May 21, 2011 by Tim
For 2011 I predicted that Banjo ukes and Bamboo ukes would be the big things, banjo ukes I would say happened, bamboo not so much. I am not sure why bamboo is not that hot of a material right now. I think it may have something to do with being new and untested for ukuleles, great for floors, but how well will it stand the test of time on ukuleles?
Last January someone on the Ukulele Underground forums asked if anyone had heard of Tall Grass Ukuleles. I had not, so I looked into them and found out that they are being sold out of Chicago! How cool is that? so I contacted Josh and asked if I may review one of his ukes and ended up going over to his apartment to pick 2 of them up. I wanted to get one before I went to NAMM so I could show it off to the other ukulele players, and I would have to say there was a lot of interest. Fast-forward 5 months and I still have not done the review. Where does the time go?
These are currently the only 2 models of Tall grass that they sell, the TG-C (concert) and the TG-CS (Concert with a side hole) and they were nice enough to let me review both. Since they are pretty much identical I will point out the slight differences I found in them as we go.
Concert : 14 Fret
Tuners: Sealed Geared
Nut & saddle: Composite
Top: Solid Bamboo
Sides: Solid Bamboo
Back: Solid Bamboo
Neck: Mahogany with a Rosewood fretboard
String Attachment: Tie
First look: (5) One of the things about other bamboo ukes I have reviewed (The Cordoba and Paulele) is that they are very monotone. Just that one yellow bamboo tone from top to bottom. My friend Alex Nailed it when he said “I think they would be so much cooler if they had some kind of contrast, like a rosewood fretboard or something” and I agreed. The Tall Grass ukes have tons of contrast with the rosewood bridge, fretboard and binding. Makes for a really nice looking ukulele. Wish it had something around the sound hole, but no big deal, still really pretty.
Fit and Finish: (3) For a mass produced uke made in China it is OK, and for the price it is pretty darn good, but it does have some issues. I noticed the saddle on one is really low but the strings are kind of high. On closer inspection the top is being pulled a bit by the saddle. This has to do with the fact that it is not braced all that well. Since I have had them they seem to have not moved at all, and I have had them most of the winter, and now that it is nicer they seem stable. Just don’t expect to be able to lower the strings all that much. Also it is built like a tank. The sides are pretty thick, along with the top. I hope that in time, as they are more use to the working with bamboo, they can thin it out and make it more light and add bracing and maybe they can stop screwing the bridge down to the body. All in all the finish is nice and the binding is done really well, but where are the fret markers? It is a small thing, but for a beginner it means the world.
Sound Type: Clear and Mellow. I have to say that the one with the side sound hole is a little more open sounding.
Intonation: (3) Not sure why, but both have some issues with intonation. They are in perfect tune but as you go past the 5th fret the chords sound a little off. I checked it and they are pretty off at the 12th fret. I think a little work on the saddle might help, but if you are super sensitive, this will not work for you. I do have to say that it is on par with a Oscar Schmidt OU-2 and ukes like that. If these ukes were $50 less I would say that the intonation is what you would expect.
Volume: (4) I don’t know if it is the side sound hole or what but the TG-CS is louder than the TG-C. They are both pretty loud, not screamers and no real booming sound like from a spruce top.
Sustain: (3) Dies pretty quick.
String Height: (Med-High) Kind of high, and not much room to fix it..
Neck Radius Depth: (3/4″) Basic C shaped neck,
Frets: (5) I would swear that the fretboard is bound. it is sealed so the frets are very well dressed and you can not feel them on the sides of the neck
Comfort: (4) This thing is heavy to hold and a bit head heavy due to the sealed geared tuners, other than that it has really nice rounded edges and a smooth finish so it is real easy to slide up and down the neck.
Sound Hole Smell: Glue.
I commend Tall Grass for the eco-friendly angle they are going for. Bamboo is one of the fastest renewable resources in the world, and takes no pesticides to grow, and it does make a pretty good uke. I have reviewed a few others and have found that it is so new that many people are still not able to master it. You can tell that the builders are a little hesitant to make it too thin, especially in mass produced instruments like the Cordoba 25CB and the Tall Grass ukes. I have seen some that make it work, like the Paulele and one from Pono, but they are $200+. The 2 Cordobas I received were both cracked because I suspect they were too dry when they were made. The Tall Grass seems super stable and show no issues like that all, but they are a bit thicker and have a much thicker finish on them. As a testament to how tough they are, Josh actually dropped one on a hardwood floor and it was perfectly fine. Just a small blemish in the finish (It is the TG-CS I reviewed!)
I would say that they need to maybe do a little work on the design of this uke, but for $148 and $170, they are great ukes. I think that if they could charge $200+ if they improved the intonation and made the top a bit thinner with better bracing. I would buy one as a travel uke for the most part. It does not react to different humidity levels, and heat has no effect on it. The other thing I would do is put a pickup in it. Since it is not a monster on volume it would make a great stage instrument, reducing the chance for feedback.
All Rating on a scale of 1-5
Click here for an explanation of reviews
|Fit and Finish||3|
|Sound Type||Clear and mellow|
|Neck Radius Depth||3/4″|
|Sound Hole Smell||Glue|
Places to buy on the web:
Tall Grass Ukes TG-C $148 TG-CS $170
HD Audio Samples: