Thursday, 29 October 2009

Compareing the Ukulele! Simples!

Yesterday I went back to “Hobgoblin” my local folk music shop where I bought the tuners and strings for my uke because the staff there where curious to see how it turned out, I was slightly apprehensive bcz I knew I would want to try out some of the real ukuleles they had for sale and didn’t know if I was going to go away disappointed with my effort.
I needn’t have worried the cheap models weren’t much more than toys and only the pricy £206 ($312) one sounded immediately better than mine, it was louder as it projected the sound better but maybe the tone was a little too pure because to my ears mine still sounded warmer and I think sweeter. I was told mine has cheap strings on it too! They sat and played mine and seemed to love it! I don’t think they had a cigar box instrument in the store before and loved the novelty of being able to open the lid to alter the tone.. They even took my photo with to put on the shop wall! Maybe I can email them and get a copy.
So I came away feeling rather pleased with myself and my little rectangular uke!
(It still needs a name btw)

Anyway you can judge for yourself because here’s a little video I made with my new iPod nano, it’s so handy having a sleek multipurpose device that plays my mp3s (mainly artists I’ve found on myspace!) but also shoots video and records sound for recording song ideas! It’s worth every penny!
Btw I never use the headphones but plug it into my pc speakers at work.
Oh back to the video, I made it in my lunch break, what a div! That was my first attempt at “Don’t Worry-Be Happy”, I think I’ll practice it for the folk club but do I look irritatingly happy enough?(or at all) Maybe I should just do it with a dead pan face little like Jack Dee.(Don’t you dare make comments about Lead Balloons!) I could finish it off with a round of “I know a song that’ll get on yer nerves-get on yer nerves-get on yer nerves!” Know wot I mean Ellen?
And like in Nancy Kelly’s latest Dulcet Dreams blog I’ll have to just post a link because I can’t find the embed code either!
What have youtube done? Why can’t sites leave things alone!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Finished cigar box ukulele!

A quick update just to show it off now it's been varnished! Looking far more like a vintage musical instrument and less like something thats just been bought at Ikea!
Hopefully I will be able to upload a video of it in action soon!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Strung up.

It plays! Not only that it sounds good too! It has a rich full sound maybe it hasn’t got quite the brightness of a koa topped professional uke like Victoria Vox’s but doesn’t sound a mile off and not the least bit plinky and toy like like I had feared it might. I just have to finish filing the nut slots down the correct height and replace that nail which is acting as a temporary bridge with a piece of fret wire…and sort out a buzzy fret! (There had to be one!)
I think I’ll play it for a bit then strip it down and varnish it, it’s the wrong time of year to be varnishing, it’ll take ages to dry.
I like the way the original writing on the cigar box all lines up with the spaces between the strings!
I can tell it is going to influence my guitar playing, and will probably improve my rhythm playing.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Uke progress.

My cigar box ukulele is coming together fast!

should be getting the tuners I ordered sometime this week and then I will plane the sides of the headstock down a little slimmer to suit them.

Tomorrow I will drill the holes for the fretboard markers which will be dots made from the wooden handle of an old paint brush, then I'll flatten the board and fit the frets.

The ancient adjustable hole cutter which i think might have belonged to my Grandfather did a nice job on the sound hole.

I've seen lots of cigar ukes with the bridge right at the end of the body which can't be good for the sound so mine is far closer to the middle. The box has been re-enforced with a block of hard wood which the neck will be glued into using a wooden dowel. to make a positive fit.

Being a tenor ukulele it doesn't look as toy like as you might think and the neck don't feel in any way cramped.

I'll keep you updated as always!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Photos from my recent gig at Gary's Music Club

Gary playing my home made bass
Explaining how to make a rotary speaker out of chocolate tins and an old school chair!

All Photo by Claire Downes

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Cigar Box Ukulele build.

Last Saturday while out in town shopping with my wife I popped into an old fashioned tobacconists, (old fashioned in the truest sense because the shop is in a building that looks like came straight out of a Dickens novel) this was just a bit out of character for a life long non smoker so what was I up to? Well you could have guessed it was something to do with my latest instrument build. I was after empty cigar boxes as I want to build a cigar box ukulele! These instrument sem to have become a bit of a craze and there are lots of sites related to them not in the least the social network site Cigar Box Nation

I asked if she sold them off as I had read on a blog that £1 was about the going rate but she said no we give them away but only have one at the moment and presented me with a nice ply box with nicely finger jointed corners. A plain bu other wise pretty box except it had a sticker on the back with a distressing photo of a central American guy with a huge ugly red seeping growth on his throat with the caption SMOKING CAN LEAD TO SLOW AND PAINFIL DEATH. Not the most attractive thing to have adorning your musical instrument! So I removed that though I might keep the standard Smoking Kills sticker. So with the body of the uke taken care of all I need is a neck, I have a piece of teak that I found in a rock pool on the beach, my banjo guitar has some of it as the fingerboard already and I am hoping it will make a good one piece neck, teak would be far too heavy on a guitar but as this is such a small instrument I’m hoping it will just make it feel a bit more substantial and not make it too neck heavy. I can always glue a bock into the back of the box to balance it if it is. I’m going to make it into a tenor size uke (17” scale length)as Victoria Vox’s always sounds nice and it should be a little less cramped to play than either a soprano (13”) or concert (15”) size

Cigar box Uke blog part 2

The Ukulele neck is coming on well and as you can see I've attached some extension blocks to the headstock area to make it wide enough and am gluing together a couple of maple off cuts and strip of rosewood to make a nice laminate which will be glued on top for the headstock facing.