The Samick Acoustic Guitar – Ridin’ The Thin Line!

Big & Beefy!

That’s how a lot of acoustic guitar players like their tone to be.

Even me, sometimes!

But then, at other gigs, with other songs… the moment calls for something with less… girth.

The Samick acoustic guitar that I have, their “Thin Line” model AMCT-CE, is the perfect complement to such situations.

Worried you might not cut through the mix enough?? Surrender those fears! The SAMICK is here!!!

The Custom Pro Overview!

First, let’s get a quick, thorough breakdown of the specs of this unique, useful and beautiful guitar:…

Samick AMCT-CE PBE “Valley Arts Custom Pro Shop” ThinLine Acoustic/Electric Guitar:

Top Plate: Birds Eye Maple

Binding: Back & sides

Cutaway: Florentine

Neck: Set Mahogany

Inlays: Abalone

Fretboard: Rosewood

Bridge: Rosewood

Frets: 20

Electronics: 4-band EQ plus Volume

Inputs: EQ700 XLR and 1/4″

Tuners: Chrome die-cast

Finish: Gloss

Serial #: 99050008 (8th of its line in May 1999)

Country of Origin: Korea

The Obviously Awesome… Wood!!

As is always the case with a great guitar… it’s the WOOD, baby. The WOOD!!

Take a look at this incredibly intricate, almost 3D quality of the Bird’s Eye Maple that’s used on the top resonating plate in the picture below:

Isn’t that GORGEOUS?! It’s the first thing that caught my eye and made me consider buying it, and it’s still one of the biggest reasons I’ll never get rid of it. It’s just breathtakingly lovely.

Do you know why you don’t see many guitars with this type of wood? Because Birdseye Maple is a rare characteristic. It’s found in only about 1 percent of all maple trees!! Crazy, right?

Interestingly, nobody really knows WHY some trees get this incredible grain. There’s no scientific evidence to support any specific theory of why it happens. What makes it grow with such panache. It’s a mystery.

Which makes having a guitar made with it THAT MUCH MORE COOL!!! LOL

Anyway, as usual with unusually textured wood grain, pictures just can’t do it justice. Next time you’re in a guitar shop (may it be SOON, out of Quarantine!!), ask to see a quilted Maple or Bird’s Eye Maple or Flamed Maple top on a guitar. When you take in that miracle up close and personal, you’ll know why this li’l git-box is never leaving my Wall of Fame. ‘-)

What’s up, Slim?!

Another reason I’ll never part with this guitar (besides the simple fact that I just… well, LIKE it) is that it’s the only “Thin Line” acoustic I own.

A Thin, or Slim, line construction means (to most acoustic luthiers at least) that the BODY of the guitar is shallow. Much shallower than normal.

The depth of this Samick, for example is only 2.75 inches. The slimmest guitar I have after that, which is a standard “full-depth” acoustic, jumps up to 3.5 inches. That’s quite a difference!

A thin line construction means (mostly) three things:

  1. Much less body weight & mass, so it’s closer to your body and easier to reach & play.
  2. A pronounced reduction in the bass frequencies, due to the smaller resonant cavity.
  3. Far less projected volume when heard without amplification.

Because of these specific characteristics, this guitar is perfect for use in an amplified setting, especially in a full band, where the low frequencies of a deeper body just aren’t necessary. In fact, the lows and low-mids will get in the way and are usually EQ’d out by the sound person anyway!

Custom Fret Inlays!

I’m sure if Samick COULD have, they would have called this a “SlimLine” guitar, since the term goes waaaaay back in guitar luthier techniques. But it’s trademarked so they can’t.

Gibson started it with their semi-acoustics (the Byrdland, ES-225, ES-335/345/355, etc.) in the 1950s.

Then Fender really took the term and ran with it in the 70s on their Telecasters. Today, when someone hears “Slim Line”, a semi-hollow bodied Tele is probably what’s going to spring to mind, due to Fenders ubiquitous and decades-long Tele marketing.

There’s another impactful dimension to the AMCT body: the depth is exactly the same at every point on the guitar. This makes a difference in how consistent the sound reflections are inside the body cavity, and thus how much sound exits.

Sometimes, like on my Mike Franks acoustic (which you can SEE HERE), a guitar may start around 3.5″ near the neck and widen out to the standard 4″ at the bottom.

Changing the inner distances between the top and back plates produces more random reflection patterns, and doesn’t “trap” as many frequencies inside. This Slim Line model stays consistent throughout, so that’s one reason it’s not as loud as others.

If you’ve never tried a thin depth acoustic, give one a try. I love how CLOSE the strings are to my body, making it so easy to play. For younger or smaller guitar students, a thin line guitar also helps with arms that aren’t so long; it’s SO much easier to fret, strum and pick!

It’s from the Valley, Dude!

So, what about this “Valley Arts” moniker?? And what is “Samick”, anyway??

Is “Valley Arts” the brand name? A model? A parent company??

“Somebody, SAVE US from this lack of guitar KNOWLEDGE!!!”

Fear not. Teaj is here. LoL

Samick has been building guitars since 1958. At one time they produced more guitars than any other plant on the planet! So, do they know a thing or two about luthiership? Yea.

They have factories is Korea, China & Indonesia. Their goods are then shipped worldwide, including to our illustrious shores.

Valley Arts Guitar was a local guitar shop in North Hollywood that I frequented when I lived in L.A. It was the bomb.

I took my first guitar lessons there, from a great player, Lindsey Blair. His teaching room was right next to Jennifer Batten‘s, another uber-talented player.

When she ended up leaving town to go tour with Michael Jackson, guess who she recommended to take her place at GIT (the “Guitar Institute of Technology”) as an Instructor there? Lindsey.

He was such MASTER at so many things. No matter what I threw at him to learn, he always could NAIL it as easily as eating the chili cheese fries they sold just down the block.

(Of course, we’d never play AND eat those at the same time. We DO care for our instruments!!)

Lindsey is still out burning up the fretboard even to this day. Check out HIS WEBSITE HERE. And HERE is the love story of a great Fender Strat he sold me!

But Valley Arts also had other very esteemed axe-slingers who hung out there all the time: Larry Carlton; Tommy Tedesco; Steve Lukather; Al DiMeola… their patrons were like a who’s who of who’s AWESOME!

So, they began to put together custom guitars for their legendary pro players. From 1977 to 1993 the line of Valley Arts Guitars were renowned and respected, especially by session players in Southern Cal.

In 1993, due to an unfortunate store fire which pretty much destroyed everything, Valley Arts was sold to Korean manufacturer Samick, who at the time sold more guitars worldwide than any other company.

Samick then started to use the Valley Arts name (and thus its marketing prestige) to sell some of its higher end instruments.

When I saw this guitar for sale on Craigslist, the wood grain caught me first, but the second thing to reeeeeally draw me was the fact that it had “Valley Arts Custom Pro Shop” on the headstock.

That was my go-to store! I was there. I knew that precious musical palace! It meant a lot to me back in the day, so I had to go check it out.

Glad I did! This guitar does their heritage proud.

The JACK, Jack!

I always love it when a guitar has an XLR output.

Samick-XLR-output

We put enough time and effort into honing our craft and our tone… we don’t need line noise & hum to creep in and ruin our musical vision.

