We hope to continue to show you custom ukes from this remarkable luthier located in Virginia, Tommy Rodriguez is the real deal! Check them out now at your nearest uke shop! (You guys live on the North Shore, right?)
Today we are reviewing three tenor ukes from Luis Feu de Mesquita, aka LFdM, a custom maker from Ontario Canada. Luis’ tenor has become extremely loved in just a short period of time and despite being “untraditional” looking. Based on the Macaferri “Django-style” guitars, these mini versions are called Ukaferri’s, and they aren’t only different on the outside. Luis builds these with the rare “lattice” bracing.
This modern style of bracing is known for strong projection and volume. The Amigos deliver in that department. This style of build allows for a very lively, and ultra thin top. In fact, if you hold a light close enough to the top, you can see the bracing! However, the lattice distribution of support locks the bridge flat. This bracing doesn’t use the normal bridge rotation. Instead, the entire soundboard gets pumped and moves together from the edges. This has been thought to lessen phase cancellation and improve sustain. These certainly give a convincing argument.
As a side note, it’s been a real pleasure getting to know Luis. He’s got the mind of an engineer and the soul of an artist . He drafts, calculates, very methodical, but also asks you to name your custom instrument. Sensible, but still abstract, in a wonderful way. Last week I asked Luis, “Why ukulele?”. His reply…
The ukulele is an instrument I knew from having spent much of my early life in Portugal where my mother was from, the “Braginha” or “Cavaquinho” were familiar to me. The Ukulele for me follows on the same principle as the classic guitars i build, and I wanted to do justice to the instrument”
The tone on these 3 Amigos is well defined, very clear, yet still warm and expressive. Take a listen as Corey Fujimoto samples our first ukes from LFdM!
Different styles of design simply offer us different colours and dynamics. There is no “best”!. Great instruments excel and inspire in different ways. (A collection is optimal):D
All 3 have a 17″ scale and are 38 mm at the nut.
More pics coming..
Please share any thoughts or experiences.
The new Pepe Romero designed 30 series from Cordoba is a flamenco style featherweight 12 fret to body tenor. This uke booms with volume like no other in this price range. It’s now a high gloss finish and cosmetically improved from the first runs. Every 30 series Cordoba has a beautiful character and vibrance. This is to a Pepe Romero what Pono is to Koolau. The affordable version. This is new and just starting to show up on the market but it definitely fills a niche for this style. 12 fret to body with the spanish heel to body design, in this price range, it had the most volume! But is a light build and should not get high tension strings. Aquila or the Nyltech, Labella and a few others. You can inquire on specifics. Limited to store stock presently on this model. And the fourth of the featured is a very new arrival. Some were a bit surprised to see Islander pushing 7 bills. My outlook is different.I don’t know of any jig that makes side bevels assembly line work. This is a lot of hand work and it’s not a useless feature.
Many times after playing I can can see and feel the effects on my forearm. It’s a very practical feature but it’s just not practical in production and that’s why you rarely see it. The slotted headstock, cutaway body, and unique abalone fretboard inlays are nice too but in the end this one makes the cut based on tone. Plenty of bass and a Kanile’a type presence.
Check it out at our site here- Islander FMARM 4-T.
So sound is one aspect and this is one reference in time. 4 mics. Telefunken in the center. Stereo SDC’s are Earthworks/Josephson and a Nuemann gives the room ambiance. I’ve been getting help from the good people at PureSound. They don’t just sell. They educate, specialize and they practice the art. That’s our goal as well at TheUkuleleSite. Thanks for all your support.
Corey Fujimoto gives us an enjoyable listening experience as usual. Really excited for his album still being shaped up. Cellist coming etc…, Share thoughts and opinions below. I’m curious as to what you guys hear.
Kala Ukulele has a few factories in Asia along with a small custom and repair shop at it’s main office in California. The founder and owner, Mike Upton, lived here in Hawaii in the 90′s on the east side of this island, Lanikai, more specifically, which is also the name of a line he developed for Hohner before opting to work for himself. Mike says,
I went out on my own to start Kala Ukulele where I could continue to expand what is possible in the realm of quality, affordable instruments for the Ukulele Enthusiast and Novice alike.
Fair enough. The product, overall, reflects that passion. For over 7 years we have supported the line. They seem to be either a step above or a step ahead.
We are constantly coming up with new ideas and ever-growing innovations in instrument design.
This page highlights some of the models I recommend on a regular basis.
Exotic Mahogany Concerts!
