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tbeltrans
05-09-2015, 12:54 PM
After dropping my wife off at JoAnn Fabric, I walked over to Guitar Center to wander around a bit. I did not need/buy anything, but I did get interested in checking out a used Kamaka Soprano ukulele hanging on the wall in the acoustic section.

I think it was an HF-1 (since it looked exactly like the one on Kamaka's site and seems to be the only Soprano they showed), with a hard shell case and from the 1990s (according to the sales guy). It had a white label inside, so I assume that is what people mean when they talk here about "white label" Kamakas. It was selling for $499, and they would let it go for closer to $400.

Anyway, I tried it (not that I have $400 to spend anyway...) and did not care for it. It is quite different from my Ohta-San. The Ohta-San has really smooth tuners, called "Planetary" tuners that make tuning really easy. The Soprano had tuners that looked somewhat like the tuners on my Ohta-San, but seemed too sensitive, making tuning more difficult than on my Ohta-San. I could not seem to get the entire ukulele in tune. If it was in tune with the open strings, it was a bit out of tune playing chords a few frets up the neck. The E string seemed to have a slight intonation problem.

The out-of-tuneness was subtle, but really bothersome to me. Electric guitars often seem to have that same sort of thing going on, which may be one reason I have never wanted to own one.

Edit: I tried a couple of different ways of tuning, as has been discussed in other threads and none of them seemed to resolve the issues completely. Often, you can compensate for certain issues when tuning, but none of that seemed to completely clear up the problem. I am wondering if the very short size/scale contributes to the problem. It wasn't a quality issue, from what I could tell. Kamaka is a quality instrument.

What I don't know is if this sort of thing is common with Soprano ukuleles in general, since I have no experience with them. The Kamaka apparently sells for $995 new, so it must be a pretty darn nice ukulele in the Soprano market segment.

Even if the issues I mentioned were non-existent, I realize that the Concert size is probably as small as I would care to go. For me, the Soprano is too small. Maybe there is a different way of holding them that I don't yet know about. Reading in these forums, it is clear to me that there is a lot I don't know about ukuleles and, as I readily admit, my sample size of experience with different ukuleles is rather small since I don't make it a habit to go around shopping for new instruments to add to my admittedly small collection.

On the positive side, this little Soprano has a big sound and looked very, very nice. I don't care for the all-Koa look on guitars, but find it quite appealing on ukuleles.

I think that sometimes, we can avoid UAS by realizing that we already did it "right" with the instruments we may already have. I have a concert size (Ohta-San) that is low G, and a Ko'olau Tenor size (re-entrant high G), and now I know for sure that I don't need a Soprano (any Soprano, because it is too small for me to handle comfortably).

My ukuleles play in tune and don't seem to exhibit intonation issues. I have not played many other ukuleles, and only one Soprano, so I really don't know what other ukuleles are like in terms of how well they play and remain in tune, how easy to get around the fretboard they are, etc.

Those things are important to me, so I am fortunate that my two ukuleles don't have those types of issues. Sometimes, it is good to reflect on what we have and be grateful for it. If what we have seems good to us, then maybe the urge to get something else may thankfully fade, to be replaced by a sense of satisfaction and the desire to simply play. I don't think this sense of satisfaction and being grateful for what we have needs to be tied at all to how much we paid for our ukuleles, but instead with how suitable they are for the music we want to make. There will always be something out there that is better than what we have, but also plenty that are not as good (at least for our individual needs).

Tony

Nickie
05-09-2015, 01:25 PM
Tony, I get it. I've never tried a soprano I liked, not even a white label Kamaka a TBUS member has. I did try one Kala solid mahog that wasn't bad, but I didn't like it well enough to pay 300+. I didn't even care for a LoPrinzi soprano a friend of mine had....
I guess you and I aren't soprano people....it's a matter of taste I suppose.

tbeltrans
05-09-2015, 01:47 PM
Tony, I get it. I've never tried a soprano I liked, not even a white label Kamaka a TBUS member has. I did try one Kala solid mahog that wasn't bad, but I didn't like it well enough to pay 300+. I didn't even care for a LoPrinzi soprano a friend of mine had....
I guess you and I aren't soprano people....it's a matter of taste I suppose.

