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View Full Version : Purchasing my first Ukulele and would love some advice



tomxoqt
02-01-2015, 04:47 PM
I've played the guitar since I was 14 (now 21) and I am really motivated to give this a serious shot. My budget is up to/around 80.

Currently, the most likely Ukulele I am to purchase is this Kala KA-C: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B001LU709W/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A1Y1LKMP81BDBI[1] . What do you guys think of it/Kala in general?

All suggestions of other models also welcome. Please tell me the brands you have the most respect for as well! And is rosewood a high quality wood for a fret-board*?

Thank you so much.

Update:

Wow guys! Thank you so much for all of your responses. I am indeed a UK resident. Currently I live in Falmouth and am studying at its university, so no long-range transport (except train), and we actually do not have a music shop here. I have heeded the advice regarding where I purchase, and will most likely get one from the Southern Ukulele Store, arranging it over the phone.

IamNoMan's point about getting a soprano over a concert is interesting. Am I right in thinking that concerts would resonate more, due to a larger body?

The points raised about getting a solid wood uke are making sense to me too. I've been looking on the site and this one seems promising: http://www.southernukulelestore.co.uk/Product/618/S-U-S-Concert-Ukulele-ALL-SOLID-MAHOGANY-only-%C2%A379-99 and is full solid mahogany, which seems lovely. The only drawback is that it is S.U.S, which is a brand I have no knowledge of.

What is your opinion of the S.U.S brand?

Do others share the opinion I should get a soprano, not a concert sized ukulele?

Thank you!

Doug W
02-01-2015, 05:19 PM
This thread may help or may just confuse things.

http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?68502-Makala-MK-C-vs-Kala-KA-C

I don't know what model the Kala baritone is that a guy in our group plays but it is a nice sounding instrument. There are some nice sounding Kalas. Of course you are looking at buying an instrument online from Amazon and that is always a crap shoot.

No chance that there are music stores in your area so you can get your hands on some ukes to test them?

Hammond
02-01-2015, 05:37 PM
Hi tomxoqt,

My first tenor ukulele was a Kala, the GAT series. For the price, the construction and finish quality is reasonably good. It is one of the few brands that I would suggest to my friends in this price range. I hope you will enjoy the new ukulele journey.:)

deschutestrout
02-01-2015, 05:41 PM
Maybe post a want to buy WTB ad in the marketplace and indicate where you live. You never know what may fall into your hands. And yes, Kala makes a decent uke...but as mentioned, Amazon could be a gamble. Ideally you are seeking one that has been professionally set up to insure you get a good, playable instrument.

Captain Simian
02-01-2015, 06:31 PM
I would get something from either Mim's or Hawaii Music Supply. They both have entry level ukes that will cost a little more than getting it from Amazon or Musician's Friend but the uke will be set up properly to ensure it will play in tune up and down the neck. While I've never ordered from HMS I hear they're very nice and helpful. I have ordered from Mim and she is very genuine and will answer any questions you have. She'll even do a demo video so you can get an idea of what the uke will sound like.

Mivo
02-01-2015, 07:00 PM
The Kala is a good instrument for the price. It's a relatively modest amount as far as European prices go, but enough to get something decent -- and a lot of people like Kala.

There's one issue with buying ukuleles online: You can't test-play them to see how well they're set up. With lower cost ukuleles, it can be a bit hit and miss, so if you're unlucky and the action is too low or too high, or the intonation is not even, you'll not be happy. My suggestion would be to look for a store (brick and mortar or online) that performs set ups. There are several in the UK that do this, like these guys (http://www.southernukulelestore.co.uk/).

hucklelele
02-01-2015, 07:01 PM
Kalas are a very good general ukulele usually put together well and with a full body that projects well. The die cast tuners are a nice feature to try to get, because the steel knobs are more durable, while plastic knobs can break off fairly easily and need replacing over time.

I personally like a body made of porous wood- natural unfinished mahogany or agathis wood- not painted or clear coated which muffles the sound- a lightweight natural wood as opposed to a composite wood of layered wood- the tone and timber are more bright the lighter weight and more porous the wood, given the same sound box design otherwise. In that regard it might help to shop around personally even if you end up buying off the net- because you can get some idea of the characteristics of the woods. A good sounding uke or guitar will be lightweight,, you can see that it will sound good even before you play if you know what your'e looking for. I got a really great sounding concert uke from china with fancy shell inlay throughout the fingerboard that would have cost much more anywhere else. I sold a Cordoba concert 100 uke with a laminate body because the Chinese uke sounded better at half the cost- unfinished lightweight agathis wood as opposed to the laminate mahogany Cordoba.

