BY EDDIE SCHER | FROM THE SPRING 2023 ISSUE OF UKULELE
First impressions aren’t everything but they do mean something; and opening the Córdoba 15CM Matiz box, I found my mouth watering. What immediately came to mind was fondant cake from my favorite bakery in Hoboken. The rich pastel-mint-finish top against the creamy vanilla binding and light natural maple wood grain of the fretboard and bridge are unusual and unexpected. So while I doubt anyone is wondering how this ukulele tastes (ask me off the record), I can tell you that the mint 15CM Matiz looks good enough to eat.
Matiz, which means “hue or shade of color” in Portuguese, is Córdoba’s new line of their popular 15CM series ukuleles. The same basic uke is available in four colors: mint (my review instrument), chili red, mango, and classic blue. Online pictures did not give an accurate sense of how vibrant and beautiful these colors are in person. The concert-size mahogany 15CM is one of Córdoba’s most basic laminated all-mahogany ukuleles. For a manufacturer, aiming an instrument at beginners or casual hobbyists requires a precarious balancing act of materials, build quality, setup, and features on one hand, and price on the other. At below $150 for the ukes in the CM line, Córdoba evidently knows exactly how to strike the right balance.
Córdoba has been equipping neophyte players for many years with these well-built and ready-to-play ukuleles. Laminate (they call it “layered”) mahogany is a less expensive way to build an instrument than the solid wood you’ll usually find on higher priced ukuleles, and that means that this instrument is not particularly loud. I often try out review ukes at gigs in San Francisco. Unfortunately, this ukulele doesn’t have the volume or complexity I would want for a live performance. But let me reset the bar to something a little more realistic: There is no pretense of this being a pro performance instrument. On the couch, where 99 percent of my playing occurs, this ukulele is quite appealing, with a softly sweet and woody tone. Fingerpicked notes ring out clear and bright, not muffled, just quiet compared to some other ukes. And strummed, this uke really holds its own. Córdoba specializes in classical guitars and they’ve managed to impart some of the feel and sounds of a classical guitar to this ukulele.
The full C-shaped neck with a natural matte finish gives the uke a natural feel right from day one. The setup is spot-on and the 14 frets-to-the-body neck plays well all over. My fingers fret-out about half-way up the neck on any uke and, as I’ve mentioned before, almost everything above the 8th fret on a ukulele is vaudeville tricks anyway. But if your fingers fit as things get tighter up the neck, the notes are there for you on this uke.
The back and sides are laminated mahogany in a satin finish. Often the pores of the wood on an instrument are filled in with thick finishes. I prefer the way Córdoba chose to leave the sides and back in a more natural state, letting the wood speak for itself. And though it’s not solid wood, it’s still beautifully dark-grained mahogany that contrasts nicely with the thick, creamy-white binding on the top and the bottom. To finish off the look of the uke, the unbound headstock is capped in a light, grainy maple that complements, if not quite matches, the maple fingerboard. The fretboard is bound with black dots marking the 5th, 7th, 10th, and 12th frets and ends after the 18th fret at the soundhole, which is surrounded by a tasteful light-colored rosette. The white-button geared tuners keep tune. And the padded nylon gig bag, in matching mint with creamy white accents with this model, is both functional and responsibly made of recycled materials.
Córdoba 15CM Matiz Concert
BODY Concert-sized body with layered mahogany top, back, and sides; fan bracing; cream ABS binding; satin polyurethane finish
NECK C-shape 14.75″-scale mahogany; 18-fret (14 to body) maple fingerboard; black ABS side inlays; Córdoba open gear tuners with cream buttons
OTHER Maple bridge and headstock; composite saddle and neck; “Ghost” rosette; Aquila Nylgut strings; matching mint gig bag
MADE IN China
PRICE $149 (street)