Definitely. A lot of people here like Soprano ukuleles. I know some people don't care for tenor ukuleles. It really is a matter of what works for a given person. I would be curious to know if that out-of-tuneness is common among Soprano ukuleles due to their very short scale or if might have just been that particular one that I played. It wasn't awfully out of tune, but just enough to be bothersome. It always seems to me that certain types of solid body electric guitars have that same thing going on, and they certainly have a much longer scale.

Tony

CeeJay
05-09-2015, 02:10 PM
Sopranos are generally played differently to Tenors which tend to be finger picked like (please excuse,this is not belittling ) small guitars and are a little better with intonation because they are a bit larger and longer in the scale .

I find that Sopranos are the "speedsters" of the uke world and tend to be strummed ...you can finger pick a Soprano but you have to be more aware of the range limitation (after about the 7th fret they get a bit strangled sounding) and the intonation issues .

I believe Ohta - san does this with some success. As do I. Though,probably not as well as as the aforementioned gentleman.

I personally go opposite to T-bell , I don't "get" the Tenor (I have one from Bruce Wei).

..and have just purchased a guilele which I play like a guitar . Which I think is the point (?) as it gives some oomph at the bass end.

My Tenor IS re-entrant tuned , so that may be why I moved on to guilele .(I have actually variously tuned the tenor from GCEA to DGBE ,
too slack then to EADbGb, which is better but odd so may try F etc......)

I also have two Banjo Ukes ...one soprano necked 9" pot resonater which I have had man and boy since I was about 14, so that's 43 years and it is a bit older , mainly a strum machine . And a much newer (1 this munf) Kala concert necked 8" pot which I use for picking and strumming as the neck is a bit more spacious.

So I have tasted the apple at various different sizes , 2 Sops ,3 Concerts ,1 Tenor ,1 Guilele (Just this week ...Jury ...still urmmmmmm), 2 Banjo Ukes in the last 5 years having solely owned and played a Sop BU for the past 40 odd on and off.

It has been nice to dip a toe in the water in the last five years on returning to the uke to see what all the other sizes are about , but the Soprano remains my favourite. Horses for Courses I suppose.

I don't actually have UAS , I find that a strange thing ...I had curiosity ..that is now mostly curbed ....

Hippie Dribble
05-09-2015, 02:20 PM
Definitely. A lot of people here like Soprano ukuleles. I know some people don't care for tenor ukuleles. It really is a matter of what works for a given person. I would be curious to know if that out-of-tuneness is common among Soprano ukuleles due to their very short scale or if might have just been that particular one that I played. It wasn't awfully out of tune, but just enough to be bothersome. It always seems to me that certain types of solid body electric guitars have that same thing going on, and they certainly have a much longer scale.

Tony
Sopranos are less forgiving to your fretting hand. You have to be both soft and precise with your finger placements as you move further up the neck. Any string bending is always exaggerated on a shorter scale.

Hippie Dribble
05-09-2015, 02:47 PM
I think you pretty much said it all mate. You're not a soprano player. You're not used to fretting on a shorter scale nor tuning with standard friction tuners. That's fine. However, I think you taking that very limited experience and broadly identifying intonation issues existing predominantly with soprano ukes - given you've played only one - and electric git fiddles (played daily by gazillions) is ridiculous. But yeah, beyond that, your general point is well made: it's as good to know what you don't like as much as it is to know what you do.

SteveZ
05-09-2015, 02:57 PM
.....I think that sometimes, we can avoid UAS by realizing that we already did it "right" with the instruments we may already have.......Tony

Have to agree with the "did it right." However, getting to that point did take some experimentation. However, _AS (fill in the letter, depending in the instrument) still happens. For me, it's more curiosity that looking for the ultimate instrument. There have been a number of instruments that have come-and-gone, and that trend still continues.

I enjoy trying something new. An electric solid-body joined the stable last week. A steel-stringed KonaBlaster came before that, and a tenor-scale banjo uke is forthcoming. Sometimes the instrument stays for a long while or is sold/traded after the curiosity is satisfied. I've been lucky in that the total cash outgo has not been bad, thanks to decent/fair trades and sales.

_AS only becomes a problem when it becomes an obsession and the household suffers because if it.

janeray1940
05-09-2015, 03:22 PM
Anyway, I tried it (not that I have $400 to spend anyway...) and did not care for it. It is quite different from my Ohta-San. The Ohta-San has really smooth tuners, called "Planetary" tuners that make tuning really easy. The Soprano had tuners that looked somewhat like the tuners on my Ohta-San, but seemed too sensitive, making tuning more difficult than on my Ohta-San. I could not seem to get the entire ukulele in tune. If it was in tune with the open strings, it was a bit out of tune playing chords a few frets up the neck. The E string seemed to have a slight intonation problem.