Brian1
02-01-2015, 07:27 PM
There are places like Musician's friend in the US that will pay shipping and return postage if you are not satisfied with the set up of your Kala, if you are on a budget that is also something to consider. I recently learned that changes in humidity can cause some issues with set up (ie fret wires becoming exposed on the side of the fretboard) so take that into consideration when shipping internationally.

I am not trying to turn you off of HMS or Mim, they both offer great customer service from everyone I know who has ordered there. But I think you'd need to order $400 to get the shipping deal from HMS and that will eat up your budget.

Kala is a pretty solid brand, but there have also been great reviews of the Toms that can cost about $50 shipped world wide from china, and you can get a solid wood top Tom for about $100 so that would be in your budget. Here is the experience of someone who knows what he is doing who had one shipped to Norway:

http://youtu.be/t-2pMXEimMc

Here's a sound sample of my new TOM concert ukulele, made of laminated sapele wood. The video was shot on an iPhone, about one hour after I took the ukulele out of the box and tuned it. Please bear with me, sound-wise... So far, I have done no setup work.
The action at the nut is damn near perfect, whereas I might lower it just a little at the saddle. The instrument is very well made, and clean in every way. There is no glue residue or other marks on it. The intonation straight out of the box is very, very good; even way up the neck.
The strings are Aquilas, and the tuners are closed, geared die-cast
tuners of real quality.
My first impression is good indeed. The ukulele cost me less than 50 US Dollars, and that INCLUDES shipping from China to Norway! ]
http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?103728-New-Ukulele-TOM-Concert&highlight=Review

iDavid
02-01-2015, 07:43 PM
Buy from Mim's or Hawaii Music Supply. If you have to spend money and shipping, then so be it. A bad-set-up = a bad uke, which = no damn fun.

Brian1
02-01-2015, 08:38 PM
Buy from Mim's or Hawaii Music Supply. If you have to spend money and shipping, then so be it. A bad-set-up = a bad uke, which = no damn fun.

True, but if shipping to Europe exceeds the price of the set up, if the uke needs a set up, it can be done locally, and after the uke has had time to adjust to new humidity levels. I live in Texas and a uke shipped from Hawaii would cost 20% of the budget. If all that is needed is to lower the saddle... that only takes a few minutes. :)

tangimango
02-01-2015, 09:32 PM
Yes that Kala CG is very recommended for your price budget regardless of set or not. Any of the SLNG , CG even TG are really good begginer ukes for the money with great sound. After a few months you will end up with UAS. Since your a guitarist for that many years, you will know how to fix buzzing or a good set if needed.

wayward
02-01-2015, 10:10 PM
Am I right in assuming you are in the UK? If so, and you are able to travel to Bournemouth, I would definitely recommend you try here: http://www.southernukulelestore.co.uk/View/Contact%20Us Buying from outside of Europe involves adding a large tax cost to your purchase, and Amazon is a gamble...

TheBathBird
02-01-2015, 10:32 PM
Am I right in assuming you are in the UK? If so, and you are able to travel to Bournemouth, I would definitely recommend you try here: http://www.southernukulelestore.co.uk/View/Contact%20Us Buying from outside of Europe involves adding a large tax cost to your purchase, and Amazon is a gamble...

I'd second this. Even if you can't get to Bournemouth, I've bought ukes from SUS over the phone, and they were very helpful. Also, Omega Music in Cumbria are excellent, and Eagle music (Huddersfield I think).

IamNoMan
02-01-2015, 11:06 PM
Hello mate. Welcome to UU. You asked about some advice for your first uke. I don't have a handle on the UK market and you have plenty of advice on that stuff here.

My advice is a little different. You have been playing guitar for seven years and doubtless acquired some proficiency. Purchase a soprano ukulele with at least 14 frets! 14 frets will enable you to play just about any piece of music you care to tackle. Why a Soprano? They have a shorter scale length. 12.5 to 13.5". Since you are already a musician you shouldn't have too much difficulty obtaining basic proficiency. I am a new uker/old musician. When I got my first Soprano I found that when playing in Key of C I could drop my ring finger on the 11th fret. Not stretch but drop my ring finger on the eleventh fret. The ability to play up the neck this gave me qualitatively gave my ukulele playing an incredible boost, literally overnight.

