Taking my ukulele to Canada!

We’ve just booked to go on a cruise to Canada in late August aboard the Cruise and Maritime ship Marco Polo. Details of the cruise are here.

We went on the same cruise last year and on board they had Pete Crush who ran a series of classes on the ukulele for new players. This was the first time I had ever tried to play an instrument (and sing in public) since being kicked out of music lessons at my old school – Vincent Thompson High School – by our music teacher ‘basher’ Brooke.

Every year we all had to audition for the school choir, and he would wander around tapping on the shoulder all those not worthy of making it into the hallowed ranks of the singers. For some reason every year he used to stand behind me as we stood, his arm outstretched so even as I was half-way up he would tap my shoulder! Do you think her was trying to tell me something?

Anyway, back to the cruise. We were lucky enough to cruise to the West Indies at the start of this year – on the Marco Polo – and Pete and his wife, Lynda, were giving more classes so I joined in. He mentioned to us that they would be on this particular cruise back to Canada, so we’ve got a late booking. Honest, Pete – we’re not stalking you!

Canada is a wonderful place for the ukulele as the school system positively promotes the playing of this instrument. You can read more about it here; https://www.ukuleleintheclassroom.com.

In addition, university places are provided for this purpose and annual trips are taken to Hawaii to further educate ukulele players.

I bought a soprano ukulele at O’Briens in St John’s, Nova Scotia. This is an amazing shop which has been trading since 1939. I emailed them a few weeks back about buying a banjolele but sadly they didn’t get back to me. Still, as seen in an earlier post one has now been ordered from Holland. We are going to visit a music festival in St John’s this time in Water Park – if we arrive in time. Hopefully the weather will be better – last year it POURED down! The rain was unbelievable. So, finger’s crossed.

I will be taking my Kala resonator and my banjolele – hopefully it will arrive by the end of July – so I can join in and have some more lessons from Pete and Lynda.

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Banjolele quest

A few weeks ago I started to look for a banjolele to add to my collection of 4 stringed instruments – but what to choose? As I play tenor ukuleles I decided to stick to the same size.

The first place I looked towards was, of course, Amazon.co.uk, and the one that drew my attention was the Kala BNJ. This is, however, a concert-sized instrument and I really wanted slightly larger. There is an Aiersi tenor banjolele and the review to this was more positive than the reviews to the Kala. However, there is only one review and I’m always a bit weary of making a decision on just one recommendation.

I then looked at Southern Ukuleles (a great source of uses and all things uke) and they had a good number of ukulele banjos. I was very tempted by the Deering Goodtime Tenor – see the Youtube video.

But I just felt I wanted something different – something unique. After much searching I came across the website banjolele.net in Holland and the owner/manufacturer Wim Van De Laden. After looking at the videos on YouTube (search Banjoleles Wim) and reading the reviews on Ukulele Underground I decided to contact him this weekend. He is away on holiday in the South of France, but had a reply from him the same day. I asked a few questions and was happy with the replies. So – my order for a handmade tenor banjolele has been issued. It will be two or three weeks before it’s delivered and will let you know how things are going.

 

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Banjolele built by Wim

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Mya-Moe – are they the best?

Having just started playing with a Kala resonator uke I have to say I’m happy with it although some reviews have said it’s not so hot. It is an entry level uke, so you get what you pay for.

Looking around I came across this site:

www.myamoeukuleles.com/model%20resonator.php

Love the look of these resonator ukes on this site and would be lovely to own one but the price is daunting. Maybe when I’ve cut my first massive no 1 selling album (dream on) I will get one.

From their website:

There are very few companies that make wood-body resonators ukuleles–the design and construction challenges are significant. The resonator cone is extremely delicate. The strings pass over the bridge/saddle which is attached to the cone. The tension of the strings, in combination with the angle to the tieblock, determine how much downward pressure is placed on the cone. It is the precise control of this downward pressure that determines the acoustics of the resonator. Too little pressure and the sound is distorted–less pressure still and the cone buzzes. Too much pressure and the voice becomes choked–more pressure still and the cone will be damaged. After much testing and evaluation, we determined the perfect amount of pressure to place on the cone, and we carefully control that during the construction of each instrument.

We custom-turn a wooden soundwell to support the resonator cone. This provides level support for the cone while allowing it to freely resonate.

 

After careful testing, we chose a National cone for it’s clear tone, long sustain, and lively voice. The result is a resonator ukulele that still retains the acoustics of a wood-bodied instrument. Our goal is to bring out the voice of the wood, while providing passive amplification. This instrument sounds wonderful when played solo fingerstyle, and it shines when put up against the volume of a banjo or mandolin in a music circle. For a more woody tone, choose woods such as koa, mahogany, sycamore or mango. For a more punchy tone with more of the resonator cone component, choose the brighter woods with spruce tops. The hand-shaped neck, radiused fretboard, meticulously leveled frets, and individually dressed fret ends deliver the playability that every serious musician should demand.

“THIS SOUNDS WONDERFUL WHEN PLAYED FINGERSTYLE, AND IT SHINES WHEN PUT UP AGAINST THE VOLUME OF A BANJO OR MANDOLIN.”

Are they the best, leave us your thoughts and recommendations.

 

KALA Chrome Resonator Sunburst Tenor Ukulele

Just taken delivery of my latest uke – a lovely resonator from Kala. I’ve spent many an hour pondering over which uke to use instead of my Clearwater electro/accoustic uke. I’ve no complaints about it but as I tend to use the back of my fingernails to strum the Clear water doesn’t give the oldest sound. I also wanted to use that uke with a low g string so the Kala will remain with a standard high g string. This now sits alongside my Risa solid electric tenor uke which sounds amazing. Have promised myself – no more uses (for this year, anyway!)

 

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Kala tenor resonator
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Risa electric tenor