New Toy: Cordoba 22S

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:

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Joyo Ukulele Pickup

Today’s DIY music project was to add a pickup to my Kmise Ukulele. I have an Ibanez I favor for most things, but the Kmise I’ve set up as my go-to Low G uke. I have a Rubin set up at Low G as well, but I just like the overall tone of the Kmise much more, so I have a strong preference. It’s the one I want to play, and if I want to play it at mics or shows, I need a consistent way to amplify it. The stick on mic proved functional in testing, but unreliable in practice, so I knew I needed to install a proper pickup.

Since my Kmise has a non-standard soundhole that would make it hard to place pickups inside the body, I decided to go with an undersaddle pickup on the grounds it would just be an overall less fiddly installation process.

I recently installed a cheap, unbranded pickup in my kala KA-15S as my test drive, and that proved efficient, but the tuner in the unbranded pickup was off, so I wanted to try a slightly better one in the hopes of a better built-in tuner. Still, I am on a budget and couldn’t bring myself to pay more for a pickup than I paid for the uke, so I eventually grabbed a Joyo pickup off ebay.

And, while I don’t think I’d hesitate to suggest it for standard ukes, I still don’t have a functional tuner. The strings it reads are accurate when compared to my snark tuner, but it can not read the low G string at all, so in the end I guess I have to call the tuner in the Joyo pickup ‘good for standard tuning. Completely useless for anything else.’

That means installing it in my low G uke still doesn’t give me a functional tuner. Still, just to know I can plug my Kmise in if I ever need to is a fair enough deal for $15, so I guess I’m satisfied. It does the job I need it to, just not necessarily 100% of the job it was meant to do.

Ultimately the verdict is that the Joyo Uke pickup is perfectly decent, but maybe steer clear if you use non-standard tunings.

DIY: Installing an Ukulele Pickup

pickup

After that show a few weeks back, I got it in my head that I really needed to find a better way to electrify my low G uke. The obvious answer was to get electronics installed in it, but given I’m in the midst of home repairs, I knew it was going to be a good while before I could afford to pay a pro to do it for me. I also knew that the cost of paying to have electronics installed was likely to be twice or more of what I paid for that uke. The latter I don’t conisder a huge issue. Money can’t by love, as they say, and even though my Kmise only cost me about 40 bucks, it plays well, feels good and I love it. I don’t necessarily mind throwing a bit too much cash at it in that case. But, it is a bit silly, at the same time, I admit, to pay more on upgrades for an instrument than you paid for the instrument.

From there, I was off to youtube, wondering how hard it was to just buy a pickup and install it myself. I watched a few videos, and it honestly looked pretty easy. I didn’t want to futz around with soldering, but there are plenty of pre-soldered pickups available, at a wide range of prices, and multiple different types.

I decided I’d try it, but, not on my favorite Low G uke. No, first I’d try it out on an uke I wasn’t using much, so if I messed it up and had to replace the uke, I could. That made my Kala the obvious choice for a test run. The KA-15S is reasonably priced and popular, so if I destroyed it in the process, I wouldn’t have a problem finding a replacement. Besides, mine has a teeny chip in the laminate, and I was planning to upgrade from it eventually anyway, so of all my ukes, it’s the one I could most afford to lose.

Next, I had to decide on what sort of pickup to put in the thing. On the Kala, I have choices, but with the uke I really want to add a pickup to, I’m a bit more limited due to a non-standard soundhole.  Uke pickups come basically in two orientations. One is disks that stick inside the body of the instrument, the other pickup slides in under the saddle. While either would work for the Kala, the lack of a standard soundhole in my low G uke means I’m not going to be able to get my fingers in the uke enough to stick things inside the body. Under saddle is going to be only realistic option in that case, and so under saddle is what I decided on for my test drive. Also because of the unusual soundhole, I wanted a pickup with a box shape and battery where the plug is rather than just a plug. It just seemed like it would be a lot less fiddly work if the hole for both parts of the pickup  was big enough to get my fingers in – after all, I’m working on the assumption that working through the soundhole isn’t going to be a viable option.

So, with decisions made, what did I need?

  1. A drill – already have one, so this doesn’t cost me anything.
  2. A pickup – I grabbed a cheap one off ebay for $9.30.
  3. Some sort of small saw tool, files, sandpaper. I decided on a cheap rotary tool with saw blade attachment. I should buy a better one eventually, but for my purposes I went pretty cheap, and that cost me about $25.

