Trigger Warning: if you suffer from Paraskevidekatriaphobia it might be best to ignore the next paragraph.
my brand new case, covered in genuine naugadile hide.
Around two in the afternoon this past Friday, the 13th, I had the great good fortune to open the front door of my place just in time to see the mailman pull up with my new ukulele case. I got it on eBay from someone in New Jersey called “city-green” for the mere price of $33.49, with free shipping no less. Even with ordering it on the 3rd, when the postal services were still reeling from the holidays, it only took the ten days to get here.
There were cheaper cases available, some from the same seller, but I must admit the combination of the faux reptile skin and the red stitching got me.
“But, Mr. Hobbit,” you may be thinking, “what good is a new uke case without a ukulele to go inside it?” Well…
just the right size for my brand new ukulele, made out of genuine mahogany and spruce.
Introducing, Pierson, my new Ohana SK-75. I also got him on eBay (from Mim’s Ukes) and he arrived on the 3rd.
While I’ve had a number of ukulele go through my hands, I’ve never been much of a collector. In fact, lower down in this entry you’ll see my entire collection. It’s the second largest I’ve ever had. The largest collection was only 2 more ukes, and it didn’t last long. That’s right, it’s not a bad case of UAS, there was actually a reason for getting this ukulele.
beautiful spruce face with nice purfling and rosette.
As pretty much all my fellow ukesters know, a broken string will bring your show to a screeching halt. Unlike guitars, you can’t just throw a new string on and expect it to tune up and play. It takes a couple days for new strings to “settle in” sufficiently to take them out into public.
If you’re a hobbyist that can be extremely embarrassing. If you’re striving to be a professional, that can be a disaster.
I mean, picture it. You’ve just taken a 90 minute drive to play a gig in someplace other than your hometown. There’s a great audience, you’ve gotten everything set up just so, and smack in the middle of your second song… spang! There goes a string.
So… wtf do you say?
“Hey, folks! Thanks for driving through this monsoon-like rainstorm to hear me play. You kids are terrific but, alas, that’s the end of the show. Buh bye now.”
I don’t think so.
Mind you, again unlike guitars, broken strings are not common on the ukulele. In the 13 or so years I’ve been “serious” about the uke, I think I’ve broken 10 strings. When I was busking with guitar, I could break 10 strings in a week or so, depending on the weather.
solid mahogany body and neck. nice rosewood binding.
When my custom Glyph was stolen back in June, 2015, the generosity of my friends and fans made it possible to not only get Lucky, the nice Hamano that’s been my go to ukulele ever since then, but also to pick up Cokie when I found him at such a terrific sale price. This meant that for the gigs where I need to plug into a sound system I had Indiana for my main uke, and Cokie as a backup.
interesting grain on the back.
That still left the problem of the acoustic-only gig. I do a lot of these, and I’m looking for more of them. The house concerts, private parties, and coffeehouse appearances are amongst my favorites.
For one thing, bringing your own sound system with you is a lot of extra effort. Even the “small” system that Sketch and I use sometimes for Hobbit & Hare means a bunch of extra things, at least one of them being pretty damn heavy.
So what if the venue supplies the sound system? There’s still extra stuff (cords, direct boxes, etc.) to keep track of.
But whether you’re plugged in or it’s an acoustic show, what happens when you’ve driven all those miles, hit your second song and… spang!?
So I needed a decent backup ukulele for those acoustic shows. But let me assure you, Pierson is not a “decent” uke, he’s an excellent uke! Beyond the fact that Ohana turns out good ukuleles to begin with (playable “right out of the box”), Mim’s setup efforts were the cherry on top of the sundae.
I don’t give half a hoot about “bling” on my instruments, but I do like a nice looking one. The woods, the build quality, the rosette, purfling, and binding… all make Pierson a beauty to behold. Plus, unlike many ukulele in the moderately priced to inexpensive range, this one comes with side dots (at the 5th, 7th, and 10th fret, just like I like ’em!). The tone and intonation are terrific, and he has volume for just days!
If you’re thinking I’m suggesting you buy an Ohana, and further you buy it from Mim, you’re absolutely correct! Both Ohana and Mim have established excellent and well deserved reputations. Mim sold me this ukulele for about 2/3 of its MSRP, all the while adding value with her careful and, yes, loving attention to detail.
the family, left to right: T.R., Pierson, Lucky, Lil’ Hokum, Indiana, Cokey
I rarely do this sort of thing, but here is a family portrait of all the ukulele I own (less one broken one that I still think is fixable). Except where noted in the following list, all of them are sopranos, sporting concert gauge Aquila NylGut strings, tuned GCEA. All except Lil’ Hokum are solid wood, mostly mahogany.
- T.R. is an Ohana SK21 sopranino ukulele. I got him quite a while back in a trade with the mighty Deach. He got his name because he’s just as wee and cuddly as a teddy bear, but I happen to know that Mr. Roosevelt preferred T.R. over Teddy as a nickname. T.R. is one of the two exceptions to the “sopranos only” rule, having a scale length of just 11 inches. He’s also tuned to F tuning (CFAD), one fourth higher than standard. He’s the only one with soprano gauge strings.
- You’ve already been introduced to Pierson. He got his name because Louis Wu, the founder of Ohana Ukuleles, shares his name with the hero from Larry Niven’s Ringworld series of books. This series introduced us to an alien race known as “Pierson’s Puppeteers.”
- Lucky is a Hamano H100. As I mentioned earlier, he was courtesy of the generosity of my friends and fans after my custom Glyph was stolen in June, 2015. I’m lucky to have such friends and fans!
- Lil’ Hokum is an old banjo ukulele that I got from the estate of Hokum W. Jeebs. I have no idea who made him or what his model number is. He’s the other exception to the sopranos rule, having a scale length more like a concert, except on a skinnier neck. He’s tuned to the “other standard” tuning, ADF#B, because he’s just happier there.
- Indiana is a Mainland Classic Mahogany soprano fitted with a MiSi pickup system. I got him a bit over 6 years ago with some of the money from my Uncle Layton’s will. He’s done a lot of shows with me, including two week-long runs with Snake Suspenderz as the pit band for Seattle’s legendary Moisture Festival. (That’s 9 shows over the course of 5 days.)
- Cokey is a Koloa KU-600-E. I found him on an extreme sale (I think he totalled right around $150 after taxes) at The Trading Musician. I had enough money left from the Lucky fund to snag him. He still has his D’Addario strings on him because I haven’t gotten around to changing them yet. His name is a pun. Think about it a moment and you’ll get it.
They’re not the walls full of ukulele that I’ve sometimes seen, but they do a fine job for me.