Author Archives: Matt

About Matt

See the About page.

Folding Ukuleles

One of the guys behind a Kickstarter project to manufacture an electric folding ukulele dropped me a note asking if I’d mention his project. Intrigued, I checked out their promo video and must say, there is some impressive design and engineering afoot here. This ukulele not only looks super cool, it folds down to the size of a shoe.

When expanded, it’s still fairly small, and lacks anything like an acoustic body. But it does have wings that pop out to provide some structure.

And yes, in case you noticed that cord coming out the bottom of it, there’s a headphone jack. In fact, those are pickups on the body, and the electric version supports both headphone and amplifier output jacks. There’s also an acoustic version for the budget conscious, though I doubt there’s much real acoustic action going on there. Here’s a video demonstrating the fairly unimpressive acoustic sound.

This is a 3D printed prototype and not what will ultimately be manufactured, but it’s probably not far from what the final product will sound like. Where this thing shines, sound-wise, is through an amp. The electric version sounds pretty good through even an inexpensive practice amp:

The other notable feature of this instrument is that folding and unfolding it is a simple one-step process. There’s no need to slack the strings first or make any other adjustments. You just fold it and unfold. The bridge slides forward when its folding to keep the strings from getting pulled tighter.

The Kickstarter has a fair amount of support already, and I look forward to seeing this product at Guitar Center some day.

The First?

Reading the Kickstarter page, I couldn’t help but notice their tag line: “the first smart foldable Ukulele”. Smart? Clearly, I thought, this word was inserted because it’s not the first folding ukulele. And Google search confirmed my hunch. If your ukulele just isn’t small enough as it is, but you yearn for an acoustic body when it’s unfolded, or want to make it yourself, there’s the first foldable ukulele. You can see this one does not have the clever moving bridge, requiring a fair bit of fiddling to fold and unfold it. But it does have an acoustic body. Even so, it sounds only slightly better than the Astro. At one point you could  buy a kit to assemble one of these yourself, though it seems Brian Chan has lost interest in the project (sad face). He did, however, post the design files for those who want to recreate this ukulele from scratch.

NAMM 2018 Ukulele Gear Mega Playlist

Ah, my favorite time of year. NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) holds a huge trade show in Anaheim each year, and there always follows a cornucopia of interviews from companies in the ukulele space. The show is an opportunity for manufacturers to connect with vendors who sell the products. Lucky for us, the ukulele community has lots of attendees who record their talks and share them so we can learn what’s new with ukulele gear. With ukulele videos, there’s The Ukulele Site and then there’s everyone else. I’ve featured their (so far) fairly short playlist of NAMM videos, followed by a MEGA playlist I have created of everyone else.

The Ukulele Site always has amazingly high quality videos, and their NAMM coverage is no exception. They will be adding to this list over the coming days and weeks.

And here’s my MEGA playlist with everything else, starting with a great highlights video from Daniel TimTim. Enjoy!

KoAloha Finally Updated their Website

Last year when I was in the market for a new ukulele, I was hungry for information about my favorite models. KoAloha has always been among my top ukulele brands, but their website was a frustrating “Coming soon” message  for WAY too long. I just checked on a whim and found there’s actually a site there now. Don’t be fooled by the still-present “Coming soon” message on the home page. Just scroll down. Good information on their models and nice job on the site in general.

koaloha website

Sanbornton to Franklin

I just posted a new original recording to Soundcloud. Back in May of 2015, I came up with the guts of this song while driving home to Massachusetts from Northern New Hampshire. My mom was in hospital up there and I did that drive a lot, leaving lots of time alone in the car to ruminate. The street sign on 93 pictured here is what inspired the words. And me finding that image in under 2 minutes is proof you can find an image of anything on the Internet. I sometimes record myself singing a tune using my phone in the car so I can recall it later. That eventually got worked into a full song and finally, this month, got recorded.

The recording features my Martin T1K as the primary rhythm instrument. And just realizing I haven’t posted a review of that uke on here yet – definitely need to get on that. The bass is my MIM Fender Jazz, which I’ve been playing regularly with Secret Rhythm Project. And the drum track is assembled from samples in Ableton Live.

My ear is better than my ability to sing in tune, so this recording process has inspired me to do some regular and diligent vocal practice. Google Music has a bunch of vocal training material like Voice Building Vocal Exercises for Singers by Sam West. My plan is to bang through 15 min or so of that every day in the car to and from work.

Lots more song snippets like the one that started this tune lie waiting for my time to develop and record them. And I am on somewhat of a creative streak, so hopefully more to come soon. Until then, happy new year!

New album from Elof & Wamberg

Elof & Wamberg are an ukulele and acoustic bass duo from Denmark. Their first album was released in 2012 and the latest, titled Byen Sover, came out this past November. If you liked the first album, you’ll like the second, too. These guys have a unique and wonderful sound, blending jazz, Danish folk and reggae into spare instrumental songs featuring just ukulele and upright bass. If you want to read more, check out the incredibly detailed review over at Live ‘Ukulele.

And, just for fun, here’s a video of them playing live recently while a lady does the Elaine dance from Seinfeld.

 

 

Gwyn Edwards

If you dug through the Spotify playlists and mixtape from Al Wood at Ukulele Hunt the other day, you may have stumbled across Gwin Edwards. He’s got two albums on Bandcamp. St Guinefort etc. is ukulele music and Archetypes, the more recent, heavier on the guitar. Al Wood compared Edwards to “what Nick Drake might have sounded like if he played the ukulele”. It’s a fair comparison, and his guitar music reminds me of Jose Gonzalez. If those references sound interesting to you, give him a listen.

Best Ukulele Learning Channels on YouTube

Somebody on the /r/Ukulele subreddit recently asked for recommendations on YouTube channels for learning ukulele. There is such a flood of ukulele tutorial videos out there, many of which are not of the best quality. However, some of them are truly great, and many of these have been collected in this Reddit post.

Here’s the post: What’s a good YouTube channel for a total newbie to learn the ukulele?

Some of the top picks:

 

Ukulele Hunt Curated Music

In one of Uke Hunt’s recent Friday Links post, Al pointed out his most recent Spotify playlist. These playlists are a great place to find good ukulele music. What I wasn’t aware of was his page of all the Spotify playlists in one place, and a mixtape he created a while back. Good stuff to explore on Spotify if you’re looking for ukulele music.

Ukulele Spotify Playlists

The Ukulele Mixtape

 

A Ukulele Chord API

Csus2_154Ukulele players who know what an API is can rejoice – there’s now an API for generating ukulele chord charts (and photos!).  I discovered this on the Daily API Roundup over at programmableweb.com:

Ukulele Chords is a library of ukulele chord charts in various tunings. Ukulele Chords API allows developers to query and publish ukulele chords diagrams (and/or additional infos like intervals, difficulty, etc.) on their website. We’ve added this API to the Music category.

Check out the API details and docs, along with a PHP code sample, at ukulele-chords.com/api.

I subbmitted for an API key and can now produce beautiful chord charts like this one with a simple link. Here’s an example from their page:

Example: to query Csus2 chord infos, call our API: “http://ukulele-chords.com/get?ak=your_api_key&r=C&typ=sus2”

That example produces an XML result that looks like this:

Images produced for each chord variant include:

Happy chord coding!