 

So, I had everything I needed to do the job at the cost of about $35. And, you could argue since the rotary tool will be handy for any number of household projects and is a one-time expense (until I upgrade to a better one), it maybe shouldn’t even be counted as part of my expenses for this project. Since I bought it with this project in mind, I’m including it in the cost anyway. But, I should include the cost of CR2032 batteries for the pickup, and I’m not doing that because I have several things in the house that use them, so I already had a few on hand.

First thing was to test the pickup and make sure it works, so I stuck batteries in it, and just slid the pickup into the saddle without actually attaching the pickup to the uke otherwise. Stick in batteries, plug it in, and, yep, sure enough, I can hear it coming through my amp. Good. It would have sucked to install a pickup and find out it was a dud, so testing the pickup first was important. Once I cut holes in the uke, they’re there for good, after all.

Next, grab some thick paper or cardboard and a ruler to measure out the size the hole is going to need to be, and test out a template. No problem. Everything looks good. My pickups fit through the templates I cut.

Cover up the outside of the uke in masking tape. No problem. I have about 40 lbs work of masking tape in this house because I keep misplacing it and buying more.

Now, to place the pickup, you’ve got to run it alongside the edge of the uke until you find the spot where it neatly fits. The instrument determines where the pickup goes, not your whims. You may have more than one choice regarding where it fits – one on the top of the body and one on the bottom, but you can’t just stick it anywhere.  Mark the masking tape with a pencil, and then use your template to draw the spot you need to cut.  Awesome. so far so good.

But, now it’s the point of no return. This is the point where I have to cut a hole in my ukulele. I was so worried about screwing up. I cut inside of the line on my template. This made the holes a bit too small for the pickup, but I figured that was fine. I stuck the sander bit on the rotary tool and sanded them a bit wider. This means the hole is not perfectly square, so if that’s a problem for you, maybe use sandpaper or a file and do it by hand. It’ll take longer, but your edges will come out cleaner than mine. Since you’re sticking a pickup in, as long as you’ve got a reasonably close fit and enough wood around the edge to fit screws into, it’s fine. It’s a relief that I found the work isn’t QUITE as exacting as I was worried it might be. I should have taken photos at this point, but I didn’t. Whatever, there are a million tutorials for this sort of thing on the internet.

From there it’s time to drill a hole through the saddle big enough for the undersaddle pickup’s plug to get through. Two things of note: the wood used for an uke bridge is thick and hard. It takes longer to get through it than I expected it to. I also learned that the actual spot I had to drill to get the wire through wasn’t actually under the saddle, but a bit to the side of where the saddle sits. There was just no way, in this case at least, to make a hole large enough to get the wire through under the saddle without damaging the bridge. The space was just too small to make a hole large enough to get the plug through, so I had to make the hole in the bridge slightly to the side. It’s visible, but since it’s black on dark wood, it’s not super obvious, so I think it’s fine. You can see if if you’re looking at the instrument closely, but you’d never notice it from any distance.

IMAG4054

 

Next, the saddle needs to be sanded down to height. What I did is mark the saddle with a pencil where the pickup came up to. In this case, the pickup takes up almost the entire saddle slot, so I had to sand half of the saddle away to avoid altering the action. As a matter of expedience, I used the rotary tool to do it again, since it’s must faster, which I DO NOT recommend unless you are pretty darn good with a rotary tool. It’s far better to sand on a flat surface to make sure your saddle is sanded evenly, but it was the middle of the night and I was being lazy. I was careful, and it worked out fine, but it’s definitely a method that was more about speed than precision, and you probably want to be a bit more precise about this stage of the process.

From there, it’s just plugging everything in, sticking it in the proper holes, re-stringing the uke, and screwing it all together. I managed to lose two of my screws in unpacking, so I’m going to have to go to the hardware store to buy some tiny ass screws, but I’m satisfied overall.

 

So, overall, I’m calling this a success. I will buy a better pickup for the next uke, though. The pickup on this works perfectly fine, but the tuner is a little flat. It’ll tune to itself alright, but it’s definitely a bit off, so I don’t think I’d buy this specific pickup again, just because it seems silly to have a built in pickup and continue using the snark. Still, even at under $10, I was able to get a pickup & eq that work well enough that I would not hesitate to trust it for a show, and that’s what my goal was. Now I can rest assured that I won’t ruin my precious low G uke by attempting to install a pickup myself. It’s actually pretty easy, as long as you’re careful about your measurements and have a steady hand.

