Baritone ukulele as an ITM instrument
I’ve been looking for a good travel instrument that I can knock around a bit and won’t run afoul of the often strict carry-on limits that airlines impose, and I think I may have found a winner. I mainly play ITM on the flute, but am a singer and like to busk, so having something pickable/strumable along with me is always nice.
What I found was a baritone ukulele sold by a company called Enya (I know, right?), model EUB-X1. It’s made out of high-pressure laminate, which is essentially countertop material, and is fairly rugged and impervious to humidity and temperature changes, unlike wood (Martin uses it for some of their guitars and ukes). It comes straight from China, and the company was actually quite responsive, which I’ve found rare in many of these direct-from-China online dealers. To be completely forthcoming, a happy (for me) mistake on their part meant they first sent the wrong item, and then sent the right one fairly quickly and told me to keep the other one, so I ended up with a free tenor ukulele. That hasn’t influenced my view of this instrument, but it has put the company into my good books for how they handled everything. The tenor uke, by the way, is also nicely made.
Now, the big reason I bought this particular model is that with a little (included) allen wrench, one can actually unbolt the neck from the body, making it much easier to pack. The company seems to be going for a sort of modular design, where any of their instruments in this line can swap necks and bodies. Not sure why that’s a huge advantage, but for travel, the ability to take it apart means that it’s easily able to fit into a carry-on bag (and would even fit in a "personal item"-sized laptop bag). It’s smaller in its disassembled state than a mandolin or soprano uke, both common travel instruments (and if you’re looking for smaller, there is a full line of soprano/concert/tenor ukes offered by the same company that has the same removable neck feature).
So, I bought it, and restrung it into GDAE (with the ability to tune the E down to a D). I used the low E, A, D, and B strings from a set of D’Addario classical guitar strings to do this.
Here are some quick recordings of the results (please excuse the playing):
Youghal Harbor (set dance) - https://app.box.com/s/md0a6p660fy4y55l3fvbm7h1aew7lg8t
Garrett Barry’s (jig) - https://app.box.com/s/7t8suq3apdds4bocqngqljpa33zid0q4
The Moorlough Shore (song) - https://app.box.com/s/2ws85c6cmsmjkxlchun9wfckqdloox0u
Overall, I like the tone, and while it doesn’t have the same volume as a full-bodied guitar or a tenor banjo, I’m sure this would be at least audible in a small to midsize session. The instrument seems quite well-made, and the company has gotten some good reviews and forum mentions in ukulele circles, so I’m confident it will stand up to some travel. I’m headed off on a trip next month and will bring it with me, so it’ll be battle-tested soon. Right now, I’m pretty happy with the purchase, and figured I’d post this for anyone also looking for a travel or knockabout instrument that can pack down small.