Ronnie Dungan checks out the folky side of the MI market.
Ukes have had a huge upsurge in popularity recently, and with folk sounds also succeeding in the charts, all manner of old-style instruments are finding favour again. Ronnie Dungan had a look…
Fender’s traditional range features its first foray into the ukulele market. Retailing at around £142.80, the name for the Fender Ukulele Hau’oli comes from the Hawaiian word for happy. It’s a basic model with laminated mahogany construction and a satin finish.
It features the distinctive Fender Telecaster guitar headstock shape, unique body shape and bracing pattern designed exclusively for Fender and comes with a Fender ukulele gig bag.
The FB-54 banjo (£310.80) is designed for the beginner banjo player, with many features found on banjos that cost much more – including a mahogany resonator and neck, 27.4-inch scale, aluminium rim, rosewood fingerboard with pearloid inlay and chrome-covered tuners.
Lastly, The FM-52E Mandolin features a spruce top; nato back, sides and neck; rosewood fingerboard; chrome hardware; single-coil pickup with volume and tone controls, and a gloss finish. All for £226.80.
Aria has three mandolins and five banjos in its traditional range. The entry-level AM20 mandolin has a spruce top, mahogany neck, back and sides, 20-fret rosewood fingerboard and bridge and chrome hardware, retailing at £139.
Next up in the range is the AM 20E, which adds a pickup for £159. Lastly, the AM 600 AVC is an all solid wood scroll mandolin with spruce top, mahogany neck, back and sides, 23 fret rosewood fingerboard and bridge and chrome hardware for £419 in an antique violin colour.
The Aria banjo range starts with the SB10 for £199, which has a Remo top, mahogany resonator and neck, 22-fret rosewood fingerboard and bridge and chrome hardware. It is available in both five-string and tenor.
At £225, the SB10 G six-string guitar banjo has a Remo top, mahogany resonator and neck, 19-fret rosewood fingerboard and bridge and chrome hardware.
Moving up through the range, the SB20 has a Remo top, mahogany resonator and neck, 22-fret rosewood fingerboard, maple and ebony bridge, chrome hardware and is available in both five-string and tenor options at £369.
The SB40 has the same features as the SB20, but has a Remo clear top and is available in both five-string and tenor options for £489.
The SB600 is top of the range with a Remo clear top, sycamore resonator, maple neck, 22-fret rosewood fingerboard, maple/ebony/maple bridge and gold hardware at £599.
Gremlin has just taken on the Irish-made Feadog whistles range, giving it what it believes is the largest range of whistles from any one distributor.
The two best-selling brands are Tony Dixon and Chieftain whistles. Dixon whistles encompass the starter and intermediate price points while Chieftain is at the top end.
“Whistle players are never happy with one whistle so you can sell the same person a multitude of whistles in different keys and makes,” says Gremlin director, Chris Rudd.
Also available from Gremlin are Glenluce Celtic Instruments. Glenluce bodhrans start at £32 and go up to the seven-inch Deep Rim bodhran at £99. The Glenluce range includes a 22-string harp for £289, with a 29-string version for £399.
The firm has new instruments from Portugal. Antonio Carvalho features a Mandocello, Cavaquinho, Braguinha, Mandolin, Tenor Mandola, Portuguese Guitarras and a large-bodied bouzouki.
It also stocks Blueridge guitars; Ashbury mandolins, autoharps and ukes; Blue Moon ukes, mandolins and bouzoukis; Headway pick-ups; Shubb capos; Waltons whistles and bodhrans; Artec amps; Katho cajons.
Vintage offers a range of open and closed-back banjos, from the open-backed VOB12 (£175) to the luxurious closed-back VB30GDL (£379). Also in the range is a Ukulele Banjo, the VUB50 at £369.
The range of Vintage Mandolins from JHS includes the VFM300VSB for £459, the VFM400AVB at £459 and the VMT400VB for £429.
The firm worked with guitar designer Paul Tebbutt to create new Pilgrim by Vintage banjos for 2011. The eight models feature tonewoods and premium hardware options. There are open and close-backed options, priced from £349 to £699.
Laka by Vintage ukes are instruments for players of all levels. The VUS50 (£64.99) features an on-board tuner, and the range includes a number of electro-acoustic models that come fitted with Fishman preamps and on-board pickups.
Vintage’s resonator guitars feature models with mahogany laminate bodies, and others made from steel and bell brass. New for summer 2011 is the VRC800AMF (£399). It has a flame maple finish and body and a single coil pickup at the neck.
Lag has a new range of mid-price ukuleles. They start from £99 and go up to £300.
The 77 series features Concert (U77C, £120) and Soprano (U77S, £100) models, with honey-finished mahogany top, back and sides. Also as standard is a rosewood fingerboard; black TUSQ nut and saddle and a tribal design inlaid around the soundhole. Each ukulele is supplied with a Lag gigbag.
The 100 series features Soprano (U100SBLK) and Concert models. This time, the mahogany top, back and sides are covered with a smooth gloss black lacquer, and the body is bound with mahogany and maple. The 100s also have TUSQ nuts and saddles, and rosewood fingerboards and are supplied in a Lag gigbag.