...

What I don't know is if this sort of thing is common with Soprano ukuleles in general, since I have no experience with them. The Kamaka apparently sells for $995 new, so it must be a pretty darn nice ukulele in the Soprano market segment.

A few thoughts on this... in my experience, as the owner of 6 Kamakas over as many years - intonation issues are not typical, even on sopranos. I've owned two of their sopranos (and one super-soprano) and played many more, and have never noticed an intonation issue on any of them. I did once own a Kamaka concert that had intonation issues, but I bought it second-hand and sight-unseen, so - who knows how it got that way. I play high up the neck a lot, and am really sensitive to the intonation being off.

As for the tuners - yeah, the UPTs on your Ohta-San are what all Kamakas come with now, and they are fantastic (and account for about $100 of the price increase, I'd estimate). I still own two older (2000s) Kamakas with the old Schaller (I think) friction tuners, and while they don't really bother me, I do think from time to time of retrofitting them with the UPTs.

As for Kamakas of the era the one you encountered was - I dunno, I've heard they aren't the greatest. I've never owned one, I've encountered a few, and - personally I'd rather buy new. Not to say they're bad, but - don't let it color your judgment of sopranos, or Kamaka in general, because the 2000s and later ones are a lot better as players (rather than collector instruments) IMO. Knowing it's too small for you to play is a good reason to write off sopranos (just as I have done with tenors, for the opposite reason), but to me it sounds like you just encountered a less-than-stellar example all around.

Ukejenny
05-09-2015, 03:23 PM
There's nothing wrong with not getting into sopranos. I didn't think I would like them either. I have a little jangly Ohana that is perfect when I want something a little more plunky sounding.

tbeltrans
05-09-2015, 03:25 PM
I think you pretty much said it all mate. You're not a soprano player. You're not used to fretting on a shorter scale nor tuning with standard friction tuners. That's fine. However, I think you taking that very limited experience and broadly identifying intonation issues existing predominantly with soprano ukes - given you've played only one - and electric git fiddles (played daily by gazillions) is ridiculous. But yeah, beyond that, your general point is well made: it's as good to know what you don't like as much as it is to know what you do.

I had hoped I made myself clear in saying that I did not know if such an issue is true with all Sopranos or with just the one I played. I made no general statement about all Sopranos, but I did ask the question. I have received an answer from Hippie Dribble saying that I would have to adapt a technique for playing a Soprano. That is helpful information and I may reconsider and have another look.

Tony

sam13
05-09-2015, 03:29 PM
Just preference. I have several different sizes depending on the song and my emotional whim.

When I am working and need a quick pick me up ... I enjoy my Super Soprano Keli'i A LOT ... it is the 100% Mahogany solid wood ... I had the nut and saddle traded out for one made of Tulip Wood ... and it is sweet, mellow and full sounding ... just awesome.

At night or when I want to be a little mellow, I enjoy my Baritone Pono Pro Classic Spruce top ... it is mellow, bright and has Pro D'Arte strings on it which make for lovely finger style playing.

I enjoy my Tenors ... all of them for different reasons and seasons. My LFdM is my favourite.

Next on my list is a Clara ... it will be the only concert I get ... or a Kinnard Concert ...

tbeltrans
05-09-2015, 03:32 PM
A few thoughts on this... in my experience, as the owner of 6 Kamakas over as many years - intonation issues are not typical, even on sopranos. I've owned two of their sopranos (and one super-soprano) and played many more, and have never noticed an intonation issue on any of them. I did once own a Kamaka concert that had intonation issues, but I bought it second-hand and sight-unseen, so - who knows how it got that way. I play high up the neck a lot, and am really sensitive to the intonation being off.

As for the tuners - yeah, the UPTs on your Ohta-San are what all Kamakas come with now, and they are fantastic (and account for about $100 of the price increase, I'd estimate). I still own two older (2000s) Kamakas with the old Schaller (I think) friction tuners, and while they don't really bother me, I do think from time to time of retrofitting them with the UPTs.