Exotic Mahogany concerts now come in a wide variety of transparent colors that really make the wood grain pop. They run around $120 with our custom setup so it’s a great value, but the reason they are listed here is because they sound fantastic. Take a listen-
Feel free to call or email any questions you have about Kala Brand Ukulele.
Corey Fujimoto- Sound Sampler!
And there are some things I like. So I’ll give you the breakdown.
Out of the box the action was over 4mm at the 12th. That’s high. Especially when there is still a fret buzz on the C string. As I sample a strum I hear the electronics growling from inside. Maybe the 9 volt battery compartment, which adds to an overall heavily built uke. The UkeSB is quite the tank of a tenor and the sound. Not bad. I’d say in the same price range those new Cordoba’s or a Pono would be much more open and musical though.
This next instrument has a European Moon Spruce top and koa sides and back.
We will be posting at our website with more specs and description but wanted to give a sneak peak to our subscribers here at the review. Enjoy!
Almost every week we get instruments from Kanile’a with tremendously beautiful Koa. These last a few days at the most on our website and then disappear . This instrument didn’t make it through the morning so I decided to post it here. Why? Because it’s insanely gorgeous! Radical Koa gives mind altering pleasure!
You all know who Aldrine Guerrero is, right? He’s probably most well known as one of the founders and main teacher/ ukulele instructor at Ukulele Underground. I don’t know Aldrine too well, but what I do know is that he’s an amazing musician. Such incredible energy! His percussive techniques and dynamics will excite and inspire. This was a video I shot at NAMM a few years ago. He’s playing his signature Kanilea plugged into a Fishman amp.
Check out more performance videos from Aldrine at this blog-
Other features of Aldrine’s signature model include ebony appointments with Kailua beach sand inlays, a fat birds-eye maple rosette, a slotted headstock, and Gilbert tuners, which are actually the smoothest tuners I have experienced. Another cool feature is that the body is laquer gloss and the neck is laquer satin. This gives you the best in looks and feel!
Corey sampled it earlier today-
So nothing too newsworthy. Just thought I would share this extraordinary instrument. Behold, the astonishing uke porn star-
On this song, Corey is in the higher register quite a bit with complex harmonies. The longer scale tuned up allows precise intonation to be more attainable. Could this be the tenor’s evolution, natural selection for the bigger and sharper? More stable pitch and space in the higher register will give musicians a different freedom. It can also be a challenge for the increased extension required of your fretting hand. It’s an inexpensive experience if you already have a baritone. If not, even inexpensive baritones often sound really good. And the mid priced ones can be incredible.
So that was a look into Corey’s new Pono’s and upcoming album. This is just a rough track but Kelli Cruz is such a talented engineer. She used the same mic setup as when she recorded Jake S. under direction from Milan. Together Jake and Milan came up with a recording formula that Kelli shared with me. I am working towards a version of this setup as well. But we’re into a whole other blog now. The question at hand; Will the baritone scale tenor rise up as a new trend? Are more string companies gonna make sets? Will Corey have his own signature set? Does his girlfriend know that he bought 2 new instruments while she was in Japan? Find out next time on TheUkuleleReview.com!
Share your experience or post your questions below. A Hui Ho!
Kala Ukulele has continued to grow in a positive and musical direction. Their owner, Mike Upton is a musician. He knows what’s good, but he also keeps an open mind towards the evolution of his company and this instrument. For instance, Kala is the only company that sends us prototypes for feedback on future models. I really respect that. Mike listens to everyone’s opinion and takes it into consideration as he steers the ship, so to speak. A smart man and a smart company. Here’s three great examples of their cutting edge quality and value.
There is a number of new models that will slowly go up at our web store TheUkuleleSite, but these are my three favorite.
First off is the new Pocket Uke. I was never a big fan of the pocket uke. It was always really hard to play and keep in tune. It was cool though, just not really practical enough. Well that has now changed. The new (and only) pocket uke has a 1 3/8″ nut width and lightweight geared tuners. Also, the thin body seems to have improved the tone. It chimes and sparkles with sustain. A really nice sound! To top it off this new pocket uke comes in at almost half the cost of previous ones. Corey gives it a go -
The next instrument is the KA-ACP-CT, a concert model with a slotted headstock. Some people think a slotted headstock is heavier. It can be, but more often it is not. It’s thicker, but the routed slots equalize the mass of a flat. This uke is light and balanced, so no worries there. It has a solid cedar top for a full, rich tone, and the padauk rosette and bindings make for a gorgeous custom look. This must be the finest sounding Kala concert I have heard to date. Take a listen-
The last new model I’ll show you is also from the ATP-CT series but a limited edition tenor in a satin finish. Just like the concert above this tenor will challange the tone of higher end models. Clean and open tones to match the woody look and feel of this tenor. We bought up the whole lot that came our way because this is a winner. Corey samples-
So that’s some new and impressive instruments from the Kala company. I’ll be posting them soon on the site for more details and photos. Of course you can take a trip to the north shore and try them first hand.
