below.

Aloha friends. A hui ho!

DeVine Ukulele

Eric Devine- Custom Luthier on Maui

Here is a look/listen at two tenor ukes from Eric DeVine. DeVine uses his own form of Kasha bracing with many deviations from your average ukulele design. He uses amazing woods and has his own ornate purflings and detailed inlays. Here is a look at a Spruce top tenor with extremely curly koa back and sides.

This one has a quilted redwood top and Brazilian rosewood sides and back

Thanks for tuning in, share your thoughts below.

Aloha friends. A hui ho!

New Kala USA Made Banjo Ukes!

A new custom shop in Petaluma California

Kala has taken it to the next level. We know them for their imported ukes, which are an excellent value, but now they have a full blown 100% USA production with boutique level quality. Eventually, we’ll get regular ukes from their California shop, but first in are these two banjo ukes. One is a full maple shell and the other has a koa wrap.The woods are top notch. The hardware is North American sourced solid brass. The head is a USA Remo fiberskyn. So the materials are high quality, but hows it sound?

These are the best sounding banjo ukes we’ve ever had. Super warm vintage tones with tons of volume. Like a velvet glove over an iron fist, this extremely warm sound punches you in the face. It’s awesome! I think the ukulele market is ready for high quality banjo ukes. I wasn’t sure how I would like them but the musicality on these two banjoleles goes well beyond any affordable offering. When it comes to enjoying an instrument, this makes all the difference.

We’ll be posting these soon at our website. The Maple goes for a grand and the Koa for 1200. They include a very nice case you see in the pics.

So what’s your thoughts on these new Banjo ukes and Kalas new venture into custom quality?

Soon for sale at

Learn more about Kala Brand Ukulele

Moore Bettah – Peacock Tenor

Chuck Moore Custom Tenor “Peacock”
We just got this instrument in from our friend on the Big Island, Chuck Moore. In case you guys didn’t already know, I’m a huge fan of Chuck’s Moore Bettah Ukes. So how’s this one stack up? As my buddy Len said, “it’s just ridiculous”. As in, so incredible it’s mind blowing. But primarily because of the sound and feel. The tone inspires and feel is like buttah. Moore Bettah Buttah, easy fo press. And even with low action this tenor has an abundance of sustain and volume. Also noteworthy is how “true” it plays all the way up the fretboard. People love MB’s for their superior musical qualities and this one is exceptional in that regard.
But this one is more than an amazing instrument. It’s also one of a kind art work. Chuck shows stunning inlay skills here. Lets talk about the inlay.
Composition stone, gold mother of pearl, paua abalone, pink mussel shell, and koa all combine to give us this fascinating scene. A gorgeous “peacock” under the moon. Or maybe I should say handsome, because peacocks are males. Females are “peafowl” and don’t have the fancy feathers. What a gift of nature those feathers are. The color, especially the “eyes” on the tail feathers, is just enthralling to look at. Chuck managed to capture that iridescence of the “eyes” by using abalone, which is semitransparent, over the composition stone which is opaque or solid. So the dimension pops out on the abalone eyes for a dazzling effect. The feather inlay on the fretboard has a vibrance and energy, it’s like a shot of espresso, a jolt of musical inspiration!
Another phenomenal uke from Chuck. These are like rare gems. It brings me great joy to show you such a fine uke. The gallery below also has Specs

So that’s a little review with gallery photo pages and videos are below. Thanks for subscribing here at our free resource center, The Ukulele Review. Share your thoughts and questions below. Gallery 2 has specs~

4 string tenor #1404

Corey first samples this uke with a Worth all plain high G CH set –

Then Aaron demo’s it with a southcoast set, low g –

Other posts featuring Moore Bettah – HERE

Ukulele at NAMM 2014- Part 4

Uke News from NAMM – Part 4

That’s it for now folks. I’ll post more and answer questions in the weeks to come. Thanks for visiting and for your support and friendship. Aloha~ andrew

