Love Sweet Love (11 Obscenely Optimistic Songs for Ukulele) was 

Jeremy Messersmith, a local musician, is going to release an album of folk tunes in the near future.  He decided to write the songs out and to make them available to everyone (you simply sign up for his mailing list at  He is inviting people to make videos of those songs.  The collection is entitled 11 Obscenely Optimistic Songs for Ukulele.

So…here is my first of eleven recordings that I am going to make…Song #4: Love Sweet Love


Bonanza Ukuleles: Amoeba Tenor Ukulele (Aspen/Black Walnut)

Last August, I attended the Silver Creek International Ukulele Carnival north of Duluth (hosted by the Two Harbors Ukulele Group).  As it is a small venue (but free and fun), they only had a couple of vendors, which included Pete and Shelley Mai, who own Bonanza Ukuleles.  Pete is a life long carpenter and cabinet maker, and his wife started playing ukulele.  Pete decided to make her a ukulele amplifier shaped like a ukulele, which eventually became a ukulele and then a decision was made to sell them to others.  They started out selling ukuleles made of counter-top laminate (they still do), and last summer moved to solid wood ukuleles made of Apsen, Black Walnut, and Cherry.  In addition to making a ukulele, they can personalize the ukulele with laser engraving.  The top and bottom are carved out of a larger piece of wood on a CNC machine (unique approach), and my ukulele is one of the new versions that has wood bracing–they had been using corian for the bracing as well.

I ordered a Cherry Tenor for our school, which has the school song as the rosette as well as the choir logo.  We also ordered a ukulele table for the choir room.

In the months since, Bonanza Ukuleles can now make mixed combination of ukuleles, such as different woods and even wood to laminate.

A few weeks ago, I attended the ukulele sessions at the Minnesota Bluegrass Winter Festival.  Pete and Shelley were there, with their new ukulele, the Amoeba.  I sat and played the ukuleles for several hours–and eventually decided to order one.  I wanted a specific set-up…Aspen front, Black Walnut Body and headstock, white tuners, corian nut and saddle to match the tuners.  This came in under $300.  Oh…every Bonanza comes with strap buttons, too.

I expected the ukulele at the end of April, but it came today–and I am just thrilled with it.  It isn’t loud, but it has a clear, bell-like tone. I think it may develop harmonics as the wood continues to age.  And while the shape is unique, it sure is comfortable to hold and play.

If I had to choose one ukulele, it would likely be a KoAloha–I cannot get that instrument out of my head.  However, I don’t have to own “just one” ukulele, and this Bonanza will be fun to play and bring around to various events.  It is also wonderful to support a small Minnesota business–and to spread the word about these very cool ukuleles.

Kala Concert Waterman Ukulele

As soon as the new Kala Concert Waterman were announced, I placed an order for my school. We ordered six (three black, three green), and they arrived today. Thanks to Mike at Uke Republic for ordering and shipping these to us, as promised, as soon as they came in.

Kala gave our program 40 Waterman Soprano ukuleles (turns out in discontinued colors, which isn’t a problem until you need to replace one that goes ‘missing.’ We are incredibly grateful for these ukuleles), and it made sense to have some of these Concerts, too.

I have been fiddling with one of the Concerts today, and I created a video this evening. The video also shows the prior Makala Soprano Waterman and the Tenor Outdoor Ukulele.

The Concert Waterman does sound more plastic-ish than the Tenor Outdoor (not surprising), and styling seems to be exactly matched to its Soprano model. It seems to have the same painted frets and screened side dots, all which will fade over time. Action is good…no idea if Uke Republic had to work on them or not…and intonation is okay. Pitch seems to go sharp as I go up the fretboard, but the strings are not settled and it is hard to really get an idea of what intonation is really like.

The ukulele comes with a “sling bag” that will offer very minor protection. The bag has a smoothing inner lining that allows the ukulele to go in and out of the bag quite easily. The ukulele carries the traditional Waterman logo on the headstock, and has Kala pressed in the plastic on the back. Gone, however, is any mention of Makala. I seem to remember that our Waterman are labeled with “Makala.”

The box itself sells itself as a starter package for ages 3 to 103 (If you hit 104, you have to give the ukulele back). But they are right…you have the instrument, a bag, and online resources such as lessons and a link to Kala’s very decent tuner app. Sure, a clip on is better in a noisy environment…but Kala really does give you everything you need to get going for less than $60.

The strings are super Nylgut–but the tag in the box says, “Red Series.” I’m not sure what to make of that, but I will be moving the ukuleles to our KIDS colored strings for instructional purposes (Ukulele Kids Club has started using those strings).

My only complaint is that I am not sure where strap buttons could go on this ukulele.  I like straps on my ukuleles (this has been a process over time)

This is a ABS plastic go-anywhere Concert ukulele for what should be less than $60 for most vendors. This is a great price, and also a great price and option for schools for a rugged instrument. You can find the Bugsgear Concert for $60-$100, so this instrument, styled after the Macaferri, is at a desireable price. Remember that the new Ukadelic ukuleles are also now solid plastic Waterman ukuleles, as well (no more wood top, like a Makala Dolphin). Outdoor doesn’t have a Concert ukulele, but you get a different sound from Outdoor for $100 for a Soprano and $150 for a Tenor. I know you can leave that Outdoor in your car, winter or summer (strings might take a beating)–not sure you should do that with a Waterman or Bugsgear. But if you aren’t going to do that and would like an affordable larger-than-Soprano travel ukulele the new Concert Waterman is ultimately very replaceable and quite affordable.

Ernest Kaia: The Ukulele, a Hawaiian Guitar and How to Play It

The most recent edition of Ukulele Magazine featured an article on Ernest Ka’ai’s, the first ukulele pedagogue, who is also cited as being the first to standardize GCEA tuning for the ukulele in their methodology.

His first book, The Ukulele: A Hawaiian Guitar and How to Play It, was published in 1910.  This would make it in the public domain–but I could not find it available online. So I contacted some universities that had it, and eventually ordred a copy from the University of Hawaii ($25 fee).  I was interested to see how much ukulele instruction has changed in 107 years (the answer: a little).

For the sake of sharing this knowledge, I am sharing this PDF. Again, as this is a publication from 1910, I can share this with you legally.

PDF: The Ukulele: A Hawaiian Guitar and How to Play It