Beau Hannam Spiral Rosette Tenor

CTurner

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I recently received my Beau Hannam tenor and am delighted to share my review thoughts with UU readers.

I originally heard a Beau Hannam on the HMS site, a model with redwood top and Tasmanian blackwood sides and back. I was hooked. I was particularly interested in something other than koa. The rich, clear, balanced tones and the artistry of the wood design were what I was looking for. I originally got on Beau’s waiting list with a Player selection, which is generally a simpler design but with all the sound characteristics of his Custom models. But by the time my turn in queue came up, some ideas were swimming in my head. I decided, with Beau’s guidance, to keep the Players redwood/blackwood combo and add some upgrades: side soundhole, bindings and most especially a designed rosette.

I felt the rosette especially would give it a special quality if we could find the right design. Initially I asked about something reminiscent of a nautilus shell, with a developing spiral. I knew going from very small to large width would be somewhat limited by the soundhole, but I asked anyway. Beau wasn’t sure, he said it would be a technical challenge to get the smoothness of the arc just right. But after some thought he came back with a number of possibilities, one of which I chose as a “direction.”

I’d like to suggest to any of you reading this who are considering a custom, from any luthier: as much as possible, agree on an idea, a direction for the builder’s creativity and then let him/her design and build. You can never know <exactly> what a custom will look, sound or feel like. What you can know is the builder’s aesthetic and quality. From there, I have always found that luthiers like to follow their own instincts to a large extent. That’s what happened here. I didn’t know exactly what the inside of the spiral would look like, only that I wanted some sense of change and movement within it. (https://www.goldennumber.net/nautilus-spiral-golden-ratio/)

I think what Beau came up with, moving from dark (at the small end) and finalizing with the lightest (at the widest end) is brilliant. Very dynamic, full of details (consisting of wood variations and mother of pearl dots), and it really pops in contrast to the beautiful redwood.

Originally, I had thought Beau might sculpt a cut corner on the end of the fretboard that would accept the widest part of the rosette. That was my idea, but Beau completely transcended that obvious choice with a reverse connection. As soon as I saw it I was thrilled. It had such a sense of liveliness but without any overstatement. The colors, the subtleties of the lines and variations, all the while moving from dark to light are stunning.

Rosette.jpg

I have never had a side soundport on a uke before, but I now understand why it is such an excellent addition for the player’s benefit. I can instantly hear changes in my technique that before I could only pick up on when recording.

Here’s a listing of the elements on the uke:
Tenor—17" scale
Redwood top
Tasmanian Blackwood back and sides
Rosette—mosaic spiral, wood variations and mother of pearl dots
Bindings—ebony
Purfling—BW
Bridge—Brazilian rosewood
Neck—Spanish cedar
Fingerboard—ebony
Position markers— mother of pearl dots
Headstock—face: Tasmanian blackwood stained; Back: walnut burl
Tuners—Gotoh UPTL, black
Nut—polished bone
Saddle—tusq
Decorative features:
Spiral rosette, wood, recon stone and shell
Custom stylized fingerboard
Headstock stain in spiral continuation shape
Beau’s signature fading purfling on headstock
Sculpted heel
Side soundport
Semi-hemispherical fret ends
Crossrock case

Construction
Outstanding. There is not one slip among all the surfaces and connections. All lines are clean and clear. Inside appears pristine and precise. Frets are smooth and make for easy fretting. Little details like the semi-hemispherical fret ends, the swoop on the headstock coloration, and the sculpted heel enrich the playing experience. It is exquisite. The finish is excellent (an upgrade, it is the high gloss finish used on his customs).

Playing and Feel
The overall balance of the uke is superb. I find the neck thickness on the thinner side which I much prefer. Light or heavier touch, this uke responds very well. I think the tone has a richness and balance that make the sound distinctive. Equal response across all strings. Intonation is excellent all along the neck. The uke vibrates so easily in response to action. Sustain is long and clean. I’m currently using Oasis brights with a Fremont soloist low g and like the relative tension. Although the size is not that much different from other tenors I have played, overall this uke somehow feels just a bit smaller and more responsive to position as I play.

Here is a soundfile:
https://app.box.com/s/axk8jvyfqlw5rasrh8k6zqsmtbg6e8e4

Here are a couple of YouTube videos:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKUQjhb-OfQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8Dy5bZD5Go&t=1s

Working with Beau Hannam was a true pleasure. He is funny, deeply knowledgeable and very creative. We would text each other with ideas and he was always responsive. As I’ve said, when I wasn’t sure about a choice, I usually left it in the end to his judgment and taste. I’m glad I did. His wait list is long these days, but when he gets to your uke he is focused on making it special. I recommend his work without reservation.