The purity of an XLR line helps “keep it clean”, especially as you get into longer cable runs. XLR is the bomb if you want the best signal possible, and I’ll ever be a fan.

Another great thing about this set up is the STEREO options. I can run two cables out of this guitar, one XLR and one 1/4″, and place different effects on either side.

Or I can give them the same FX, but still have that massive stereo sound that is so inspiring… not only to our listeners, but to US!

Not every guitar that has an XLR out allows you to have BOTH signals, so do your homework if that’s important to you to verify that that option will be available to you.

The SOUND!

I’d describe the Samick as having a thinner tone acoustically, which is why, in the context of a band, I use it frequently.

It cuts through nicely and hardly ever needs any Hi-Pass filter slapped on it. The sound mixers love it ‘cuz they don’t have to EQ it much in the band setting.

Oh, and it has never been prone to feedback either, much to our mutual appreciation!

The AMCT has great sound & note definition as well, probably because, again, there’s no muddy, booming frequencies in the low end to get in the way of clarity.

This is great when you’re playing with a full rhythm section. You don’t want a bunch of bass frequencies, or you’ll be treadin’ on the bassist’s ground.

And he won’t like that! LOL

If there’s a weakness to this model, it’s the onboard electronics. They are not strong.

In fact, in my last concert the mixer asked me to NOT use this guitar on a louder song because the distortion was too pronounced.

If you’re playing soft, or doing fingerpicking, there’re no issues. Have at it and you’ll be fine.

But when you start playing aggressively? Ooo, that’s when distortion kicks up every time, and I mean the kind that everybody, including your audience, will notice.

The battery near the neck joint.

(And, yes, in case you’re wondering, the battery is always brand new when I check for this issue. It’s obviously a fault of the electronics construction.)

So, next week, I’m actually having brand new electronics put in to fix this problem. That way I can play as loud as I want (mostly on big STRUM songs) and have no issues when I use only the D.I. outputs.

I’m planning a before and after article once that’s dones, so keep your ears peeled for that post soon enough!

That being said, I absolutely LOVE how this guitar records!! The acoustic sound of the Samick is GREAT in the studio. I’ve used it many times and will continue to, as it really brings my songs to life well, whether it’s with a full band or even solo.

So, if ya don’t mind spending a Franklin or less to upgrade the electronics, this can be an all-out monster for your gigs and sessions.

I made two recordings for you that should make clear what I mean. Let’s let our ears be our guide…

The ACOUSTIC tracks at the beginning are laid out in the stereo spectrum as follows:

  • Hard Left: Oktava 319
  • Mid left: Avantone CK-1, at bridge
  • Mid Right: Avantone CK-1, at 12th fret
  • Hard Right: Oktava 319

The D.I. tracks afterward are laid out this way:

  • 33% Left: 1/4″ output
  • 33% Right: XLR output

I played songs into the mics that most of you (if not ALL) probably know, just for a point of reference.

  • Bookends
  • Dust In The Wind
  • Stairway to Heaven
  • Little Guitars

The D.I. cable I took straight into my Apollo interface, with NO further processing.

On the Master Bus I put an EQ’d Lexicon 450 reverb. That’s it. The sound you hear is the guitar, not software smoke & mirrors.

Keep in mind the strings are 7 months old now. This axe, like all the rest, would sound even better with new ones put on. I’m recording with it next week so you’ll get to hear it with new strings in the NEXT installment.

Hope you enjoy this as much as I do playing her!

Wait for… the DROP!

Completely by accident one year, I stumbled upon a great way to use a Thin Line acoustic guitar. The story goes like this…

I decided, after reviewing songs for potential slots on my next album, to resurrect a song that I’d written when I was 21 years old, way back in my L.A. days.

The trouble was, my voice is MUCH different than it was then, and I found that I didn’t like how I sounded in the key I wrote it in. Dropping it a whole step sounded, with my voice NOW, more soulful and smoky.

BUT… I didn’t want to have to relearn a whole new set of chords ‘cuz I was in a hurry and the finger-picking was pretty complicated.

My solution? I dropped the strings down a whole step and played the song as written.

To my great joy, not only did my voice sound better this way, but the Samick put out substantially more bass frequencies now that the low string was down to D.

This lower tuning gave it a much more balanced overall acoustic sound, tho’ the volume was still not loud acoustically.

So there ya go – that’s what you’re hearing on the recording above.

And that’s what I call… a Win/Win!!

Rare Bird, Indeed

Googling my discontinued Samick model today, I couldn’t find a single used one on sale anywhere. Not on eBay, not through Guitar Center, not in Craigslist national… it’s like I have the only one!!

I even checked Google IMAGES, where usually I can at least find a picture of the instrument I’m looking for. Nothin’.

So, yea… looks like I’ve got a pretty rare commodity.

Does that make it more valuable?? Probably, but honestly… I don’t really care. It’s about the music it brings out of me, and so far… it’s been bringin’ out quite a LOT!

There are some other classic models by Samick I find here and there worthy of note, like their “Greg Bennett“-designed guitars (acoustic and electric).

Those have a pretty vocal following online; I saw many reviews (like THIS ONE) saying they’re unbelievable guitars at their price point

Since they’ve won multiple awards over the years, I’m not surprised! They look much like my AMCT, but the headstock is different and says “Greg Bennett” on it.

These days Greg still makes his acoustic line of guitars through Samick, so you can get those new (on THIS WEBSITE) but not the electrics or hybrids, like mine.

And Samick? Oh, they’re still making a TON of guitars every year, and keeping the prices reasonable because of their sheer size and how they’ve streamlined things over the decades. Check their MANY new guitar options on the SAMICK WEBSITE HERE.

I even found one on there that veeeeery much has me G.A.S.-ing… Check out this new TVJZ-50CE:

The Syndrome never ends… LoL

Ride That Thin Line!

Now, obviously, this Samick acoustic guitar is long gone from store shelves; you can’t buy one today.

Unless, of course, you keep your eyes open for one online. Set up an eBay “reminder Search” and see what happens.

I looked for something similar to recommned to you but I could not find a single, thin-line acoustic/electric with XLR & 1/4″ outputs anywhere. I’ll keep looking and update here if I find one, but if YOU come across something similar… please let us know!

‘Til then, rock this quarantine with your BEST music, and , go… make… sounds!!

Teaj

The Ibanez AE Acoustic Guitar

I’m an acoustic guitar aficionado. Have been since high school.

Oh, sure, electrics have their place… especially when the testosterone movin’ and I want to get my “shred” on…

But the acoustic… mmm… there’s multiple worlds in there.

So I picked up another one last year (my 10th): the Ibanez AE Acoustic Guitar!

As you’ll see from the ensuing story… it wasn’t all I expected.

But the good news is it still has some strong suits, and any beginner could go a long way honing their craft on this axe!

The Basics

Ibanez has a broad line of these models. Some start at under $500, like THIS ONEand go up to near the $900 mark if you get one with bells, whistles and the “Ooooo!!” factor.

I got this one used to try out the line. It has a great looking “Transparent Violet” color that drew my eye immediately (tho’ it also came in Black and Natural colors).

When I got the guitar the action was, in a word TERRIBLE. I don’t know if it came from the factory that way and the girl I got it from was clueless (it appeared that way), or whether it underwent some major humidity & temperature fluctuations, but, man… it was NOT good.

After some set up in my studio, it was a lot better. I determined, though, that if I kept the AE I’d swap out the NUT, at the very least, to help the action. It was just too high.

The compensated saddle helped to make the Intonation pretty good. It just wasn’t comfortable to play.

I prefer cutaways, since I play high up on the neck at times for chords and licks. If that’s not important for you then there are other full-body guitars that might be a better choice for you – any cutaway IS going to take a bit of the guitar’s resonance and bottom end away, to some degree.

Time to In-SPEC-t!

For all you tweaky gearheads who want to know all de facts, Jack (you know who you are!), here is the most exhaustive list of features and parts in the AEF18 that I could find:

Preamp:                                  Ibanez SST

Pickup:                                    Fishman Sonicore

Binding:                                  White

Body Construction:               Single cutaway

Body Construction:               Acoustic

Body Shape:                          AEF

Body Top Wood:                    Spruce

Body Type:                             Hollowbody

Body Wood:                           Mahogany

Bridge:                                   Rosewood

Bridge Pins:                           “Advantage” pins

Fingerboard Radius:             12.00″

Fingerboard Material:           Rosewood

Finish:                                  Gloss

Fret Size:                             Medium

Fingerboard Inlays:              Dot

Hardware:                            Chrome

Neck Joint:                           Dovetail

Neck Shape Series:              Standard

Neck Wood:                           Mahogany

Number of Frets:                   21

Number of Strings:                6

Nut Material:                          Ivorette II

Nut Width:                              1.69”

Rosette:                                Wooden Fire Pattern

Saddle material:                    Ivorette II

Scale Length:                                    25-1/4″

String Nut:                              Synthetic Bone

Tuners:                                   Chrome Die-cast

Width:     15.75“

Depth:                                    3.5“

Length:                                  20″

Scale/Length:                       641mm

Width at Nut:                         43mm

Width at Joint:                       55mm

Thickness 1st Fret:              20mm

Thickness 7th Fret:              21mm

Radius:                                300mm

Whew! That’s a lotta numbers!! 

A St(AE)l… of a Deal!

I didn’t pay much for my AE. I only bought it because I saw it used from a buyer on Craigslist and was intrigued. Mostly by the color, the cutaway, the electronics, and the fact that I’d pay under $200!

She was a local girl who had been using it to play in church, but no longer had that gig, so it was collecting dust.

I needed another acoustic guitar for an upcoming concert. I typically play in quite a few alternate tunings, so having four or five guitars at the ready, all tuned differently ahead of time, helps my shows to go smoother. I also don’t have to spend so much time tuning during the shows, so the fans appreciate that, I’m sure!

After meeting her and seeing that is was a little beat up, I offered her about $50 less due to the cosmetic let-down. She went for it, and I took home a decent acoustic for a lot less than you’d get it from any store.

After looking it over, I took it home, changed the strings, and adjusted a few things play better. 

I then tested it through an amp to verify all was well there. Thankfully (since usually I test it before I give away a wad of cash!), everything sounded good.

The top faceplate not only had a lot of dings; I could also tell that the wood right from the manufacturer was not the greatest. If you’re looking for a guitar that has impressive, “Oooo! Ahhhh!” type of wood grain… pass on the AE

“This is not the droid your looking for.”   LoL

I could also tell that the neck was a little thick and not as comfortable to play any of my other acoustics.

But I still bought it. Knowing it had Fishman electronics on it, I wagered that it would sound great through a system, and, to a fair extent, I was right.

I also wanted a cutaway at the neck because I often play high.

Um, that’s high on the neck, Beavis. COME on!  Lol

Sound it out

On a scale of 1 to 10, I found the sound of the AE to be about average – I’d give it a 5.

It didn’t sound bad, but neither did it in any way compare to the tone of my more expensive acoustics.

I did find that it had a much better sound plugged in, using the onboard electronics, than it did using a mic. That’s usually the opposite of what I find, but, ya know… can’t win ’em all.

I found the low end to be lacking in this AE. If you’re going to be playing this in the context of a band, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re playing out on your own, just you and a guitar though… I’d pass on this model. Not nearly enough beef.

Also, the gloss on this guitar is REEEEEALLY thick. To me, it really muffled the tone, and kept the acoustic volume much lower than the other acoustics I own. So if you are considering this model at all… I’d seriously opt for the “Natural” finish instead of the Glossy. If you know acoustic guitar tone at all, you’ll be glad you did!

Howwww Does it Feeeel… ?!

Something tells me Bob Dylan would pass on this particular guitar.

Nothing against Ibanez (I have other guitars of theirs which I love, like THIS ONE!), but I really disliked the feel of this axe. Especially the neck.

I tried it out on a solo gig of mine; a private party for the birthday of one of my best neighbors. By the end of the 2nd set I went back home and got a different guitar. I’ve never had my hand get so tired out from any other guitar.

To be fair, I didn’t give the AE a full, genuine, professional setup from my usual luthier. If I had, would it have been better? I’m gonna guess yes, so make sure that’s done if ya want this guitar to be in optimal playing condition.

Mine sure wasn’t!

The End of the Line

After less than a year with the AE, I moved on. As usual, I’d given it some months to get to know it, and gave it many opportunities to show me its best bits. In the end though, that private party I played showed its imperfections all too clearly.

Plus, I’d been noticing that every time I picked it up and played it, I put it back and got one of my other acoustics down instead.

My trade up!!

Never a good sign, that!

So, ya know… it just didn’t thrill me,. So I traded it for a newer, much better guitar.

My main man Chris over at Music-Go-Round always gives me the best top dollar he can for my used gear, so he was happy to let me add to his inventory (“ANOTHER guitar, Teaj??!!” LOL).

I used that trade-in cash to instead get a really gorgeous hollow-body electric, the only type of guitar I’ve never owned yet.

Something tells me you’ll hear about it soon.  😉

The Quest Continues…

All guitarists are constantly searching for that “Holy Grail Tone” that will make them sound the most amazing ever. For me, this AE acoustic wasn’t anywhere close.

If you’re looking for either an acoustic that looks cosmetically superior, or one that sounds impressive when you mic it, I’d say this is not going to “rev up your motor scooters”, to quote Steely Dan. Keep lookin’.

BUT… the AE series acoustic guitars ARE great for beginners. Especially since the body is on the small side. Perfect for kids learning! CHECK HERE FOR PRICE and read how it can be a real asset for your budding student!

Even some intermediate players might find this to be just the ticket if they play it through an amp or a sound system – the electronics are a great add-on that make it sound actually better than the wood does.

Once you get your hands on it, you might find it a perfect fit. Ya never know ’til ya play it.

Now, go… make… sounds!!

Teaj

The Best Guitar Stool – Baby, Got Back??!

woman-singing-seated

As musicians, we practice our instruments & our stage craft for years, sometimes decades, to make sure we can put on a great show.

But let’s face it: sometimes… we play gigs where the focus isn’t really on us.

Instead, it’s on the audience’s meal… or some public speaker… or the host or focus of the party, or…

You get the picture. We’re background, not in the spotlight.

At those times, we all need support. And I’m not talking about a gracious family member or friend. I’m talkin’ LITERAL support… for your BACK SIDE!!