Current top of the line is the 700 stage series. The Tenor (U700T £305), Concert (U700C £279), and Soprano (U7000S £249) are made of solid Koa on the top, back and sides. The body bound with mahogany and maple, and the whole instrument is treated with a French satin finish.
Banjos start at around £175 for the BJ300 five-string, BJ304 tenor and BJ206 6 string models. They are equipped with 24 tensioners; a mahogany resonator; aluminium rim; and Remo heads. In the same spirit, the BJ301 five-string (£255) and BJ301T (£255) tenor models are finished with a maple neck, maple resonator and maple rim.
Moving up the range is the BJ400 (£319) Rathbone banjo. It has a grained mahogany resonator; a maple rim; a coated Remo head; traditional floral inlays and traditional peg-style precision machine heads.
Bridging the gap, B&M also offers the UBJ1 (£189) ukulele banjo. With 12 tensioners plus a mahogany resonator and rim, it’s a great entry point into ukulele banjos.
During the early 20th century, Barnes & Mullins also supplied a number of ukuleles, so as a tribute B&M now offer the BMUK01 ‘The Bowley’ model (£129). Named after S Bowley Barnes, it offers stained mahogany back and sides, a rosewood fingerboard and Aquila strings.
The latest additions to B&M’s ukulele range are the BMUK02 models. The Tenor (BMUK02T £179), Concert (BMUK02C £165) and Soprano (BMUK02S £149) models feature solid spruce tops, highly figured spalt maple back and sides, maple binding, an abalone rosette and Aquila strings.
Also in the Barnes and Mullins range is the Brunswick line-up, which begins with the BU4 ukuleles.
Available in Baritone (BU4B £69), Tenor (BU4T £69), Concert (BU4C £59), Concert Electro (BU4CE £99), and Soprano (BU4S £49), they have a stained mahogany top, back and sides and high-quality geared machineheads.
Brunswick offers two electric ukuleles. The 2021N (£115) is a T-Style body finished in natural mahogany, and the 2031CS (£125) is an LP-Style in a cherry sunburst finish. Both instruments use a Shadow P3 preamp and pickup system to deliver an amplified tone.
UK37 Lazy Ukes are a value instrument for those looking for an introduction to fretted instruments. Retailing for around £24, they are equipped with rosewood fingerboards and nickel silver frets.
Lastly, Barnes & Mullins’ TGI range of accessories includes hard cases for banjo, mandolin and ukulele at around £50, and gigbags are available between £15 and £20.
The Dorado GD mandolin, with a warm Golden Blonde finish, black pinstripe bound F-style body, tops Sutherland’s Countryman Pro range at £729.98 and features a spruce top with flamed maple back and sides, adjustable rosewood bridge and gold plated hardware throughout. Black button tuners complement an ornately styled gloss black headstock.
Featuring a simpler design, the Countryman Pro A4-AV mandolin represents a cheaper, but no less capable instrument at £419.99. Finished in antique vintage gloss, with book-matched flamed maple back, sides and neck, it is fitted with a chrome tailpiece and chrome-pearloid button tuners. There’s pinstripe cream binding on the neck, top and back, with the rosewood fingerboard inlaid with abalone dot markers.
Banjo players are well catered for by the Countryman Pro California DLX 5 string open-back banjo. This 24-lug model is manufactured with a maple body, neck and fully bound rosewood fingerboard, inlaid with a mother-of-pearl petal style design. Other features on this £329.99 instrument include a pinstripe neck, truss rod adjustment and chrome hardware.
Also available is the TCOM10 Octave Mandola, under the Countryman banner, crafted with a solid spruce top and richly-stained mahogany back and sides. Tuned to E-A-D-G, one octave lower than a mandolin, via covered chrome tuners and adjustable through a truss rod, it’s is priced at £289.99. The fully bound rosewood fingerboard is detailed with dot marker inlays and is topped off by a bound gloss black headstock.
Bouzouki enthusiasts should be attracted by the Countryman TCBZ10 which is sold complete with a plush-lined hard-case for £339.99. The teardrop shaped body is constructed with a natural gloss finish solid spruce top, flat mahogany back and sides and is bound with cream and black pinstripe detailing. The 21-fret neck is complemented by a rosewood fingerboard with dot marker inlays and is adjustable via a truss rod mechanism.
Stentor has a host of traditional items including Ozark banjos and mandolins. The Ozark open back ‘frailing’ banjo, 2113G (£338), features an excellent natural maple open back banjo, ideal for playing old time, frailing and clawhammer styles, while the five-string banjo – 2109RG (£327) offers attractive looks with great tonal quality and volume.
Ozark has redesigned the 2240 mandolin range. These now feature a Celtic knot sound hole. They are of an all-solid wood construction and are fitted with a diecast tailpiece. The mandolin and bouzouki are both available with an Artec transducer bridge and ME2 EQ unit.
Soar Valley’s Irish-flavoured range includes penny whistles and bodhrans. Dave Shaw whistles are made in nickel silver and are available in keys from high Eb down to low D.
Its 18-inch Waltons Bodhráns are some of the best selling Irish drums in the UK. Waltons has very recently repackaged its designs to come in a box with carry bag and Bodhrán Basics tutor DVD by Conor Long.
Tony Dixon produces a variety of low to high ABS plastic whistles and flutes. His dual material high Ds work particularly well, and his two-in-one flute/whistle combinations with two heads and single body are economical and popular.
John Langley ocarinas are made to specific keys and can play chromatically with other instruments. The ceramic models are available from Sopranino up to Great Bass and will play together in consort.
The Tanglewood range has design features that can be found on the much sought-after Tenor Guitars that were built in the Golden Era years by the big name US instrument makers. The scale length and nineteen fret neck design is suited to both guitarists and tenor banjo players. All models can be tuned to standard Tenor Guitar C, G, D, A tuning or drop tuned for Irish style G, D, A, E tuning provided that the appropriate gauge of strings are fitted for the lower tuning.
All models feature ‘V’ braced soundboards, fast action traditional ‘D’ shape slender necks with adjustable truss rods, pin-bridges with compensated saddles, geared tuners and ‘vintage era’ Tenor Guitar looks.
Westside’s Recording King RA-998 resonator mandolin features a nickel-plated bell brass body, maple neck, a high gloss finish and deluxe lightweight case for £330. The RU-981 uke has a bell brass body, a hand spun continental cone and again comes with deluxe case for £285.
The SB-060 Savannah Travel Banjo features a maple rim and rosewood finger board, 24 tension rods and fibre skin head, and comes with a gig bag for £195, while the SA-115 Savannah ‘A style’ electric mandolin features a red burst finish and has a built-in pickup for £119.99.
FCN’s Mi-Si makes environmentally friendly pickups for traditional instruments. They are non-invasive, so you don’t need to cut a hole in the instrument. Available for guitar, violin, mandolin and ukulele.
Lee Oskar harmonicas are available in range of different keys including all major diatonics, natural minors and harmonic minor.
Lastly, Aulos Recorders are some of the best starter instruments for children and adults alike.
Aria SB10 G – £225
Made in China, it features a Remo top, mahogany resonator and neck, 19-fret rosewood fingerboard and bridge and chrome hardware.
Fender Ukulele Hau'oli – £142.80
It’s named after the Hawaiian word for happiness, fact fans, and features scalloped fan bracing, an acrylic abalone rosette, black body binding and a 19-fret mahogany neck with a rosewood bridge.
Stentor Ozark 2240 Celtic model mandolin – £358
Features a solid spruce top, solid mahogany back and sides, satin finish, mahogany neck, 20-fret rosewood fingerboard and rosewood bridge, Celtic knot sound-hole design, matching wooden fingerboard inlays and chrome machine heads with perloid buttons. It comes with a gig bag.
Vintage VRC800AMF – £399
Ideal for anything from delicate fingerpicking to dirty bottleneck blues, it has a flame maple finish and body and a single coil pickup at the neck.
Soar Valley Waltons Traditional Bodhrans – £52.50-£79
18-inch Waltons Bodhráns are some of the best-selling Irish drums in the UK. Waltons has very recently repackaged its popular designs to come in a presentable box, with carry bag and Bodhrán Basics tutor DVD by Conor Long.
FCN Lee Oskar Harmonicas – £29.95
Designed by the eponymous war veteran and legendary player himself, Lee Oskar harmonicas are available in range of different keys including all major diatonics, natural minors and harmonic minor.
Lag ukuleles – £99-£300
New from Barnes and Mullins’ French guitar brand, the 77 series features Concert (U77C - £120) and Soprano (U77S - £100) models, both equipped with a very attractive honey-finished mahogany top, back and sides. Also as standard, you will find a rosewood fingerboard; black TUSQ nut and saddle and a unique tribal design inlaid around the soundhole.
Barnes & Mullins ukuleles – £149-£179
The latest addition to B&M’s ukulele range are the BMUK02 models. The Tenor (BMUK02T £179), Concert (BMUK02C £165) and Soprano (BMUK02S £149) models feature solid spruce tops, highly figured spalt maple back and sides, maple binding, an abalone rosette and Aquila strings.
Recording King RA-998 resonator mandolin – £330
The mandolin features a nickel-plated bell brass body, maple neck, a high gloss finish and deluxe lightweight case.
Tanglewood Tenor guitars – £199.95-£349.95
All models feature ‘V’ braced soundboards, fast action traditional ‘D’ shape slender necks with adjustable truss rods, pin-bridges with compensated saddles, quality geared tuners and ‘Vintage Era’ Tenor Guitar looks.
Sutherland Countryman Pro A4-AV – £419.99
The Countryman Pro A4-AV mandolin is finished in antique vintage gloss and crafted with book-matched flamed maple back, sides and neck. It is fitted with a chrome tailpiece and chrome-pearloid button tuners.