Now get this right, I’m no musician, although I’ve always enjoyed it, especially in it’s folk / country guises. As a schoolboy my music teacher tortured me and put me off learning anything about music by trying to get me to sing a single note in tune. His reason for doing so was that I always got good marks in exams. What he failed to realise was that all the exams were listening and not re-producing notes.
Now, the best part of half a century later, my grandson decided that he wanted to learn to play a guitar. Fine by me. I find him a guitar teacher and off he goes, and turns out to be very good at it, learning everything by watching and listening rather than reading, which is not his best subject! I had a quick go on the guitar his mother got him for Christmas, but it was only a quick go.
Then, talking to his music teacher, I offered to look at a guitar he had that was not keeping in tune and was, as he described it, unplayable. Why should I offer to look at it you might ask? Well, during some of those fifty years mentioned above, I had completed an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker and spent a number of them making ‘antique’ furniture. (The proper name for it nowadays is Reproduction furniture) I’d also had a girlfriend whose hobby was scale dolls houses, so I’d made those as well as the miniature furnishings for them. A guitar is made (mainly) of wood, so it held no fears to me. And to cut a long story short, the guitar got fixed (straightened the neck and re-strung) and I got a reputation. Within weeks I was fixing all the teacher’s friends guitars as well!
For myself, I bought a banjo. Despite a genuine effort to learn to play, the fingers that are capable of extremely fine miniature work are just too thick to fit between the strings of either the banjo or, for that matter, any of the guitars that I had worked on. Any chord that required placing a finger on a string that had any adjacent strings proved impossible.
Then, one day, I discovered the ukulele! Although they are much smaller than either of the other instruments mentioned above, the strings are further apart. Now that was a ‘eureka’ moment. I purchased one straight away. It didn’t take long to learn to get a tune of sorts out of it, and within a week I was getting frustrated with it. The problem was not the Uke itself, more the quality of some of the other instruments I had been working on. It was a £25 plywood jobbie with cheap strings that stretched a lot and the whole thing sounded rather dull in comparison to many of the instruments I had seen recently. Therefore a bit of research started.
The best sounding of these instruments (to my ears, remember the music lessons) was a roundback (Ovation copy) guitar that I had repaired a broken neck on. I looked for a similar style Ukulele, but without a lot of success. There was one firm supplying them in a couple of sizes and I went about obtaining one.httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p04gKWEwtbI However, it was a disappointment in that the ’round’ back was little more than rounded corners, a design by the manufacturers rather than a musician!
During some other of those years left out of the fifty above, I had been to college to learn how to build boats! Modern boats are made, nowadays, out of FRP (Fibre Reinforced Plastic) and I had acquired quite a knowledge of the processes involved. So the next step was a decision to make my own. Therefore UKULIAN was born and here we are!
QUEX instruments have developed from there, producing ukuleles, Cuatro’s and occaisionally guitars from timbers grown on the Quex Estate. All solid native woods are used to produce high quality, individual instruments. Custom builds are produced in house using such timbers as English Walnut, Cedar, Cherry, European Maple, Yew etc with individual inlays. Come along and take a look.