Latest Toy: Andoer Piezo Contact Microphone Pickup

I’ve added a stick-on pickup to my collection. I’ll be doing a show later this month and while I’m told has “everything”, I don’t know if I trust that coming from someone who isn’t a musician so doesn’t necessarily know what ‘everything’ is when it comes to a musician. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but I’m just neurotic enough that I don’t want to leave things entirely to chance, so I wasted eight bucks on this little Andoer just to calm that little neurotic voice in my head that can’t bear to leave things entirely up to the whims of fate, and I would definitely like to use my Kmise for at least one tune, if I feasibly can, because it sounds better and keeps better tune than my Rubin.

Honestly, in the long term, I should really consider looking into how to go about adding proper electronics to my Kmise. It IS one of my favorite ukes, so there are definitely going to be times I’m going to want to use it places that are marginally bigger than a shoebox. But, in the short term, there’s a low G tune or two I’d really like to do at the upcoming show, and while there is a 90% chance everything will be totally fine because the venue “has everything” (which theoretically would include a second mic for acoustic instruments), I consider $8 a fair investment for a backup plan.

So, let’s look at this thing, then.

Andoer Piezo Microphone Pickup

The blue you’re seeing around the edges in the first picture is fun-tak (mounting putty). That’s not part of the device. The device comes with a self-adhesive, but I didn’t want to use it. I wanted something specifically that I could stick on and off with ease, and while – later, I’ll stick that self adhesive to a little piece of plastic so you won’t have to see these blue globs sticking out the sides of the device, for the moment, the fun-tak doesn’t adhere to the sticker cover that I haven’t peeled off yet, so the only way to get adhesion is to wrap it around the sides so it contacts actual plastic.  It does seem to stick fine without leaving residue behind, though, which is all I was really hoping for. This uke is too pretty to have such an ugly little thing stuck on there all the time.

Finding the sweet spot on my uke for amplification felt a bit like pretending to use a stethoscope. It’s a little round disc and you have to slide it around the surface until you find the spot that give you a nice clean amplified sound on all strings. In my case, that was just at the outer edge of the saddle, right beneath the low G string. My understanding is that on each instrument the sweet spot is going to be a little different.

For less than ten bucks, I think the little device pays for itself just fine (provided it lives more than 5 seconds, which remains to be seen as it only arrived today). The sound is clear, if a bit high pitched? I’m not sure if high-pitched is the right word. I lack the proper music vocabulary to grab the word I’m looking for. Without the amp, the Kmise at low G has a nice full sound. Amplified, I won’t say it’s character is entirely different, because it’s not, but it seems to lack the same warmth and depth. Maybe it’s that I’m losing a bit on the low end? That’s probably what I’m babbling circles around. And, if that’s the case, that’s not unusual. I’ve noticed the same issue with all cheap microphones, really.

I do think the wire on the Andoer seems far too long, but that’s likely because I’m using it on an ukulele instead of a guitar. I’ve just put a twist tie around the excess to avoid it getting caught up on anything.

Overall, I’m satisfied with it. Is it a replacement for an acoustic-electric instrument? No, not at all. But, it will certainly do in a pinch.

 

Revisiting the Rubin Uke

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.

IMAG3848
Note: Rubin has since changed it’s name to Caramel.

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.

New Tune: It’s You

I decided to write this one on the new baritone uke as an excuse to noodle around with it and get used to it.

Ultimately, this song pretty much exists because I had two weird encounters in the same week. This happens to all of us sometimes, I think – where we have a totally ordinary encounter with someone, and they, for reasons that are totally incomprehensible, misread the encounter and get insulted and insist things happened that never actually happened.  If you’ve got a delicate ego, and it happens enough in a short enough period of time, I guess you start to think ‘is it me? is there something wrong with me?’ But, I mostly am just convinced that I’m surrounded by crazy people, really. So, I don’t know, I guess I kind of might have inadvertently written a song about gaslighting.