Even if the Soprano size is not a perfect fit for you; it is your first uke. There will be others, presumably of better quality as you go along.

wayfarer75
02-02-2015, 03:29 AM
I'd second this. Even if you can't get to Bournemouth, I've bought ukes from SUS over the phone, and they were very helpful. Also, Omega Music in Cumbria are excellent, and Eagle music (Huddersfield I think).

I agree. It's best to buy in person if you can, and if not, buy online where the shipping cost will be easier on the wallet.

Brenda Wong
02-02-2015, 03:39 AM
There are places like Musician's friend in the US that will pay shipping and return postage if you are not satisfied with the set up of your Kala, if you are on a budget that is also something to consider. I recently learned that changes in humidity can cause some issues with set up (ie fret wires becoming exposed on the side of the fretboard) so take that into consideration when shipping internationally.

I am not trying to turn you off of HMS or Mim, they both offer great customer service from everyone I know who has ordered there. But I think you'd need to order $400 to get the shipping deal from HMS and that will eat up your budget.

Kala is a pretty solid brand, but there have also been great reviews of the Toms that can cost about $50 shipped world wide from china, and you can get a solid wood top Tom for about $100 so that would be in your budget. Here is the experience of someone who knows what he is doing who had one shipped to Norway:

http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?103728-New-Ukulele-TOM-Concert&highlight=Review

HMS wants $800 order for International shipping . $400 is within the U.S. only.

spookelele
02-02-2015, 04:44 AM
I'm going to pitch a different idea.
Have you considered checking your local area for a uke club?
You can probably ask the members if anyone has a decent uke they don't play much any more.
People end up with lots of ukes some of which they don't really use, and you can likely get a better instrument for your money used.

If you've been playing guitar seriously for a while, you may not want a laminate uke.
But the solid top's from say kala don't start until you break $200 USD.

But you might be able to get one used for your budget though.

YorkSteve
02-02-2015, 04:59 AM
Where in the UK are you? I would definitely avoid Amazon, or any non-uke specialist online or mail order. If you have to order online, stick to the uke shops - Omega, Southern, Eagle - but better still visit one of them. Red Cow Music in York are pretty good too.

PTOEguy
02-02-2015, 05:00 AM
My first uke was a Kala - and it was a great uke except that the neck profile was totally wrong and I was never going to get a good setup. Here's another vote for getting a uke from someone who is editing out the bad ones.

deschutestrout
02-02-2015, 05:08 AM
Lots of GREAT advice! The posts I like best revolve around trying to find something local. Good luck with the search and let us know what you find!

spookelele
02-02-2015, 05:10 AM
I wouldn't say bad... just not as recently loved.
If it's truly bad.. you should skip it whether it's the internet, a store, or club person.

A laminate is fine for alot of people.

But I started on guitar too, and bought a laminate kala as a first uke. It played fine, but always felt like it was missing resonance. At first I dismissed it as because it was a smaller instrument, but the more I listened to uke stuff, the more apparent it was that it actually was missing something. I think there'd be less ear shock, if you got a solid top, if not a solid whole thing, but thats unlikely new in that price range.

And I strongly believe the happier you are playing your instrument, the more you play, and the better you get.

tomxoqt
02-02-2015, 06:20 AM
Wow guys! Thank you so much for all of your responses. I am indeed a UK resident. Currently I live in Falmouth and am studying at its university, so no long-range transport (except train), and we actually do not have a music shop here. I have heeded the advice regarding where I purchase, and will most likely get one from the Southern Ukulele Store, arranging it over the phone.

IamNoMan's point about getting a soprano over a concert is interesting. Am I right in thinking that concerts would resonate more, due to a larger body?

The points raised about getting a solid wood uke are making sense to me too. I've been looking on the site and this one seems promising: http://www.southernukulelestore.co.uk/Product/618/S-U-S-Concert-Ukulele-ALL-SOLID-MAHOGANY-only-%C2%A379-99 and is full solid mahogany, which seems lovely. The only drawback is that it is S.U.S, which is a brand I have no knowledge of.

What is your opinion of the S.U.S brand?

Do others share the opinion I should get a soprano, not a concert sized ukulele?

Thank you!

PhilUSAFRet
02-02-2015, 06:23 AM
SUS is the store brand and I'm sure it's on par with Kala for quality and value.

TheBathBird
02-02-2015, 06:56 AM
Wow guys! Thank you so much for all of your responses. I am indeed a UK resident. Currently I live in Falmouth and am studying at its university, so no long-range transport (except train), and we actually do not have a music shop here. I have heeded the advice regarding where I purchase, and will most likely get one from the Southern Ukulele Store, arranging it over the phone.

