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Jim Hanks
02-27-2017, 04:45 PM
Americans may have a seen a TV commercial where a couple takes a kitchen faucet to an architect and says "design us a house around this". A ridiculous notion, but that's kinda what I did with this uke, only I started with a set of strings and said "design me a uke around these" - specifically, the Southcoast XLL set with cuatro first string. This is a "low reentrant" set where the tuning for tenor scale works out to Bb3 Eb4 G4 C4. In other words, it is a linear Eb tuning except the first string is an octave lower than normal. Note that the pitch range (Bb3 to G4) is exactly the same as a reentrant Bb tuning (f4 Bb4 D4 G4) which I prefer over standard gCEA, especially for tenor scale. But the "low reentrant" vs "high reentrant" gives rise to really different sounds when strumming or arpeggiating standard chord shapes. I tried this on my laminate Ohana and liked it enough that I wanted this setup in a better package.

My first thought was to just get an "off the shelf" tenor and have it setup (especially the nut) for the cuatro string set. After exchanging emails with Mim, she had quite a few options that would have worked, and I was starting to lean towards the Pono mango pineapple. But after exchanging emails with Perry Bullinger, I decided to go more upscale with a Covered Bridge custom build. With the end goal in mind, here were the primary design specifications:


Body shape - concert pineapple - for some reason, I really like pineapples. My main tenor is essentially a pineapple (Iriguchi keystone) and I have a KPK super soprano tuned low-GCEA. Since the lowest pitch for the cuatro set is just a step below middle C, the concert body should have plenty of resonance for a warm, full sound.
Woods - Port Orford Cedar top/Claro walnut back/sides - with the goal being that warm, full sound, one option that has worked really well for Covered Bridge is a western red cedar top with Oregon myrtle back/sides. That happens to be the combo on my Ono baritone from another Oregon builder David Ingalls, and that is probably my favorite sounding uke if I had to choose just one. But since I do have that combo, I asked Perry if he had a recommendation that would get in the same tonal ballpark but have a bit different aesthetic. Neither walnut nor POC was on my radar screen, but after watching some videos and considering it, I realized Perry was on to something and gave the green light.
Side port - I have this feature on the Iriguchi and Ono. Being completely honest, I'm not sure it does *that* much for me, but it's a reasonable upcharge and can't hurt, so decided to go with it here as well.


And that's it. I figured the rest would have no effect on the goal and entrusted Perry (and Terry I presume but all my interaction was with Perry) to basically "do what you do" and let me know if any input was needed. There wasn't any input needed until it came time for the string up and we had to double check those funky pitches. :p (But there were several build updates in the form of Facebook posts which was a very nice touch and much appreciated.) Overall it was right at three months from first contact to finished uke (with an added week of compulsively checking FedEx tracking ;) ). Extremely reasonable, especially considering this included the holiday season.

With that, here are the remaining specs:

mahogany neck
ebony fretboard and bridge
curly western maple binding
walnut head plate and rosette
varnish over a pore fill finish
string through bridge
side and front fret markers
1.5" nut width (uh-oh - all my others are 1-3/8". Will I like this?)
Peghed (4:1 ratio, planetary geared) tuners
extra nut for reentrant gCEA tuning


The last was a very nice surprise and not mentioned at all along the way. I was concerned they just hated the cuatro tuning, but Perry assured me it sounded good either way and just wanted to provide this an an option in case I ever wanted to experiment with other strings. Plus "for some reason if you ever sell it. It may make it easier ;)" Very thoughtful.

Doh! I totally forgot to ask for a strap button. Oh well, I'll use the standard UkeLeash until I get up the nerve to install one.

Actual NUD was Saturday but we had a full house with kids down from college, etc. so didn't get a chance to really play it except for some very quiet strumming in the evening. First impression is that I am quite impressed with the build. Light, very "clean", very "smooth" finish. The finish is "varnish over a pore fill" - not a gloss but not "dull" at all and very smooth to the touch even on the neck. Setup feels good. I didn't specify an action height but it seems around the 2.5mm area like my others. So far I'm not noticing a huge difference with the 1.5" neck but I'll need to compare back-to-back with some others. I don't think it's going to be an issue one way or the other.

