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View Full Version : Risa stick ukuleles my observations, ideas and possible tips.



Inksplosive AL
03-16-2016, 04:29 PM
I have recently been asked a few questions by members about the Risa sticks I own so I decided to conglomerate everything into this thread.

(I will add pictures at a later date and remove this line)

So far I own three Risa stick ukuleles one of each scale. My tenor is in route to my home from Australia as I type.

There seems to be at least two variations of the stick ukulele design from Risa. The first from my observations on what I call a 1st gen seems to differ only by having friction tuners and the grooves in the crossover bar the strings cross over are all even widths with sharp or crisp edges to them. Another thing I find odd with the concert is it has a slanted saddle. Pictures of what I call second gen concert sticks I have seen pictures of also appear to have this slanted saddle.

My second gen is a soprano and differs by having 4:1 geared tuners and the crossover bar grooves and varying widths. The edges to these grooves are also chamfered to varying degrees unlike the 1st gen. I'm uncertain if this was modded by a previous owner as the frets on this stick were clearly attacked with a file. The saddle is straight across unlike the concert saddle. Pictures of all the tenors I have seen also appear to have this flat saddle.

On my soprano the 12th fret so flat and almost gone it is barely usable, The upper frets have flat spots as well making bar chords almost impossible. Both my used soprano and my used concert have flattened areas on the zero fret where string bending or wear would never come into question due to the design. So be very careful when purchasing a used Risa stick. Ask for pictures of frets as two for two are very bad odds. I mentioned a newer used tenor on the way and hope this will answer a few of my questions on the different generations or designs.

My little soprano picked up the 60hrz hum from my house wiring so badly it was unplayable until I lined the inner jack area with foil tape. Strangely the concert stick has no hum come to think of it I never looked to see if at some point someone shielded it. (I have made posts on shielding the Risa searchable on these forums that I will repost in this thread)

The only other tips I can think of are to be very careful when you are tuning it. It is very different and easy to lose track of which string you are tightening. I also find that under saddle piezo pickups are very sensitive to string and finger noise. This will change your style of play a bit unless you are already used to playing another ukulele with an under saddle pickup through an amp or effects pedal.

Hope this helps someone. If anyone knows something to be wrong or have made a different observation please add it to this thread as a reply.

More to come, I need to eat.
~peace~

Inksplosive AL
03-16-2016, 04:30 PM
~hold for more info~

kissing
03-16-2016, 04:35 PM
I have owned 4 in total in the past:
1st gen soprano
2nd gen concert
2nd gen tenor
2nd gen tenor again (en route to you)

Risa updated the saddle. In 1st gen, it was a straight saddle. From 2nd gen onwards, they started using a slanted saddle.

Upon emailing Rigk from Risa, he told me it was an "improvement" and also makes low-g tuning work better.

As for hum, in my experience, it was dependent on the amp. Some AC powered amps hummed.. but it did not hum on my battery powered amps.

As for the zero fret flattening, I have never encountered this. It really must have been used and abused, or perhaps someone put steel strings in it?!? I cant imagine how plain nylon/fluorocarbon strings would wear metal frets down!

Inksplosive AL
03-16-2016, 06:20 PM
And things get stranger... yet

My 2nd gen soprano has a flat saddle while my 1st gen concert has a slanted one. I can understand how this might help the intonation with a low G but cannot see it doing much in reentrant tuning.

A battery powered amp reducing or eliminating the 60hz hum (USA) 50hz (Australia) (http://www.school-for-champions.com/science/ac_world_volt_freq_list.htm) is typical of an unshielded instrument. Many times it can be traced back to shoddy pots for volume and tone, thin wiring or simply a solder connection.

The design of the Risa with the strings exiting the body right above the zero fret assures both my sticks were simply abused by previous owners. There is no other explanation.

Thanks for reading and the reply.
~AL~

Tootler
03-17-2016, 02:35 AM
Here's a link to the item with AL's solution to the hum with Risa sticks.

http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?92068-Risa-electric-background-noise&p=1822383#post1822383

I get the same problem with the Uke'Ellie. If I use it for recording I have to do everything on battery to avoid the hum. When I use it at the open mics I go to, I don't have the problem for some reason. It could be because I play it through a battery pre-amp which isolates it from the mains powered amp. OTOH, when I tried putting through a DI box at home, the hum was still there.

kissing
03-17-2016, 03:01 AM
My 2nd gen soprano has a flat saddle while my 1st gen concert has a slanted one. I can understand how this might help the intonation with a low G but cannot see it doing much in reentrant tuning.

Perhaps the slanted saddle is a Concert/Tenor thing, and Sopranos still come with straight bridge.
This would make sense I guess :)

I agree it wouldn't do much to help re-entrant tuning. The straight saddle felt like it gave a lower action overall.




I had not considered the shielding procedure on the Risa stick (or electric ukes in general). Thanks for sharing your wisdom! It seems like very handy DIY knowledge to keep on hand for future :)

coolkayaker1
03-17-2016, 03:25 AM
I'll add to Ink's great input:

As it has no body, the Risa stick is, in my experience, virtually unplayable in sitting or standing without the provided strap.

Here's a prior great review--with 38 replies, it was the a priori Risa thread (until today)-- from Mr. Petergal. It has many excellent videos, and discusses the dreaded snapping string syndrome.
http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?57687-Risa-Uke-Solid-Concert-Review&highlight=Risa+snapping+string

There was a thread about the knot in the string holes of the "head" getting stuck in the head. I've experienced that myself, so I'm very careful now to tie a big knot.

natchez
03-17-2016, 05:22 AM
I just received a used Risa soprano with a Vox plug in headphone amp. I PMd Al with some questions, so much thanks to Al for sharing his knowledge, starting this thread, and taking the time to answer my naive Risa newbie questions.

Seems the strings on mine are two years old Aquilas, what strings would folks recommend?

Also, what is the consensus regarding the Vox Mini3 G2 portable amp? The little plug in one is neat for practice, but I want to be able to rock the house a bit at times.

Croaky Keith
03-17-2016, 06:42 AM
.... what is the consensus regarding the Vox Mini3 G2 portable amp? The little plug in one is neat for practice, but I want to be able to rock the house a bit at times.

If you haven't already considered it, you may like to check out the Roland Micro Cube GX.
http://http://www.roland.com/products/micro_cube_gx/specifications/

greenie44
03-17-2016, 06:51 AM
I'll add to Ink's great input:

As it has no body, the Risa stick is, in my experience, virtually unplayable in sitting or standing without the provided strap.

I always play mine sitting down and never use the strap. Perhaps my build in gut-shelf addresses this problem.

The Risa, like many ukes, has pluses and minuses, but I really like it for what it can do. Great travel uke, great silent practice uke, fun to play with a slide and surprisingly playable for me.

natchez
03-17-2016, 07:00 AM
If you haven't already considered it, you may like to check out the Roland Micro Cube GX.
http://http://www.roland.com/products/micro_cube_gx/specifications/

That looks pretty simlar to the Vox- have any specific pluses or minuses to the two?

Croaky Keith
03-17-2016, 07:21 AM
That looks pretty simlar to the Vox- have any specific pluses or minuses to the two?

It's just the one I have, if the specifications are similar, then it is just down to which you prefer.

Tootler
03-17-2016, 08:01 AM
I have a Vox mini 5. Very similar to the mini 3 but more power and a larger speaker. Has a good range of effects and one useful feature which I don't think the mini 3 has is an attenuator so you can redude the power OP to 1W or 0.1W which allows you to limit the output while still being able to turn up the gain and volume so keeping overall volume reasonable.

I don't know about the Roland but it's probably similar to the Vox. I know someone who has one and it sounds OK to me. These little amps are useful for home practice and the tone is surprisingly good.

natchez
03-18-2016, 05:53 AM
I have a Vox mini 5. Very similar to the mini 3 but more power and a larger speaker. Has a good range of effects and one useful feature which I don't think the mini 3 has is an attenuator so you can redude the power OP to 1W or 0.1W which allows you to limit the output while still being able to turn up the gain and volume so keeping overall volume reasonable.

I don't know about the Roland but it's probably similar to the Vox. I know someone who has one and it sounds OK to me. These little amps are useful for home practice and the tone is surprisingly good.

Thanks to those who provided input. I went with the Vox Mini 5 for the rhythm effects and the power reduction features that the others did not have.

As to strings the Risa people say: "We strongly recommend to use Fluorocarbon strings on these instruments, e. g. GHS 20, WORTH BT or RISA-Premium)". I have some fluorocarbon strings here that I will try first and report back.

kissing
03-18-2016, 02:15 PM
You can use any strings you want on a Risa, depending on your preferences.

The folks at Risa seem to have a preference for fluorocarbons, and they come with fluorocarbons.
After owning 4 Risa sticks, I have concluded to myself that I hate fluorocarbons on the Risa, and prefer D'addario Pro-Arte clear nylons, or even black nylon.

