I’ve been keeping relatively busy in ukulele land. Mostly this means I’ve been parting with ukes I no longer play and deciding whether each of the items I’ve parted with is something to just let go, or replace. I sold on my Snail uke because it was just sonically too similar to my Ibanez, so I wasn’t playing it. I’ve decided to sell my Rubin now that I’ve installed a pickup in my Kmise. And, I’m going to part with my Kala KA 15S, too. The Kala is the one that leaves a hole in my collection. Parting with it means I’ll no longer have a soprano uke. I do generally favor concert ukuleles, but I also do like having one of each size, so I started browsing. I wasn’t actually planning to buy anything new right away. I just wanted to get some ideas of what I might want as an upgrade from the Kala.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think the Kala KA 15S is one of the best first ukes you can buy. It sounds good, stays in tune well, and won’t break the bank, and when I bought it, I loved it. I still think it’s a nice little uke. But, I wondered early on if I was always going to love that uke as much as I did when I bought it, and the answer, it turns out, is no. I still LIKE it, but I don’t love it, and that’s a good indication for me that it’s time to let it go and replace it with something else. I’ve learned that with musical instruments, you are really only going to play them if you love them. Liking isn’t enough. I have a tenor uke I hardly ever play. Every time I take it off the uke wall, it’s a reminder that it’s a nice instrument, and that I really should play it more often. But, I don’t. Why? Because I don’t love it, in spite of the fact there’s nothing about it that means I shouldn’t love it. My Kala has become like that. The love is just gone, and so it’s better to sell it on to someone who will love it, and move onto something new.
So it was that when I was browsing, I came across the Cordoba 22S. I took one look at it and my ‘ooh, that one’ sense kicked in. This sense is generally how my best instrument purchases have been made, so I’ve learned to trust it, within reason. I’m still going to do my research. I’m still going to look into the specs. This uke has a solid spruce top, which is a strong selling point for me. I love the sound of a spruce top. I’m no ukulele purist, so I don’t have any strong pull towards traditional uke woods in my ukes, and I don’t have a strong need for something that sounds “classic”. I never decided to be an ukulele player. I just decided to buy a cheap ukuele once and from there being an ukulele player just sort of…happened. So, the fact that the cordoba 22 series is made of guitar tone woods wasn’t really either a plus or a minus in my book.
What I did notice though, thanks to the guitar tone woods, was that when I was searching for videos to see what this little guy sounded like, there weren’t many for the 22S. Most of the vids were of the 22T(Tenor). I guess, by and large, people felt that the guitar tone woods suited the uke closest to guitar best. It didn’t help much in getting a feel for what I was getting into. There were one or two videos of the S, though, and it was enough to satisfy me that I wasn’t making a bad choice.
Since this uke was recently discontinued, it was listed on ebay at clearance pricing, so I snagged it for $129. The clearance price, and the fact it was discontinued, meant it was a now or never deal for me. If I waited, I not only wouldn’t be able to guarantee the discounted price, but I might have to live with the regret of not getting my hands on it at all. Looking online, I could see these ukes were selling used for more than that, meaning I was looking at a pretty good deal that I’d be stupid to walk away from.
It arrived snug and sound a few days later. I restrung it lefty, and I’m good to go. Of course, I will still put it through a few tweaks – the usual for me: it needs a strap button and a pickup. Probably some left-handed fret dots.
But, overall, I’m happy, and I do think it’s a nice upgrade from the kala. It’s very high gloss, which isn’t usually my go to (so I say, but my beloved Ibanez uke is also super high gloss), but the action is low, and the setup seems pretty much spot on right out of the box. The edges are nicely smoothed, so don’t feel like they dig into my arm at all. It’s very comfortable to play. Tonally, my impression compared to the Kala is that the Cordoba seems warmer and fuller, as it should, since it has a solid top compared to the KA 15S which is all mahogany laminate.
So, I guess from there the only thing to do is give you a quick sound test. Here’s a clip of my noodling about with the cordoba to give you an idea of what it sounds like. I recorded in audacity with a usb mic and have three fans on, so don’t expect any sound quality miracles here. Try not to hold my improvised noodling or any poor playing in general on my part against the uke: