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View Full Version : Flamenco luthier focusing on building ukuleles



Laouik
11-26-2011, 03:59 PM
Hello!

The luthier who built my lovely tenor ukulele, Luis Feu de Mesquita, has been getting numerous orders... to the point that it's all he's been building for the last couple of months. I just wanted to share the ongoing process. The last few pictures were taken in the last couple of days. He spends as much time on an ukulele as he does on a guitar, the only difference is that the uke takes up almost exactly half the materials. That's not to say he builds them using 50% guitar specs, he's developed an ukulele-specific build:

http://lfdmguitars.ca/crafting-a-ukulele

Liam Ryan
11-26-2011, 09:25 PM
It seems like it's in the wrong category. If you were the luthier, maybe.

Am I missing something?

Nuprin
11-27-2011, 03:06 AM
I see mine in there! Should be arriving in the middle of December.

Pete Howlett
11-27-2011, 10:04 AM
Sorry if I am missing the point but these look like mini guitars to me - nice ones that is... Anyone else feel the same?

ProfChris
11-27-2011, 10:16 AM
Sorry if I am missing the point but these look like mini guitars to me - nice ones that is... Anyone else feel the same?

Well, yes - but then a Martin mahogany tenor guitar looks a bit like a big ukulele (except for the steel strings).

The acid test is how they sound. I suspect they will sound more like a small classical guitar than a uke, but that rather assumes that we all agree what a uke sounds like, which we don't.

My feeling is that there is a spectrum of sound, from a hardwood soprano tuned re-entrant, to a spruce-topped baritone with a low 4th. Somewhere along there most people would stop hearing uke and start hearing guitar.

FWIW I think the spruce/mahogany re-entrant soprano I made suonds quite guitar-ish, but others wouldn't think that.

Pete Howlett
11-27-2011, 11:18 AM
Well you know I am a traditionalist and I certainly don't warm to anything that purports to be a ukulele but is in reality a small guitar. Quite frankly Martin only made ground breaking sopranos - their concerts and tenors are not that good IMHO shape wise or sound. Most people here do not consider the baritone a ukulele and in the main, Hawaiian builders tend to chunk out more tenor ukulele than anything else - the soprano has much higher presence in UK/Europe and Japan than it does in the US - ask any of the transatlantic builders who post here. My first 200 ukulele built for the Hawaiian market were tenors with some concert and just 2 sopranos more for wall hangers tha anything else. Although some 'foreigners' post here, this forum is mainly peopled by our US cousins who greatly favour widdly diddly playing and the tenor ukulele. Put Jake on a UK stage and I suspect he may get treated with a great deal of indifference because he doesn't feature singing in his act, practices very little irony and has his own version of the split stroke :) . In the UK at least, the ukulele is more seen as an instrument to accompany the voice, ridicule society and generally not to be featured as a solo instrument.

There I've said it! I just can't go with the 'new sound' ukulele vibe and certainly won't participate in the debate that says there is a dimension to the ukulele sound. It's gotta be Hawaiian or it's just an imposter...

coriandre
11-27-2011, 11:51 AM
Mr Howlett, I dont understand you saying that you are a traditionalist and cant go with the new sound ukulele vibe when you are the designer of the harp ukulele !?!?

I am not mentionning this as a form of confrontation in any manner (the last thing I want to do is hurt feeling or pick fights). I am just trying to understand your point of view.

Respectfully,

Luc

BlackBearUkes
11-27-2011, 12:12 PM
No offense to Pete or Luc, but Pete is not the original designer of the harp uke. The harp uke has been around for ages and has undergone many designs.

I found it interesting also that a flamenco guitar builder is building a gypsy jazz style uke. They look interesting but they also look over-braced from the photos posted.

jcalkin
11-27-2011, 02:08 PM
My favorite thing about the uke is that it so often and so easily escapes from any tradition. I'm thinking of building a Gibson SG shaped tenor. Has anyone ever seen one?
My whole life I wanted to be a "widdly diddley" (love that description) guitarist, but I just don't have it in me to work up the chops. I hear a fair amount of music from the UK, but no uke music. Who should I listen to?

Vic D
11-27-2011, 02:40 PM
I love the gypsy style and those look awesome. Can't wait to hear one.

Philstix
11-27-2011, 03:11 PM
Maybe its just me but I counted twelve holes drilled through that bridge. If each string is tripled it would account for the massive bracing of the top but it seems to me that tripled strings would be on the outer edges of ukedom. Not sure what that would sound like.

BlackBearUkes
11-27-2011, 03:35 PM
The uke has only four strings. The 12 hole bridge design is common with classical guitar bridges, just another way to secure the string to the bridge. Google it.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
11-27-2011, 04:18 PM
The uke has only four strings. The 12 hole bridge design is common with classical guitar bridges, just another way to secure the string to the bridge. Google it.