Note: Vocals are absolutely too loud and clip on the ends, so unless your device of choice tends to be on the quiet side, you may want to turn your volume down to minimize some of the harshness that my too loud mic settings caused. I still haven’t found the right sound settings for use with the CAD U37 in audacity, owing in part to the fact that I’m louder when no one’s home to disturb, or I’m quieter when my allergies are wreaking havoc on my nose and throat, so the correct levels setting isn’t static. It varies based on the circumstances. I’m sure I’ll find the sweet spot eventually, but since these are really just me roughing out tracks so I don’t forget them, I’m not really aiming at perfection anyway.

It’s You

I don’t know what’s worth saying anymore
we’ve been building up our lives on little white lies
and I’m tired of all of this keeping score
because I can’t even speak
without being told to be more meek.

If I mention that it’s cloudy
you complain I’m being rowdy
and white wash my opinions
until they aren’t worth a damn
and whenever I clam up
to avoid this rotten luck
I’m accused of being rude
what’s a girl to do?

But it isn’t me, it’s you.
It isn’t me, it’s you.
You say that I’m too blunt and I’m a bitch
well whatever, then I’m an evil vile rotten
dirty little witch
and if there’s nothing I can say
to make you feel okay
then I don’t know what you expect me to do
It really isn’t me, it’s you.
I swear it’s true,
it’s you.

I just can’t win for losing at this game
that I can’t quite figure out to play
are there rules written down somewhere
if I peruse them will I lose myself
in learning to abuse myself
and if I abuse myself will that be enough
to prove that I care

or should I just delude myself
into believing that lies are truth
and tell you that you’re right
every time, every place, and everywhere

If that’s what you expect me to do
then it it’s definitely not me, it’s you
it’s not me, it’s you.
And if there’s nothing I can say
to make you feel okay
then I don’t know what you expect me to do
I know I’m not crazy,
so the problem must be you.

The Unicorn-lele! (aka: a left-handed baritone)

You know that saying, ‘do as I say, not as I do?’ Yeah, well, I know I said ‘no more ukuleles for a while’, but then I found a left-handed baritone. A LEFT-HANDED BARITONE, guys. You know, a unicorn. Anyway, I’ve wanted a baritone for a while, but haven’t shopped seriously because of the limitations and expense necessary to convert one.

Basic sum-up of conversion of a baritone would be something like this:

  1. Would have to find a fully acoustic one, with a body shape that lends well to being flipped over. Anything with right-handed electronics would be a fucking nightmare. This doesn’t limit me TOO much, but it does cut my options a bit.
  2. Due to the string width and the DGBE tuning, would have to replace the nut. This means either paying someone to make a left-handed nut, or buying a nut blank, files, and sandpaper, and doing it myself, which is not necessarily hard, but it can be time consuming.
  3. If I want electronics in it at some point, will have to bring it to a shop and pay to have them installed, which is an additional expense.

So, when I came across a left-handed acoustic-electric baritone ukulele, even though money is tight, I knew it was something I didn’t dare pass up, lest I never find it again. I kicked myself for over a year for not buying my lefty uke-bass and letting it go out of stock because it took forever for them to get more of them. I’m still kicking myself for not buying the left-handed guitalele when I saw it, because now that that limited run has gone out of stock, no one makes one. They literally don’t exist. If I want one, I’m going to have to budget for converting it, because I have no other option. So, I bought the lefty baritone, in spite of knowing that it was financially a bad idea. It wasn’t financially a bad ENOUGH idea to stop me, I guess.

Now, let’s take a look at it, shall we?

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This is a Caramel uke. Caramel used to be Rubin. I have a Rubin soprano that I pretty much never play, but am always working on because, while it is genuinely a piece of crap, I’m not convinced just yet is irredeemable, so I keep buying replacement parts since I’m really reticent to let go of a left handed acoustic-electric uke if I can save it, and I have one more thing I can try before giving up. As it stands, the intonation is absolutely godawful and it’s way too plinky for my taste, with enough laquer to make it remind me of that teacher I had in elementary school who’s head was so bald and so shiny that the ceiling lights reflected off of it. Caramel (formerly Rubin) really seems to love high-gloss. I’m not really a fan of putting enough gloss on an instrument that it doubles as a mirror, but that’s just a personal preference on my part, so you shouldn’t count that as a negative unless you also genuinely happen to dislike high gloss. Anyway, they’re not secretive about it, so I knew what I was buying.

Still, given my feelings about my Rubin, I knew going in I was taking a risk on Caramel. It was a risk worth taking because, as I said above, this is literally the ONLY lefty baritone that I’ve even come across. As I write this post, I’m fairly confident that no one else makes one.