Thanks for stopping by TheUkuleleReview. Please share below with any comments or questions.
If you’re registered at TheUkuleleSite.com then you should know about our monthly giveaways and contests. Our winners have been randomly selected a few times. Then we did the ukulele trivia, last month we did a video contest, and this month was a photo contest. A Kamaka was at stake, so it got serious.
In the last week, Janice Denton of Nashville Tennessee pretty much creamed the competition, with over double the votes of any other competitor. I monitored all the entries for double-voting within 24 hours. She won fair and square. Janice clearly worked it. Worked it and networked it and kept going at it every day. She’s such a nice person that many of her friends networked as well to help her out. We’ll be sending Janice a great little Kamaka, and you can bet that she’s gonna love it. A few days ago it was her birthday and she posted this video on her facebook page. She seems like a fun lady. I’m really glad for her.
This contest was decided by votes. The problem with the popular vote is; if you’re not “popular”, you aint gonna win. Doesn’t matter how great your entry is. You have to be the type of person that gets people to do these things for you. Many of us could never win a contest like this, so we decided to pick 10 great images showing skill and creative expression. We award these contestants $100 to their customer account. There were many other’s we wanted to include. Big mahalo to all who participated.
“Kamaka HF-3″- by Carlton Chong- Nice depth of field and crisp highlights. Oh, and sweet Kamaka!
“Texas Aloha” – by Ericka Richard- Great composition in an everyday moment. Colors and details are beautifully captured.
“Dreaming of a Kamaka” – by Joseph Shideler - Such a newbie, getting outsized by a soprano. Awesome picture!
“Ukulele Spring”- by Daniele Bianchini – Wow, what an amazing scene. A photo editing app flavors the imagery for an epic image.
“Soundscape” – by Julius Gaerlan- Great symmetry and balance. Less saturation adds to the serenity, even a touch solemn. A solitary moment at a resort…I could go for that!
“Will play for Milk” by Donald Song – Vibrant scene and adorable little guy. Well done.
“Bad hair day”- by Guido Oberhäuser -This uker from Germany has a great facebook album called “The Ukulele Portraits” Gotta check that out. Cool style. I might have to ask him about this backdrop. So nice-
“Solid Wood” by Paul Gruodis.This one made the top 10 for being creative and unique. Plus the title is funny. The player is the “solid wood”, uke is laminate, lol.
“Peace maker” Alexey Yevstigneye- Pure and simple. Very narrow depth of field gives a soft feel. Peaceful fade into bokeh.
“Mahalo” Ivan Golinko- Our goal should be to play so much that our uke looks like this Mahalo. This kids gonna play it down to sawdust! That’s what they’re made for.
So what do you think could have made this contest better? Share your thoughts and ideas below.
Be part of our ohana! Register at TheUkuleleSite and get involved in our monthly games. The entire HMS crew has a ton of love for the uke community. We want to spread aloha, not with a lei around your neck and Mai Tai in your hand. Aloha as in we truly care about you. We want to use our experience and ability to give you a more musical instrument. We are so glad to earn our living doing something unique that can impact your experience in a positive way. Mahalo to all. A hui ho!
For as long as I can remember my father was a well respected full time luthier (stringed instrument builder & repairman). He built custom guitars but mostly supported our family by doing warranty work for Martin, Gibson, Taylor and other guitar makers. When teaching my brother and I this craft he always emphasized meticulous work and proper technique. The focus was on precision, a deep understanding of the process, and attention to the smallest details. He never urged us to be faster. In fact he would tell me to “go slow and do a good job”.
About 20 years ago my dad (John Kitakis) started Ko’olau Guitar & Ukulele Company. That pride of craftsmanship and aim for the finest quality have always been at the heart of Ko’olau and many serious musicians were and still are delighted by this. 9 years ago when I left to start Hawaii Music Supply, my brother Noa took over the Ko’olau custom shop and has continued to perfect this art and take it further than ever. My father set forth on a new venture; To make a Ko’olau quality instrument at a more affordable price. This has been no casual effort. It’s taken him many years but now he gives us the highly regarded Pono brand, our best selling line of ukuleles. Even though quality has become consistent, he still travels back and forth from the island of Java every few months working with the luthiers there and checking quality on every single ukulele. This is not some kind of loose operation. In fact I know their QC is second to none. The cost of production in Java is much less than in Hawaii, but it’s run with the same requirements as Ko’olau.