Exactly. The benefit to this type of tie bridge is that it allows for a steeper break angle across the saddle. The disadvantage is that it can make the bridge weaker if you don't know what you're doing.

coriandre
11-27-2011, 06:11 PM
No offense to Pete or Luc, but Pete is not the original designer of the harp uke. The harp uke has been around for ages and has undergone many designs.

I found it interesting also that a flamenco guitar builder is building a gypsy jazz style uke. They look interesting but they also look over-braced from the photos posted.

Thank you for that information, I was not aware. Does it derive from the lute; pre-ukulele ? Is there an advantage for such a bracing pattern ?

BlackBearUkes
11-27-2011, 06:58 PM
You can read more about harp ukes on the harp guitar web site. Again, just google harp guitars and follow the links.

If you are asking is there an advantage to the bracing system used on the jazz style ukes, my answer would be no. The lattice style used is going to be a bit over-board and too stiff IMO, but who knows. It definitely looks like the work of a guitar maker. I made one x-braced uke a long time ago and determined it was too rigid. A light simple fan braced uke is hard to beat for sound. Too much bracing won't allow the top to work.

coriandre
11-27-2011, 07:14 PM
Thank you much for the information. Did read a lot of interesting things on harp-guitar using google.

Rick Turner
11-27-2011, 08:01 PM
"Har Puke"?

That's what a Har does when he or she has had too much to drink...

And, almost hate to say it, but going too far with a uke rarely pays off. Maybe if you get a Har just a bit drunk it can pay off, but...

Back in almost serious mode... Ukes need all the freedom to vibrate that you can give them without the tops ex- or im- ploding. Ukes also do NOT follow guitar tone woods rules. Ukes can all too-easily be choked to tonal death.

And if you're not ready to be an active part of the uke playing and musical culture, you probably shouldn't be building them just because you think you can. Not saying that this is the case here, but... You've got to play them and hang out with the uke people to really "get it."

I sell my ukes not on what they look like on the inside (though that is damned good), but on how they sound to players. I don't ignore the appearance at all, but it is entirely secondary to how I would hope a blind player would respond to them.

Allen
11-27-2011, 10:11 PM
From the pictures offered on these four instruments, to me they look very much like little guitars, and braced as such. Some of the style elements appeal to me, and others really don't. But that's neither here nor there. The world is a big enough place to have people like all kinds of things, and no one is going to be able to fill everyones needs or wants.

Knowing that these are meant to have uke strings on, if someone were to ask me for a critique of the bracing I would have to say they're so far over braced as to be ridiculous. The bracing pattern may work, but the top looks to be of a standard thickness rather than what a papery thin lattice top usually is. As the bracing and top work together, one of them is too heavy for the other.

Other than that the work is quite professional, and obviously done by a man who's comfortable with his skills as a luthier. Perhaps if there is a next batch, modifications will be made.

luthier
11-28-2011, 12:46 AM
From the pics the X are about 6mm tall at the center and the lattice braces are only 3mm. It looks quite pliable to me. I'd say its main top resonance could be much lower than many more-traditional-bracing(two harmonic bars and three fans) tenor ukes.

Dan Uke
11-29-2011, 07:00 AM
Nuprin,

Please do a side by side comparison after you get it since you have tried and own(ed) many ukes. Really would be interested comparing customs. Thanks

Nuprin
11-29-2011, 06:57 PM
Nuprin,

Please do a side by side comparison after you get it since you have tried and own(ed) many ukes. Really would be interested comparing customs. Thanks

Will do. For acoustic ukes, I'm down to two customs right now, my Moore Bettah (high G) and my MP Custom (low G), but I'll do a comparison video of the three once the LFdM arrives. I'll probably add my Breedlove to the mix and just do a tenor comparison video...haven't done one in awhile.

Flyfish57
11-30-2011, 02:18 AM
I see mine in there! Should be arriving in the middle of December.

These look a lot like what Kevin Crossett (Kapasa) (http://kepasaukulele.com/tenor.htm) is doing up in your neck of the woods. Have you played his?

That's a whole lot of bracing!

Nuprin
11-30-2011, 02:31 AM
These look a lot like what Kevin Crossett (Kapasa) (http://kepasaukulele.com/tenor.htm) is doing up in your neck of the woods. Have you played his?

That's a whole lot of bracing!

I haven't played one of Kevin's Gypsy Rose ukes but I've tried a couple of his others. They sounded nice...I contacted a Gypsy Rose owner and he said it was a nice uke but he wasn't overly thrilled by it. I contacted a few of LFdM owners and they all love their LFdM. I've also heard some sound samples which sound nice. One of the LFdM owners I contacted recommended MP Customs to me close to 2 years ago when I was looking for a custom builder. I've been very happy with my MP and he says he likes his LFdM more than his MP so I have high hopes.