These are some pics that Beau took and passed on to me:
IMG_0143.jpgIMG_0144.jpgIMG_0348.jpgIMG_0215.jpg
 
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Rakelele

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Congratulations, Craig! I followed the build of your uke on Beau's Instagram page, and I'm really glad to see that it went to someone on UU. I can fully agree to everything you said: Beau made a beautiful tenor for my wife, and it's probably our all time favourite. Enjoy your new uke, it's a real special one.
 

Ukador

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Is there a reason why you design a fretboard like that ? Does it have a certain advantage or is it just for the looks ?
 

Beau Hannam Ukuleles

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Is there a reason why you design a fretboard like that ? Does it have a certain advantage or is it just for the looks ?

Having looks is a certain advantage.

I shaped it that way so it was in harmony with the spiral, they flowed into each other as a coherent whole. Would a normal shaped fingerboard have worked? Yes, but with a rosette like Craigs this fingerboard end needed more.

Also, having that area on the bass side missing is better for Hawaiian strumming, which is usually done over the fingerboard- this stops the fingers hitting the side of the fretboard.
 

stevejfc

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Congrats Craig........that's a beauty! I also love side sound ports.........they project the sound right up to the player. They are also really handy for portable external pickups by keeping the pickup out of the way, but picking up all elements of the sound.
 

pritch

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A most excellent and comprehensive review of a special ukulele. Congratulations to all concerned.
 

DownUpDave

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That is absolutely beautiful, congratulations Craig. Great review giving all the details of the design and choice process made me feel a part of it.

I love the last picture........you two look like you were made for each other. Enjoy it.
 
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Ukulele Eddie

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Gorgeous, Craig! I agree wholeheartedly with your excellent advice to avoid constraining a luthier; better to provide a spark of an idea and general direction. It's self-evident that worked marvelously here. Congratulations on a wonderful acquisition.

Beau has started on my 19" selmer with sinker redwood/Amazon rosewood that I hope to have in the next couple of months.
 

PereBourik

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Great review Craig. Getting my Beau Hannah left me tongue-tied. I especially agree with your advice to agree with the luthier on concept, then let him follow his sensibility. Beau far exceeded anything I could have imagined for the art on my ukulele.
 

Beau Hannam Ukuleles

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The best thing I EVER did was include on my order form "Luthiers Choice" for certain options. I would advise other luthiers to add that.
 

Gammo

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That is stunning. Just out of interest, what are side sound ports? I had a good look at the pictures and couldn't see anything. In between drooling of course.
 

CTurner

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That is stunning. Just out of interest, what are side sound ports? I had a good look at the pictures and couldn't see anything. In between drooling of course.

Gammo,

Here is a somewhat dark photo of the sound port. It is a hole cut, usually, in the side of the upper bout, facing up to the player's face or thereabouts.

IMG_0396.jpg
 

Gammo

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Thanks Craig. Love the photo of you with the uke. That's a man in love.
 

bonesoup

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Beautiful uke and stunning design. Love the idea and execution of the golden ratio. Thanks for the videos too. Congrats!
 

turtledrum

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Craig, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful review. Truly, it is a celebration of both the luthier and player. Honoring the luthier during the process is the way to bring harmony to the build. May both you and Beau find joy in what you have created together. Thank you.
 

Doc_J

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Craig thanks for the great review of a gorgeous instrument. Loved the videos and demo, it has the rare balance of depth and clarity in its tone. Your playing is truly on a professional level. More please.
 

UkeInTW

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Congrats. Beautiful uke. And knowing Beau's ukes, I know it has a gorgeous sound. I guess a lot of people were impressed seeing and hearing that BH uke on HMS. That is what also drove me to order one with the redwood and tasmanian blackwood. I also ditto the recommendation of seeking Beau's artistry for anyone wanting a very special custom uke.
 

CTurner

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Thanks, Rakelele! I think I remember your wife's tenor pics. We are lucky indeed.

Congratulations, Craig! I followed the build of your uke on Beau's Instagram page, and I'm really glad to see that it went to someone on UU. I can fully agree to everything you said: Beau made a beautiful tenor for my wife, and it's probably our all time favourite. Enjoy your new uke, it's a real special one.