And when I looked it up on the Internet I found it was actually a Piccolo Mandolin with a scale length of 326mm (a standard Mandolin should have a scale length of at least 350mm) This makes me even happier to have invited it, I do like diminutive chordophone even though the are harder to play and there are not many Piccolo Mandolins on the market either. Now it currently has fairly heavy strings on and so is tuned to a standard G~D~A~E tuning but the string need replacing so I will go for a lighter set and give it the high C~G~D~A tuning like a Mandola but an octave higher. After all I can't play the Mandolin so it's not going to throw me on the chord shapes (Well I can play "Sweet Home Alabama" but I'm fairly sure I can manage that transposed too). It is a bit chipped but there is no structural problems and it's not like I haven't got plenty of "experienced" Ukuleles at the corner to keep it company and it is laminate spruce but there are plenty of laminate Ukuleles too. it was never meant to be a High Class instrument but it is Class and given the maker and the size it was always going to be on my want list as soon as I knew of its existence
There is, on Ukulele Island, a lot of pawn shops not far from Ukulele Corner and I have taken to walking past them whilst out on my daily walk; and sometimes going in to look at what nice chordophones have been abandoned there. Possibly I shouldn't, after all it's mostly Guitars and I can't play Guitar (though the Gibson Les Paul in one of them is very nice and I'm tempted - but at £1200, not that tempted) Now I can't play the Banjo either but one of them had a very nice, clean Barnes & Mullins open back Banjo at a very reasonable price and I thought it would be a welcome addition to Ukulele Corner. I said to myself "if I win the lottery tonight I will invite it to the corner" Well I also thought "if I win big I'll invite the Les Paul too." Well I didn't win big but I did win; £2.60. Obfuscation I know but a promise is a promise so I have invited the Banjo to Ukulele Corner.
Now I have to work out how to play it?
I like the sound of the Banjo and I know playing one has a lot to do with finger picking, (which I am crap at) but i think there is more to it than that? Anyway...
What I have invited is a Barnes and Mullins open backed Banjo One that is quite plain and looks very businesslike which was one of the things that struck me about it. I looked at the B&M catalogue and the only open back banjo I could see was the "Albert" and this was much "flashier" than this one with florid fret markers and a much fancier headstock. Mine looks like the same basic body, size of drum, size of neck and everything; even the headstock shape is the same but I don't know if it is an "Albert" or another model. I can see it is fairly new but I don't know exactly how old, if it is a discontinued model not that it really matters I think it looks and feels really nice and it gives me the opportunity to try and learn to play Banjo and to start a Banjo collection too! Especially as it came with a good padded soft case and some finger (and thumb) picks.
I still having even got all of the Ukuleles to Ukulele Island never mind Ukulele Corner on Ukulele Island this is one of the reasons I haven't been inviting new, (to me), Ukulele to live here. I must get it all together soon though not least because I have invited a new resident.
Like ƒ holes I am a sucker for perloid and this one as not only a perloid fretboard but a perloid golpeador too! I'm not entirely sure of the maker? I know it is 1930's and European, maybe British(?) made. I assured that it is all in good order with no splits, cracks or major chips, (of course it still might be a right clunker and these assurances might not be true?) I hope that I can work out more about its maker when it gets here.
I hope I have somewhere to hang it properly when it gets here too!
There is a new Ukulele Corner, it is now on Ukulele Island and some of the Ukuleles have come home to it but as always I need to put some rails up. Well I need to put a lot of rails up because at the moment they are all sitting on the floor but the space is here and soon all of the Ukuleles will be
and then maybe some more might come?
Wherever here is - and I am in trouble there are lots of things I should be doing rather than buying new Ukuleles, especially as all of the others are packed away. But it's nice to have a new Ukulele; even if I can't play it much, and I have no idea when I can take some proper photos of it. Or how? It is clear and so it going to present a few challenges, not least keeping it clean because at the moment it would be the dirt and grease spots that would show up the most. its also tricky because the strings need stretching but it makes a noise and I'm not suppose to make much of a Ukulele noise until I get my own house. At the moment it is more likely I write a review of it that I take photos or do a sound clip But then I did say in the last Aqulele review that the big elephant in the room was the lack of a waterman to compare it with, and now I can remedy this.
The "I'm about to loose control" line is wrong though because I think I have already lost control First I buy a new home for Ukulele Corner so now it will be Ukulele Corner of Ukulele Island then I do one of those looking at ebay and seeing a nice, in this case, Banjolele about to end and no one bidding on it very low starting price and no reserve, bound to have a load of action in the last minute but I'll still have a punt at the low asking price - and then there was no last minute action! What I have invited is a MISCo (Musical Instrument Specialities Co. of Elkhart, Indiana) metal body banjolele in a copper finish; one of the classic pre war US Banjoleles! This one is the less deluxe version with the "gumby" headstock and no metal pan resonator, (but it does come with a contemporary hard case so shows it never had one - they didn't all). These were most often sold in the US under Bruno's Maxitone branding, and the Banjo-ette Elkhart, Indiana branding too but a number of people distributed them, (including it would seem someone in the UK but I don't know who? - maybe the case will give me a clue), and you do see a lot that were never branded. It needs a new bridge and the frets apparently need dressing both of which I can sort out so this should be a welcome new resident - once the new, purpose built, Corner is up and holding residents
And very coppery it is too. The case is on the used side but it has kept the little banjo fairly shiny and bright. I don't like the strings much (but then I have the set I put on the Shanghai Skylark to replace them with) and I seem to have packed all of my spare bridges already (so I have had to "borrow" one from one of the Banjoleles that's still here) but the skin is perfect so even with the strings it came with its very playable and I'm about to loose control and I think I like it...
