Review :- RISA Uke Electric Tenor Sunburst Kidney Bean

We first met Strange Ukulele recently on google+. We quickly found his amazing musical work on Soundcloud page and spawned some conversation with him. It turned out that he had one of the Risa Electric Uke’s we have been lusting after for a very long time. We asked him to tell us some more about it, and he did :-

I bought my kidney bean in London about 4 years ago. I was mooching around Petticoat and Brick Lane retracing my steps when I used to work there many years ago and I came across this lovely ukulele shop The Duke of Uke

I had never picked up a ukulele let alone played one but when I saw the Risa I had to give it a go. Underneath it’s good looks is a mighty fine instrument with a unique tone which is enhanced by the sound chamber, and those lipstick pick-ups gives it a lovely chime. I think these ukes are made in the Czech Republic but don’t let that put you off because these kidney beans are well made from quality woods and components and finished beautifully.The kidney bean’s shape is a clever design and sits on the lap very comfortably.

I have played this uke with some seasoned bad boy rockers, I was expecting sniggers and little willy jokes but they were all over it like a rash, when I plugged it in and cranked up the gain their jaws hit the floor, Played along with guitars and synths the kidney bean finds it’s own space in the mix with it’s own unique tone and bite.

Where to buy :-
The Duke of Uke – Risa Steel Strung Electric Tenor Ukulele Sunburst/a> – RISA Uke-Electric-Tenor Sunburst/a>








Cthukulele – Fretless, electric bass ukulele

We have been talking to David Iriguchi at and he has kindly allowed us to tell you some more about this amazing bass ukulele, the Cthukulele… The words and pictures that follow are his, but we are sure you will agree, this is an amazing looking instrument. The Chtukulele will make her public debut at the 2013 Reno Ukulele Festival in Sparks Nevada, April 11-14, 2013.

When we decided to make a bass ukulele we decided to go all in and make a true freak.  We wanted a creature not of this world. This is that creature. The Chtukulele…

Hewn from a single split piece of spalted maple the Chtukulele’s body is an ergonomic masterpiece (how’s that for some nice hyperbole!). The semi-hollow body is extremely rigid and gives the Padauk soundboard a solid foundation to vibrate off of.
The Cthukulele gets her name from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu, another creature not of this Earth.
From the top you can see that the body is just two inches deep and it is nothing but smooth curves. The top edge where your right arm rests is part of the body and not part of the soundboard so your arm does not rest on the soundboard.

Whether you are sitting or standing the Chtukulele is very comfortable to hold. It sits very close to your body and all the contact points are smooth and rounded.

This end view shows the Cthukulele’s unusual profile. The angled side (to the right in this image) rests flat on your thigh when sitting and playing. Extraordinary comfort.

The spalted Maple has a wonderful ‘dirty’ patina. The small port in the lower bout is to insert the strings. The strings pass through the soundboard and easily fit through this port.
The Chtukulele uses dual “Jet Intake” soundholes. These ports are carved into the upper bout. With this design we don’t have to cut a hole in the soundboard. Because of this, the soundboard is suported all the way around which allows us to lighten up the bracing. Plus it looks wicked cool, right? It is this view that gives the Chtukulele it’s name.

The ports are quite deep and there is also a channel below the end of the fretboard. We are currently designing an acoustic semi-hollow ukulele with these Jet Ports.
There is a cutout in the body to give access to the highest frets. The Maple neck is inset into the body about 9mm.

The adjustable bridge is our own design. It allows 12mm of compensation adjustment, from -3mm to +9mm. The compensation is very easily adjusted using a 2.5mm allen wrench.

As with our other ukuleles we used a zero fret on the Chtukulele. This allows us to make a much lower profile nut.
The Chtukulele is fretless and has white styrene fret markers. There are also side markers at 3, 5, 7, 9, and 12.

The Maple neck uses our ‘comfort’ profile. It is bladed so that it is slightly thicker at the G-string edge and tapers smoothly to the E-string edge.

The bridge has a very flat appearance and there is a K&K Sound Big Twin pickup installed.

In this view you can see that the arm rest is part of the body and not the soundboard. The bridge adjusters attach to the edge of the bridge and can slide horizontally.
We use standard Hipshot Ultralight tuners instead of the spooled style. A ziptie is used to secure the string in the tuner because those polyurethane strings are slippery little buggers. The zipties work just great though and we like the standard tuners a lot better than the spool style.

So there she is, the evil-looking Cthukulele! A strange creature not of this world.

Type: Semi-hollow, electric bass

Size: Tenor

Body: Hand-carved, Spalted Maple

Soundboard: Padauk

Neck: Maple – medium “comfort” profile

Scale length: 20″

Total # fret markers: 16

Fret markers to the body: 12

Special Features:
Semi-hollow back and sides are hand-carved from a single block of Spalted Maple

Includes K&K Sound Big Twin internal pickup

Dual “Jet Intake” soundholes

Custom adjustable bridge

Hipshot Ultralight tuners

Pahoehoe polyurethane strings
Smile when you play that!™

Scully’s iphone/ipad futulele canjolele ukulele

My mate scully is quite the genius when it comes to electronics and biscuit tins. Here is a video we just made of his brand new canjolelel / electrolele / futulele / iUkelele / tabulele / phoneulele / ukulele hero machine.

It is made with a Cadbury’s biscuit tin, a plank of wood, an iPad 3, an iPhone 4, and a bit of masking tape. Oh… and a funky bit of software called futulele which runs on both the ipad and iphone and connects them together to act like the neck and the body of the uke.