In fact, I like Aquila on the Risa's over fluorocarbon.

The fluorocarbons feel too hard tension, and the strings themselves feel quite thin and twangy. Fluorocarbons sound great on an acoustic uke, but through an electric, I don't like the tone they give.

Inksplosive AL
03-18-2016, 03:24 PM
I'm a fan of Aquila reds myself many describe their sound as metallic. They are a bit bright at first like a guitar string but this effect does not over power the ukulele sound on my acoustic sopranos. The stick I play mostly through the RP 360 I believe I mentioned previously. It can sound very ukulele like, guitar like, bass guitar like and everything in between.

I believe the last fluorocarbon set I used were the titanium soprano strings setting up Smiley. The purple hue reminded my of the old saltwater fishing line I used as a young boy. They never seemed to settle on Smiley or the old Harmony ukulele I have so I put them away. I felt they were thicker than Aquilas as well. The reds seem a bit thinner than the average white Aquila. The texture a bit papery or velvety, odd at first but they now feel best.

I bought a few sets of Aquila Lava strings to try out but they sit unused as of yet. I should restring my favorite soprano to really tell but the almost 2 year old reds are still going strong.

I'm going to be adding links to all the other threads and various tips with credit to the poster to the first post along with a bunch of pictures I have taken. My concert 1st gen stick with zero interference from AC current (the 60's hum) is not shielded but does have quite a different jack than the newer one I have. I would have to say one of much better quality as it appears shielded by design.

~AL~

Inksplosive AL
03-18-2016, 03:42 PM
Back in the 80's I had friends that were mopar fanatics. One kid had a what I remember as a scrambler complete with a little cyclone graphic on the rear quarters. It was a Dodge Demon body with a Plymouth Duster front end if I remember correctly a dashboard with a Scamp badge on it. He believed at the time it was a car built from leftover parts at clearly done at the factory or a dealership as there were stock mopar decals suggesting the very thing.

I am believing with Risa sticks there are more variations than I believed previously. Until I work it into the first post I will place the info received in a PM here.


"My soprano has even sharp edged grooves on the round bar, geared tuners, and is about two years old according to the fellow I bought it from. The uke looks like new however, the saddle is not level, sort of swoops a bit, but it is not compensated in any way I have seen before. Not sure if this is off, or meant to be that way. I figure the pickup is under or part of the saddle."

So my second gen stick has a straight saddle and the new second gen maybe third gen has a slanted saddle and a first gen style crossover. The pickup is located under the plastic bridge I dont mess with them as Ive read they are a bit fragile and Ive had no need to do much with them. My concert stick came to me strung lefty so I did flip the saddle but have yet to restring it due to putting a nick in it one night trying to recrown the awful frets. I have entertained the idea of fabricating a saddle from bone or Tusk but I have so many incomplete projects

~peace~

Inksplosive AL
03-18-2016, 03:59 PM
Friends of old puppy have a couple of guys that play sticks regularly. The guy playing the soprano doesn't use a strap (they are slippery lil buggers) The tenor player does but usually has a lap steel in front of him as well.

The beauty is the case strap is the instrument strap as well!

Enjoy and give these guys a look see. A washtub bass and very small drum set rounds out the group.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Im5yyCBwUKU

Croaky Keith
03-18-2016, 11:21 PM
I've watched a lot of their videos - they're great! :)

igorthebarbarian
03-19-2016, 07:48 AM
These guys are ridiculously good. I am always amazed at how much they can get out of the Risa's. Great videos.


Friends of old puppy have a couple of guys that play sticks regularly. The guy playing the soprano doesn't use a strap (they are slippery lil buggers) The tenor player does but usually has a lap steel in front of him as well.

The beauty is the case strap is the instrument strap as well!

Enjoy and give these guys a look see. A washtub bass and very small drum set rounds out the group.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Im5yyCBwUKU

Tootler
03-19-2016, 12:23 PM
I am believing with Risa sticks there are more variations than I believed previously. Until I work it into the first post I will place the info received in a PM here.

So my second gen stick has a straight saddle and the new second gen maybe third gen has a slanted saddle and a first gen style crossover. The pickup is located under the plastic bridge I dont mess with them as Ive read they are a bit fragile and Ive had no need to do much with them. My concert stick came to me strung lefty so I did flip the saddle but have yet to restring it due to putting a nick in it one night trying to recrown the awful frets. I have entertained the idea of fabricating a saddle from bone or Tusk but I have so many incomplete projects

~peace~

My concert stick is 2nd gen and seems pretty standard. It has planetary tuners and a sloping saddle. I currently have it tuned low G. I broke a string messing with different tunings so I replaced the default strings with a living water set then I decided to try low G so I replaced the high G with a Worth clear low G as they are available as singles. The fluorocarbon strings sound just fine to me.

