BY EDDIE SCHER | FROM THE SUMMER 2020 ISSUE OF UKULELE
One of the most useful secrets to improving on your instrument is keeping your ukulele out of its case and within easy reach. I have a few wall hangers in my living room, stands in my office and bedroom, and a hallway wall with hangers that hold the rest of my instruments. That makes it sound like I have a lot of ukes . . . I don’t have that many. And I only ever need just one more.
Anyway, I like my ukes within arm’s reach because I want to be able to grab one and play, even if for just 15 seconds, wherever I am in the house, whenever I want to. Sometimes, some people (who I love and to whom I remain happily married) may express some exasperation. But if it’s a production to get your ukulele out of its case each time you want to play, you just aren’t going to play that much. And for me, it’s not just the sound of the ukulele that I love. I love the way they feel. And certainly, I love the way they look.
So, in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I took the Luna Vista Deer Concert out of its case for the first time and found myself holding it up to get a long look before even strumming it. Luna’s Vista series ukes are packed with great features, but the most remarkable of them might be the stunning wildlife scenes that grace their tops. The Deer’s top is made from cut and fitted pieces of five tropical woods, mother of pearl, and abalone that combine to create a high mountain vista of a full moon rising above pine groves and a meadow where deer drink from a flowing stream.
I can’t tell you much about how they created the scene, despite my interest in wood and woodworking, but I do know enough to recognize that the woodwork on the Deer is difficult to achieve and something I’ve rarely seen on a ukulele, or any instrument. Where I have seen such intricate inlay work has been on one-off luthier-built instruments. But the Luna is well within reach of ukulele players who aren’t ready to mortgage anything for their next instrument.
The Luna features koa back and sides, maple binding on the body, and a mahogany neck with pearloid moon phases inlaid on a black walnut fretboard. The dark wood veneer on the headstock brings out the dark accents in the design and the logo is inset in pearloid. There’s a lot going visually here, but it really works.
The Luna is loaded with features, including a cutaway, open-back Grover tuners, and a Fishman Kula preamp with onboard tuner. I found the Luna to be on the heavy side compared to other ukes. I’m talking about five or six ounces here, so it’s not much of a difference, but it’s noticeable. I prefer straps on my concerts and I would probably put on this one.
That extra weight is probably a big reason that the acoustic tone is subdued, plenty sweet and crisp, but I wouldn’t call it resonant or loud. There’s lots of woods going on here, and as much as I love that new ukulele smell, it takes time for any wood instrument to open up and find its voice.
The amplified sound—no surprise here from the Fishman Kula preamp with onboard tuner—is clear and correct. In fact, I was much happier with my tone than playing through either my Phil Jones guitar amp, Lunchbox PA, and even my handwired 12-watt Chicago-type guitar amp. I like the Fishman pickup/preamp setup both for ease of tuning and for stage work where the EQ and volume built into the top side of the upper bout make controlling your sound easy. The two coin-cell batteries that run the system are easily accessed on the plate that also holds the cable plug. One cable and you’re ready to play.
I found the action a little high for my taste, but this is a simple fix for any music shop, or really anyone handier with a file than I am. Otherwise the instrument was set up properly right out of the case. When you are ready to bring the ukulele out in the world it comes in a well padded case. So if you’re looking for a ukulele that plays and sounds great, but also looks the part, the Luna Vista Deer Concert is a great choice.
BODY Concert cutaway with koa back and sides, top “scene” cut from paduak, mother of pearl, koa, spalted maple, abalone, quilted mahogany, blackwood; black walnut bridge; single-ply maple binding; natural gloss
NECK 15″ (381mm) mahogany C-shape with black walnut fingerboard; pearloid inlays; Grover open-back tuners
ELECTRONICS Fishman Kula pickup/preamp with volume, EQ, tuning; output jack
OTHER Aquila Super Nylgut strings
PRICE $349 street
MADE IN China
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