January 31, 2013 by Tim
NAMM is the first of 2 large events I do every year, the other is Ukulele World Congress (Sorry to all the other fests and jams I go to). This is one of the most insane things I do and one of the most fun too. I figure I walk about 10 miles a day and talk to so many people that my head spins by the end of each day. By day three I am just dragging myself around to make sure I did not miss anything, and I know I did. My overall goal is twofold. First I am trying to convince the vendors to send me stuff to review, the other is to try and share what I see with all of you. I don’t do a lot of video since that would slow me down, and UkuleleUnderground.com does a better job anyways
This year was really gloomy and rainy the whole time, but way better than back home where it was 15 degrees. Thankfully I spend it all day inside walking up and down row after row of booths filled with every musical thing you can think of, and some that you would never think of, like moisturizer for your hands if you are a guitar player or violins in the shape of an S or a W.
One big thing I did see that kept coming up were the accordions? What I can figure out is that there is some kind of surge in the Mexican community that uses it? They come in every color and usually blinged out. The other is the Chinese booths that have all the cheap knock offs of known products (Sometimes they are the actual manufacture)
Note worthy booths
Godin -When it is all said and done, the Godin MultiUke ukulele is the one that sticks out in my head as the most exciting ukulele I saw at the show. They took their main guitar technology and made it a uke. The switches on the body control High, Mid, low, and volume. I thought at first it controlled each little pickup, but sadly it does not. They sounded really nice plugged in, and they still had some volume not plugged in too. If you don’t know what they are, they are a solid piece of wood that is routed out to form the back and sides, Chambered. Then a thin piece of wood is laid on top (Spruce for the ones we saw). Also the cool thing is that each string has its own pickup. Really hoping to have one to review sometime soon. I think they retail around $900.
Martin – The only new thing at the Martin booth was the Iz memorial uke. Very pretty, I think it sounded nice (To loud to tell). The amazing thing is that it had PegHed tuners. When I asked about some of the differences I was told that it was never meant to be a replica, but more of a tribute, hence the lack of bridge pins and the use of PegHed tuners. The size, body and head shape, and wood were the same as his though. Looks super nice.
Over all I think the “normal” mahogany Tenor they had was the nicest to play and was very loud. I think Martin may let me borrow one for a little bit to show off
Cordoba – I tell many people who ask where to buy a starter uke, but they don’t want to buy online, to go to Best Buy and get the Cordoba pack. I would love for them to go to their local music store, but that seems to blow their minds. I have yet to see one from Best Buy I did not think was pretty good right out of the box.
Now the exciting thing at their booth were the Pepe Romero designed ukes. He is a premiere builder and having him design a production uke is awesome since his ukes are $2500+. Again, they felt great, but had a hard time hearing them.
Eastman – I think I had heard of them before in the guitar world, but kind of ignored them since they did not have ukuleles, they fixed that. They were the first booth I went to since they asked so nicely. The 3 ukes they had were your soprano, concert, and tenor that are based on a vintage Martin. They seem nice enough. The concert was my favorite. It was super loud and full. I am always nagged by the thought when companies come in at this late stage if it is too late to have a normal uke? Does it have to be special or different to even compete?
Moku – You know what we need? Another Mike in the ukulele community! Mike Mulqueen started Moku ukuleles about a year ago, and he is going strong. This year he has more models and has expanded the breadth of what he is offering. The standard ukes are made in china while his higher end are made in Viet Nam. Also the woods are varied too. One of the prettiest would have to be the bocote wood back and side ukes. such a cool grain. Watch for more to come, and more people to start carrying them.
AmiAmi - Not a company I knew of before. They also seemed like one of the china uke makers that you can slap your name on the ukes and call them your brand, not the case (Sorry Jesse and Tyler for the confusion). very cool looking ukes. One amazing uke was the Aldler wood uke. Not a wood I have ever heard anyone using, but it sounded great and it was feather light to boot. Hoping to see more of them on the market. AmiAmi is PuaPua’s ukulele brand but they wanted to keep it separate from the seller.
Blue - Blue Microphones have been a favorite for both the professional and home recorder for many years. I use a Yeti to record all my sound samples and have been super happy. Now they have a mic for the consumer that helps them sound better. Nessie is based on the idea that cameras have red eye reduction, why not a USB mic that has correction built in? The idea is that it reduces the pops and other issues like vibration. Also when it goes on sale it will retail at $99, well in the price range of those that want to have a great sound with little to no fuss. I am excited about it and can see it being uber popular with all the people who are making ukulele videos. Check out the promo page LINK
Dean/luna - I put them together since they are the same company, but the fun part is that Luna has been doing ukes for a while and Dean just jumped in. Luna makes all the fun ones while Dean seems to have gone more traditional. We shall see what happens with them. Since the Dean ones were basically hidden in the back of the booth, I wonder how committed they are to them at this point.
Islander – Kanile’a's import model. So many this year! the big surprise was the bass uke they had. Saw a few others but they seem like a real contender to Kala’s U-Bass. Beyond that I played some of the islanders, but is hard to take your eyes off of the Kanile’a ukes on the same wall. I am happy to see that many of the signature things like bridge pins made it into the Islander ukes.
Kala -The Kala booth was mobbed the whole time, it was NUTS. trying to look at the ukes was almost impossible. I did manage to see some that caught my attention. the first was the travel pocket uke. Even smaller than the other pocket ukes they made before, what is next? A pocket U-Bass?
One thing I almost missed because it seems like it should have existed before was the acacia 8-string. Just like the other acacia with all the pretty inlay and stuff, except an 8-string. I want to review it really bad (Are you listening Kala?). They had a ton of other new stuff, but not sure what it was.
Peavey – What the world is Peavey doing making ukuleles? I do have to say they are different, but again the booth was so loud I have no idea how they sound! But they did have some awesome avengers and a Jack Daniels ukes. Gotta give it to them for using their licensing agreements right.
Lanikai - As always Lanikai has something special to show off. This year they had the UkeSB. It is basically a uke with a USB plug to go directly to your computer. Seeso had it going to an iPad recording into GarageBand. Cool idea for all those who want to record directly into the computer. The other thing was from last year, but it is actually coming out, the Tune-A-Uke. Imagine having a bridge that you can adjust the intonation per string,
On the cheaper side the Kohala line they had a really awesome idea. Why not an all white matte finish uke that is meant to be drawn on? And they also had the Makala Dolphin competitor, the Tiki. the bridge has a giant tiki on it.
FleaMarket - As I look at their site I cannot finds anything that I am about to talk about, so just trust me that I saw it.
As always these guys are always experimenting with new ways of doing stuff. Now they are printing images on FireFly heads and also printing things onto fluke and flea tops. I would love one of those Klein designed fireflys, they look so cool, did I mention I played a concert neck FireFly?
Collings – Nothing super new, just Collings being awesome. They had a few painted ukes. one was out since it had a protective coating, the others were in cases, the space one was the best of the bunch.
Eddy Finn – Mossy Oak? Really? Beyond that it looks like they have a ton of stuff. New banjo ukes and a whole ton of new ukes to try out.
Bill Tapia – Someone asked if Bill ever saw the ukes before he died, they said he had and that they were exactly what he wanted. I guess he wanted crappy made ukes then. It sickens me that they are using his name to push over priced crap-a-leles.
Ohana – Ohana has a ton of new things. By the time I got to them I was pretty tired, but what I remember is the new sopranino and the Reso vita-ukes, One with a sound hole, one without. I think it needs the sound hole to sound right. The others were the cedar/Spruce tops. All seemed awesome. I really hope I can review at least the vita uke, and maybe the small body tenor (Don’t you dare call it a soprano with a tenor neck)
Pukanala - How awesome do you have to be to have Bruce Shimabukuro playing at your booth? That is Jake Shimabukuro’s older brother, and a great player in his own right.
They had some really cool ukes, way more than last year. I have a feeling we are going to see a lot more of them in the future. One of the standouts had to be the Tamo wood ukes. the grain stuck out, you could feel the wood grain. Also the all bocote was pretty awesome. Check out the site for the full line of the Pukanala and Puka ukes.
LuLu – Popping up on my radar at the last summer NAMM I was not sure who they were. Now that I see them I see that they are another company trying to sell both laminate and all wood ukes, and they have a ton of models. What I saw looked really nice and they seem to actually care about the ukuleles. Time will tell if they will be a side note or actually make it in the very crowded market of ukuleles.
Eleuke - Every year I go by the Chesbro booth to find some crazy new thing. Last year it was the Peanut, not it is the Crazy Uke (Peanut shaped acoustic uke) and a couple cigar box ukes. If anything, they are always trying something new.
RipTide – One of the uke companies that I feel is on the brink of making it big, and now I think they are poised to do it. management changed and now they have more control over the product. The ukes they showed me were a little different than in the past. I really hope that we connect this year and I can get some review models in. I know Mim, of Mim’s Ukes has had success selling them and I hope that they actually send me a couple this year so I can tell y’all about the very unique ukes.
Fusion Bags – I Lurv my Fusion Bag limited edition case. So nice and light, and it is a backpack to boot. Now they have a normal production one that does the same things with all the strap-on options (Dirty dirty mind)
This time it is not designed for a Japanese school girl! It is a little pricey still, $270 retail, but it is upgraded beyond what I have with bigger pockets, and way nicer backpack straps.
Hoping for review stuff from
Blue Mics (Nessie), Guitar Hangers, Luna/Dean (New stuff), Cordoba (Any Pepe Romero), Riptide (Midgrade and entry Ukes), Martin (Either a Concert or tenor uke), Eastman (At least the soprano), Godin (One of the ukes), Nalu (Antthing would be good), AmiAmi (Adler uke), Moku (midgrade and entry), Kumalae (Anything), ToneRite (Ukulele model), Reunion Blues (Basic ukulele case), Peavey (Hoping Jack Daniels and anything elese), Lanikai (USB uke, and a Tune-a-Uke)
Already have a under string pickup fromKremona, and hoping when the ukes go in to production I will have one of those too.
I always feel like I miss a ton of performances, so this year I took a day to try and see people actually play. In short Aldrine melted my face off, Chris at the Kanile’a booth has an amazing voice, and Yuna at Taylor just was so amazing to watch live. Beyond that, all I saw was ukulele Bartt and some crazy neon white girls doing Gundum style to a recorded track.
Thankfully the ukulele jam on Friday night was amazing and we ended up getting a whole Indian restaurant singing (not Me, but Seeso)
In the end I missed a lot of great performances….again.
Sorry this took a few days to get out. I got home Sunday night and spent time with the wife, and I did get something out. The I went to work the next day like a zombie, so I took Tuesday off and slept 18 hours of the day away, Now I feel awesome and clear headed.
The show was amazing, but it did not have the big exciting thing like the Taylor ukulele unveiling, so no big blast out of the gate. It kind of just started and I was pretty much done by lunch on Saturday. The best part is that I think I might have convinced people send me stuff. I took the stance of “Send me the uke, or don’t. At this point it is up to you. I will not bother you again”. Honestly I have been trying with some for 3 years now and I am done with trying to convince them. Some just could not since they were just starting or pretty small to begin with. I would never ask for a K-brand or a one off. Others just ignored me all together.
The crazy part is that this is the second year that my stats went through the roof. my highest was 23,000+ hits in a day. that is really good for a small site like this. It fades quickly, but it is a nice hit at the beginning of the year.
Continue to watch the site and the Facebook page for stuff as it comes in.