The best stool for a musician is one that works with the appropriate types of gigs. It’s the chair that is portable enough for you. Light enough for you. And comfortable enough as well.

Got a gig chair like that? Still looking for one that meets those criteria?

Have I got good news for you… !

The Chair!

I first saw the “Gator Frameworks Combination Guitar Stand and Seat” at Guitar Center a couple years ago. Immediately, I was struck by its small stature, foldability, and integrated guitar stand.

Not to mention it was under $70! Definitely a deal!!

Now, I’ve had a great gig chair for over a decade now that I really like. I bought it at Art Van, a local furniture store.

It’s gone with me for dozens and dozens of gigs and always stays as solid and dependable as the day I got it.

BUT… it’s heavy. And it takes up a lot of space in my SUV because it is not foldable at all.

Which is why I bought the Gator!

The pic below shows you where I keep my old dependable seat now – in the recording booth!

It’s perfect for keeping me right where I need to be for the mics to pick up my acoustic tracks well.

If you already have a quality gig cart, like the ones LISTED HERE, then maybe a portable, light throne isn’t so much an issue.

But if it is…

… here are the Specs:

Weight: 13.2 lbs

Weight Capacity: 300 lbs

Material: 7/8″ steel tubing

Length: 14.3″

Width: 14″

Height: 44″

Seat Height: 28″

Go, Gator, Go!

For a complete run-down of how great Gator as a company is, and how long they’ve been making great products, GO HERE!

In a nutshell, Gator has been around since 2000 when Jerry Fred and his daughter Crystal Morris opened the company in Tampa, Florida.

Later in 2018, they bought a big manufacturing plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Then, in 2013, they announced their new “Frameworks” line of stands and supports, which gives them an expanded way to serve the needs of the gigging musician on a budget. Which is most of us!

Finally, I was surprised to learn today that they even made themselves even MORE unsinkable by acquired Levy’s Leathers Ltd., one of the world’s most respected names in quality guitar straps, in 2018.

I’ve personally got at least three straps by Levy, like THIS ONE that I bought for a concert last year that I did. One of the softest, but most well-made straps I’ve ever felt over my left shoulder. Good choice, Gator!

Today, they’re still at it, making trustworthy, solid accessories for all our many musical adventures. I personally have bought 4 or 5 Gator cases and stands over the years and they, to this day, are in great shape. Now that’s great gear!

The Fold!

Without question, one of the best things about this chair is that it folds up into a very compact size.

I can’t state enough how much I’m enjoying hauling this chair around as opposed to my old one. It hardly takes up any space in my vehicle when I’m going back-and-forth to a gig. That means I have room for… what else… MORE GUITARS! LoL

I have noticed that some things that fold overtime wear out and break easily, especially where the folding mechanisms are in place.

The Locking Ring

I’m not finding that to be the case with this chair. It has not become rickety or loose at all in any place, and there’s no sign of wear or tear on any of the joints.

Wish I could say that about most of my old mic stands!

To fold the chair into its cool, compact flatness, you’ll need to pull out the catch ring that is under the cushion.

It’s easy to miss; the first time I tried folding it up for a gig I couldn’t, and kept wrestling with it ’til I noticed what impeding my progress!

The Cush’!

Is it comfortable? You bet!

I will say however, if you are a person who has a, well, let’s just say… a GENEROUS posterior, you might want to opt for another chair. Why? This seat is not very wide. It’s 14″ across at most, which is less than your average chair out there.

If you flaunt a more “normal” tush, or have an aerodynamic runners body like I have (read that SKINNY), then you shouldn’t have a problem.

But if you’re more a “plus-size back side”, I’d probably look elsewhere. The seat capacity of this chair is 300 pounds anyway, so if you’re approaching that girth, it might not be wise to test its limits!

Unassembled & new outta the box!

Also, the cushion itself IS comfortable, but it is NOT overly “cushy”.

What I mean by that is… it’s not going to be like “Grandma’s Feather Bed”, to quote John Denver. Neither will it feel like your Tempur-pedic mattress, your down-filled pillow, or your college dorm bean bag chair!

When you sit on it, it feels solid. You don’t sink down much at all. So if you’ prefer the ‘Memory Foam’ kind of support, “… this is not the droid you’re looking for.”

I think it’s perfect for gigs though. I’ve noticed that my behind doesn’t get tired after 2 or 3 hours servin’ up my hot licks and croonings to the crowd. I don’t find myself squirming, in other words, and THAT… is saying a lot!

The Stand!

And now we come to one of the prime features of the seat: the guitar stand!

We all know, as gigging musicians, that the less we have to carry into our gigs, the better.

Because this chair comes with its own built-in guitar stand, we no longer have to bring a separate one! Yeay!

If you play more than one guitar at a gig (which I do because my many alternate tunings!) then it’s a moot point.

Still, it’s great to have the two together. Haven’t seen that in any other chair.

Is the stand is stable? Yes.

Is your guitar or bass guaranteed to never get knocked over? No.

Your neck and headstock will be lightly resting against the indentation at the front of the seat cushion. This keeps your guitar or bass from wanting to tip over pretty well.

IF, however, your large, loving, drunk Uncle who came to see you runs up to hug you and ask for “Freebird” (again) and manages to hit your chair like the Titanic to an iceberg… your instrument could fall.

Now, I’ve even lightly run into the chair myself a couple times, and my guitars were never even close to falling over.

If you’re like me though, you don’t want to take any chances. So here’s a quick and easy fix that I use:

Attach a simple BUNGEE CORD to both sides of the stool, underneath the seat cushion. This will hold your instrument in place perfectly should it be jostled.

Not only does it work like a charm, it keeps anyone from just kinda wandering up and taking your axe for a test drive when you’re off schmoozing the blonde who came with your college buds.

(Which is why they’re givin’ you the stink eye, btw. ) LoL

The Back!

The back on this chair is optional. You don’t have to use it if you don’t want to.

The Backrest bracket

It’s easy to take off and put back on. Two simple brackets, one under the cushion and one on the back of the backrest, are where you attach the provided backrest bar.

Voila! Your lumbar thanks you.

I have to mention, while we’re on the subject of the back rest, that I really enjoy the way this back rest does not go up very high.

When I gigged with my old chair, I could never rock or lean back when I was physically getting into the music. The backrest was so high that it kept my back too stabilized, all the way up to my neck.

With this chair, I find myself being able to rock forward and backward… to move more with the music, and let my body express the groove as well as my playing and singing. I really like that.

I never suspected that that would even make a difference until I got this chair and noticed it during a gig that I was moving more in my torso well grooving out of tune while grooving out a tune.

The back rest is the same solid foam as the cushion. It’s not soft, but neither is it too hard. It’s just right to keep you going through a night of splendiferous entertainment!

Your concerts ARE splendiferous, right?? 😉

The Lift

Chair on shoulder, instrument in hand!

At 13.2 pounds, this seat is light as a feather. Compared to others I’ve used, it’s hardly noticeable, weight wise.

Taking this chair to any gig is as easy as singing “Stairway to Heaven” in the shower. I know because… I’ve done it many times! LoL

This gig stool is also easy to transport by hand. What I typically do, as you can see in the picture to the left, is put it, folded up, over my shoulder, while I carry a guitar or other gig tool in my hand on the same side.

