carnival combo guitat soprano Ukulele

My BNIB Combo Guitar

harp headstock carnival ukulele
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carnival combo guitar Ukulele in original packing

Still in its Box

It has Mahalo strings on now, (you can see the original red strings it came with weren't proper strings), but doesn't stay in tune for long!



Carnival Combo Guitar

I got this one still in its original 1970's attempt at vacuum packing unopened packaging even with the original $3.99 price tag on it (I paid a bit more than that - but not that much more). It was from the toy section of ebay and the person selling it did point out that the strings it came with were doubled over loops and not real so this was a toy not a musical instrument. Nevertheless with its cutaway and its ƒ holes I always thought the Combo Guitar looked cool, (apart from when they stuck pictures of David Cassidy on it), and I had seen them in other peoples collection with proper strings on so I thought something could be made of it. Anyway I wanted one and its not like I don't have a few Plastic clunkers that I can't play so I took the risk and brought it anyway

When it came it was still in the unopened packaging and even still had the original red plectrum they come with. I toyed with the idea of not taking it out; maybe for 10 minutes; then I carefully cut the bottom of the cellophane and slipped it out. I took off the fake red strings and put them back into the bag. I looked at the plectrum and thought "actually this isn't a bad plectrum" then I put that too back in the bag - safe for when it is passed on to its next custodian. The I set about trying to make a musical instrument out of it.

In examining it up close you can see its cheap nature. The gluing isn't particularly neat, the excess plastic from the moulding hadn't all been removed, even though I had just taken it out of its packaging there were scuff marks on the body that must have been done before it went in. Still it was only ever a cheap plastic toy, not the work of a master craftsman, but It does make me think "what is the value of the proud Made in U.S.A"? No one cared about green miles in the 70's and a far eastern one wouldn't have been any worse put together? Something for those who mourn the loss of the western manufacturing industry to consider. Consumers pay extra for quality. There are very few who pay extra for patriotism, and they don't do it for long if they are constantly let down. After that you only have protectionism and that is ultimately self defeating, forcing people to pay for crap by giving them no choice leads to a black market, and a black market cannot be regulated for safety; or taxed. but enough of the free trade lecture, back to the Ukulele

It has a scale length of 33cm (13in) and 12 frets to the body - 17 to the base of the cutaway. The Tuners are proper working friction tuners but they don't grip particularly well. The bridge is solid and can take the tension no problem. but the design doesn't give much of an option as to holding the string once in place. The narrowing between the widest part of the slot and the narrowest is probably only a millimeter or so, so if your knots are small enough to fit in, they are small enough to pop out again as soon as you put tension on. These two factors make it VERY difficult to get into tune. The nut slots might be a little wide too but I've not managed to have it playable for long enough to see if this is a real issue or not? On the plus side, when I have got it vaguely playable the saddle works well and the frets and intonation are very good. So, with perhaps some rosin or something to make the tuners grip better and some perseverance at the bridge end (maybe feeding the knots through the ƒ holes? maybe some fiddling about with washers?) and it could be made fully playable? Well yes, but when I have got it close,  the overall tone it produces doesn't inspire me to persevere too hard (certainly not with the amount of fiddling trying to get the strings from the bridge to the ƒ hole would entail). I'll try and get it so that I can knock out a round of Waltzin' Matilda for the sound clip but after that I think it's destined to spend most of its time as an art piece.

To answer the last two questions in a review briefly
Will it last?
Yes because it's pretty solid for all its manufacturing flaws and it won't get played much if at all. Looking at something doesn't wear it out, so only natural disasters (or my dodgy DIY putting up ukulele hangers) are liable to cause it damage and with no metal parts it would happily survive a flood!
Would I get another one if I lost it?
Probably not. I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to get one. If I went into a shop and found it still on sale for $3.99? Possibly depending on space and my mood. It is after all a bit of fun, and thats why I got it in the first place