Anyway usual routine up this one pops on eBay - I thought it looked interesting, a lot of experience showing on the finish but from the pictures it looks basically sound and whilst I know I have seen that S shaped fret board end before I couldn't remember if I saw it on a 1930's German model or a 1950's Japanese one? Either way it looked interesting and I though I would at least have a small punt, (like I do for interesting instruments and generally get outbid) Well this time I didn't so its coming to the original Ukulele Corner just in time to be packed up and moved. Never mind I am excited at having it come and looking forward to finding out if the pretty binding is inlay or decal, if there are any makers marks and if it is pre war solid woods or post war laminate? (but possibly still solid woods). Meanwhile I will hunt through my notes to see if I can remember where I had seen the design before? Now the tuners are the 60's shark tooth ones but they may be replacements - or a number of Occupied Japanese makers copied Harmonies design and they are original? The bridge is a one piece wooden affair but its not a design I recognise but I enjoy all of the detective work, as well as playing the Ukulele and the workmanship that went into making it and I shall look forward to reporting who made it once I have solved the misery.
Once I unpacked it there were two main problems - the first is its in a lot worse condition than I was led to expect with a crack that runs the length of the sound board, (which at least shows it is solid wood though probably pine; and the binding is a decal), and a place where the body is coming away from the soundboard. There might also be a crack in the side and a place where the back is coming away from the sides too; on top of all the clear scuffing and chips shown in the picture. I'm tempted to return it as "not as described" given that there was no mention of any cracks, but given what I paid for it and the cost of sending it back, its probably not worth it. The other thing and its not a problem other than a problem of my attribution, but as soon as I took it out of the packing I knew it as a late 20th c. Skylark Ukulele made in Shanghai, Peoples, Republic of China, not a brand, location or period that was known for its quality! Now I knew that one day one would find its way to Ukulele Corner, there are just too many about but I was expecting to be given one or find one and if I was going to buy one... Well I have passed up lots in the past for the same sort of money in much better condition. Oh well its here now so I will have a good look at it so I can recognise them more easily, (its already made me go back and look at a lot of the unbranded Ukulele pictures I have to see if I have miss-attributed them to pre-war Germany), clean it up a bit and learn to love it for what it is. I'm not so sure I will try to get the cracks fixed though? I try and string it and make a sound sample and it can hang with all the other clunkers representing a period and a location that done make up the full history of the Ukulele.
I tried putting some strings on - and surprisingly it sounded a lot better than I though it would! For a bit - the string tension causes the crack to widen making a dreadful buzz and clearly damaging the soundboard further! It said quite clearly on the eBay description "No Cracks" and as this is clearly cracked and unusable I have decided to return it and get for my money back. Given the 5 minutes that the tone was OK though I may be a little more favourable about the next top end Shanghai Skylark I see?
I'm always a little sad when I can't home a Ukulele at the corner but I don't have space for every thing. I learned a lot from it and it took a reasonable photo for what it was I still had to pay postage one way for these privileges and given the seller I fully expect to see it back on eBay shortly
Aqulele Soprano, I thought for a modern plastic Ukulele it sounded very good, the build quality was a little suspect but then I did have one of the first ones from the production run; and it was free, because Bugsgear asked me to review it! And that's the big maybe here too because Bugsgear have once again asked me to review this Concert one; thanks Bugsgear I would be delighted. Now it's a fairly different design with the slot head and the ƒ hole, (and everyone knows I'm a sucker for ƒ holes). With the little pick guard and the cutaway too; I think it looks, from the pictures I have seen, quite distinctive and given the poor quality of the competition in Concert scale plastic ukuleles I hope they will be on to a winner. I just hope they really do sent me one.
And its quite colourful but with a painted on ƒ hole, (slightly disappointed as I thought it actually had one and I like ƒ holes), the pickguard is a separate item though and a slot head always looks classy. It also came tuned as a low G which surprised me, especially as the G string is wound so was thinner than the C. My first impression is "a lot of sustain" but I will let it settle for a bit (as it is new out of the factory via Normans music again) before doing any proper evaluation. Anyway though Thank you Bugsgear (and thank you Normans too)
And what I have gone for is an "ultra thin bodied" (4cm) spruce top Soprano in a high gloss black finish. Well there isn't any thin body Ukuleles at the corner (and I do need to have a good example set as I HAVE to lose a lot of weight) and this one does look quite stylish with the very close to Lag and Leho styling. It is a Chinese brand I have not heard of before and I'm not sure from the logo if it's suppose to be Z I or, (more likely for the marketing), I Z? Whatever the case, if it does look as good as the picture? it will come at a very reasonable price especially if it does come from the same factory as the more famous brands it copies so closely
and its very shiny and black
well it would be but there are a few dirt and finger marks on it (so far they have all cleaned off and its very shiny underneath - clearly this is going to be a fun one to keep shiny) It is also quite Head heavy with its small ultrathin body but one of the chunkiest necks I've seen on a Soprano and quite heavy closed geared tuners. This leaves it with an odd balance that means you can almost balance it on the chord hand alone so don't have to put much pressure on with the strumming arm which does add to the volume but also leads to an interesting technique when playing
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