Tootler
03-19-2016, 12:54 PM
Here's me singing City of New Orleans with my Risa stick at an open mic back in February.

https://youtu.be/nFmJIUgK9QQ

kissing
03-19-2016, 03:55 PM
Inksplosive, To complicate even more, the first 2nd gen Tenor stick i owned had white fret side dot markers on the neck... the second 2nd gen tenor stick (en route to you) has black dots

Inksplosive AL
03-19-2016, 04:59 PM
Side dot color I can understand as taste can change or supplies can effect such a thing. The half broken screw holding the jack plate to my concert was a surprise. I read somewhere the owner of Risa didn't like to talk much about anything other than the perfection of the design so honestly I have never tried to make contact with any questions.

I wonder if the Risa's sticks are all hand built. The inconsistencies while not effecting playability certainly are interesting.

~AL~

kissing
03-20-2016, 12:34 AM
I have been in contact with the maker of Risa (Rigk Sauer - take the first 2 letters of his first name and last name, and what does it spell?)

He's a nice guy, generally answers most questions. But I haven't asked him many technical questions, as I didn't really need to.
The design of Risa sticks is quite simple in a way... it's a stick with a passive Shadow Nanoflex installed in an aluminium bridge under a plastic saddle.
It's put together quite well, like a 3D puzzle.

It's a stereotypical German engineering design in a way. It's streamlined, un-decorated and efficient to produce.

"If German engineers crafted an ukulele" *display Risa stick*

That's so true!

SteveZ
03-20-2016, 03:22 AM
Very interesting thread.

Am on my second RISA. First was a soprano that I traded. Recent bought a new concert.

Have tuned this concert CGDA with the Aquila 31U string set. Agree with the earlier comment that play without a strap can be a tough balancing act.

What has always impressed me withe RISA product is the sound quality. With a half-decent amp they can be quite surprising. Finding the appropriate amp has been a bit of a challenge, especially if you want one which comfortably fits into the RISA gig bag. My latest attempt in the great amp hunt is a Lisheng LH-380 guitar amp I got off E$$$. The amp has volume & tone controls. The output is not that loud, but the sound quality is the best I've found of the fit-in-gig-bag amps.

89535

kissing
03-20-2016, 03:32 AM
An amp that plugs directly into the Risa is a good combo.
You don't even need an instrument cable, just plug and play.

I have an "Ampuplugnplay"
http://www.ampuplugnplay.com/

Works well with the Risa.
However, the website doesn't let you take orders anymore, it seems the company may have stopped production?

That being said, I have seen a Chinese copy of it on eBay - theoretically it should work the same:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/361252959508



That being said, mini amps are not the ideal amp.
As with any electric instrument, the better the amp, the better the tone.
Any good quality amp will bring out the fuller potential of the Risa's sound quality.

Tootler
03-20-2016, 03:50 AM
I play my Risa ukes at open mics. They sound fine but you do need to use a preamp or a pedal as the output from the passive pickup is insufficient to drive many mixers. People have commented that I get a big sound from a little instrument.

I prefer the Risa to fitting pickups to my regular ukes though I have a microvox pickup I can use. It's a miniature condenser mic and the little capsule has a velcro pad and you need to stick the other side of the velcro to the uke but it's easy to move between instruments and it gives a more realistic impression of the instrument's tone. Plugging the Risa in is much more convenient, though.

greenie44
03-20-2016, 05:08 AM
I bought my Risa tenor stick used in the Marketplace here. It arrived a few days before Christmas, so I gave it to my daughters and asked them to wrap it and put it under the tree. (They labelled it From: Dad, To: Dad).

When I unwrapped and unboxed it, my oldest called out "How come they only sent you half of it?"

SteveZ
03-20-2016, 09:50 AM
An amp that plugs directly into the Risa is a good combo.
You don't even need an instrument cable, just plug and play.

I have an "Ampuplugnplay"
http://www.ampuplugnplay.com/

Works well with the Risa.
However, the website doesn't let you take orders anymore, it seems the company may have stopped production?

That being said, I have seen a Chinese copy of it on eBay - theoretically it should work the same:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/361252959508



That being said, mini amps are not the ideal amp.
As with any electric instrument, the better the amp, the better the tone.
Any good quality amp will bring out the fuller potential of the Risa's sound quality.

