Mya-Moe Ukuleles: Meet Your Maker

Mya-Moe Ukuleles are played by a number of Uke Hunt favourites like James Hill, Lil’ Rev, Mark Nelson and Daddy Stovepipe. But I know very little about them. So what better way to find out more about them than throw a few questions at the husband and wife team behind Mya-Moe, Gordon and Char Mayer.

How long have Mya-Moe been making ukuleles and how did you get started?

Gordon made guitars & mandolins for 7 years. One of his early guitar customers, professional musician Moe Dixon, asked if he’d build him a ukulele. Gordon delivered that instrument in April, 2008 (18 months ago). By the time that instrument was completed, he had so much ukulele interest that he stopped building guitars and Char started helping in the shop. As of now we’ve built 150 ukuleles. Char builds the bodies and Gordon does the necks, fretboards & finish work.

What sort of players are your ukuleles aimed at?

We make a serious instrument that’s played by a number of professional, touring musicians (including the likes of James Hill, Emily Hurd, Lil’ Rev and Moe Dixon). But, we also have instruments starting at $575 which we aim at the player buying their second ukulele. They’ve already bought an inexpensive production uke and their instrument is starting to hold them back.

We work closely with professionals because they give us the input to improve our ukuleles. But, in ways, the amateur is more demanding. It is the beginning player that really appreciates the ease of fretting, fast neck, and perfect intonation.

What separates Mya-Moe from other ukuleles?

Rather than compare to others, we’d rather just highlight our feature set. We think that there are three things that are important to players. In order, they are playability, tone and aesthetics. We try to excel in all 3 areas.

In terms of playability, we have a compensated saddle for perfect intonation & tuning all the way up the neck, a radiused fretboard for ease of fretting (especially bar chords), hand-dressed frets for a very smooth feel, and a hand-shaped neck which is designed to be very “fast”. People comment that once they hold our instrument, they don’t want to put it down. The weight and balance are designed to be very comfortable and effortless.

In terms of tone, we hand-voice every instrument. That’s what Char does, and that’s where the magic is. Every piece of wood is unique and must be treated as such. You can’t build to a blueprint–you have to find the personality of every instrument. We aim for a big, broad voice with long sustain. We go to great lengths and expense to put in features that reduce instrument vibration in order to turn every bit of string energy into sound. While our instruments each have a unique personality that is a function of the individual type & set of wood, they have a consistent “Mya-Moe tone.”

And, for aesthetics, we try to have a unwavering attention-to-detail. We offer the choice of matte (satin, oil-rubbed) or gloss (UV-cured polyester) finishes. They are meticulously applied. Our owners consistently comment on the workmanship of our instruments.

We build about 150 ukuleles a year. That’s a small enough number that we have no employees, and we hand-build and hand-voice every instrument. But, it’s a large enough number (we string 3 per week) that we can constantly experiment, refine and perfect our designs.

What do you think makes a great ukulele?

Well, all the things mentioned above. But, I’ll say that a great ukulele is one that the player/owner just loves. We like to say that the instrument chooses the musician. By that, we mean that when you pick up the right instrument, you just know that it is perfect for you. We want owners that are absolutely fanatical about their Mya-Moe. And, if a person buys one of our instruments and doesn’t love it, we refund their money and pay to have it shipped back.

You’re one of the few companies that makes lap steel ukuleles. What inspired you to make them? And how did you approach designing them?

James Hill asked us if we’d make him a lap steel. We took it on as an engineering & design challenge. Luckily, we already had a successful resonator model, so we were able to use that design as a baseline. The hardest challenge is knowing the required pressure on the resonator cone & figuring out, based on the string tension and “break angle” how to deliver that pressure. The lap steel is probably our most gratifying design, because the first one worked perfectly the first time we strung it up.

Visit Mya-Moe Ukuleles.

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6 Comments

  1. Byjimini October 14th, 2009 7:42 pm

    Brilliant interview.

  2. drfrancov October 15th, 2009 1:36 am

    I just bought their DVD on building a ukulele kit from Stewart McDonald (made for that company). And I can tell you they do an excellent job at explaining all aspects related to this complicated task. I own most DVDs and book available on ukulele building and have built 3 kits and 1 cigar box uke, and let me tell you if I would’ve had their DVD when I started building, my life would’ve been so much easy!. If they build their uke as well as they teach, man we are talking first class instruments!

  3. Gary October 15th, 2009 7:57 am

    Nice interview Al. You like feeding my UAS dont you? Will have to sell some old ukes before wifey lets me get one though.

  4. Jeannie Ceciliani October 15th, 2009 4:19 pm

    That’s a sweet sounding ukulele and a lovely article. I’ve met Char and Gordon and am a proud owner of #08049 – tenor resonator. PROUD is the key word here as they are such wonderful people and artists in there arena of making very fine ukuleles. I’m going to Eugene Oregon this weekend to look at their new supply! :)

  5. Tamster October 17th, 2009 2:38 am

    Good interview. I went to their website and they have some beautiful ukes. I find their “warm to bright” graphic interesting. I’ve never seen that before.

  6. Woodshed October 17th, 2009 9:21 am

    Mr store: Him and the uke are very impressive.

    Byjimini: I enjoyed it too. I love what they said, “Every piece of wood is unique and must be treated as such. You can’t build to a blueprint–you have to find the personality of every instrument.”

    drfrankov: One day I’ll buy myself a shed and learn to make stuff – it’ll be a disaster but still…

    Gary: Wife? You need to get your priorities straight ;)

    Jeannie: Enjoy your weekend!

    Tamster: It does make a mockery of those ukuleles that call themselves ‘warm and bright’.

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