New Fenders, UkeBags: Ukulele Window Shopping

Fender has two new ukuleles out both small and cheaper than their previous tenor-only ukes. The concert size Mino’Aka and the soprano U’Uku. And they’ve taken the admirable step of saying the ukuleles are laminated in their product descriptions.

UkeBag.com has some very fetching handmade ukulele bags.

Kanile’a are mostly known for their finely crafted but hideously expensive ukuleles. But now they’ve brought out a budget range of Islander ukuleles (including the Islander MSS-4). A few interesting things about it: it has bridge pins, it doesn’t have the Kanile’a logo but a hideous ‘Islander’ logo (which is probably a smart decision as they might not want the Kanile’a logo associated with cheaper instruments), and the name is already taken.

This post on Not Playing Guitar about ugly amps got me thinking. Kala’s ukulele amps have had stick for being under-powered and over-priced, but there’s no doubt it’s prettier than the standard ‘black breeze-block’ look. So does having a good looking amp or uke encourage you to play more?

8-string “Erickenbacker” ukulele.

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23 Comments

  1. lindydanny September 2nd, 2011 7:59 pm

    The Kala amps are just a relabeled cheap amp. They do look cooler than some, but I prefer an amp that does what it is supposed to do.

  2. tjvonp September 2nd, 2011 7:59 pm

    As phonographs became more popular in the early half of the last century, the demand rose for players that were built to look like a standard piece of furniture.

    The reason that this hasn’t caught on for guitar amps, I think, is that a lot of amateurs like to show off what they play, and professionals care mostly about sound quality, not appearance. Personally, I’ve considered taking a night stand or other piece of furniture and rigging it to house one of my amps. It would probably make me more comfortable with leaving it out all the time.

  3. Hello Jodi September 2nd, 2011 8:09 pm

    Why would someone need amplification if they’re not performing?

  4. Woodshed September 3rd, 2011 7:48 am

    lindydanny: And the Mona Lisa is just some paint on a canvas. I think there’s value in stuff that looks good.

    tjvonp: I’m not sure I entirely agree about professionals caring mostly about sound.

    Jodi: For practice. Particularly if you’re using a solid electric uke.

  5. Alli Burke September 3rd, 2011 8:29 am

    I am a proud owner of one of ukebags’ tote bags. It’s lovely, really well made and draws comments from everyone that sees it.

  6. Amanda September 3rd, 2011 10:40 am

    I’ve been looking at a couple of nice (read good) 10 watt and 20 watt amps. They really are ugly, and not pug ugly either, just plain ugly ugly. But I had a thought about taking the innards out and rehousing them in a custom made casing. The idea I have is a good solid oak box to house the delicate innards, use the sound grill that comes with it. Put four little castors on the bottom so it can be kicked around the room, when I’m too lazy to use my hands. And a recessed, pop up handle. The handle itself made from the same oak, fitted flush with the upper surface and almost filling the recess, so the amp can be used as a working surface as well.

    Sounds like a good idea to me, but I have no experience with amps. I do have an unfortunately large amount of experience with metal tools meeting live wires, so I’m rather twitchy about doing this. The woodwork is no problem.

    Anyone have experience with this sort of rebuilding?

  7. Phredd September 3rd, 2011 11:58 am

    The picture of the Beatles with the erickenbacker is perfect. The look on their faces says it all. Hilarious!

  8. Keithmj September 4th, 2011 5:08 am

    I have the Kala Roundabout 10 Watt Ukulele Amplifier – Tweed that my wife bought me to go with the Tweed Kala case and the Boulder Creek Electric Tenor Ukulele that she also bought me and I am loving it. Just for playing around with it is plenty big enough. We call it the pig amp as it looks like a pigs face. Not a Fender 30 Watt but does what is need..

  9. Woodshed September 4th, 2011 11:38 am

    Alli: I might well end up getting one myself at some point.

    Amanda: I would have thought you’d be alright if you’re just rehousing it. But don’t take that from me – I’m hopelessly unpractical.

    Phredd: I’m sure the main reason Ringo was in the band was because of his being-in-photos ability.

    Keithmj: Thanks, glad to hear you like it.

  10. Cindy September 4th, 2011 4:35 pm

    I would like to ask if my ukulele is a soprano or a concert. It is a Mahalo ukulele, and a total of approximately 52cm.

  11. Amanda September 4th, 2011 8:46 pm

    Cindy, what’s the number on the sticker inside your uke?