The bar laying on my shoulder isn’t the most pleasant feeling, but it’s not THAT heavy, and for the couple minutes it takes to get to the stage – it’s worth all the benefits this seat provides.

The Mystery!

Okay, so (this just makes me laugh)… there’s one inexplicable addition to this fine seat. Maybe you can help me…

The box says that (as you can see from the pic above) this stool comes with:

“Removable Red Safety Rings!”

Um… what??!

Can anyone tell me why having red rubber bands near the bottom of my chair legs is gonna keep me safe??

And from WHAT??! If a totally sloshed bar patron comes lunging at me ‘cuz I played a song his ex-girlfriend liked, do I shoot him in the eye with one??!!

Honestly… I haven’t a clue! LoL

Your Seat of Power!

So there you go – a way to inexpensively make sure you have the best seat in the house wherever you may play next… giving you the comfort and power to knock ’em dead with your music!!

If you’re in the market for a great gigging chair, and you play basses or guitars of any kind, this stool will keep you comfy as you keep the peeps rockin’…

Or at least enjoying their restaurant meals. LoL

Remember to check the weight restrictions, as well as the seat size to confirm that it’s going to be a great fit for you.

So whaddya waitin’ for?! CLICK HERE and get some CLASS for your A… uh… rear quadrant. Lol

Now, go… make… (comfy)… sounds!!

Teaj

Free Audio Plugins – Neutron AND Ozone both!!!

You read that right. We couldn’t wait to share this with you all!

We’re musicians too. We know the beauty of “Free”!

So jump on these before they’re gone. I already got both of them!! Lol

iZotope Neutron 3

The website called “PluginBoutique” is now giving anyone who wants it the awesome Neutron 3 Elements Software (PC/Mac Digital Download).

All you have to do is enter the discount code PBSCNE in the code blank before you purchase!

Also you must be register on the website, but that’s no biggie ‘cuz it’s free and you get to hear more about other pieces of great software.

So whatta ya waitin’ for?!!

CLICK HERE TO GET NEUTRON FREE!!!!

iZotope Ozone 9

Our good friends over at “Sweetwater” obviously have a GREAT relationship with iZotope, since they are allowing us now to get a great MASTERING plugin set called Ozone 9 Elements (PC/Mac Digital Download).

This time you’ll just put in your usual contact info and you’re emailed a download link instantly.

And when I say instantly, I mean just that. As soon as I finished pushing the purchase button I went to my email and the download link was already waiting for me.

Now that’s service!!

Anyone else doin’ their own mastering like I do?? Then get some SERIOUS help with this amazing plugin:

CLICK HERE TO GET OZONE FREE!!!

Got Mine!

Some of you skeptics may be asking, “Is this legit??”

The answer is an unequivocal YES – it totally is!

I just frenetically jumped online when I got the news on both of these. I instantly got my own copies, and now… I’m studying up on how to make my next mixes and masters even BETTER with their use!

So you also want to investigate how to improve your final tunes, these two plugins could really take your songs to the next level

IF you learn how to use them well, of course. 😉

SO PSYCHED!!!

Others Got Theirs!

Some have already written on the SlickDeals site about their own snagging of Neutron:

Eric Freeman downloaded his and said, “Great deal. The element versions of the plugins are considered “paid” iZotope products even if you got them for free. This will allow you to get the cheaper “crossgrade” price if you want to upgrade to the full versions or get more products in a bundle! The Music Production Suite 3 crossgrade goes on sale pretty frequently…”

CelticMoose grabbed the deal then told us, “These plugins are even useful for podcasting FYI… I use Nectar Elements and RX 7 Elements. iZotope makes good stuff.”

And finally, ECJWZ got it and, in his audio glee, said, “There has never been a better time to make music. Ableton and Pro Tools have 90 day free trials, and Voltage Nucleus modular synth is also free!”

A Quickee

Not much to today’s post… except what we need – the link to FREE-dom!!

Use the extra cash you saved to get yourself some OTHER gear, and make these quarantine days your most prolific in years!!

And if you use our links? It helps pay for our website. That’s a big helpf, so thanks for your consideration. 😉

Let us know here at SeriousGas if you get these iZotope plugins, what you think of ’em, and how they’ve changed YOUR mixes.

In the meantime… I’m firing’ up Pro Tools, baby!

Now, go… make… SOUNDS!!!

How to Record Music – Gear Glimpses #1: “Ellen”

Hey, everybody! It’s been a while.

D’ja miss me?! 😉

I’ve been crankin’ away in the gear shed, workin’ hard to bring my music to life, and I’m ecstatic to say…

It alive!! LoL

After years of prep, research, performance and education, I’m finally publishing my art. Feels good, lemme tell ya.

So I thought it’d be fun, and insightful, to show those of you wondering how to record music all the GEAR I used to do it.

a-studio-for-recording

As I release each song I’ll put up a “Gear Glimpse” article so that you can see get a 1st-hand glimpse of exactly what specific musical tools went into them. Knowing that could add to the aural landscape of (potentially!) YOUR music.

So let’s get at it, shall we?!

The Song

My first released tune this year, under my project name “The Abacus Path“, is “Ellen“, a song I wrote in Amsterdam about a handicapped girl and her desire for freedom.

Check out the official music video here:

The Acoustic

The most important part of the musical arrangement for “Ellen” is what I wrote the song on – an acoustic guitar.

Now, when I was in the Netherlands I only had a simple classical guitar to write on. But when the time came to record it, I was back in the States and picked up my Taylor 110e guitar that I owned at the time to track with.

Basically, it’s Taylor’s introductory model, the cheapest in its arsenal of sound. It’s your basic Dreadnought acoustic, with Spruce top/Sapele sides & back, made in Mexico, from 2003 if I remember right.

I thought the Taylor sounded great in a live setting. In the studio though, I was never satisfied with its sound. I had to EQ it a lot to get it to my liking in a mix, and I ALWAYS had to slam a high-pass filter on it to decrease the bass frequencies. What you hear on the recording is that process.

I ended up selling this Taylor since I didn’t like that pronounced low-end bump that it always gave me. Instead, I had a local luthier, Mr. Mike Franks, hand craft THIS GUITAR for me that turned out wonderfully. It’s now one of my favorite instruments in the recording studio.

Interestingly, the acoustic double-stop slides that you hear at the very beginning of the tune, I recorded this year using a different guitar – my Martin X-Series “Grand Performance” 20th Anniversary GPCX1AE Acoustic.

During mixdown, I decided that the start of the song needed something besides just a drum fill, so I spruced it up quite a bit using acoustic, keys, drums and just the right amount of delays and effects.

The Bass

I always play the bass on my tunes as well, and I have to tell you… this was the most elusive bass line I have EVER composed. It took almost a week to finally find the bass line that brought “Ellen” to life in the right way. I even brought in my producer to help me, which I have NEVER done on any other song.

Why? No idea, but we ended up totally scratching everything we’d tried on a normal bass up to that point, and just for kicks, trying a SYNTH BASS on it.

Unbelievably… it was JUST what it needed.

