I love my Mini M.  I love it to pieces.  But, for the love of G-d, do not buy it from Amazon or even Sam Ash.  The frets are undressed and sharp- resulting in a very sliced and chapped index finger.  There are only 4 ways around this issue:

  • Buy it from The Ukulele Site where they will do a full set-up at no extra charge.
    • It will take longer for your instrument to get to you, but it will be PERFECT.
    • The shipping costs a little more than most online retailers, but that cost is far less than the cost of a fret-dress or pro-setup at a music shop.
  • Pay for a professional fret dressing (where they file down the sharp edges) or professional set-up (which may or may not include a fret re-dress) at your local music shop or luthier.
    • I was quoted around $150 for the fret re-dress at multiple shops.
  • Do the fret re-dress yourself
    • There are several YouTube videos explaining how to do this
    • It takes a lot of time, especially for a beginner
    • You will need to buy tools to do this.  The cost of the tools equate to about the cost of shipping from the site mentioned above that does all of this for you.
    • You could damage the wood or frets in the process
  • Buy a display model instrument from your local music shop
    • Many display instruments will have a partial or full set-up so that they play pristine in order to entice customers to buy the instruments.
    • What you see is what you get- no surprises.
    • It’ll have come from a humidity-controlled environment.
    • No shipping!  You can go home with it right away.
But, seriously, just buy it from The Ukulele Site.  I really regret not going with them, despite being happy with the instrument I do have.  It just would have been a lot less stressful to have THEM handle all or any issues instead of the work falling on me to solve problems.

(I went with a display model because I simply couldn’t wait any longer to enjoy my gift.)

  • You better believe I got the shop to make the instrument as perfect as possible before I told them I was buying it.
  • It had some “buzzing” and the shop adjusted it several times until I was satisfied with its performance.
  • I felt like an annoying POS doing this but honestly it was worth every minute I spent k’vetching over it.  They were happy to see me leave and I was happy with my almost perfect guitalele in hand!

My first Mini M came via Amazon from the official Cordoba seller on there.  Boy, there were issues!  I could immediately tell that the instrument was dry and it was cold (December, joy). It was packaged perfectly and very well but it was warehoused at Amazon and it’s possible that Amazon doesn’t know how to properly store musical instruments.  Typically, this dryness isn’t a huge issue if the instrument isn’t damaged by it at all (and mine wasn’t damaged), but it’s definitely a risk that would have been avoided had I gone with The Ukulele Site.

Another issue I had with my Amazon Mini M was that the sound hole was improperly cut and the finish was imperfect.  No, this doesn’t affect play.  However, this was an expensive guitalele, considering the current market.  While Cordoba may not be high-end, they are selling this instrument for $199 despite the original  Yamaha GL1 Guitalele only costing $99.  I expected to see a lot more quality from this instrument, especially after having played a display model in my local shop 6 months prior that seemed to have been built much better.

The biggest issue, by far, that caused me to return my beloved Mini M to Amazon was that it cut my hand up.  Not gonna lie, my friend’s Yamaha GL1 guitalele did the same thing to me a year ago, which is exactly why I sought out a different maker and stumbled upon the Cordoba.  I didn’t want to deal with sharp fret edges.  I didn’t want my finger to be scratched up, sliced up, and chapped from playing.  I was shocked to find that the Mini M actually has the same issue.  Too bad I already fell in love with the Mini M or else I might’ve saved loads of money by just going with the Yamaha.  After careful consideration of whether this was just a humidity issue (it wasn’t, it was too extreme to only be that), and after calling around to find out how much the fret re-dress would cost (nearly the cost of the instrument itself!), and researching the cost of the tools to re-dress it myself, I came to my decision.  Not only was it cheaper to just send it back to Amazon (free return), it was also an opportunity to hold Cordoba responsible for their shitty instrument.  (I did attempt to contact Cordoba before contacting Amazon for the return.  Cordoba never reached out to me and still hasn’t for 6 weeks.)

The same day that I printed out my return label for Amazon, I called Guitar Center to see if they had the Mini M in stock.  Nope.  So, I headed down to Sam Ash to meet, what would become, my new guitalele.

Sam Ash was slim pickings that day, let me tell ya.  It was the day after Christmas and it was very apparent that, not only had Santa shopped there, everyone who got Christmas money and gift cards had quickly flocked to Sam Ash in order to claim their beloved music gear as soon as they could.  Fortunately, for me, there were still two Mini M guitaleles in stock.  One was in the warehouse and the other (mine) was on display.

I could tell it was the same display model I had touched 6 months prior and fell in love with.  Perfect sound hole, smooth finish, soft rounded fret edges, and a luster that can only be explained by the properly controlled environment (humidity) of Sam Ash’s guitar room.  It also had a problem:  it buzzed.

I tried to ignore the buzzing.  I played it for half an hour.  I put it down and tried every other guitalele brand in stock.  I picked it back up.  Tried to ignore the buzzing some more… I couldn’t.  So, I said something.  It took the shop several adjustments of the truss rod to decrease the buzzing to where I didn’t mind it anymore.  I think we passed it back and forth for maybe 45 minutes before I was satisfied and put my money down.

I got exactly what I wanted that day.  And it wasn’t problem free.  Due to it being a display model, the strings are starting to unwind on me- something I hadn’t anticipated. It’s definitely been played a lot before I came to own it. Some of the frets were a little bit scratchy, I came to find, but it wasn’t problematic like my Amazon instrument was.  I keep a file in my case and, whenever I find a stubborn fret edge during a high neck riff, I just pull out the file and give the edge two swipes.  Definitely not as labor intensive as having to do a full fret dress myself on a factory-fresh instrument.  (Again, this is where I regret having missed out on The Ukulele Site’s free professional set-up.)

However, I am happy and I am both glad and fortunate to possess my Mini M.  Even as I sweat and watch my beloved strings slowly unwind, I am grateful that I have the Mini M that I fell in love with from the beginning.  It’s funny how things work out that way.

Disclaimer: this is my blog.  I can do or say whatever the heck I want. If I want to post incomplete articles and finish them later, I’ll do just that.  Check back every now and then to see if I got around to finishing it. Comment if you want more info sooner/now/sometime this century.
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