As I hinted in the second of my New Year posts I have several important projects starting this year. Well last Wednesday one of them came to a surprising start. My partner in crime had found in a local thrift store an old, battered, bowl-back mandolin. So the next day we wandered, and I purchased her for the princely sum of 15 euros.
She’s in dire need of a lot of T.L.C. The neck was damaged but repaired reasonably well in the past. An internal brace has lifted, though after a huge amount of research I know now that too is a fixable issue. The finish is badly chipped, and scraped. And the inlay around the pick guard has been tortured within an inch of its life. But she’s still a beautiful instrument, and after Sunday I believe she can have an amazing second life as a mandolele. (mandolin-ukulele hybrid. Well in fairness I’m a female/male hybrid so it’s an ideal instrument for me don’t you think?)
Sunday I decided to clean the dust, grease and gunk of the ages off. Then I repaired 2 minor dings on the soundboard. Then finally I test strung her with a spare set of Aquila ukulele strings.The change to a mandolele came because when I got her she had only two steel strings left, both were under tension, and you could practically feel the mandolin getting ready to implode when you touched it. It simply can’t take steel strings anymore. A shame, as I’m sure she was a sweet sounding instrument, and a joy to play when she was in her prime.
Regardless after I fitted the strings the moment came when I plucked a true note from her. Ukulele’s have a sort of furry-ness to their sound that I adore. Each note kind of buzzes ever so slightly, and after trying out dozens of ukes in shops across the country at this stage I’m pretty sure it’s a standard feature of their sound. I do truly love that fuzzy feeling. I think that it is part of what makes music played on a ukulele feel happy. But the note that came from my new toy was pure, sharp, fresh. It was the aural equivalent of the difference between watching a movie on VHS video, and DVD. (kids if you don’t know what a VHS was, the porn your dad has stashed in his wardrobe is the reason you still have that odd thing that doesn’t play DVD’s under the telly.)
Well the end result of all this is that before Bella’s Steampunk Night I intend to complete all the repairs, and refurbish my future mandolele as a key part of my costume. On that day a new character will rise, a new alter-ego for Amanda Harper, a steampunk luthier, uke player, and all round hottie named…well that would spoil the surprise.