So, believe it or not, the low tones are grooved in this tune by a simple synth bass patch on the Kurzweil 2500, a remarkable flagship synth back in the day.

k2500, k2500x keyboard

It’s the only song I’ve ever used synth bass on, and I still can’t believe that’s what we ended up with.

As the old saying goes though: “If it SOUNDS right… it IS right.”

The Drums

In the late 90s when this cut was first tracked, electronic drum kits were first making their big debuts, and we wanted to see if they could survive the scrutiny of studio ears with some of my material.

Roland-TD-7-drum-kit

To that end, we set up a Roland TD-7 Electronic Kit in the studio and brought in a local skin-wacker, Mr. Brian Geiger, to facilitate the bouncy beat.

I hire drummers like Brian if I feel a song needs some rhythms that are too “tricky” for me to pull off without a LOT of practice. Sometimes it’s just a real time-saver to bring in a player who’s only done drums their whole life. They’ve got a MUCH larger technique arsenal than I do. That was the case here.

Instead of using the standard Roland sounds that came in the TD-7 module however, we opted to let the kit trigger some more high-end drum kit samples that resided in the Kurzweil keyboard. They just sounded more realistic than what the Roland module provided.

As for cymbals, we used actual REAL cymbals. We just didn’t think the sampled ones sounded real enough back then. As I recall, I believe Brian brought in Zildjian cymbals for hi-hat, 2 crashes and a ride. Not sure of the models.

The Sax

Doug-Cassens

A brilliantly gifted sax player here in Michigan named Doug Cassens laid down the saxophone for us. WOW, is that guy melodic. Every little riff he’d sing out was gold. I had such fun placing his improvisations throughout the song.

And his solo?? Get outta town!! He knocked it outta the park!

He used a Selmer Mark 6 Alto Sax for this particular tune. I own a Selmer Mark 6 TENOR myself, so I knew when he got out his axe that this was gonna be a sweeeeeeet session.

Doug continues to play as always, but now he’s relocated to Florida with his “Doug Cassens Band”.

I guess frostbite and winter doesn’t thrill his horn techniques. LoL

Find out more about Doug here on HIS WEBSITE.

The Vocals

At the time of this recording, I really only had one good vocal mic: the Oktava MKL-2500 Tube Mic.

Oktava-MKL-2500-mic

I found it at Guitar Center when they’d decided to no longer carry the Oktava brand, so they were blowing out these mics on clearance for peanuts. I think I paid less than $400 for it, out the door.

I noticed it had a slight hum so I called the Oktava USA headquarters and asked about it. They told me they knew exactly why it was doing that: they’d unfortunately had bad parts shipped to them by a different country by one of their suppliers.

Because of that (and to try to facilitate a better reputation here in the States) they offered to fix it free of charge for me. They’d put in all new electronics and make it, according to the CEO I spoke with, “on par with a Neumann U87 in its sensitivity, inherent noise floor and color.”

Well, that’s a high bar to promise! But I had nothing to lose so I shipped it off to ’em and waited.

When I got it back it was indeed like a totally different mic. Wow, did they do a great job. Quiet, warm, sensitive. I’ve sung hundreds of vocals on it and it’s always delivered right on-the-money.

Until I got my AT4050 (my favorite way to capture my voice) I used the Oktava exclusively. These days, I pull it out if I need a warmer approach to a song, especially if the production is sparse and I don’t have to cut through a thicker mix.

The background vocals were done on the fly, at a remote location, with simple SM58 mics. Just goes to show you that you don’t HAVE TO buy expensive gear to get professional results. As Clapton so aptly put it, …

“It’s in the way that you USE it!”

The Piano

My good friend and uber-talented keyboardist, songwriter, arranger, programmer, singer and just all around incredible DUDE, Mr. Sid Howard, threw in some tasty synth bits for this song.

He used a Modeled Electric Piano Instrument called “Lounge Lizard EP-3” to call up a great emulation of an electric piano. Great choice for this tune, as the E.P. never goes out of style and has a retro, but “classic” sound.

loungelizard3

E.P. virtual instruments tend to be sample-based, but Lounge Lizard, is different in that it goes the route of physical modeling for its sound production. A much more difficult way to go, but they’ve got it down in spades.

If you’re looking for accurate Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer emulations because you don’t have the real things (they DO take up a lot of space, after all!), then buy Lounge Lizard will do it for ya. BUY IT HERE — you won’t be disappointed!

The Glock!

Way back a few years I managed to pick up a gaggle of awesome music instruments for peanuts. It was a VERY happy day in my musical life. Check out the story HERE.

One of my best purchases that day was a simple but incredibly useful Glockenspiel. I only bought it because it was so cheap and I thought, “Eh.. maybe I’ll find a way to use it.”

Glockenspiel

Did I find ways!!! This glock has been on SO MANY recordings of mine. I absolutely love it. For doubling melodies, strengthening hooks, bolstering vocals… it’s such a complementary tool in the studio I don’t know now how I ever lived without it.

I have two different sets of mallets for it: one with rubber heads, and one set with brass heads. They give me two very different transient attacks which helps me further choose which is “just right” for a given tune.

I find that a REAL glock is much better than just calling one up on your synth or software. It’s like a real piano – the way the notes & frequencies combine in the air adds harmonics that you just don’t get from a keyboard patch.

So if you’ve been wanting a quick, easy way to add some compelling, uplifting and interesting ear candy to your mixes… get yourself a glockenspiel. Its uses are myriad and its sound…? It’s like smiles in a bottle! 😉

The Percussion

Percussion arsenal

To underscore the groove, and add some levity and push to the emotion of the tracks, I dug out a tambourine, a pair of egg shakers, and a set of claves.

You’d think I was tracking Bossa Nova music! LoL

I tend to play all my own percussion tracks. I’ve played drums for years, so there’s no problem staying in the pocket.

Plus, I have a really big suitcase full of every kind of percussion toy you can think of, so not only do I have lots of options…

I also can pull out the exact percussion used later if I want to change it or fix something in the mix.

You can see the percussion I use most of the time here in THIS ARTICLE.

Bottom line: if you’re not using little percussion elements to liven up your mix and keep it interesting… you’re missing out on a very powerful tool in your music!

The Software

For you recording buffs who want to really know the intricacies, I originally recorded “Ellen” on the Roland 2480 hardware unit. Kickin’ it ol’ school, dawg!

Roland VS2480

In recent years I transferred those tracks to my Pro Tools “Ultimate” software so I could finish the mix, and master, in the box.

Pro tools

For reverb I used a plug in by UAD that emulates VERY well the good ol’ Lexicon 480L preset called “Ballady Hall” that I tweaked, mostly by cutting the lows and highs a bit.

Keeping the reverb mostly in the midrange to me makes for a less muddy and/or harsh mix.

The Music

To keep up on all the music that comes out of my studio for “The Abacus Path”, check in on OUR WEBSITE HERE for all the latest news.

The Abacus Path

During this time of quarantine and trying to keep safe from the nasty Corona virus, it’s more crucial than ever to let your songs be heard.

So go cut some tracks… lay down some grooves… and make our fragile world a much better place because of your music.

It might just be the thing to keep someone going when they’re giving up hope.

So, go… make… sounds!!

Teaj

“Gear Head Bangs!”, Gig 1

Today is a special day here at SeriousGas.com, and not only because it’s Valentine’s Day, the worldwide day of LOVE, desire and knee-trembling fulfillment…

It’s also a new day for G.A.S.-y comedy!!