So, at a first cursory look, everything looks solid. There are no obvious blemishes, everything seems well-assembled and as it should be. My first impression as I was tuning it for the first time was that the action might be a hair too high, but I wasn’t going to be sure until I tried to play it.

The strings it came with though…! Okay, guys, I’m not actually all that picky about strings. You always hear ‘ukes always come with crap strings’, which is true, I suppose, but they’re generally not such crap that you can’t play them or that they won’t stay in tune.My point is this: I have string preferences, but I don’t really have any particularly strong feelings against any uke strings in particular. That’s important for context, because I’m about to rant hard against the strings that came on the Caramel Baritone.

Seriously, guys, I’m not even convinced these were ukulele strings. They very well may have been half-rotted classical guitar strings. Half-rotted. Yes, I do mean that. The wound strings were absolutely filthy, discolored in several places. The tension when tuned was such that it screwed up the intonation. I actually thought I might have to adjust the saddle height, not realizing the strings were causing this (I didn’t know strings COULD cause intonation issues, but once I changed them, the intonation problem was gone, so clearly they can. Go figure.).

The strings actually made me think the uke needed several small adjustments. They were surprisingly hard to fret (reference: on guitars I tend to prefer strings that are medium-light to medium gauge, so this is not me being a total sissy. My preferred string falls into a comfortable middle ground. Depending on the guitar, I usually go for 11s or 12s. The strings on this baritone required significantly more pressure to fret than 13s.), the intonation seemed off, the action seemed a bit off. It really did sound like a baby guitar, but one that was very uncomfortable to play and harder to get a clean chord out of than it should be.

None of the things in the above paragraph were true once I replaced the strings. I mostly use Aquilas, but I use different aquilas for different ukes. I couldn’t find info on whether their nylgut strings were wound or unwound on the D and G strings (I will admit I didn’t search very hard to find out), and I definitely wanted the wound strings there, so I decided to try the Lava strings this time. I haven’t tried the Lavas before, but I’m in love with the Aquila Reds in Low G, so I’ve been looking for an excuse to try some of their other options, and desperately needing strings for the baritone gave me an excuse. Also, how is it that NONE of the music shops anywhere remotely my area carry ANY baritone uke strings in store, and almost none online? Not cool, guys.

Re-stringing provided me with what seemed like an entirely different instrument. First of all, that ‘baby guitar’ definitely sounds more like an uke now. The intonation – greatly improved. It might be spot on, but until the new strings stretch enough to stay in tune, I can’t say for sure. The action is just fine. The pressure required to fret has become normal, so no more sore fingers.

As far as the electronics? They work fine. The built in tuner seems to be accurate. What more do you need?

So, overall, I think I’m pretty satisfied. I’m still getting used to it. It’s harder than I thought to figure out the chords. Since it’s missing the lowest 2 strings of the guitar, I find myself in the position of trying to think through something I’ve been doing automatically for a while, trying to remember which strings form my usual guitar chords. G, for example, is a one finger chord on baritone uke. I had to think about E and A and Am and C. Sometimes, it’s easier to just pick up the guitar, form the chord, and then look to see what strings I’m on than it is to try to think about what strings I need to fret first. I’ll get the hang of it, but it feels more like learning new chord shapes than I thought it was going to, since I’m still mentally counting two strings that just aren’t there as part of the equation.

So, do I recommend it? For my fellow lefties, absolutely. It’s literally you’re only choice, it’s functional, and it’s not going to cost a fortune. Just do yourself a favor and buy new strings at the same time – the strings it came with are absolute garbage, so you can’t get a feel for the instrument until you re-string it. For the righties? I don’t know. You guys have a lot of options and I haven’t tried any of them, but it’s an entirely playable acoustic-electric baritone uke that only costs around $100, which is more than enough to make it a solid contender for the budget-conscious musician.

Now, can someone PLEASE make a goddamn left-handed guitalele/6 string baritone? I want a mini-guitar dammit! (not that I need one) In all seriousness, though, I have no immediate plans for future instrument purchases, but since lefty guitaleles don’t exist, the next possibility ranges from banjolele, to parlor guitar, to mandolin, to…I don’t know, whatever, something else that hasn’t even occurred to me yet. I don’t need anything though, I really don’t. I need to will myself to sell the instruments I rarely play…but they’re all so darn pretty that it’s hard to let go.