Sunday I got a few more minutes with it and recorded a sound sample with the iRig Acoustic. I'm not going to post it though as it doesn't sound like what I'm hearing acoustically - too bright and too much finger noise.

Monday I got a quick sound sample made with a Blue Yeti USB mic that I think is a little more representative:
https://clyp.it/g0k4sc0w

Processing is minimal with just a high pass filter and overall level boost applied, no EQ or compression (except for what is applied with conversion to mp3). The finger noise is still too pronounced with the heavier strumming but the picking and lighter strumming seems close to what I'm hearing.

I'm very pleased with the sound, but finding adjectives to describe tone is always difficult. I suppose "smooth" is a pretty good term for the tone as well. I would say that it accentuates the mid-range as it is not boomy at all and not what I would call bright either. More "cool" than "warm" if that makes sense. I'm curious to see how that assessment holds up in direct comparison against my other ukes, particularly the Iriguchi and Ono.

A few pics next.

Jim Hanks
02-27-2017, 04:51 PM
Not that great. iPhone 4s with flash:

http://i12.photobucket.com/albums/a206/jimhanksnc/Covered%20Bridge%20Ukuleles%20Long%20Neck%20Pineap ple/046CDA9F-8EDE-4CAE-B3A5-8A1F7ECA9CBF_zpsjbganoaj.jpg

http://i12.photobucket.com/albums/a206/jimhanksnc/Covered%20Bridge%20Ukuleles%20Long%20Neck%20Pineap ple/9C2BECE5-289C-4EBF-AB32-D92C33449A65_zpsly1zbz22.jpg

http://i12.photobucket.com/albums/a206/jimhanksnc/Covered%20Bridge%20Ukuleles%20Long%20Neck%20Pineap ple/F1FBB758-CF35-4928-8B82-61DB3A9BD53C_zpsoj6exii2.jpg

http://i12.photobucket.com/albums/a206/jimhanksnc/Covered%20Bridge%20Ukuleles%20Long%20Neck%20Pineap ple/44AA34DE-516D-45FC-BFE3-6984BE25596E_zpso6jaj6yu.jpg

Jim Hanks
02-27-2017, 04:54 PM
More pics available on my Photobucket:
http://s12.photobucket.com/user/jimhanksnc/library/Covered%20Bridge%20Ukuleles%20Long%20Neck%20Pineap ple

And CB's Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/pg/Covered-Bridge-Ukuleles-194736710602006/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1196025920473075

Mezcalero
02-27-2017, 05:48 PM
Haven't been on UU much lately, but I am glad I came on and saw your NUD Jim! When I was reading the post the Cuatro tuning had me a bit baffled, and frankly I wasn't sure what to think. The sound sample made quick work of converting me. As a songwriter I can definitely hear how the different voicing of familiar chords could lead to a lot of interesting ideas. Listening to your sound sample (nice playing), it sounds like a great instrument to sing over as well. Look forward to hearing more of it!

TCK
02-27-2017, 06:04 PM
What a beaut of an ukulele there! Solid win. Beautiful tone in Cuatro tuning.

Camsuke
02-27-2017, 06:54 PM
Congratulations Jim, I'm thinking this little beauty is just about a perfect fit for you. When I listened to the 2nd section (fingerpicking) I immediately thought.... The Mystical Sounds of Jim Hanks, that tuning works really well, the note separation & clarity are amazing.

Debussychopin
02-27-2017, 08:36 PM
Pineapple with a side port wow

Hammond
02-27-2017, 09:29 PM
Congratulations to you Jim, from another CB uke owner. I assume its tru-oil finish? The quality of craftsmanship is definitely getting higher. In your sound sample, it has the extra warmth from Cuatro tuning, nice one.

mountain goat
02-27-2017, 09:32 PM
Love the demo Jim. Sounds warm and full. Beautiful recording you captured. Congratulations brother. Plenty of resonance, the strings seem a perfect fit. You will get used to 1.5" no problem.