I have that Joyo amp. It does not have a volume or tone control, and it sounds somewhat tinny. the Lisheng is not as "strong" but clearer. While the Lisheng requires a cable, having one in the gig bag which can be plugged in something larger when the opportunity allows is not a bad thing.

ukulately
09-11-2016, 11:31 AM
What's the consensus on choice of size?

I like the sound of the tenor in those youtube clips but that could be signal chain/amplifier etc. Is there much of a difference in sustain level etc between the sizes, example? I'm leaning towards a concert because of fret spacing - the soprano's size is appealing but I find my concert easier to play (I am pretty much a beginner though). The RISA seems like a great travel option and maybe the tenor negates the advantages. But if it sounds significantly better, it might be worth the trade off.

Thoughts?

Croaky Keith
09-11-2016, 09:58 PM
They're all good, it is mainly which scale length you prefer, & only you can decide on that.

Strings, to a degree, amps & effects will give it different sounds - likely whichever you get, it'll be down to how you amp it.

Kimosabe
09-12-2016, 01:11 PM
Just didn't like not having a head on the uke. Felt unbalanced.

I bought a concert and tenor Teton from Mim and liked them much better. The Tetons have the additional plus of being able to plug headphones into them. Nice necks.

Since then, purchased a nice electric Pono tenor. The best electric for me.

If you want to offer a reasonable price for my Tetons I'll sell them. They're in the SF Bay Area. I'll be back there in mid October. Playing my Pono indoors here while it rains gently outside in Honolulu.

Picker Jon
09-12-2016, 02:35 PM
A squirt of this around the strings on the tension bar every now and again stops them catching, particularly the A string, and makes tuning a lot easier. The dry PTFE isn't sticky or oily and doesn't damage the strings.

http://i64.tinypic.com/315ilxj.jpg

ukulelekarcsi
09-12-2016, 09:36 PM
The very first generation had the friction tuners perpendicular to the body, a next one had them slightly slanted and only later did Risa switch to planetary tuners.

Tootler
09-13-2016, 05:11 AM
A squirt of this around the strings on the tension bar every now and again stops them catching, particularly the A string, and makes tuning a lot easier. The dry PTFE isn't sticky or oily and doesn't damage the strings.

http://i64.tinypic.com/315ilxj.jpg

I smeared joint grease supplied with my plastic recorders on the tension bar last time I changed the strings. It does the same job, is intended to be used with plastics and I have a plentiful supply available.

igorthebarbarian
09-13-2016, 09:06 AM
If you don't like the headstock-less feel, get the Uke'Ellie!

PeteyHoudini
09-13-2016, 01:50 PM
I have a Risa Soprano (2nd gen) that I like a lot. When standing up, I always use a strap with it. I got a custom embroidered one in Germany. I have had no buzzing problems with it on my main Fender G-DEC 3 amp. Just retested it minutes ago. I did a quick review of the soprano with two mini battery amps in my YT vid. I have also played the larger tenor nice bought by friend and it was nice.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQ5Qp2PGXl0

Petey

ukulately
09-13-2016, 02:22 PM
Yes I've seen that video but you can't be trusted, you'd sound good on anything!

PeteyHoudini
09-13-2016, 02:36 PM
Yes I've seen that video but you can't be trusted, you'd sound good on anything!

hehe, though, I'm not as good as you think, but I love those Risa sticks. One needs to work out their strengths. Yeah, in some ways, it's cheating by writing a song directly for a new uke like I did for my song about Saturn. I have forgotten about this stuff... as time rolls on, but I am back in the time machine tonight and thinking... Wow! I wrote a song on that uke! hehe No joke.

Looking Back Home (as Saturn Turns)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28AoRw2Ohno

Luv astronomy and the cosmos... and looking back to our planet... glad to have composed it on a Risa stick!

Petey

aremick
03-17-2019, 02:48 AM
I have been in contact with the maker of Risa (Rigk Sauer - take the first 2 letters of his first name and last name, and what does it spell?)

The design of Risa sticks is quite simple in a way... it's a stick with a passive Shadow Nanoflex installed in an aluminium bridge under a plastic saddle.

"If German engineers crafted an ukulele" *display Risa stick*

That's so true!

Are you sure it's a Nanoflex? Mine doesn't seem to be, I think it's an very early model, with friction tuners and a straight saddle. Maybe they changed?

To me, it looks like one of their solid pick ups. I was thinking of replacing it as I'm not all that happy with the sound. I've toyed with the idea of putting a MiSi or bags in it...