View Full Version : MAKAPILI Tenor review.

09-27-2009, 09:56 PM

This instrument was made in Italy in June 2009 by Thomas Macomson of Makapili Ukuleles (well, as far as I know... he "IS" Makapili Ukuleles).

It is a tenor size ukulele, standard shape body (“8“ shape), non-cutaway.
The body (top, back and sides) is made of Acacia Confusa.
The top is very thin, the instrument is quite light.
The fretboard as well is Acacia and has 17 frets.

It has a strings-through-body acacia bridge.

It has a hand rubbed oil finish.

The tuners are GOTOH closed, geared, non-locking.

The neck is made of Spanish Cedar.
In my opinion the neck is a bit on the fat side, which is a feature that I like. I prefer a thicker neck to a thinner one.
The fretboard is Acacia confusa. It looks really beautiful on an instrument with Acacia confusa top, back and sides. It’s really a nice looking uke.

No accessories were included in the package. This is a hand made uke. The luthier offered to buy a case from an online shop and charge me the exact price he paid for it. I opted for the usual cardboard box and the instrument arrived very carefully packed. Double cardboard box with plenty of padding and protections.


The sound of this uke is outstanding.
Anyone (even untrained ears) can tell the difference between the tone of this uke and that of factory made ukes.
I used for comparison an all-solid mahogany tenor and an all-solid koa soprano.
Not only is the Makapili uke louder, but also its sound is fuller and deeper.
Low frequencies are rich and high notes ring out bright. What else is there to ask from a Uke?

When strummed, every chord sounds perfectly in tune, even when playing up on the 15th fret. Every single note of the chord can be heard clearly yet the notes blend perfectly together. The same applies for chord-melody playing. Really outstanding. Here I’ll give the uke a 10 out of 10.
When finger picked (playing melodies or double stops) one can appreciate the long sustain and the projection of the instrument.
It’s good for clawhammer style as well: “soft” under the fingers yet responding very quickly. The only drawback here is the fear of ruining the uke’s thin top when playing very hard and rhythmically.

Action, Fit & Finish

The action was good: not too high, not too low. If you like very low strings, you should specify it before having the uke shipped, but I guess Mr. Macomson can take care of that easily.
This uke has no string buzz or unwanted noise of any sort.

Top and back are properly book matched. The wood is not highly figured, but it is really good looking. This is a no-frills uke. It looks good, but does not glitter or shine. No fancy bindings, purfings, rosette, … just good wood properly put together and a great sound.
In my opinion the “simple” look of this uke is the core of its high aesthetical value.

The bridge was properly set.
By looking through the sound holes it can be seen that the bracing is very well done.
As I have said the top is very thin, so, in order to add a little extra strength and to diminish the risk of cracking some “strips of wood” (I don’t know the exact technical term here) have been glued on the left and right sides of the main sound hole. The additional sound hole on the side of the uke has received the same treatment: bracing on its sides.

The frets have no sharp ends sticking out of the fretboard,
No parts of the hardware were oxidized; the tuning pegs were in perfect conditions,
perhaps the nut is a fraction of a millimeter narrower than the fretboard, but you need a magnifying glass to notice that; and besides, this does not affect tuning or playability at all,
the finish had some scratches, but I knew this before buying the uke, in fact I paid it a discounted price.
I must say though that I expect the top of a uke to gather quite a bit of scratches along the years, so this was really not a big issue. I’ve already made a number of scratches equal or superior to those the uke already had in just a few months of playing.


So far I have used the uke for practicing at home, and for playing at parties indoor and outdoor.
I’ve always carried it in a hard-shell case and it has never given me any problem

I guess the finish will wear out a bit with lots of playing.
One has to reach a compromise here. A thin layer of light varnish will dampen the sound less than a glossy, thick, but more protective finish. I think it’s up to the player to choose. I’m ok with a thin finish and a big sound.

I don’t play the uke professionally, so I never really play “live uke performances”, but I’d certainly use this uke on a gig with no back up.
In fact I would use this uke always!
I play double bass and electric bass and I’m always scared a string might break in the middle of a live performance, so, whenever I can, I carry a spare musical instrument, or at least an extra set of strings!
Were it not for that reason, I’d totally rely on this uke alone for a gig.

Customer support

The Luthier Thomas Macomson was very friendly. He answered quickly and clearly to all my questions before and after I got the uke. We also exchanged e-mails talking about strings and woods and his hints were really useful.

Overall Rating

My overall rating of this instrument is a nine and a half out of ten.
It is built very well, it looks great, but (most important of all!) it sounds AMAZING!!!
I don’t give it a ten just because I don’t want to sound too “blinded by love” and incapable of rational thinking, but really, this is a great instrument!

I’ve been playing it for about two months now and never got tired of it.

I own an all-solid mahogany factory-made tenor and an all-solid acacia factory made soprano. Since I got the Makapily tenor, I’ve hardly played the other two at all.
If it were lost or stolen I’d totally buy another Makapili uke.

I tried the uke before buying it, at a uke festival where I had the chance of trying MANY other ukes. This one (and the other Makapili that was on sale there) struck me at once, mainly for its sound.
All the other ukes I tried on that day didn’t get even close to the Makapili in terms of tone quality and loudness.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Yes, there is something else I’d like to share: I’m in no way related to luthier Thomas Macomson. He didn’t offer me a discount on the next 10 ukes I’m going to buy from him, or a lifelong supply of hinoki firewood for my stove or any other favor of any kind for writing such an enthusiastic review.
He just makes wonderful instruments!

09-28-2009, 03:40 AM

09-28-2009, 08:32 AM
Wow excellent review, it really illustrates that thomas makes a quality instrument... Anyone lucky enough to get in on the ground floor with one of his customs is lucky indeed... I really really really want one...

09-28-2009, 07:50 PM
I wanted to write me own review of Makapili Tenor - and I will propably do that but now I can tell I can second everything pietrospan wrote.
I love my Makapili tenor - I play it every day. The sound is so incredible ...

09-29-2009, 06:01 AM
Thanks for such a great review Pietro.

And Paw123los, please do write a review of your instrument if you have time. It is always good to have different prespectives from different people.

I am real happy that you both enjoy the tenors I built.

Take care,