TheCraftedCow
02-27-2017, 09:48 PM
I have one of each size quatro tuned, try a C7 chord as 3433 F7 with a C sustain as 2313 and a g7 as 4535...whichyou can walk down to the F7. or raise a half stepback toG7. It is a great blues sound. Another fun tuning is gCEa to fCFa.

OhioBelle
02-28-2017, 12:41 AM
Jim, that's lovely! Rich and low, but still with a lilt.

Love the grain of that POC top, and the beautiful curly walnut. Thanks for sharing!

dkcrown
02-28-2017, 01:11 AM
Awesome Jim. Congrats!

DownUpDave
02-28-2017, 01:50 AM
Beautiful instrument Jim, love the wood combo, I've had two with the same. The fingerstyle pieces had great note clarity and definition, warm and soothing as well. Sounds great.

Ukulele Eddie
02-28-2017, 02:22 AM
Congrats, Jim! Loved learning all the details on your experience. I have had two Covered Bridge ukes and both were really nice. Definitely a fan. Enjoy!

Jim Hanks
02-28-2017, 02:38 AM
Thanks everyone.

The Mystical Sounds of Jim Hanks, that tuning works really well, the note separation & clarity are amazing.
Haha! How does Jim "king of the navel gazing arpeggio" Hanks sound? :rolleyes: :p


I assume its tru-oil finish?
I didn't ask. If Perry sees this, perhaps he'll confirm/deny.


I have one of each size quatro tuned, try a C7 chord as 3433 F7 with a C sustain as 2313 and a g7 as 4535...whichyou can walk down to the F7. or raise a half stepback toG7. It is a great blues sound. Another fun tuning is gCEa to fCFa.
I'll try those out, but NO, NO MORE TUNINGS! :p

Doc_J
02-28-2017, 02:45 AM
Jim, Congratulations on your Covered Bridge. Just listened to your sound sample, the tone, sustain, and clarity are sound great. Nice playing, too.

bluesuke
02-28-2017, 02:57 AM
Congratulations to you Jim, from another CB uke owner. I assume its tru-oil finish? The quality of craftsmanship is definitely getting higher. In your sound sample, it has the extra warmth from Cuatro tuning, nice one.

Our finish was Tru-oil but we changed about 25 instruments ago. We now use a varnish over a pore fill

Hammond
02-28-2017, 03:41 AM
Our finish was Tru-oil but we changed about 25 instruments ago. We now use a varnish over a pore fill

Hi Perry, good to hear from you! No wonder Jim's one look nicer than mine :p . Just joking, every CB has their own beauty.

Congratulations again Jim! What strings are you using for the Cuatro tuning on this one?

Jim Hanks
02-28-2017, 03:58 PM
Congratulations again Jim! What strings are you using for the Cuatro tuning on this one?
Southcoast XLL with the 'Add cuatro 1st' option: http://www.southcoastukes.com/linear.htm

If shipping to HK/AUS is too much, I think you could use just about any two unwound reentrant tenor sets like this: take the gCEA strings and use the 3rd(C) as your 4th tuned down to Bb, use the 2nd(E) as your 3rd tuned down to Eb, use the 4th(g) as your 2nd tuned as-is to g (or if you want a lower tension option use the 1st(A) tuned down to g), finally take the 3rd string from another pack and use it as-is as your 1st string.

southcoastukes
02-28-2017, 04:31 PM
Americans may have a seen a TV commercial where a couple takes a kitchen faucet to an architect and says "design us a house around this". A ridiculous notion, but that's kinda what I did with this uke, only I started with a set of strings and said "design me a uke around these" - specifically, the Southcoast XLL set with cuatro first string....