As for Kamakas of the era the one you encountered was - I dunno, I've heard they aren't the greatest. I've never owned one, I've encountered a few, and - personally I'd rather buy new. Not to say they're bad, but - don't let it color your judgment of sopranos, or Kamaka in general, because the 2000s and later ones are a lot better as players (rather than collector instruments) IMO. Knowing it's too small for you to play is a good reason to write off sopranos (just as I have done with tenors, for the opposite reason), but to me it sounds like you just encountered a less-than-stellar example all around.

Thanks Janeray. I was curious about the tuners, and you answered that. As mentioned, I do own a Kamaka Ohta-San and think highly of it. I definitely have a lot to learn about playing a Soprano as Hippie Dribble pointed out, so maybe I will have to give that Soprano another look at some point. I have seen enough Youtube videos of people playing Sopranos, and they seem to get a lot of music out of them. I definitely was not comfortable trying to figure out how to hold the Soprano, so I figure I probably have more to learn about holding such a small instrument.

Your comment about that particular era of Kamaka is interesting. Are there good and not-so-good eras of Kamaka ukuleles? That would be an important data point to know about.

Tony

tbeltrans
05-09-2015, 03:39 PM
Sopranos are generally played differently to Tenors which tend to be finger picked like (please excuse,this is not belittling ) small guitars and are a little better with intonation because they are a bit larger and longer in the scale .

I find that Sopranos are the "speedsters" of the uke world and tend to be strummed ...you can finger pick a Soprano but you have to be more aware of the range limitation (after about the 7th fret they get a bit strangled sounding) and the intonation issues .

I believe Ohta - san does this with some success. As do I. Though,probably not as well as as the aforementioned gentleman.

I personally go opposite to T-bell , I don't "get" the Tenor (I have one from Bruce Wei).

..and have just purchased a guilele which I play like a guitar . Which I think is the point (?) as it gives some oomph at the bass end.

My Tenor IS re-entrant tuned , so that may be why I moved on to guilele .(I have actually variously tuned the tenor from GCEA to DGBE ,
too slack then to EADbGb, which is better but odd so may try F etc......)

I also have two Banjo Ukes ...one soprano necked 9" pot resonater which I have had man and boy since I was about 14, so that's 43 years and it is a bit older , mainly a strum machine . And a much newer (1 this munf) Kala concert necked 8" pot which I use for picking and strumming as the neck is a bit more spacious.

So I have tasted the apple at various different sizes , 2 Sops ,3 Concerts ,1 Tenor ,1 Guilele (Just this week ...Jury ...still urmmmmmm), 2 Banjo Ukes in the last 5 years having solely owned and played a Sop BU for the past 40 odd on and off.

It has been nice to dip a toe in the water in the last five years on returning to the uke to see what all the other sizes are about , but the Soprano remains my favourite. Horses for Courses I suppose.

I don't actually have UAS , I find that a strange thing ...I had curiosity ..that is now mostly curbed ....


Thanks CeeJay! The part of your post I marked in bold is definitely some information I obviously did not know. I am learning some good stuff in this thread about Soprano ukuleles.

Lie your tenor, mine is also re-entrant tuned. I am finding that I really like that tuning. Since I am starting to get into the campanella style of playing, the re-entrant is perfect for that. The Ohta-San is a bit smaller than a tenor, since it is concert sized. So having the tenor in re-entrant and the smaller concert size ukulele in low G, both sounds nice and full.

What I did really like about the Soprano I tried today is that it is high and clear - it really sings. With you folks have been telling me in this thread, I just may have to check it out again rather than deciding it isn't for me. I clearly did not know what to do with it.

I have yet to see a Banjo Ukulele, but I woudl bet it is an interesting instrument with a sound all its own.

Tony

Hippie Dribble
05-09-2015, 03:39 PM
I had hoped I made myself clear in saying that I did not know if such an issue is true with all Sopranos or with just the one I played. I made no general statement about all Sopranos, but I did ask the question. I have received an answer from Hippie Dribble saying that I would have to adapt a technique for playing a Soprano. That is helpful information and I may reconsider and have another look.

Tony
Fair enough mate. Guess I was trying to say that to ask the question itself is crazy given sopranos are the original scale length and have stood the test of time through all eras. Not sure they would have done so if they weren't intonated well.

