Mild (left): Cordoba laminate mahogany soprano (15SM)
Moderate (middle): Kala solid spruce top concert with flame spalted maple (KA-FMCG)
Severe (right): Luna Orchid koa concert (UKE S ORC)
(My next post will be about the dollhouse, I promise!) The title of this one came to me after I had unboxed my newest acquisition last week and it sat on the bed with its siblings. I’m afraid I have now moved into the severe stage of U.A.S. (Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome…seriously, we have T-shirts), with a beautiful solid koa starlet to finish my collection.
First rule of owning a fancy new uke: Place your investment in pollen-laden grass
The sad thing is, while I think I know tonewoods, good construction, and nice sound quality when I encounter them, I’m a newbie on the whole playing thing. I have been telling myself that I hope to live several more decades, and that in those decades I will become a passable ukulele player. And oh, isn’t the Luna shiny…
Solid koa body and neck, ebony fretboard, and gorgeous inlays to boot. She isn’t the loudest, but she has that classic pineapple sweet, lazing on the beach under a banyan tree sound, compared to the bright, punchy sound of the Kala. I got her from Zen-Ukes on ebay and they are truly amazing people to work with. They also make great YouTube videos of different models under the same recording conditions so you can compare instruments. The fact that she is an electric/acoustic was more of an afterthought for me, though I have gotten her a cute-as-a-button baby amp to play with:
I should also explain that I married into an absurdly musically-gifted family. My husband, his mom, his dad, and his sister are all wonderful singers, and my father-in-law has such an ear for melodies that he can hear a song once, sit down at a piano, and play it. When we go to the beach, it’s not uncommon for him to hang out at particular restaurant that has a baby grand and take requests. My husband can pick up one of these ukuleles and immediately put me to shame with a soulful serenade, dotted with playful jibes that I was an all-powerful “third chair clarinet” in middle school.
Every ukulele has a story, and I made a thin reference to my intentions to do the touristy act of purchasing one in Hawaii a long while back, when my much more rational self had nearly settled on the entry-level Cordoba and its abalone inlay. I got her from the popular Bounty Music on Maui, which while I didn’t appreciate the salesman trying to upsell me to pricier instruments, they had the most jaw-dropping ukulele selection in the tiniest little store.
I actually came home from the islands with the Kala as well. I had stopped in a Birkenstock store for a new pair of sandals and by pure chance there was a music store next door. I went inside and before I knew it, I was getting an impromptu ukulele lesson from the very patient and encouraging owner. He had handed me the Kala, with its neat bowed backside, loud voice, and mesmerizing spalted maple. I left the store without the uke because a) I already had one and b) the price tag. I pined for the next couple of days, and towards the end of the trip my parents magnanimously decided it would be an early birthday present (woot!).
Getting my new treasures home was an adventure, with 4,700 miles and over $300 in ukuleles stowed overhead in frightfully squishy gigbags. Nervous parent didn’t begin to cover it, but my ancient blue Rick Steves’ bag came through for me yet again.
When taking your ukes in your carry-on at the airport: 3 pounds of macadamia nuts make great padding!
So yeah, I have three ukes and one set of hands to play them, unless I can convert…I mean convince others to play. You know you want a T-shirt!