  12. Liam Beeblebrox September 5th, 2011 9:53 am

    Hey.
    I agree, most guitar amps look horrible. They also don’t pick up all the ukulele’s sounds.
    Recently I got a Marshall AS50D(http://marshallamps.com/product.asp?productCode=AS50D), which, apart from looking good, does a great job of picking up my Kala Archtop (http://www.kalaukulele.com/Kala_Arch_Top.asp). It’s more suited to electro-acoustic pickups, which use a piezo element, rather then a magnetic pickup in an electric guitar.
    I would recommend this amp.

  13. Cindy September 5th, 2011 1:00 pm

    Amanda, it is U30G/BR

  14. Amanda September 5th, 2011 1:20 pm

    Okay Cindy, looked it up and it is a soprano. Easiest way to check the specifications on anything is to do a google search with the brand name and model number. Usually it’ll come up somewhere and if it doesn’t then it’s someone playing silly buggers. Hope that helps.

  15. Woodshed September 6th, 2011 7:43 am

    Liam: Thanks for the info.

    Amanda: Thanks very much for sorting that out.

  16. Greenway September 6th, 2011 9:34 am

    I think the Kala amps look hideous.
    Now a ZT Lunchbox. That is a cool little combo.
    Or a Dr. Z Mini.
    But the coolest amp definitely is an Ampeg SVT 2 with an 810e cab.
    Or an old Sound City <3

    I like amps. Sue me. :p

  17. Amanda September 6th, 2011 10:35 am

    @Wood. Now problem, it was a simple fix anyway.

    @Green. Would you be able to recommend a reasonable budget amp, one that actually works with a uke? I ended up with an electro-acoustic one and once I pay for my mandolin (lay-away if a great invention ain’t it?) I would very much like to make full use of it. But I don’t have much money to spend on an amp.

  18. Amanda September 6th, 2011 12:04 pm

    That should read “no problem” damn early morning butterfingers, where’s my coffee gotten itself to?

  19. Dan September 6th, 2011 10:22 pm

    I think the thing that encourages me to play the most is to have a uke available at all times. I bought a Cordoba La Playa Traveler Uke that goes with me everywhere. If something happens to it I don’t have to feel as bad as I would with my really nice one. So far it has survived a trip into the mountains and the Las Vegas desert heat. The uke lives mostly at work in my office so I can play during lunch and breaks.

    I think the La Playa is a really big step up from the around $100 ukes. The build quality is in the same league as my really expensive ($500+) uke with less expensive, but still really nice wood and components.

    It sounds and plays really nicely too :)

    http://www.amazon.com/Cordoba-Playa-Traveler-Tenor-Ukulele/dp/B001RTTCQQ

    Also, I recently bought the Daily Ukulele songbook. It is all pretty simple, but a blast to play and sing songs with a group of friends.

    http://www.amazon.com/Daily-Ukulele-Fakebook-Jumpin-Songbooks/dp/1423477758

    For an amp I use an Behringer guitar amp – I got it about five years ago cheaply. It seems to work well enough with the passive pickups on my expensive uke, but it is the only amp I have tried with it with so I don’t have a good basis for comparison.

  20. Woodshed September 7th, 2011 7:49 am

    Dan: Thanks very much for the info. Interesting read.

  21. Greenway September 9th, 2011 1:47 pm

    Well I like playing through amps meant for guitars such as the ZT Lunchbox. It’s a brilliant little thing that packs a mean wattage plus has the option for an extension cabinet.
    http://www.thomann.de/gb/zt_amplifiers_the_lunchbox.htm

    But if you want a real acoustic sound I’d check out the Ibanez Troubadour series
    http://www.thomann.de/gb/ibanez_t10_troubadour.htm

    There’s also the ZT Lunchbox acoustic but that’s a bit more pricey.
    Also, sorry for the late reply.

  22. Amanda September 9th, 2011 6:15 pm

    Thanks a million Green. Some food for thought there. I really do want to get a nice little amp and the troubadour looks like what I’ve been thinking about. 10W is more than enough for me, seeing as I live in an apartment, and my upstairs neighbour has a face that could curdle milk. So anything more powerful could get me kicked out. *gulp*

  23. Monkeycamera September 9th, 2011 11:00 pm

    0_0 The Erickenbacker is the most wonderful uke I’ve ever laid eyes on…

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