The RISA solid ukulele isn’t like any other ukulele out there: it’s shaped like a hollowed out cricket bat, the tuning pegs are at the wrong end, it doesn’t have a head, its bridge is aluminium. Obviously, I had to have one.
Construction: Solid walnut.
Fretboard: Walnut 17 frets.
Neck: Solid walnut.
Pickups: Passive Piezo.
The sound of an electric ukulele is going to have more to do with what you run it through than the uke itself. But here are a few clips of it through a Boss GT-10 to give you an idea.
First time: as it comes out of the ukulele. Second time: through pre-amp. Third time: pre-amp, EQ and a bit of reverb. Fourth time: cheesed up (pre-amp, EQ, a bit of reverb, quite a lot of chorus).
Rocked Out Widdle-Fest
All sorts in there: looper, slicer, wah, delay.
The Good Stuff
- It’s very easy to play: The neck feels very slick. The action is low. It’s very light. Unlike a lot of ukuleles that pack on useless frets, all the frets are playable with any finger. Because the body and neck are all one piece you can also do a bit of fretless playing above the top fret.
- Design: It’s not just a ukulele with pickups on. RISA have obviously given a lot of thought to what is required of an electric ukulele and designed towards that. It’s also pleasing as an object – to look at and hold (it’s very light).
My only grumble is the big RISA logo slapped on it. There’s a reason you don’t see chairs with ‘THOMAS CHIPPENDALE’ scrawled across the front of them. The design of it says it’s a RISA more clearly than the logo.
- It’s well made: No flaws in mine. And the intonation is spot on.
- It’s solid: Not just in the sense that it’s not hollow. It’s also very sturdy. As the shape suggests, you could play cricket with it.
The Not So Good Stuff
- It takes a lot of getting used to: It’s very different from any ukulele you’re used to. I found myself falling off the end of the neck a few times. The tuning pegs are on the body and it took me a while to get used to which tuning peg goes with which string and which way to turn them. You need to buy a strap to play it comfortably.
- The tuning pegs: This is the main drawback of the ukulele as far as I’m concerned. Even after getting used to the system there are problems. Like a lot of friction tuners, it’s hard to tune them accurately and they’re placed too close together for comfortable tuning.
- Aaaargh, the string is jammed: During some over-enthusiastic widdling I broke the A string. I went to take it off to find that the string was jammed in the hole at the nut end. There’s no way of getting direct access to it either. I had to bash a pin through the hole to free it. Even after setting it free, the rest of the string changing experience was also a pain in the arse.
I haven’t heard about this happening to anyone else, but the fact it can happen seems like a pretty big design floor to me.
- Passive pickups: That means you don’t get the on-board kajiggers like tone and volume controls. Not necessarily a big disadvantage. But you don’t get a headphone socket like you do with the EleUke which comes in handy for quiet practice.
I enjoy playing the RISA. The string jamming incident has soured me against it a little, but it’s a way better ukulele than the EleUke.