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View Full Version : NUD: Bonanza Super Tenor



Jim Hanks
02-24-2018, 04:25 PM
Here for your viewing and listening pleasure is the premier of the first super tenor ukulele from Pete and Shelley Mai, aka Bonanza Ukuleles (http://www.bonanzaukuleles.com).

First, I'll run down the specs and then talk about how this instrument came into being.
19" scale
Pear shape tenor body
Cherry top and headplate
HPL (high pressure laminate) back/sides, "fallen leaves" pattern
Mahogany Neck
Rosewood Fingerboard
Walnut bridge
Corian nut/saddle
Geared tuners, gold with amber buttons
Gold end pin
Fremont Blackline "bari tuned tenor" strings, tuned reentrant F (cFAD)

Pictures
https://i.imgur.com/Xq74Gvpm.jpghttps://i.imgur.com/c75aILHm.jpghttps://i.imgur.com/kfhVnJ4m.jpghttps://i.imgur.com/T6gCtamm.jpg

More pictures - https://imgur.com/gallery/dsIZv

In my last NUD post, I talked about plans I had for my $36 Rogue baritone (http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?128465-NUD-Rogue-baritone): plans to try different strings, more setup work, etc. Well, that didn't happen until very recently when I put some 'octave ukulele' strings on it, low-low GCEA. But the original plan was a low reentrant tuning (low as in lower pitch, not as in cuatro or lillu). I figured why not do it up right on a "real" instrument. First, I needed a partner in crime.

The basic idea was a reentrant tuning as low as possible. With several strings sets available for dGBE at 17" tenor scale, I was confident they would serve for cFAD at 19" baritone scale, which is as long as I want to go these days. And then later maybe try for lower with more oddball string choices - or not.

About the only "off the shelf" options for this are the "super tenor" ukes but most are rather pricey. Kanilea and Kamaka have models well into four figures. Even the new Kala is only a dollar away from a grand (https://www.elderly.com/catalog/product/view/id/145554/s/kala-mapl-st-super-tenor-ukulele-case/)!

Scanning the array of "custom" builders, I thought Bonanza might be a good fit for this project since they already build tenors and 19" baritones, their cost is quite reasonable, and they've been getting good reviews.

I approached Bonanza about the project and Shelley was receptive to it. She wasn't 100% sure the lower tuning would sound good on the smaller body, but we figured worst case we could always resort to dGBE tuning, and I was fine with that. I wanted to go with a solid wood top instead of an all laminate body, and after listening to a couple of samples of walnut and cherry tenors, decided to go with the cherry. It was a little bit brighter than the walnut, which is generally not my preferred direction, but the thinking was that the lower tuning might benefit from that - keep it from getting too "muddy". Probably overthinking but that was the thought process anyway.

Total time from initial contact to delivered instrument was a little under three months. I think this is actually on the long side for them, but the holidays, winter weather in Minnesota, and some unexpected downtime for Pete conspired against us. Even so, that's still really quick for a custom build with a couple of unknowns going in. I was very pleased with the whole process and the end result.

There are a lot of textures and colors on this uke but I think they all fit together in a complementary way. Quirky but tasteful.

With the low tuning and these strings, the uke has a very mellow, soothing voice. The strings keep stretching and could easily be left a notch lower at bEG#C# for reentrant E, but Eb would probably be too far. I'm not sure yet if I like the feel of the Blacklines. They are pretty thin to be this low but have an almost "plastic-y" feel. I'll probably try some fluorocarbons next, either Southcoast or Living Water most likely as they both have sets for tenor dGBE that should work for bari cFAD. Or maybe a SC set with the intention of dGBE.

Sound sample :

https://youtu.be/7zNxVkHQ4fo

besley
02-24-2018, 06:16 PM
I ordered a "super concert" from Bonanza back in November, all HPL body, also the Fallen Leaves pattern, in the Flatlander style. My wife laughed out loud when she saw it because we have that same HPL pattern in our laundry room upstairs! (Hey, I'm a guy - I don't notice patterns or colors.) I love the Flatlander style and how you can stand it up on the floor by itself. Great for keeping by my desk to grab when the mood strikes.

OhioBelle
02-25-2018, 04:50 AM
Jim, that's awesome! And doesn't surprise me that Pete and Shelley were up for it. You'll have to keep us posted!

Hmmmm.... I wonder if a concert scale neck on a tenor body would work.... :)

Croaky Keith
02-25-2018, 05:21 AM
I like it. :) - Does it sound closer to a tenor or a bari with that shaped body?

Joe King
02-25-2018, 05:28 AM
That looks wonderful and what great story behind this instrument.

Can I ask, 19 frets with tenor body - so what fret does it join the body?

Recovering Bassist
02-25-2018, 06:32 AM
Congrats! Love my Bonanza's.

Choirguy
02-25-2018, 07:07 AM
Jim, that's awesome! And doesn't surprise me that Pete and Shelley were up for it. You'll have to keep us posted!

Hmmmm.... I wonder if a concert scale neck on a tenor body would work.... :)

I am 100% sure they could do that.

Jim Hanks
02-25-2018, 08:39 AM
I like it. :) - Does it sound closer to a tenor or a bari with that shaped body?
Hard to say. I would say tenor since I've never tuned my baritones reentrant, but someone used to dGBE baritone might think different. Sound sample coming as soon as I can get it edited.