IamNoMan's point about getting a soprano over a concert is interesting. Am I right in thinking that concerts would resonate more, due to a larger body?

The points raised about getting a solid wood uke are making sense to me too. I've been looking on the site and this one seems promising: http://www.southernukulelestore.co.uk/Product/618/S-U-S-Concert-Ukulele-ALL-SOLID-MAHOGANY-only-%C2%A379-99 and is full solid mahogany, which seems lovely. The only drawback is that it is S.U.S, which is a brand I have no knowledge of.

What is your opinion of the S.U.S brand?

Do others share the opinion I should get a soprano, not a concert sized ukulele?

Thank you!

My son has that exact ukulele and it really is excellent value for money for an all solid uke. I believe it's actually a rebranded Aria (it certainly was when we bought it), you can probably find reviews online. The wood is not the thinnest, but that's probably unsurprising at that price point, and my son's didn't have very good strings strings, but I see they have Martins on them now which I'm sure are a lot better.

Edit: I think I may have inadvertently come across as a little negative! Just got the SUS uke out to refresh my memory, and it does sound very nice :)

IamNoMan
02-02-2015, 07:17 AM
IamNoMan's point about getting a soprano over a concert is interesting. Am I right in thinking that concerts would resonate more, due to a larger body?

Do others share the opinion I should get a soprano, not a concert sized ukulele?

Thank you! Resonance is a complicated issue. It is dependent on density, physical design, thickness of materials, physical properties of the materials used. There are doubtless other components. The greater the density, the greater the resonance. the thinner the wood of the sounding board, the greater the resonance. Red Cedar resonates more than Spruce, (not a lot more), everything else being equal. Compare the resonance of a ukulele to a banjolele for design. The quick answer to your question is no! Size isn't everything.

I think you should play a soprano sized uke and a concert sized uke to see which you prefer. Everybody is different from you. You must decide what you like the best.

tomxoqt
02-02-2015, 07:34 AM
Resonance is a complicated issue. It is dependent on density, physical design, thickness of materials, physical properties of the materials used. There are doubtless other components. The greater the density, the greater the resonance. the thinner the wood of the sounding board, the greater the resonance. Red Cedar resonates more than Spruce, (not a lot more), everything else being equal. Compare the resonance of a ukulele to a banjolele for design. The quick answer to your question is no! Size isn't everything.

I think you should play a soprano sized uke and a concert sized uke to see which you prefer. Everybody is different from you. You must decide what you like the best.

Fair enough, good info! Looking fairly likely I'll be going with this http://www.southernukulelestore.co.uk/Product/618/S-U-S-Concert-Ukulele-ALL-SOLID-MAHOGANY-only-%C2%A379-99 :) I would try both sizes, but my friends only have very cheap sopranos... still fun to play on though (and I have no easy access to a music store where I am). I'm sure concert will be a good size for me, and I'm also sure that in the future, I will end up getting a soprano as well! A man's gotta start somewhere, and this one just seems right. Gonna call up the shop tomorrow.

@TheBathBird You're right, they're upgraded versions of the Aria ACU-250, and a really good price too! Pretty sure I'm going with the same SUS Concert Uke your son has. I can't wait; I'm going to call them tomorrow. Did you order it on-line? If so, when it arrived was it fully set up/didn't need action etc. fiddled with? Cheers!

deschutestrout
02-02-2015, 07:38 AM
I think you should play a soprano sized uke and a concert sized uke to see which you prefer. Everybody is different from you. You must decide what you like the best.

I second that. If you can, try both sizes. I tried a soprano for a while, and personally found the frets too confining. I prefer concerts. BUT THAT IS JUST ME!!! Many others prefer sopranos, and MANY end up with one or more of each size. If you enjoy the uke, you'll likely eventually own several. Your first should be a decent quality of appropriate size that you'll ENJOY PLAYING.

TheBathBird
02-02-2015, 08:08 AM
Woohoo! Exciting :D I rang the shop and ordered it over the phone. It was over a year ago, but as far as I remember I just asked them to send me the one with the lowest action. He was only 12 at the time, but he found it easy to play (listening to him play wasn't quite so easy however - there's only so many times you can hear House of the Rising Sun before you lose the will to live) and we've never had to fiddle with it :) I'm sure you'll find them very helpful, I'll look forward to hearing how you get on with it!

tomxoqt
02-02-2015, 08:17 AM
Thanks a lot man :)