Get your Phil’ of Laughter

I’d like to introduce my good friend Philippe Stuart to you all. 

He’s an exceptionally creative soul and a wonderful visual artist. I first discovered his talents at the fitness center we both work at, and have been more and more impressed the more I see of his works.

Soon, he’ll have his own website to share his incredibly detailed paintings and drawings, but for right now… we’re gonna showcase his creations here!

Ha-Ha-Haow about some MORE GEAR?!

Our new goal together is to create all-new bits of “Gear-Love” comic laughs, in honor of our shared affinity for music gear and instruments. Philippe has a quick and erudite wit, so finding just the right visuals to tip us into ROFL peeks into  communal equipment lust takes him little effort.

That said, we all at SeriousGas thank him for his excellent contributions to our site, and to G.A.S. sufferers everywhere. I know you’re gonna wanna tune in whenever he drops a new cartoon pane that feels our pain…

Get your P

And now… without further adieu… 

I introduce to you the very FIRST installment of…

“Gear-Head-Bangs!”

(Drop the mic)  LOL

Teaj

“Sweet Love”

My Kala Ukulele – Play That 6-Pack On The Beach Song!!

If today’s title has you thinking of crackin’ open a cold one in a hammock under a shady palm on a sandy white beach somewhere next to the rolling, rhythmic, waving ocean, well… there’s nothing wrong with that! 

But it’s not what I meant. LoL

I’m talkin’ about what many of us aspire to that’s located around our own personal “naval academy”…

I’m talkin’… ABS of STEEL!!

Why do I want to play a song about being super-FIT on my Kala ukulele?? Ahhh, therein lies a tale…

Work it, baby!

Because of the economic downturn of 2008, a lot has changed… for MANY of us.

“Music Corner” in my office!

I, for example, have taken on a great position at a local fitness spa due to the departure of the music and acting/film work that used to be here in the Detroit region.

I’m an avid runner, so it’s a good fit for me.

Being the type of guy who incorporates music into pretty much everything I do, my methods at the Club have proven no different. Pretty much everybody I’ve spent time with there has heard me play a song.

And most of the time… it’s on my Kala ukulele!

I chose it for two good reasons:

  1. The uke is small and doesn’t take up much room in my office, and
  2. No one can resist the urge to smile and feel good when someone is playing uke in front of them!

Both have proven to be true, so much so that I’m asked all the time to play it for any & every possible celebratory reason the upper management can come up with.

In short – I’m the go-to music dude.

Where I lock up the Kala each night, safe and SOUND! lol

The fact that the uke also quickly and effectively lowers defenses and puts people in a great mood also REALLY helps my bottom line. Simply put, when people are in a good mood… they spend more!! LOL

So, yea, my Kala uke shall always remind me of endless conversations about fitness, health, exercise and striving for that elusive 6-pack…

… the one that you CAN’T get in the “Chains” section at Target! 😉

Spec’ it!

Let’s first take a look at what this fine uke consists of…

The Kala KA-FMTG Tenor Ukulele Specs:

SIZE: Tenor

TOP: Solid Sitka Spruce

BACK & SIDES: Spalted Maple

BINDING: Maple

SOUNDHOLE ROSETTE: Abalone

NECK: Mahogany

FRETS: 18

FINISH: Gloss

FINGERBOARD: Laurel? Walnut? Rosewood?? It’s been made with all of ’em!

INLAY: Dots

HEADSTOCK: Standard

TUNERS: Die cast chrome, sealed & geared

STRINGS: Aquila Super Nylgut®

BRIDGE: Rosewood

ELECTRONICS: N/A

NUT & SADDLE: Graph Tech NuBone®

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: China

Measurements:

Overall Instrument Length: 26.125″

Scale Length: 17″

Body Length: 11.75″

Number of Frets: 18″

Width at Upper Bout: 7″

Width at Lower Bout: 9.125″

Width at Waist: 5.5″

Body Depth: 3.12″

Fingerboard Width at Nut: 1.39″

Fingerboard width at neck/body joint: 1.8″

Watch it!

If we take a look at just the visual appeal of this FMTG model by Kala, it immediately says, “I’m not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill ukulele!

The wood on it is beautiful. It is Spalted Maple. “Spalted” is just a fancy word for the dark grain ribbons that emphasize where the wood has started to decompose, actually.

But fear not! It’s not going to stink or break apart from age! It’s strong, solid and much more interesting pattern-wise than new, fresh, still-growing Maple. Or at least I think so.

Now for a little controversy…

(Buckle up… it’s about to be a throw-down!!)

If you follow THIS LINK to the description of this model as it’s being sold TODAY, you’ll notice it says that it’s made of “Flame Maple”.

Sorry, but no. There’s no way that’s flamed Maple. Not even close.

I own the instrument, plus I’ve looked at all the pictures in all ads for this instrument online, every store I could think of, so I think I can say, with good authority, that the back and sides look nothing like Flame Maple at all. They are clearly SPALTED Maple.

Even the KALA WEBSITE HERE shows that it’s clearly Spalted.

To give you some idea of how to tell the difference between Spalted and Flamed Maple, let’s use pictures.

First up is a REAL Flamed Maple Uke, also made by Kala:

And here’s another flamed maple uke, this time made by Ibanez:

Now here’s a close-up of the spalted wood sides on the Kala KA-FMTG:

See the difference? It’s pretty obvious, right?? So don’t be fooled by some who are selling this instrument and calling it “flamed Maple”. It’s not. You can see for yourself.

Another way to tell the difference is price: spalted Maple is pretty easy to find, comparatively. It’s just dying Maple trees! And since there are a lot of those in the world at any given time, the price point of the instrument shouldn’t be that high.

But Flamed Maple?? That’s much more rare. To cut a growing Maple open and find the wet, dappling appearance of “flames” inside only happens in about 3 in 100 trees. That’s why we always pay more MONEY for true flamed Maple.

Check out a more detailed description of it in THIS POST by Ed Roman Guitars. Nice research, Ed!!

Science hasn’t figured out yet what environmental conditions cause “flaming” to happen (if it even IS environmental), but one thing’s sure: the better-looking the pattern, the higher the price. The best flamed Maple wood is often priced at 3 to 4 TIMES the cost of normal Maple!!

Which is probably why the striking PRS Electric guitar seen below sold for just under TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!!

Would YOU pay more for FLAMED MAPLE??


With all that flaming controversy behind us though, the thing to really remember about this uke, despite its (to me at least) false advertising, is that it’s really beautiful, classy, unique and an especially tasteful, elegant approach to having fun with ukulele music.

Whatever you wanna call it, that wood is GORGEOUS!!

Hear it!

If we’re talkin’ tone, I’d don’t think I’d be able to find a better-sounding uke in any other brand in this price range. It projects well (for an ukulele!), and charms the listener with its clear, tropical whimsy and un-muddled frequency response.

Because it’s a TENOR ukulele, it’s a few inches bigger than its cousins, the Soprano and the Concert ukes. That means you’re going to get a better bottom end out of it.

Is its bass response like a guitar’s? Heck, no. Too small a body. But FOR A UKE, it really projects well and provides a little more beef than usual.

How ’bout the sustain?

Well, I did a little test of how long my ukes kept ringing after I strummed a chord, and here are the results:

  • the Mike Franks Soprano Ukulele: 8 seconds
  • the Kohala Baritone Ukulele: 11 seconds
  • the Kala Tenor: 14 seconds!!

How ’bout them Hawaiian apples!!

I’m not surprised, since it’s top is made of Spruce wood, which, for centuries, has been the tone wood of choice for soundboards (the top piece of wood)… and not only for ukes, but especially for guitars of all makes and models!

Spruce always provides good volume and strong attack for an instrument’s tone. Plus, whenever you see its clear, bright color and look, remember that a big part of its historical appeal is that Spruce’s tone is known to only improve as years pass, making it a great instrument for the long-term, since it’ll only sound better with time!

Ukuleles as primarily high-pitched instruments don’t have a wide frequency range, but a Spruce top will certainly help all those high notes project better than other more dense, hard woods you could buy for less.

Ukulele Collection of Ukulele dude!
So many Ukes… so little time!!

Oh, and they didn’t put a ton of GLOSS on top of the Spruce either, which can deaden the sound. They kept it thin, and I think that’s why the wood “speaks” so well and has such great sustain.

Since electronics are absent in this model, you’ll need to watch who you play with and how. This uke will absolutely give you good volume when playing with other instruments…

… unless they’re electric! Then all bets are off and you’ll need to either install a pickup or, as I do, just put a mic in front of it leading to a P.A. system or amp.

And beware the electric guitar player’s volume knob!! BEWARE!!!! lol

In a coconut shell? This breezy little beach singer will capture the attentions of every surf-craving ear with its effortless sunshiny sounds and songs!!

Tune it!

One of the WORST things I’ve found in ukes over the years is the terrible tuning mechanisms. Even in higher-priced models, I’ve played them and within SECONDS, the tuning has changed yet again.

Very frustrating. And not how you want to spend your time playing.

Kala chose well for this instrument: the die-cast chrome tuners they chose for the FMTG really keep it in tune well!

I know this because just about every time I go to play it for a new customer or friend, I don’t have to adjust the tuning at all, and that says a lot.

Nice job, Kala!

Hold it!

One of the really cool things I like about this particular tenor uke is that I don’t need a strap to play it. Two reasons:

  1. It’s lightweight (unlike, say, a guitar) so it doesn’t want to fall that much, and
  2. How it rests on my body & it’s shape makes it sit and fit snugly and perfectly against my own voice-strengthening 6-pack.
CJ with Uke
My youngest son, rockin the Kala Uke!

(Well, OK, maybe not quite a 6-pack. I think I can make out, uh… two. LOL)

If you’re an adult player, you’ll be happy to know that tenor ukes tend to have a little more finger space than the smaller ukes.

If you have normal to larger-sized fingers this is a much better choice for you than, say, a Soprano. The fret spaces get smaller as the instruments do.

It can get to be like the “garbage masher” scene in Star Wars if you’re more Chewbacca-sized. 😉

Another addition that sets this particular uke apart from the rest in its price point is the inclusion of Fret Markers on the side of the neck.

Most ukes have these markers on top of the neck, but hardly any do on the side. These little visual reminders really help a beginner to learn about and get quickly to different positions on the neck.

Position-dots-on-uke-neck-side-
Fret markers!!

Finally, this puppy came from the factory with a great set up and ready to play. The action is EXCELLENT. Definitely the easiest uke to play that I’ve ever had. Kala obviously were meticulous about the construction and decisions concerning bridge, nut and neck options.

Definitely performance-ready, and with a sunny disposition to boot.

I know a lot of other musicians who could learn from that. LoL

Stand it!

I bought my Uke Stand way back when, before Amazon was the juggernaut that it’s become.

Mine comes from the Met Opera Shop and fits this uke PERFECTLY. It’s nice and snugly held by the arms, but not so much that I have any trouble getting it out. Couldn’t ask for a better fit.

Check that out HERE AT THIS LINK.

These days tho’, Amazon makes it easier, and cheaper. Because your uke doesn’t weigh much, it’s not prone to tip, so a simple stand like the one I use is just fine. Here’s Amazon’s version of it:

Now, if you’re playing live, then you would need something WAY more sturdy. For when that guitar player comes over to adjust his volume knob…

Case it!

If you’re gonna pay anything over $100 for ANY instrument, do yourself a favor and get a good case for it.

I learned the hard way that a “gig bag” is NOT enough if you’re playing out at all.

(A moment of silence, please, for my Jackson “Dinky” Electric guitar with a broken neck…)

I use TKL brand cases, since they have a lifetime 24/7 warranty program. When you’re touring & gigging, that’s important. If you’re doing that too, check out the TKL WEBSITE HERE.

If you don’t anything so industrial, guaranteed and, thus, expensive, then simply go with this “no name” case on Amazon for those of you who do NOT play out on gigs:

And this one by KNOX for those of you who’ve practiced enough such that now EVERYBODY wants to have your tropical flair onstage with them:

Either way, you’ll be protecting your investment. Trust me – in the long run, you’ll be glad you did!

Size it!

This is a Tenor Ukulele, so it’s on the larger end of the spectrum for size.

You can get other options that are smaller (the Concert and the Soprano size) if you really want even MORE of a Hawaiian ukulele sound.

The Ukulele Family!
The Ukulele Family!

I like the Tenor because it gives you the flavor of a ukulele but also resonates with more lower frequencies to widen the tonal palette over its little cousins.

As always, it’s horses for courses – decide what you’re gonna use it for mostly. If you want that instantly recognizable ukulele sound, get a “Concert Ukulele“.

But if you want something a little less bright, maybe a uke you could use in a band setting more, then a Tenor is a great option.

Or, better yet… be like me and buy ONE OF EACH!! You’ll LOVE THEM ALL!!!! lol

Buy it!

In Hawaiian pidgin, “kala” means money

I think when it comes to Kala brand ukuleles, “kala” means you’re saving it, not losing it. Kala brand ukuleles are awesome ukes for incredibly reasonable prices and I recommend them whole-heartedly.

Below are links to the places I buy from all the time that I trust implicitly: Amazon and Sam Ash. Since the price is the same for each, just pick your favorite, and soon… you’ll be in strum-happy heaven!

UKE IT!!!

With a full FIVE STARS rating on Amazon by those who’ve purchased it, it’s clear that we have a real winner here in the Kala Ukulele.

Best tenor uke for under $300?? It just might be!

I can certainly vouch for it. Love how it looks. Love how it plays. Smiles when it sounds!

Now I just gotta add some electronics to it so I can put it through a P.A. system on the beach and GET ALL THE PEOPLE DANCIN’!!! LoL

If you’re wanting a fuller-sounding ukulele that is NOT beginner-grade, but still won’t break the bank, the Kala FMTG is a fantastic choice. Get it, get some sun tan lotion, and the world’s beaches are your oyster!

With that, I say “Aloha kakou”, my friends!! Here’s hoping we play, sing and clink cold ones with our toes in the sand somewhere soon!

(And if you wanna show off your 6-pack abs with some tropical flair, well… go for it…

I’ll play my Kala while you flex.) LoL

Now, go… make… sounds!!

Teaj