To your other question about Kamaka sops and white labels v 200s: the two white labels I owned were absolute sound cannons; light and loud and gorgeous to play. The newer ones in my opinion are a little mellower sounding. Cheers!

tbeltrans
05-09-2015, 03:45 PM
Have to agree with the "did it right." However, getting to that point did take some experimentation. However, _AS (fill in the letter, depending in the instrument) still happens. For me, it's more curiosity that looking for the ultimate instrument. There have been a number of instruments that have come-and-gone, and that trend still continues.

I enjoy trying something new. An electric solid-body joined the stable last week. A steel-stringed KonaBlaster came before that, and a tenor-scale banjo uke is forthcoming. Sometimes the instrument stays for a long while or is sold/traded after the curiosity is satisfied. I've been lucky in that the total cash outgo has not been bad, thanks to decent/fair trades and sales.

_AS only becomes a problem when it becomes an obsession and the household suffers because if it.

I definitely agree with you on this. That is the problem - we don't know what we want to settle with until we have tried enough instruments to know. I don't know either that UAS is a "bad" thing, but some in these forums speak of it as something they can't stop. My suggestions are really about just slowing down and recognizing what we may already have. Everybody here is in a different place with their instruments. Some are still looking, so what I said would be completely irrelevant to them. Others enjoy collecting and have no interest in doing otherwise. Some enjoy buying and selling, keeping things fresh. So, really, my comments may apply to some who are getting a bit concerned about UAS. However, each of us has to decide that for ourselves. I suppose I was really reminding myself of that as much as saying it to anybody else. :)

Tony

tbeltrans
05-09-2015, 03:48 PM
There's nothing wrong with not getting into sopranos. I didn't think I would like them either. I have a little jangly Ohana that is perfect when I want something a little more plunky sounding.

Based on responses in this thread, I am starting to think my judgment of Soprano ukuleles is based on not enough knowledge about them. I have learned that they are largely for strumming, though you can finger pick them if you are careful, and in general the technique to play them is a bit different from what I have been used to playing with larger instruments. So I will, as a result of this thread, keep an open mid about Sopranos and may just add one someday to my own small collection.

Tony

janeray1940
05-09-2015, 03:49 PM
Thanks Janeray. I was curious about the tuners, and you answered that. As mentioned, I do own a Kamaka Ohta-San and think highly of it. I definitely have a lot to learn about playing a Soprano as Hippie Dribble pointed out, so maybe I will have to give that Soprano another look at some point. I have seen enough Youtube videos of people playing Sopranos, and they seem to get a lot of music out of them. I definitely was not comfortable trying to figure out how to hold the Soprano, so I figure I probably have more to learn about holding such a small instrument.

Your comment about that particular era of Kamaka is interesting. Are there good and not-so-good eras of Kamaka ukuleles? That would be an important data point to know about.

Tony

Hey Tony - this is just my opinion, based on what I've encountered in the wild, and what I've heard from players with similar taste in instruments, but - I was advised early on in my uke journey to steer clear of the 1980s and 1990s models. No idea if this is documented anywhere, but my guess is that the manufacturing process got a lot more consistent as technology developed in more recent years. I've heard some 1950s and earlier Kamaka sopranos that had really sweet tones, and my 2011 HP-1 is pretty near perfect, but when I first started playing, I ran across a few white label Kamakas with tempting price tags and was consistently underwhelmed. So much so, in fact, that my first "good" uke was a Koaloha, even though my heart had been set on a Kamaka :)

Another thing about sopranos in general - again, my opinion only - is that they aren't always a great choice for fingerstyle playing. Of course it can be done (hello, John King and Ohta-San!) but in my experience, in my much-less-than-virtuoso hands, the notes played higher up the neck just don't have the sustain and clarity that a longer scale uke has. Also, it's really easy to accidentally bend those soprano strings so that notes are a bit sharp or flat higher up the neck - even with my little hands, I tend to play a bit sharp when playing past the 12th fret because those frets are so tiny at that point.

Truth be told, if I didn't have such a nice soprano I'd probably have sold it long ago, and would solely play concert scale - for what I do, concerts are pretty perfect. As others have said, it's perfectly okay to write off "whatever"-scale as "just not for you!" And yes, it's even better to know that you appreciate and play what you have, and to not be on the lookout for something else. I've learned to never say never, but for now, that's where I am, and it's a pretty great place to be.

wayfarer75
05-09-2015, 04:00 PM
You might like a longneck soprano better, with more room on the fretboard it may not seem so small, but it will sound mostly like a soprano. Sounds like the Kamaka on the wall had a reason for hanging there. Not all ukes from Kamaka are amazing, and some have been through the wringer.