“Keep it Pono” is local for, do it right, or show excellence in what you do. For Ko’olau owner John Kitakis, affordable excellence for the ukulele community has been a constant effort, maybe even a struggle. But I would now consider it to be an achievement, because Pono’s are now consistently excellent. Every instrument in the Pono lineup is of the finest value available.
Here is a look at the process of building a Pono followed by an overview of the models available. Each picture opens to a gallery with more info/videos. Enjoy, and let us know if you have any questions.
Check back here for new models and updates
There will always be new models coming from Ko’olau’s Pono line. One soon to arrive is the chambered solid body version of the Ko’olau CE. Learn more about that model HERE. Others in the works include a tahitian style uke, more exotic woods, and further evolutions towards the ultimate value for the ukulele community. Join us here and at our store, TheUkuleleSite, for the latest on these and more.
Sing the Body plays an original on their Pono Guitar & Ukulele. They love the cedar rosewood. As do I!
Riptide Ukulele is a fairly new series from Boulder Creek Guitars. This model is the EUT-11NS and has a solid Acacia top and laminate Acacia sides and back. It has electronics as you can see which feature an onboard tuner and EQ. This was sent to us by the company to sample and at first I wasn’t thrilled. I’ll tell you why.
The guys in our setup department would probably take a pay cut if I agreed to not carry anything with this style of electronics. The side mounted preamp or wires running through the body buzz at certain frequencies. Not all the time, but 90% of the time, and it can take an extra 15 minutes or more to troubleshoot and fix the issue. So that was my first observation was buzz from electronics. Next I felt the string height at the nut, way too high and the action I measured at almost 4mm at the 12th fret. So I packed it up and it sat for the last month or more.
The other day I looked again, made a few quick adjustments. I played, listened, and thought, ya know, it sounds pretty good! Lots of volume and a full bodied tone. I thought, maybe I wasn’t being fair to dismiss this uke.
This Riptide tenor sells for under $300. Everything in this price range needs final work. After giving it the time of day, I realized that this has a tone that will compete quite well with others in it’s price range. The electronics sound pretty good and the overall look is cool and unique. The intonation is correct, the sustain is great, and the neck is set correct so improvements are possible in final setup. All in all, the Riptide EUS 11NS is a valid contender for an electric tenor under 300.
Boulder Creek Guitars design around a different concept and structure. This model had the offset soundhole which gives more soundboard to sustain and less support needed without the large hole in the middle. The side port is another great aspect of the design. Most of us play to ourselves, for our own enjoyment. This port is positioned on the lower bout and angles right at you. The sound comes through clean and clear.It’s positioning makes perfect sense.
Have you tried these ukes? Give us your take on them if you have. I gotta say, after giving it a shot, I was kind of impressed.
Corey Fujimoto samples…
This is a tenor size ukulele with a Cedar top and curly Myrtle sides and back. The Ko’olau website says this about Myrtle wood:
Myrtle has been used by well known guitar makers for many years. Also known as Oregon Myrtle, Laurel and Bay Laurel, this wood almost reminds us of a rare Koa wood known as “white Koa” with similar grain patterns and blond to light brown colors. Also, as with Koa, each piece is unique, with different colors and grain patterns. Exceptional bass, treble, and projection, Myrtle combines qualities of Rosewood, Mahogany, and Maple. In other words, it’s considered by some to be one of the best tone woods for stringed instruments.
The tone on this uke is sharp without being strident. It really has a nice ring, great for jangly strumming or articulated fingerpicking. I would say it’s in the realm of a DaSilva type sound.
Meticulous attention to detail is not quite at a high end custom level, but this is half the price (or less) than the equivalent models from the more established custom builders and still very nice. So in all regards I would rate this Covered Bridge tenor as a great value. They are fairly new and I’m interested to see more from Terry and Perry, twin uke makers. Covered Bridge Ukulele, check it out~
It’s kind of scary when an import “budget” brand comes out with a cheaper line. Corners have already been cut, affordable has already been the goal. So when a brand like Luna comes out with a sub brand like Aurora, I usually hold off. But these four ukes that Luna showed at the 2013 NAMM were eye catchers and I knew the kids would love them.