c.1925 Bruno by Harmony "Maxitone" Tiple

Another tiple at long last! ...and it's gone just as quickly. I took these snapshots just before it went out the door. Lately the instruments that I've been wanting to hold onto myself (well, but I can't anyway, but I'd like to...!) have been ending up in the very capable hands of a Mrs. Kathy & Mr. Mike... and this is one of them. The last culprits were a Stella tenor banjo and Regal tenor guitar from the 1920s. Now they've added this to their mix... count it all up and you've got a popular song band with period instruments! Heck yeah!

This tiple has had a neck reset, bridge reglue, full setup, a bunch of cleaning, and some crack repairs. It came out of it playing deliciously easy and with a full, strong, super-rich and mellow voice. The neck feels great, too, especially for those chords that ukes make cramped.

For those not in the know, tiples (tee-plays) like this are a North American (ie, US) adaptation of a Colombian instrument that is typically a little larger and tuned a fourth lower. Martin, Lyon & Healy, Regal, Harmony, and various others got in to these kinds of tiples (which are essentially beefed-up tenor-size ukuleles with 10 steel strings) during the height of the uke boom in the 1920s. They're absolutely the coolest instruments I've ever had, and I entirely treasure my 1920s Regal that I use live, for songwriting, and for recording purposes on nearly any endeavor.

This particular tiple has a nice smooth voice and part of that is the wood: birch back and sides (and neck?) with a very quality spruce top (lots of nice wavy figure in the grain on it and tight grain). It plays very nicely (now that it's had a neck reset) with action about 1/8" at the 12th fret and, despite having 10 strings, just as easy on the hands as a uke and far easier on the hands than even a really nicely setup mandolin.

This tiple was made by Harmony (headstock and construction style as well as binding materials and other surviving instruments prove this) and then sold to Bruno who marketed it under their Maxitone brand name.

This is the original bridge, which would have had the strings passing through the end of it on ball ends, though at some point in its past it came unglued, was bolted down, and came up again and ripped the soundboard a little bit underneath. I decided that string tension should be only downwards rather than the sideways and upwards pull of a pin-style bridge, so I installed a newish tailpiece and cut the saddle accordingly. I got more volume out of it by having such a high bone saddle, which was possible due to the neck reset's bigger angle. I also patched the holes in the bridge where the bolts used to be after regluing it.

Side... note binding top and bottom. Not bad!


Cool birch grain on the back.

Two hairlines repaired on the back, too.


Josh said…
Lovely instrument. I recently acquired a post-bellum Martin tiple, just because it seemed interesting; I was surprised to find just how fun the thing is to play. I've no idea whatsoever, though, what sort of music the original purchasers of these instruments were playing! I find it real useful in places where the lushness of a 12-string guitar would also fit. Playing leads on it is an interesting challenge; I was about to say "never mind" to tiple leads, until I stumbled across Charley Bird's "Azul Tiple", and concluded it was an odd idea, but not am impossible.
I use my tiple as a crossover instrument... like you said, lush 12-string sound, but I also play a bunch of leads on the E and A courses (I use slightly heavier strings and tune to GCEA as opposed to ADF#B) which is sort of like playing mandolin's high strings backwards for me... very useful to back vocals on verses and chorus and then take quick leads as if I were playing mando.

They're really a joy to own and play... can't say enough good about them. I'd like to make a modern take on the instrument when I have some time, perhaps try 8 strings and drop the 2nd high string in the middle triples, and give it an even slightly longer scale.

To answer your wondering: I've seen period photos of tiples in jazz bands, blues bands, folk bands, etc. -- anywhere you'd expect to have a uke or mandolin chopping away chords. I've even seen one photo of a jazz band with (two!!!) tiple players and a guitarist. Coooool...
Josh said…
How are 8-stringed ukes and taropatches tuned? Unisons?
Traditionally they're tuned in unison, but most modern players tune them with octave strings.
FiL said…
OK, I know this is way after the fact, but I just wanted to correct one comment. 8-string ukes are usually tuned with the the G & C pairs in octaves and the E & A pairs in unison.

A stumbled upon your blog while researching tiples, and it is very cool. Nice work saving these old instruments!
Monica said…
Hi Jake,

I somehow inherited a Bruno Tiple..and I really don't have any attachment to it. I also need some cash this month, so I'm wondering if I should sell it to someone like you who would actually USE it and enjoy it, and I have no idea how much I should sell it for. When my Mom passed away a few years ago, it was appraised, but it would take me a while to go dredge up those Appraisal documents right now, so I figured I'd at least post something and perhaps you could help me figure out what I have and where I could sell it, so it will be handled well and "loved." :)