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View Full Version : New Uke Day Coming Soon -- Thank You for Not Outbidding Me



Stevelele
08-16-2012, 04:18 AM
So I've been selling a lot of my ukuleles--I've needed to raise cash, but UAS is very hard to resist, as you all know. This is one that I really really wanted after looking at the pics and talking to the luthier, Kris Barnett on the phone. He's a classical guitar luthier with a 30 month wait list. After speaking to him on the phone and hearing what he did with this uke, why he built it the way he did, and after hearing reviews from a retailer who sells kamakas, collings and other high quality ukes that it was the best uke he had ever heard, I had to get this!

I'll post a full review once I get it. In the meantime, here are the pics.

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Stevelele
08-16-2012, 04:19 AM
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PhilUSAFRet
08-16-2012, 04:27 AM
Wow, a beauty. Can't wait to hear it. congrats.

Mandarb
08-16-2012, 04:33 AM
Cool - enjoy. I look forward to your review.

vanflynn
08-16-2012, 04:37 AM
Wow, If it sounds half as good as it looks you have a real keeper there. Congrats

seeso
08-16-2012, 05:18 AM
I am very interested in hearing that ukulele. The tailpiece intrigues me.


The tailpiece makes a lot of sense from an acoustic standpoint. I came up with the idea after considering other stringed instruments and how much volume they produce despite being very small in size (e.g. violin, mandolin, viola, etc.). The bridge on a traditional guitar is very important for sound because it is what transmits the vibration of the string to the soundboard. The bridge is constantly being pulled up and away from the soundboard because of string tension. This is a counterproductive force since it would be ideal to have only downward force on the bridge. The tailpiece allows this counterproductive force to be eliminated almost entirely since the strings are now pulling on an inert object which is attached to the end joint of the instrument. The tailpiece hovers above the soundboard and does not add any mass to the soundboard itself. The second important benefit of the tailpiece is that the weight/size of the bridge can be decreased by approximately 50%. Since there is very little string pull on the bridge it does not need to have the gluing surface as a traditional instrument, thus reducing its weight. It is important to note that the geometry of the strings and bridge is the same, meaning that the ever-important break angle (where the strings leave the saddle and go into the tie block) is maintained. The break is important because it puts downward force on the bridge and is one reason that a classical guitar sounds like a classical guitar. The tailpiece configuration can be used with normal strings (I have not found any strings that are not long enough) and they are tied the same way as a traditional bridge.

Stevelele
08-16-2012, 05:30 AM
Wow, this Kris Barnett is a great guy. I just got off the phone with him. He says that there was a slight buzzing issue with the uke, so he tried to cancel the auction, but he couldn't cancel it so I ended up winning for a much lower amount than it should've been. So he's going to make me a brand new uke for the same price that I won it. It'll be a bit delayed bc of his guitar schedule. He gave me the opportunity to take the uke that he has with the buzzing issue and he offered to try to fix it, but he said he'd be more comfortable building a brand new one that addresses the issue entirely and doesn't just have a fix on top of it. I had spent about 45 minutes talking to him about his ukuleles last time I talked to him--and he just couldn't be nicer and he couldn't be more respectful of us ukulele players. He's definitely not just another guitar builder who thinks that he can make ukuleles without thinking about what makes ukuleles different and what makes ukulele players special. He really seems to get it. I can't wait to get this instrument! I will keep you updated.

seeso
08-16-2012, 05:32 AM
Right on! Love hearing stories about amazing customer service. Keep us in the loop.

ukulelelearner
08-16-2012, 05:50 AM
that's beautiful! i especially love the rosette

marymac
08-16-2012, 08:27 PM
You outbid me on that syfc! Just about killed me. I'll be waiting for your review with baited breath. Really love the raised fretboard. Let me know when your build is done - thanks!

Dan Uke
08-16-2012, 08:40 PM
I think the guitar luthiers are on to something...They cater to the crossover guitar players that now want to play ukes. Many of these luithiers concentrate on the tenor and concerts. It's great to have a market for all luthiers

Stevelele
09-04-2012, 04:08 AM
I had to travel to Georgia for a wedding, and along the way, I stopped by to pay Kris Barnett a visit--he wanted me to try out the uke before he made me a new one, and I was happy to meet him. Kris is such a friendly and great guy. He has a three year wait list on his classical guitars, but he's venturing into the uke world just so he can continue learning and trying new things. His workshop is in a music store, and he was happy to show me around -- he has some fantastic classical guitars in progress -- looks like he mostly uses rosewood for backs and sides and cedar and spruce for tops.

We brought the uke into a recording studio--he was with his assistant who is a uke player, too. They were both very eager to hear what I had to say, since only about a dozen people have played his ukes, and even though they get rave reviews, they really were hungry for feedback.

It's a concert, fairly small. The neck is a bit thicker than I've seen before, but it actually feels good (I would not want him to make it thinner). The uke is also heavier than some of the others I've played, like a Collings or Mya Moe. I asked him about this, and he said that it's braced in certain areas where it's more necessary, and is very thin in other areas. The weight is fine though. Every centimeter of this uke is built to perfection. I see absolutely zero finish flaws or design flaws. This is pretty much perfection.

The design of this uke is really interesting. There is a tail piece, which makes it possible to have a much lighter bridge. The idea, I think, is that it will keep the strings at a consistent tension more easily and will not pull down the way that a standard bridge might. Also, because there is a lighter bridge, that makes it easier for the top to vibrate without interference. It also makes for a very elegant look. Almost seems like a cross between an archtop and a standard uke.

The body of the uke is also interesting and follows the design of his classical guitars. The body's top is not parallel to its bottom--there is a curvature that makes room for the neck. I believe this is done to make it so that the neck does not interfere with the vibration of the body -- although it's not quite like Rick Turner's cantilevered fretboard, I think some of the same ideas are there (although I'm no professional, and I have to admit that a lot of the things that Kris told me went over my head--he really knows his stuff).

OK, so now what you are all waiting for--the sound? It looks amazing, the ideas are great, so how does it sound already? In one word, tremendous! I have had the privilege to play many amazing ukes: Moore Bettah, Collings, Mya Moe, custom Kamaka, vintage Martin, Santa Cruz, William King, Pepe Romero, Maui Music, etc. I know that it's all personal preference after a certain point, and each person will have his/her own favorites, but after sitting down and spending time with this uke, I would have to say that it is probably the finest I've heard, perhaps just a small step behind my Moore Bettah and a Casey Kamaka made Ohta san I have. This ranking could change once I have more time to play it. The tone is probably closest to the Pepe Romero I've played -- very full sound, very satisfying--the opposite of clanky or tinny, almost like what I imagine it would be to take a great upright bass and shrink it down -- that type of richness with all the appropriate pitch/tone. The resonance is also amazing -- just playing a chord or a note is extremely satisfying, as the notes ring clearly, smoothly at length.

I will post a real review, and probably a video review when he gets around to building it and I receive it. That might be a while. Although this is an amazing instrument, Kris is still trying to figure out where he wants to go with the uke, so he's trying to understand us uke players more, and he's trying to sample as many as he can. I've invited him to visit me while he's in my area in a few weeks.

Really looking forward to sharing all this with you. I hope this is of interest to at least a few of you.

slackkey007
09-04-2012, 04:45 AM
Sssssooooooo .... you da guy who wen go out bid me!!! Na - na - na - na Brah, jus kidding!

But fo real, I was very intrigued with this uke and did bid on it. I was concerned about the raised fretboard ... didn't know how that affected playability. But very intrigued none the less. I will be anxiously awaiting for your uke to be built and to be completed and hearing your review! CONGRATS!!! :cheers: