As promised here is the belated review of the Tanglewood concert ukulele (Model: Tribal Spirit TU14 SCR) I picked up at the Birmingham Guitar Show 2015.
Now before I dive into the review I have to admit that I haven’t been the biggest fan of ukulele music. I don’t have anything against the instrument or ukulele players but there is only so many re-appropriated rock songs and heart warming indie songs I could take. What forced me to rethink the instrument? Essentially since hearing the darker more intense sound of Eddie Vedder’s appropriately titled ‘Ukulele Songs’ album (2011) and Amanda Palmers ukulele Radiohead covers I was forced to reevaluate the instrument.
I’m glad I did as it is an incredibly inspiring instrument when your tired of six strings. Sadly my previous ukulele was a cheap plywood soprano uke I just found too shrill and small for my hands. Time for something bigger.
The Tanglewood TU14 SCR has a solid Cedar top, with rosewood bridge, fret board, back and sides, ABS nut and an Okoume neck.The first thing I noticed was how touch responsive it was, especially when played fingerstyle where notes can really jump out. The next thing is the resonance, you can feel each note all through the neck and head stock which must be the solid top combined with a strong set-neck construction. The concert size gives plenty of brightness and enough bottom end which is a nice balance for both finger-style and strumming. That said I might purchase a tenor ukulele for playing rhythm in the future. It also comes with Aquila Nylgut strings which feel great and have a great tone which helps sell the instrument dramatically.
Now there are a few things that detract from my new found inspiration. The finish is slightly rough on a couple of spots on the neck (curable with a little wire wool). The tuners are vintage style exposed units in appose to modern sealed units which operate fine but I prefer the modern style. Now my only aesthetic problem is the ‘Tribal Spirit’ engraving, it makes the instrument look cheap and undermines the it’s aesthetic tone somewhat. Hopefully it’ll keep the prices down for when I buy a tenor ukulele.
Overall it was a bargain at £40 and as I drove away I felt I should have bought a few more. From a guitarists perspective the chords are simple (transposed up a perfect on the top four strings of a guitar) although the highest string being he lowest string (which allows for very closed voicings) means melodic and finger style patterns take a little getting used to. To my surprise I wrote a song on it that evening which is always a good sign with any new instrument. Right I’m off to work, I’ve got the opening theme from Danse Macabre (Camille Saint-Saen) to arrange for lead guitar.