Monday, November 29, 2010

The Ukuleles of "One Ukulele" #1: My Jake Cordoba

Every ukulele has its own story - well, that's what this "One Ukulele" concept is all about. My plan is to contact the members of the ukuleleunderground who contributed images for the video and have them write a little something about their ukuleles. As I wait for the stories to come in, I'll talk a little about the few of mine that made it to the final cut. And that first one, pictured to the left, is my Jake Shimabukuro signed, highly modified Cordoba 20TM-CE all mahogany tenor.

The most unique thing about this ukulele, of course, is its "Aloha, Jake" signature, which I got after seeing Jake for the first time in November 2009 at the Ark in Ann Arbor, Michigan. While I did not see a lot of people toting ukes to Jake's 2010 concert there a few weeks back, sad to say there were about six of us "Middle Aged Guys with a Ukulele" who sought to sharpen their axes under Jake's pen. Being such a wonderful person, Jake signed every one of them, along with the CDs and shirts and any other items us fans could think of.

Maybe a ukulele with Jake's signature demanding being something more than a $179 Guitar Center special (not to say anything bad about either Cordoba or Guitar Center), but a short time later I was awakened to a very strange pinging sound - as I looked around in my darkened room, there sat my Jake Cordoba in an ill-fitting guitar stand, his rosewood bridge separated from the sound board and dangling from the strings. Oh, no! I'd never seen anything like this.

Fortunately, I happen to know Dan Voight, an up-and-coming, super-talented mandolin maker who I knew could easily reunite body and bridge. As we talked a little more, Dan suggested we make an entirely new bridge (at something like $40, which is incredibly cheap for a custom made bridge). Dan also did not like how the undersaddle transducer separated the saddle from the bridge's surface, so he took the transducer and its connectors out, leaving the "unplugged" preamp and phono jack alone but inoperable.

Because it was so hard to see the fingerboard markings, I also had Dan put some nice pearl dots along the side of the neck. That, along with the bridge, a new bone nut and saddle, and an upgrade to Worth clears worked out great. It was an all new instrument worthy of its famous signer.

While the instrument had more sustain and felt better than stock, I still wanted the action a little lower. Living very close to Dave Talsma, I took it to him; he shaved down the saddle and re-worked the nut and now it plays like butter. Dave also put my electronics back in but, being the cheap stock setup, I really need to upgrade to a Mi-Si, if I can ever afford it. Oh, and the stock tuners, which are horrible (at least on my model) need to be replaced as well, but I could use some help here with suggestions for a good brand. I ordered a set of Grovers but was very disappointed as one of the four was much too sticky as it turned.

While it's still a work in progress, my simple ukulele has become a relatively super work that has been touched by three masters - Jake, Dan, and Dave. I used it in my "Tip Toe Redux" video and was very, very happy with the sound and playability. Once I get that Mi-Si, it will no doubt be my axe of choice.

PS: I should note that the actual picture of my Jake signed Cordoba in the video is the one taken with it snuggling up with my Lanikai S-TEQ spruce top tenor, signed by Danielle Ate the Sandwich, who I saw a few weeks ago at the Ark.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, the same thing happened to my Luna Flora...I was devastated. Luckily, I didn't have a signature on it.