Can I ask, 19 frets with tenor body - so what fret does it join the body?
14. Here's a pic of the whole neck: https://i.imgur.com/F2JAVBF.jpg
https://i.imgur.com/F2JAVBFm.jpg


I wonder if a concert scale neck on a tenor body would work.... :)
I don't see why not. Shelly said she has the opposite of mine - tenor neck/baritone body.

Osprey
02-25-2018, 12:07 PM
Congratulations. Good to see there are players and makers willing to push the boundaries and take the ukulele community in new directions.

hikaru
02-25-2018, 02:05 PM
Wow! Congratulations! :drool:

I'm really curious about how cherry sounds like comparing to spruce/cedar/koa,... And now even more curious about the book lying back there: "Idiots' solos and improvisation"!

Jim Hanks
02-25-2018, 03:55 PM
I'm really curious about how cherry sounds like comparing to spruce/cedar/koa,... And now even more curious about the book lying back there: "Idiots' solos and improvisation"!
I have recorded a quick demo with this uke compared to a cedar baritone and Cocobolo concert but it's not going to be an "apples to apples" comparison since they all have very different tunings and strings. Still, it's a start. I don't have any spruce or koa so you're out of luck there, I'm afraid.

Haha! Obviously I didn't give much thought to my photography composition. :p Just some hastily snapped iPhone pics.
The book is this one: https://books.google.com/books/about/Complete_Idiot_s_Guide_to_Solos_and_Impr.html?id=Q xBb2Z9Ja7UC&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button
I haven't looked at it in years. Maybe I should. :p

Jim Hanks
02-26-2018, 06:54 PM
Sound sample up:

https://youtu.be/7zNxVkHQ4fo

Lapyang
02-27-2018, 12:58 AM
Congratulations Jim. The sound is very soothing. I enjoyed reading your thought process for this unique super tenor.

Choirguy
02-27-2018, 06:42 AM
A little off topic, but your Cocobolo looks really brown versus the red. Was it always that color or has it faded in time?

Jim Hanks
02-27-2018, 07:10 AM
A little off topic, but your Cocobolo looks really brown versus the red. Was it always that color or has it faded in time?
I hadn't thought about it, but looking back at the album from my NUD post: http://s12.photobucket.com/user/jimhanksnc/library/Cocobolo%20Ukueles%20Super%20Concert%20001?sort=3&page=1
(I hate photobucket but that's where the pics were at the time)
it is hard to tell as the lighting wasn't great there either, but I suspect you're right that the colors have faded a bit over almost 3 years since I've had it.

Doc_J
02-27-2018, 02:48 PM
Cool long-scale tenor! Congratulations Jim.
That’s a great way to try a 19” scale super tenor.

I enjoyed your sound sample.

Ukulele Eddie
02-27-2018, 04:17 PM
Congrats, Jim! Very cool that you found somebody to take on the challenge and it turned out very well.

OhioBelle
02-27-2018, 05:00 PM
thanks for the comparison video. very fun to hear the contrast in sizes/strings/tunings. and you just reminded me of how beautifully those cocobolos ring! I need to get mine out and play....

bsfloyd
02-28-2018, 03:13 AM
Very cool build, love it! It was a well thought out process.

Booli
02-28-2018, 09:47 AM
Sounds great Jim, and what a looker too. I like the back-story on this too.

You've got me thinking about one of these now LOL...UAS is infectious indeed. :)

Thanks for the sound samples, and for sharing this part of your journey.

Bonanza Pete
02-28-2018, 12:42 PM
Hi Jim. Fun seeing this.
It seems the Bonanza is coming across a bit quieter than the others on the video. Am I hearing correct?
If this is really happening do you think it is the combination of smaller body and lower tuning? Just curious.
Thanks for letting Shelley and I be part of this journey.

Jim Hanks
02-28-2018, 01:45 PM
Hi Jim. Fun seeing this.
It seems the Bonanza is coming across a bit quieter than the others on the video. Am I hearing correct?
If this is really happening do you think it is the combination of smaller body and lower tuning? Just curious.
Thanks for letting Shelley and I be part of this journey.
Hi Pete, thanks for chiming in. Yes, I do find the current configuration noticeably quieter than most, if not all my other acoustic ukes, but I don't view that as a bad thing. I suspect the strings and tuning have a lot to do with it. I will be trying some other combinations just to see what happens. I have a Southcoast LHU-NW set in the mail that will probably also yield cFAD tuning to compare directly against the Blacklines. And I might try G or A tuning eventually.

Just curious, do have a favorite string and tuning that you think brings out the best of a cherry topped tenor?

besley
02-28-2018, 05:22 PM
......Yes, I do find the current configuration noticeably quieter than most, if not all my other acoustic ukes, but I don't view that as a bad thing. I suspect the strings and tuning have a lot to do with it. I will be trying some other combinations just to see what happens. I have a Southcoast LHU-NW set in the mail that will probably also yield cFAD tuning to compare directly against the Blacklines.

I have found my all HPL "Super Concert" Bonanza to also be pretty quiet. But I also don't mind, since this isn't a uke that I would take to a jam as much as noodle on at home.

Choirguy
02-28-2018, 06:09 PM
I have found my all HPL "Super Concert" Bonanza to also be pretty quiet. But I also don't mind, since this isn't a uke that I would take to a jam as much as noodle on at home.

Being that it is HPL, you certainly could eat noodles on it. :)

besley
02-28-2018, 07:46 PM
Being that it is HPL, you certainly could eat noodles on it. :)

You've got this a bit wrong. My HPL Uke is the counter top - your Outdoor Ukulele is the soup bowl.