It is possible that this is the silliest future ukulele ever built! Hooray… watch out for when he has learnt a song or two more, only on

Preamp Pedal

Piezo pickups are a great and inexpensive way to “electrify” an instrument, but they don’t have a lot of output.  A preamp is normally used to boost the signal to a more usable level.

Instead of installing a preamp on every instrument that I make, I decided to make a pedal.

I used a piezo preamp system that would normally be installed on an acoustic guitar.  I also used a heavy duty triple pole double throw(3PDT) stomp switch, an LED, a resistor, a metal enclosure, and an extra mono jack.

The piezo preamp is an inexpensive model that I bought online.

I cut out a hole for the preamp and drilled holes for the jacks and switch.  The preamp is now smaller because I trimmed off the 9V battery compartment.

This mess is my prototype to make sure that everything is working properly.

By stepping on the switch, you toggle between the two settings which are as follows:

[Setting 1] LED off. Preamp off.  Bypass preamp.

[Setting 2] LED on. Preamp on. Through preamp.

I painted the enclosure with some leftover paint from this project.

I assembled and bench tested it.

It is now the first pedal in my pedal chain.

I wired it so that it would run off of the same 9V daisy chain that my other pedals use.  (I try to avoid using batteries whenever I can.)

The preamp pedal is now a worthy, albeit somewhat bulky, addition to my pedal board.

What is U-bass?

The term U-Bass is a relatively new one, owned by Kala. It is there trade name for their 4-string full range bass ukelele. It has a half-scale neck that measures 21″ that uses special polyurethane strings reproduce the sounds of a full size upright bass. The ‘u’ part of the name stems from the fact that it is built around either a solid or an acoustic baritone ukelele body. It can be bought either as a 16 frets (with the neck meeting the body at the 12th fret), fretted or fretless model.

On Sunday evening I was lucky enough to meet Paris from The Pukes and she let me have a look at her solid body u-bass. We suspect that it might be the only solid body u-bass in the U.K. at the moment, but if you know of any others, we would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Paris reckons it plays really well and the short chance I got to play, it felt nice in my hands. The strings didn’t feel at all sticky, (see the Ashbory below for more on that) but I didn’t get a chance to plug it in.

Paris was also kind enough to flip the u-bass over and let us take a little look inside the preamp cavity. You can see in here a small CR-2032 battery, the same kind that is inside the pre-amp of my Kala Tenor uke. In the years I have owned that uke, I have only ever had to change the battery once or twice and they are available all over the place now. Our local 99p shop sells 5 for a pound 😉

So Paris has the only solid body we know of, but we did see this acoustic version down at John T’s Shopand we were very impressed with that. It is smaller than a guitar, but has a warm acoustic sound like a upright bass.

I had played a Ashbory DeArmnd short scale bass a few years ago. Like the u-bass, this half scale unit was a light weight, poly-stringed bass and I guess in many ways it inspired the newer u-bass. When I played this, the strings were a little sticky, but it was perfectly playable. The company Ashbory is now owned by Fender.

It also has a little pre-ap built into it’s cavity which you can find pictures of below.

You can download the schematic for the Ashbory’s preamp from largesound. I think this could be a very useful schematic for any nylon string uke pre-amp you might be building.

John T’s Music Shop

On Saturday I had the pleasure of visiting John T’s Music Shop in Carshalton, Surrey. John’s a nice bloke, loves his banjo’s and uke’s and took a fair amount of time out of his day to show me around and chat.

It’s a bit tricky to spot, but I have added a map to the shop page here.

John has a large stock of ukuleles in all sizes, from sopranos, concerts, tenors and baritone’s as well as u-bass and banjos. He does also stock some guitars and amps.

The shop also stocks tuners and strings, and even have their own line in banjo strings.

While we were in the shop, John’s friends were sat up one end of the shop play guitars and generally adding a bit more fun to the environment.

John’s and his band are getting a gig together in May at the local football ground. I will add up details as soon as I can, but we do know the headline act is going to be

The Re-entrants

Oh, and I guess I should mention, he even has a picture George Formby in the shop!


Gibson pump polish

Just thought i’d share this little nugget of instrument care wisdom. Gibson do a non aerosol spray polish for cleaning up your instruments. I fully recommend you grab a bottle of this for the next time you change the strings on your uke. It degunks any built up dust and grim without clouding or breaking the varnish on your instruments. The polish is safe for use on all types of finishes and has no unnatural chemical propellants or nitrates.

It also gives a slinkier feeling to any fretboard. Although it is unlikely to make much difference to the sound of your uke, it is still worth a few spray shots while you have the strings off to make your uke look and feel all brand new. Anyone who has opened the case of a new Gibson guitar will already recognise the smell of it too. Smells like rock and roll. I’m not sure why, but for some reason, Gibson seem to have left the word UKULELE off the label. Bah!

Ukulele rack’s #01

I was asked today by R.C. Drake via King Uke :-

“Do I need a hook/hanger/mount that’s specific to the ukelele, or will a regular adjustable guitar hook keep our uke’s on the wall?”

Well, I gave them the best answer I have got for this :-

“search for ‘tool hooks’ in google”

The are cheap, easy to fit, readily available and screw into just about anything. Here, I have put a plank of wood against some of my ikea shelves, and screwed a tool hook through it. You can see I placed a cover over the end on one side, to stop it scratching my beautiful Kala Jazz Tenor that I keep inside the house.