Hello Jim,

What a treat it was to see this post today! And as far as your notion being “ridiculous” – far from it. It’s actually how true custom (not “wood choice and decoration”) instruments should be designed. You try to put together a combination of strings (an arrangement and response you like to play), range of notes (scale), tension, and then soundbox form and construction to flavor it to your preference. It’s unbelievable how often I have seen luthiers, even those with “rep”, try to put together “alternate designs” and forget to consider strings. The results are almost always in the vein of “what in the world were they thinking!”

In this case the strings, our XLL set, are an absolute classic. While as a linear set you have a somewhat delicate 1st string of necessity, the other three strings form the foundation of a lot of original 4-string set selection. We offer this set with “Add-Ons”. If you add-on a Machete 1st, then on a Soprano, you have the original Santos & Nunes Ukulele tuning; the set-up from when the Machete was used as a lead melody instrument. Ask for the Cuatro add-on 1st, and you now have the gauges most often used for an instrument that is often described as the direct descendant of the Renaissance Guitar, the Cuatro Venezolano. Both these arrangements were rather obviously designed to provide peak response without having to resort to wound strings, and as I know that to be your preference as well, you couldn’t have chosen a better foundation for your design.

Don’t know about Covered Bridge, but it looks like great work. Always nice to get a true custom when you can. Love the wood choices. While I have no direct experience with it, I’ve heard there’s a wood in Hawaii that’s popular on Ukuleles called Koa that looks somewhat like your Walnut and sounds similar as well.

I heard the sound sample; as El Mescalero says the voicing is awfully nice and as Cam notes, the second melody section is something not heard enough with that tuning. I look forward to what hearing where you go with this.

And SO apt you posted it now. This is not Tuesday folks, it's Carnival Day, it’s Mardi Gras! Came back from the parades myself this afternoon and played a bit of Calypso Cuatro to celebrate the day. We apparently had Cuatros up here in New Orleans in the early 1800s during the great northern migration from the Caribbean, but south of here today could also be called “Dia del Cuatro”. Cuatros were most certainly out in force today all through the Southern Caribbean and Northern South America. This is tuning that allows for a type of playing that uniquely combines melody, rhythm and percussion all on the same instrument, and does it at least as well (better, I think) than the Flamenco guitar. While I can see you will likely go your own way with this tuning, to celebrate your instrument, here’s something from the best of the current group of Cuatro players, the C4 Trio (and that guy Marcial can really sing). Somewhere in Venezuela today, from car speakers, a verandah or a truck, I can pretty much guarantee you would have head this. So Happy Mardi Gras & Happy NUD:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tYm6dSLnFQ

p.s: As I know you also like to record multi-instrumental compositions, Jim, if you haven’t already heard of it, I highly recommend you search out “En el Cerrito” by Jorge Glem. He’s the left side Cuatro player in the video. It’s a recording of modern Jazz compositions, where the Cuatro is the rhythm instrument in a modern Jazz ensemble. I can tell you as a New Orleanian that I think the compositions are right up there in the class of early Wynton, and hearing it should provide you a well-spring of inspiration.

p.p.s: our international shipping is cheap!

Nickie
02-28-2017, 04:40 PM
Congrats Jim! The audio sounds amazing. It reminds me of the way the Tiny Tenor looks, sorta.

Jim Hanks
02-28-2017, 05:55 PM
While I can see you will likely go your own way with this tuning, to celebrate your instrument, here’s something from the best of the current group of Cuatro players, the C4 Trio...I highly recommend you search out “En el Cerrito” by Jorge Glem.
Thanks for that Dirk. Yeah, I think it's safe to say C4 and Seņor Glem don't need to be looking in their rear view mirror for me to sneak up on them. :bowdown: Those real cuatros must be braced a lot stronger than ukes. How do they not explode into matchsticks after the first song? :p

M3Ukulele
03-01-2017, 03:57 PM
Jim, sounds great. love the wood combination. If you ever put in the second nut for high g gCEA tuning I'd be interested in a listen to sound sample. I'm liking the POC top and I'm already a fan of Walnut. I gave a custom tenor with very beautiful black walnut body. Enjoy.