Learn more about Paul & Gaku here

Ukulele at NAMM 2014- Part 3

Uke News from NAMM – Part 3

Here’s a look at some of the ukes and uke related products at NAMM 2014. This first one shows Nobu and Hitomi from Takumi. On the right is Yusuke Kawakami. He’s an amazing builder located in Canada. last day 560 (5 of 49)
We bought a really cool 8 string concert from Yusuke at the show. It resembles the original taropatch ukes but has some unique features like being 13 frets to the body. It is extremely light in weight and plays like a dream.
last day 560 (10 of 49)
Wait, what cards did Hitomi put on these ones to show they sold? She still had Music Guy Mic cards he gave her!
last day 560 (11 of 49)
MGM! We miss you! Hitomi displayed this picture at their booth.
last day 560 (12 of 49)

Crossrock had some new uke cases that are very affordable. They call them “hybrids” because the are not fully hardshell but offer great protection. I will be posting these at the site when we get them. They also have a few new colors in the 800 series and we’ll be carrying the one in the last picture in the gallery here.

Imua came out with a satin oil finish that will be more affordable than the gloss. They also have a CE like model in concert and next to it is a U-Bass that Shinji made.

So many new Hal Leonard Ukulele Books! Click for gallery

last day 560 (9 of 49)

last day 560 (23 of 49)

I have so many more pictures to show but I’m gonna sleep and do another blog tomorrow. I can’t wait to see the video’s I shot today. So killer! K, aloha friends. Check back soon. I’ll leave you with some videos from a few days ago showing new models from Kanile’a and Gretsch.

Ukulele at NAMM 2014 -Part 2

corey in Pono booth (1 of 1)

Uke News from NAMM – Part 2

In part 1 covering ukulele at NAMM 2014 seen HERE we showed some pics from our favorite ukulele makers. This year we attempted sound samples in spite of the chaotic atmosphere that goes on here. To do this I used a Sound Devices 722 field recorder and a pair of Schoeps CMC6 mics to capture sound as uncompressed and “true” as possible. There is no alteration or enhancement to the audio so listen on good speakers or headphones if you really want to hear the tone.

So first off we will show you the new Pono Pro Classic RS and RC, soprano and concert with a spruce top and rosewood sides and back. They join the line as well as the mahogany PC models you see below. (Noa Bonk in the background)

New Pono PC (1 of 1)

These feature European spruce, Indonesian rosewood, and Hawaiian koa binding. They come with the Gotoh UPT tuners and an arched top wood case like all Pro Classics. Next we see a Tahitian inspired 8 string from the Pono TE line. This has a hole in the back, not front, much like a Tahitian ukulele but it is strung and tuned like a normal 8 string.

New Pono TE8 (1 of 1)

Finishing off at the Ko’olau booth Corey samples a CS model Ko’olau, Spruce/Rosewood.

Next we are over at the Cordoba Booth where Corey samples the new 22 series from them. Solid spruce top ukes and very affordable. The videos show the soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. Below Zach plays the new 32TCE. Tenor Spruce/Rosewood with a cutaway and pickup. They had low G’s on the 30 series which I thought was pretty cool.

Next we went to the Kala Booth and got samples of a few new ukes. The first is a solid spruce top long neck soprano, SSLNG, followed by a travel concert with spalted maple sides and back and a cutaway. Then we got a quick bite from the new USA made banjo ukes. I am hoping to catch a video with Mike Upton tomorrow on their new USA made acoustic basses. They’re super nice!

At lunch I saw Pepe Romero Jr. in the hotel lobby next to the convention center. He had a back with four ukes and a mini classical in hand. So I grabbed Corey to show you the new little baby Romero. Newborn, the “XS Soprano”. A similar concept to the Tiny Tenor, it has the scale of a soprano but with the body length and portability of a sopranino, and it was strung with a low G.

RC family (1 of 1)

What I didn’t know was that Pepe had planned on meeting up with Daniel Ho. What a treat!

So… lots more to show but the upload speed here is painfully slow so I will be back soon with more from NAMM 2014.

