Gear Review #7 – Yamaha Guitalele GL1

Another review this week so let’s take a look at the Yamaha GL-1. I had been after one of these since I first saw one a year ago. I love playing both the guitar and ukulele so this just seemed like the best of both worlds and a logical next step.

Guitalele Pic (2)

Overview

The Yamaha GL1 is a 17 inch short scale guitar with nylon strings that they’ve lovingly dubbed a Guitalele. With it being a a shorter scale length the suggested tuning is up a 4th from a standard guitar (A, D, G, C, E, A). This tuning allows you to play all the usual guitar chords and scale shapes, but they will sound the same as a guitar with a capo on 5th fret. That being said just like a normal guitar you can tune this lower if you desire.

It has an all wood construction (spruce top, nato neck with a rosewood, meranti back and sides) and comes with it’s own gigbag.  The sound as you’d expect is bright and snappy with a low end resonance like a baritone ukulele. It is very neck heavy so getting the right sitting position is vital and the close string spacing makes chord work a little challenging. Nothing a bit of time adjusting wont sort out. Now when I got it there were a few problems. In the hope of helping others let’s discuss them.

Set-ups and Construction

I received this as a Christmas gift from my parents so I didn’t get to personally pick this one from a number of instruments. When I first tuned it up I found it had a number of problems. First of all some of the frets had lifted out of the fretboard and the tops were really rough. Not a great start. Both the nut and saddle were incredibly high which resulted in tuning problems on fretted notes and reduced the overall playability. It was playable and I could drag a tune out of it but it was hard work and I couldn’t use it for recording as it was really out of tune.

Luckily I’m pretty confident with lowering actions and fret work so I started with the saddle. With a capo on the 1st fret and measuring at the 12th fret I set to the lowest string to 5/64ths and the highest to 4/64s. Made one hell of a difference but the first position was still difficult so I cut the nut down using a set of files. It plays much better now and most importantly in tune. I haven’t given the frets a reset and level yet, I’ll do that when I change strings in a few months.

Here is a video I recorded with the improved action. The microphone is an Audio Technica AT2020 condenser into a Focusrite 2i4. No post production.

Conclusion

I have some mixed feelings about this instrument. On one hand it’s a lot of fun and relatively inexpensive (comes in at £54) and serves as a great gift for the guitarist in your life. On the other I couldn’t recommend this instrument to everyone as it has taken a number of hours work to get it serviceable. Perhaps it slipped through the quality control. Or as some have pointed out I’m often more sensitive to setups then most. It sounds great and I’d definitely consider purchasing a higher end version in the future or potentially modifying the parts on this model. I’m thinking about getting a bone nut and saddle to try and improve the warmth of the sound. I did try tuning it to standard with young beginners to guitar in mind but the strings were to loose to be useful. An interesting experience all round.

Have you ever played a guitalele? I’d love to know if you have another maufacturers to see how they compare. Till next, keep playing!

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