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Joyful Uke
07-28-2018, 09:28 AM
What makes a custom ukulele like Jake's Kamaka different than the standard Kamaka? Obviously, inlays and bling, but I would guess that Jake has something done to enhance sound and/or playability? If so, what?

Same question regarding standard Kamakas and deluxe Kamakas. Other than the obvious, (rope binding on deluxe models, tie bridge vs. slot bridge, and ebony vs. rosewood fretboard and bridge), is anything different? Any noticeable difference in sound or playability?

I know some of the custom/deluxe models have a cedar or spruce top instead of koa, but my question is regarding the all koa models.

ripock
07-28-2018, 10:08 AM
I don't know. I have only had a deluxe kamaka. For what it is worth, I think my long-neck spruce top is very playable. It is very echo-y and full of sustain. In fact, the only thing it doesn't do well is an octave-spanning glissando (string is a bit too tight for it) and when playing up the neck (between frets 15 and 19), the notes are a trifle bit unforgiving.

Mine has very nice strap buttons which allow the ukulele to hang whilst I get some beer or re-light a neglected cigar. And as I look down at its pretty koa sides, I have to admit that I think it is all bling. There isn't some secret ukulele technology that only deluxe models utilize. However, there is perhaps a psychological element at play here. Maybe I play better because I am trying to be a deluxe player with a deluxe ukulele. I know I am happier playing a deluxe model and that happiness probably comes out in augmented motivation.

DownUpDave
07-28-2018, 10:25 AM
I know Casey Kamaka personally hand makes each of Jake's Kamaka tenors. I am sure he approaches it like any custom builder would, carefully selecting the best sounding wood then voicing it. This involves tap toning as he thins it down, same when the bracing are applied to the top and back. Each step is carefully and lovingly performed to perfection.

The normal deluxe models have a fancier grade of wood and more bling added. This does not guarantee a better sounding instrument then a standard. But as riprock says, it sure doesn't hurt to play a fabulous looking uke.

Joyful Uke
07-28-2018, 01:07 PM
Maybe I play better because I am trying to be a deluxe player with a deluxe ukulele. I know I am happier playing a deluxe model and that happiness probably comes out in augmented motivation.

That in of itself makes the deluxe model a better ukulele. :-)
It's all about what inspires us and brings us happiness.

Joyful Uke
07-28-2018, 01:13 PM
I know Casey Kamaka personally hand makes each of Jake's Kamaka tenors. I am sure he approaches it like any custom builder would, carefully selecting the best sounding wood then voicing it. This involves tap toning as he thins it down, same when the bracing are applied to the top and back. Each step is carefully and lovingly performed to perfection.


Is this done for the Jake models, too? I know they are pricey, but that could make them well worth it.

Are fancier grades of wood just prettier, or do they tend to make a difference in sound? I am woefully ignorant about this.
IA, though, it definitely doesn't hurt to play a great looking ukulele, too. That alone can be inspiring.

ripock
07-28-2018, 03:52 PM
That in of itself makes the deluxe model a better ukulele. :-)
It's all about what inspires us and brings us happiness.

I liken it to dogs. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Have you ever looked in a German Shepherd's eyes and see that it thinks the world of you? Then you try your best to be the person the German Shepherd thinks you are. Instead of pizza, you eat some chicken and millet; instead of sitting on your butt watching kung-fu movies, you go and lift weights. When you look at a deluxe Kamaka and see that it seems to be saying "together we are a deluxe team" then you try to live up to the expectations.

BlackBearUkes
07-28-2018, 04:25 PM
It has been my experience that most builders don't build in the manner you describe. There are those that use a more labored and measured approach, that is, they measure this and weigh that, but they generally do not build a better sounding instrument than the guy who builds intuitively, and most builders use the intuitive method. They trust their experience and learned knowledge through building, and choosing good materials and techniques and do not have time to measure things. As far as tap tuning, etc., not so much.



I think it is just time and perhaps a bit extra for materials. On the production line all the work has to be completed in a set time, Casey has all day and can look at the work and think about it and instead of making say two cuts to fit into the time, he can make 10 smaller cuts and zero in on perfection. So a uke off the production line might take 100 manhours of work, and Casey might use 200 manhours to build the same uke to a higher standard.
Just a little bit of sine wave physics. The perfect fifth note always has an exact relationship of 3:2 to the root note because of the way sine waves work together. The human ear can actually pick the exact note that has the relationship. If you move a bit each way, you lose the magic sound of the perfect fifth, and get something that works but does not sound as good. When you apply this to the physical act of building, a seemingly small thing can affect something like the exact 3:2 relationship and make it 3:1.99 or 3:2.1, which will work, but wont sound as good. When you watch a video of a maker doing anything, they take their time and remove wood in little steps which adds significantly to the time required to build the instrument, but it is zeroing in on a thing like the perfect 3:2 ratio for a perfect fifth. Most makers may not be able to put this in words and I doubt you will ever see them work on the frequencies of the notes until the end of the process at set-up, but all those fine tuning things they do are actually fine tuning the audio frequencies which the instruments will generate.

Joyful Uke
07-28-2018, 05:24 PM
I liken it to dogs. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Have you ever looked in a German Shepherd's eyes and see that it thinks the world of you? Then you try your best to be the person the German Shepherd thinks you are. Instead of pizza, you eat some chicken and millet; instead of sitting on your butt watching kung-fu movies, you go and lift weights. When you look at a deluxe Kamaka and see that it seems to be saying "together we are a deluxe team" then you try to live up to the expectations.

I'm getting UAS from reading this. :-)
I may have to run that by my dogs, though.

It sounds like your deluxe ukulele really inspires you.

bearbike137
07-28-2018, 06:44 PM
I think it is just time and perhaps a bit extra for materials. On the production line all the work has to be completed in a set time, Casey has all day and can look at the work and think about it and instead of making say two cuts to fit into the time, he can make 10 smaller cuts and zero in on perfection. So a uke off the production line might take 100 manhours of work, and Casey might use 200 manhours to build the same uke to a higher standard. e.

As I understand it, Casey Kamaka is a full-time commercial pilot and, when he can, builds custom ukes for Kamaka on the side.

DownUpDave
07-29-2018, 12:20 AM
Is this done for the Jake models, too? I know they are pricey, but that could make them well worth it.

Are fancier grades of wood just prettier, or do they tend to make a difference in sound? I am woefully ignorant about this.
IA, though, it definitely doesn't hurt to play a great looking ukulele, too. That alone can be inspiring.

I have read quotes from Chuck Moore stating less fancy grades of koa have as good or better sound than master grade koa with lots of curl. If anybody knows koa it is the guy who build Moore Bettah ukuleles.

As an aside I am lucky to live close to Luis who builds LfdM ukueles and guitars and I visit often. He is building me a long neck tenor with a sinker cedar top. He had five sets from the same tree but different billets, some were very dramtic looking. While I was there he tap toned all of them, did other various tests as well. The best sounding top was one of the plainer looking ones. Wood is wood.......organic and individualistic.

Jerryc41
07-29-2018, 03:22 AM
As I understand it, Casey Kamaka is a full-time commercial pilot and, when he can, builds custom ukes for Kamaka on the side.

It's always good to have something to fall back on. ;)

Kenn2018
07-29-2018, 09:53 AM
Bill1, Great explanation. Really interesting and informative. Thanks.