I’ve had a fairly productive weekend so far. I fixed a laundry room door, dyed my hair, got some spackling done in the bedroom and bathroom. And, I sat down to work, once again, on my little Rubin soprano uke.
I don’t use this uke often for a number of reasons, but I’ve also really been hesitant to part with it. It’s never really been just so. There have always been some quirks and problems, and it honestly just plain isn’t the greatest sounding little uke you ever did hear.
But, on the other hand, it’s an acoustic-electric lefty, and I find it really hard to part with my lefties. Let’s face it, no matter how many ukes we collect, we’ve always got favorites, and for me, that means I mostly only ever play my Ibanez and my Kmise. The others collect dust as I try to will myself to either play them, or sell them. And the Rubin, well, the Rubin I keep pulling down and working on to either make it into something I love to play, or finally decide to sell.
So, sitting down with it this weekend, I’d already replaced the tuners, added a strap button, replaced the plastic saddle with a bone one. But, when I replaced the saddle I sanded it down to the height of the old saddle, which I’d long suspected was a bit too high. The uke’s always been playable but just…off.
So, after some thought, I knew this weekend I had two plans for the Rubin – I was going to reduce the saddle height and change out the strings.
Since I already have a favorite uke that I can plug in, I couldn’t think of any time I would ever use the Rubin, whether I could plug it in or not, until I remembered that my low G uke can’t be plugged in. Setting up a soprano at low G might be a wee bit unconventional, but it occurred to me that it might give the Rubin a purpose in my collection, and do something to tone down the uke, which I’ve always found to high-pitched and just sort of shrill for my taste. Note that that is my personal taste – there’s nothing technically wrong with the sound of the Rubin with regular strings; I just prefer a more mellow tone so don’t care for it.
The reduced saddle height did correct the worst of the tone problems the uke was having, and the low G tuning did mellow out the overall tone a bit. I’m using Aquila Reds here – as I do on my Kmise. Some people don’t like the Reds, but I’m obliged to disagree. I use the standard aquilas on most of my ukes, but I do love the Reds; it just depends on what sound you’re going for.
I’m not going to pretend the Rubin magically sounds just as good as my other low G uke at this stage, but I wasn’t really expecting it to. It’s a completely different uke made of completely different woods, in a different size, so it’s going to have it’s own unique voice no matter what I do to it. But, I have made a significant improvement and turned it into something I may, possibly, have a use for, so I’m satisfied for now.
The strings are still stretching and settling in, so I’m going to have to noodle around with it. I may well find myself revisiting it again in another six months and trying to make the hard decision on whether or not to keep it, but I do that with several of my ukes and have yet to make a decision on any of them, so I’m pretty sure that’s got more to do with me than it has to do with the ukes, really.