Ukulele at NAMM 2014- Part 1

Uke News from NAMM – Day 1

This year I’ll be posting a blog each day of the NAMM, or at least that’s my plan. Corey arrives tonight and we have scheduled recording with many of the manufacturers before the show starts to give high quality sound samples. Today I will just share photos and reviews of the ukes that caught my eye and filling you in on new models from your favorite makers. The photos below open up to a gallery with more pictures so click on them to scroll through. Please feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below and I will try to answer them as the show goes on. Aloha, enjoy~

First I have to mention my family’s booth, Ko’olau/Pono. The first pic shows the new TE models which Ko’olau is showing in eight new options. These have already been reviewed here but I can’t say enough about how pleased I am with the line. The price is great and quality is excellent. They’re just a joy to play. We’ll be talking about other new Pono models as the show goes on. Next you’ll see some of the Ko’olau models displayed. I am proud of the quality and tone currently coming from my brothers customs. Noa is truly at the top of his game. I added a few videos in the gallery. Check it out~

Next I made my way over to the Takumi booth, my friends Nobu and Hitomi. They carry Kiwaya, Loprinzi, and more. I was surprised to see a new brand under their own name, Takumi. They had four concerts and I absolutely loved them! Super light in weight, very clean construction, and a very “open” voicing not always heard from Japanese makers. Master builder Kawakami helped them in design and setup, a builder that is making some customs for us. As far as the Takumi line, we will be bringing a few home with us for sure. I am truly impressed.

From there I was off to Kamaka. Casey didn’t finish any customs for the show like he has for the past few years, but said he would be letting me know soon… stay tuned. At this show, the most newsworthy info from Kamaka was that they will soon be offering slotted headstocks like the one seen here. Nice!

After Kamaka I went upstairs to see Kala. Kala has a few new lines including an all solid spruce/ ovangkol with Padauk binding and rosette. But the coolest thing I saw there was the new USA made Banjo ukes. We have one of each model coming to us and will be bringing you a sound sample and more details soon. These are the finest banjo ukes I have ever played. Really warm and musical. Not common adjectives used for banjolele.

Right Next to Kala was the Cordoba booth. Cordoba came out with the new 22 series that will bridge the gap between their 20 and 30 series very nicely. These have a solid spruce top, laminate rosewood sides and back, top binding and a tasteful rope purfling. They have a clean gloss finish and will be under $300. We already have these coming in all sizes and models. Also, you can see the 30 series now being offered with a graceful venetian cutaway and pickup.

Next up was the Luna booth. Luna has some cool new models. Two all solid mahogany concert that will go for $199 are called “Pearl” and “Coral”. They also had a concert model called “Heartsong”. It has a spruce top, and with a B-band active pickup and USB connection is still gonna sell for only $199. Wow, although I couldn’t find any USB connection and the Luna salesman couldn’t either, but that’s what the tag and catalog said. I have a meeting with one of their product developers tomorrow so perhaps I will see then. They were also showing four new “UBass” models, but they were strung with thin metal flatwounds and tuned up a whole octave, EADG. I thought it was ridiculous, but maybe somebody won’t. I won’t be ordering them but these should be available for 3-400. A few other new designs from Luna but these were the most unique new offerings.

From there I went back downstairs to find one of my favorite makers, Asturias, from the island of Kyushu in Japan. For the first year he showed a tenor. I bought the Koa slothead tenor for the store along with one of the concert cutaways with cedar and brazilian rosewood. These ukes are among the best. Look out for these to show up at The Ukulele Site when I get back.

Now most of you know that our island has some of the world’s finest ukulele makers, and one of our store’s best sellers is Kanile’a ukulele, building from the windward side with the most gorgeous koa and super sweet tone. We bought many of the ukes displayed at this show, but I want to feature the new models that they just released. The first is a super tenor with a 19″ scale, two inches longer than a normal tenor. This model is the SEST19. It has their new UV satin that is now seen as SILK on their labels. Also with this finish is a premium tenor and concert with ebony bridge fingerboard and faceplate. These models are SET and SEC. The other model from their Hawaiian production is the “Diamond” tenor. It has premium koa, a zebra wood rosette, top and back binding, and a “snake head” thin slotted headstock with Gotoh stealth tuners. Oh and of course the Diamond inlay on the fretboard. There is also a few new models in the Islander line and we’ll be bringing you more news on those soon.

Then I realized I had an appointment with Gretsch and Fender and made a mad dash to the third floor. Some sad news from Gretsch, no more deluxe series. They said we were the only ones selling it. But, they are replacing it with an all solid koa concert and tenor that will go for $399 and $429. They also came out with a long neck soprano that will go for $109 and a long neck concert with Fishman pickup that will be $179. (Not available without pickup?) They also have a revised banjo uke I liked and did the Guilele with a solid top, cutaway and pickup (still under $300!). The thing with all of these Gretsch models; they sound good and they are at an amazing price point. I am a huge fan. Still, no more 9121? Why Gretsch, why?! Oh well. Anyway, on to Fender, a new Tele style ’52 and a T-Bucket model that looks really cool. Corey and I have VIP badges to go up there tomorrow and do sound samples before people come in and make noise. Stay tuned for that and more tomorrow.

I’ll leave you with some pics of ukes that I thought looked really cool, but just didn’t want to make music. At least for me. But anyway, they look cool. What’dya think?

Any other ukes you want me to feature? Still three more days of madness so stay tuned to the review. Aloha, a hui ho~

Pono TE & BE – the 2014 NAMM Pre Show

Pono’s TE Options – Choose your Wood, Finish & Pickup -

In the summer of last year we showed you this new model that would be coming from Pono. It is a solid chambered body tenor and we compared it with other similiar options on the market at this article- Pono Solid Body-Review & Compare. That one was an Acacia model with a Misi active pickup system. Then a few weeks back we showed you a Cedar top model with a passive Pono pickup here- New From Pono- TG & TE -. So now we will give you a look at a few other options that will be showing at the 2014 NAMM. This first one is quite the seductress, a curly mango tenor with a gloss finish and Misi pickup.

Next is a look at the Piano Black Gloss finish which comes with a spruce top and chambered mahogany body. A sharp look and the spruce top really adds an acoustic quality we love. The gallery next to it shows the first of the new baritone series for these chambered electrics. We put a passive pickup in this one and as Corey notes in the video, it has a natural warmth that makes baritone so nice. It also shows the satin finish option that will be available in the all acacia and cedar top as well. Any of them will have the two pickup option and all of them will come with a perfect fitting hardshell case. So that’s a sneak peek of what is soon to come. I am keeping the details brief, but feel free to ask questions below.

Gloss Curly Mango Top, Faceplate, & Chambered Mango Body- Satin Mahogany Neck – Custom TE Misi Active Pickup -Sound sample with Ko’olau Mahana w/3 high G set-

Gloss Spruce Top, Macassar Ebony Faceplate, & Chambered Mahogany Body & Neck – Custom TE Misi Active Pickup. Sound sample with Ko’olau Mahana w/3& 4 low G set-

Satin Acacia Top & Chambered Acacia Body- Rosewood Faceplate & Mahogany Neck – Pono Passive Pickup. Sound sample with Ko’olau Mahana w/3 & 4  baritone set-

All TE & BE models will include a deluxe arched top hardshell case and all feature a radius fretboard and come equipped with a light weight titanium dual action truss rod.
To learn more about Pono Ukulele visit this article – Keep it Pono!