Pete Howlett
11-30-2011, 03:19 AM
One man's meat is another man's poison especially when it comes to musical instruments....

Nuprin
11-30-2011, 06:59 PM
One man's meat is another man's poison especially when it comes to musical instruments....

I'm quite happy with my current lineup but wanted something a little unique. Don't know much about bracing...seems like most think it's overkill...but I've heard great things about these ukes. Time will tell. I'm looking forward to it arriving...guess this is my meat and your poison Pete.

In another thread about Kasha style bracing, Rich Turner said the following:


this has been going on for about 40 years, and has been eclipsed in the nylon string guitar world by lattice bracing and double topped construction

Granted he was talking about a classical guitar and not a uke and they're both two very, very different beasts. But if lattice bracing works well for classical guitars, couldn't there be a possibility of it working well on a uke? As I mentioned, I know very little about bracing and what works well for a ukulele, but I'm keeping an open mind until I actually play it.

southcoastukes
11-30-2011, 08:31 PM
... if lattice bracing works well for classical guitars, couldn't there be a possibility of it working well on a uke????

Well, I'm speculating more than a little, but while it seems to me it could work, my question would be why would you need it in the first place? This type of bracing allows a guitar top to be thinned down beyond it's normal thickness - gives the thin top enough flexible support to be able to withstand the strain of 6 heavy strings.

An ukulele top should be thinner than a guitar top to begin with, and because of so much less tension from the strings, it just doesn't need that much support.

Laticce bracing can be very flexible, and it may not actually take anything away from the sound (the top does look thick, though!), but so little bracing is actually required that it would seem to me that you spend a lot of time (and money) on something of no real benefit.

Then again, maybe there are other qualities to lattice bracing I don't know of.

Pete Howlett
11-30-2011, 09:31 PM
As I have said before and will say again - guitar making principles regarding tone and volume production simply do not apply too the ukulele. It IS a folk instrument; that is where its roots are. It is at least a 10th the size of a guitar in soprano and has a whole different vibe from the guitar. If you want a uke to sound like a guitar which a lot of modern players do BTW then certainly build it like one.

I have played a lattice braced guitar with side port and remained totally unimpressed - like Kasha bracing I ask why? Fan bracing on a nylon stringed instrument be it guitar or ukulele seems to me all you need to produce a well rounded tone, excellent power and projection. To me and for me, anything else is overbuilding... I mean I struggle with putting that 3rd brace in the top of tenor knowing full well it HAS to be there for structural reasons.

As a caveat, there are guitars which have weird bracing patterns and structures which break the rules. I have been enjoying recently ARK New Era Guitars' videos that show what you can do when you follow the Larson Bros pattern of building and design - you really have to change your ideas of what a steel string guitar should sound like when you hear these reproductions - oh and BTW, this stuff is the best kept secret out there....

Dan Uke
04-23-2012, 03:00 PM
If you want a uke to sound like a guitar which a lot of modern players do BTW then certainly build it like one.
....

Sorry if I'm bringing up a boring subject but if a lot of modern players are turned on by the sound of guitar like ukes, who are the main luthiers that build cross over ukuleles? Obviously Rick Turner and Jake Maclay comes to mind as well as LFDM.

Since I didn't grow up in Hawaii or UK and just recently picked up the ukulele, my ears gravitate towards mellow, guitar-like tones.

Nuprin
04-23-2012, 04:00 PM
Will do. For acoustic ukes, I'm down to two customs right now, my Moore Bettah (high G) and my MP Custom (low G), but I'll do a comparison video of the three once the LFdM arrives. I'll probably add my Breedlove to the mix and just do a tenor comparison video...haven't done one in awhile.

I recorded this video awhile ago but never posted it in this thread. I'm comparing my Moore Bettah, Luis Feu de Mesquita, MP, and Breedlove. I've since sold off the Breedlove.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wh46H7yyv0k

My description from YouTube:

A video comparing my tenor ukuleles. I used the same mic, same mic placement, same gain, same levels, same reverb settings, no EQ, and no compression. I tried to eliminate as many variables as possible to show the differences in the ukes.

For the picking section, I played an exert from Aldrine Guerrero's "Four String Waltz." For the strumming section, I played the chord progression from the intro of Iz's "Over the Rainbow."

I used the following ukuleles for this video:
1. Moore Bettah Custom (koa top, back, & sides) (strung with Savarez classical strings)
2. Luis Feu de Mesquita Custom (cedar top, rosewood back & sides) (strung with Savarez classical strings)
3. MP Custom (spruce top, koa back & sides) (strung low G with D'Addario T2s)
4. Breedlove American Series (spruce top, mahogany back & sides) (strung with Worth Browns)

Maybe the experienced luthiers will disagree (especially those who believed the bracing to be too heavy) but I really like the sound of this ukulele. I still like my Moore Bettah more but the Luis Feu de Mesquita comes in at a close 2nd.