So…what do you think of the new Pono Models, any questions?  We are still evolving the line and really appreciate your thoughts, ideas, and opinions. I am especially proud of this new line along with the new mango models. I truly believe these new instruments will inspire the ukulele community and musicians around the world . Email me to get in line for any specific model or for specific requests. – [email protected]

Happy new years & Aloha from your friends at HMS –

Blackbird’s “Clara”

Clara- The 1st Plant Fiber based Composite Concert Ukulele

Blackbird is a small group of luthiers in San Francisco doing some really cool things with alternative resources. For a few years now we have carried the carbon fiber tenors when available. They are different from traditional ukes because they are not made of wood but of carbon fiber. This makes them impervious to the environmental dangers wood instruments face and the geniuses over at Blackbird managed to design comfort and tone to satisfy a musician’s need. So we were excited to recently get another tenor along with a new carbon fiber tenor we will show you soon. However, what really knocked our socks off was this new concert they call “Clara”. Joe from Blackbird claimed that this new concert would be “a game changing instrument that delivers previously unobtainable vintage tone with exceptionable durability”. Sound like a lot of marketing fluff? Well, we give it to you straight here at the review. This is one of the finest sounding concerts to come to The Ukulele Site.

I was on the the Big Island when it came in and Corey texted me a picture and his opinion,

this uke is badass

When I got back I pulled it out and played it for at least an hour. Considered keeping it. Texted Corey back,

concert blackbird is mind blowing

Corey responds

dude, I can’t get over the tone of it…it’s so warm

So there’s some personal dialog. I’ll go over some more details and Corey will share a sound sample. Dry, unaltered audio from this light weight tone monster.


Looks like coconut husk and sounds like vintage mahogany. Here’s what Blackbird says about it,

Ekoa is made up of fiber reinforcement fabric in resin matrix, but one that is worker and planet-friendly. The plant-based fabrics and biobased resins have a beautiful designer material quality, which does not always require finishing along with distinct performance advantages over other composites. The Clara ukulele, is the debut application of Ekoa which is suitable for numerous other applications from sports equipment to furniture.

All I can say is congratulations to Joe and the team at Blackbird. I think this is a special instrument and am sure it will be a huge success.

Pono Mango Line

Coming soon!

Here’s a sneak peek at one of the new lines that Pono will unveil at the 2014 NAMM music trade show. This is a new line of solid mango ukes and we think you’re gonna love the tone and feel! Stay tuned for more info on this and more from Pono Ukulele.

Tenor- Satin Finish

Concert Gloss Finish-

New From Pono- TG & TE -

- TG Model -

Tenor guitars have been manufactured for many years. Gibson, Martin, and others began production in the early 1900’s.
They were almost always steel string guitars, and thus X-braced to structurally handle the extreme tension of steel strings
However Pono Guitars has decided to try something different. They already make a Ko’olau Tenor Guitar with the traditional steel strings, which is fun to play and sounds great but when strung up with nylon strings, as has been tried with many other brands of Tenor Guitar, tone and volume are lost. So if a Tenor Guitar has classical style nylon strings, then it needs to be designed and braced differently.

This particular model in the TG Series is the TG-10D. For Pono Guitars the number 10 designates Acacia (20 is Mahogany, 30 is Rosewood). The D as with all Pono ‘ukuleles is Delux, which includes an ebony fingerboard and bridge, and gloss finish.

- TE Models -

Slowly coming in is various TE models. These are the tenor electric chambered solid bodies based on the Ko’olau  CE. They will be available in various pickup and wood options. Featured here is the Cedar Top Deluxe with the most affordable pickup option, Pono’s passive system. When wired into this uke I gotta say, the Pono pickup sounds really good!

The TG Series was not the original name designation. Simply put, it’s a “big” baritone ‘ukulele. But according to tradition and the history of the ‘ukulele, anything this big is not really an ‘ukulele. Of course Ko’olau and Pono could have called the new TG Series whatever they want. In fact the first name was going to be “Ha’oi Nui” which in Hawaiian is defined as “big baritone.”
But after some thought and realistically portraying the TG series for what it is, TG for Tenor Guitar was good enough (not very creative, but gets the point across)
Another dilemma (if you want to call it a dilemma) was getting around the fact that almost all “tenor” guitars are and have been made and designed for steel strings. So maybe it should be TGN or TGC for classical. But instead a Pono TG Tenor Guitar simply comes with a disclaimer “do not use steel strings”.