Yes, sopranos are different; I have two sopranos and a concert, and one of the sopranos is a Kamaka pineapple. It has great intonation and tone, but it doesn't have the sustain and depth of my concert uke. But it doesn't have to. It's supposed to be punchy and percussive, not ring out like the bigger sizes do at the higher frets. But the big ukes don't have that classic sound that I also love, and certain songs seem to work better on a soprano. It's why so many UUers have different sizes, though I do think things can get out of hand. The size and relatively low cost of ukes make them easier to accumulate than other instruments, I think.

I plan on getting a tenor, but I was just in Sam Ash today playing random ukes, and I am wondering if I shouldn't just get another concert (for high G fingerpicking; current concert is strung low G). The tenors didn't feel too big overall, they were comfortable to hold, but the fretboard is a good bit longer. I'll try them again soon, see how far I stretch. Tenor may not be for me. But then again, I was nervous when I got my concert after playing soprano exclusively. It seemed so big when I got it, but now it's no problem. Tenors are soooo popular, though, and sound so nice. I think my wee hands can do it. In any case, it might be the first uke I buy with the idea that I might sell it later.

Oh, and I tried out a 2014 Kamaka HF-1 last year before buying my pineapple. It had the Schaller tuners (seems not all have the Gotohs) and I thought they just plain sucked. The uke was fine, the tuners stunk.

CeeJay
05-09-2015, 04:04 PM
Another thing about sopranos in general - again, my opinion only - is that they aren't always a great choice for fingerstyle playing. Of course it can be done (hello, John King and Ohta-San!) but in my experience, in my much-less-than-virtuoso hands, the notes played higher up the neck just don't have the sustain and clarity that a longer scale uke has. Also, it's really easy to accidentally bend those soprano strings so that notes are a bit sharp or flat higher up the neck - even with my little hands, I tend to play a bit sharp when playing past the 12th fret because those frets are so tiny at that point.

.

Many Sopranos don't have more than the twelve frets or possibly just one or two above, because that is where they meet the body. They definitely require some thought aforehand if you are going to go up the stave and scale...you may need to adapt and go "across" the neck ....or alter the arrangement to suit ....or just hum LOL (sorry JRay, that's nearly strum and sing :) )

janeray1940
05-09-2015, 04:15 PM
Many Sopranos don't have more than the twelve frets or possibly just one or two above, because that is where they meet the body. They definitely require some thought aforehand if you are going to go up the stave and scale...you may need to adapt and go "across" the neck ....or alter the arrangement to suit ....or just hum LOL (sorry JRay, that's nearly strum and sing :) )

Trust me, nobody wants to hear me hum OR sing :)

I learned within my first three months of playing that 12 frets were not going to be enough - since then, I've had a pretty easy time finding sopranos that ranged from 15 to 19 frets. What made the greatest difference in tone and playability for me was having a 14-fret join rather than the standard 12-fret join you just described, but then I've only seen that on concert-neck/longneck/super sopranos.

sam13
05-09-2015, 04:38 PM
Another thing about sopranos in general - again, my opinion only - is that they aren't always a great choice for fingerstyle playing. Of course it can be done (hello, John King and Ohta-San!) but in my experience, in my much-less-than-virtuoso hands, the notes played higher up the neck just don't have the sustain and clarity that a longer scale uke has. Also, it's really easy to accidentally bend those soprano strings so that notes are a bit sharp or flat higher up the neck - even with my little hands, I tend to play a bit sharp when playing past the 12th fret because those frets are so tiny at that point.

My Keli'i Super Soprano has wider fret spacing at the nut, and wider string spacing on the saddle than Dave's LoPrinzi SS. We both prefer the Keli'i for finger style ... as it is quite comfortable to play plucking and the sustain is lovely. Now, getting up past the 7th fret the sound starts thinning out ... but it is full and warm.

wayfarer75
05-09-2015, 04:38 PM
LoPrinzi and Sailor ukuleles have a 14-fret join for soprano scale. I don't know of any other brands that do that in standard models. I had a LoPrinzi very briefly, and that was one of its selling points. But honestly I can reach the frets past the join just fine, especially on a smaller body like the sopranos have. I didn't know, though, because my first uke only had 12 frets total. But after 14th fret, my pineapple sounds like I'm plucking piano wire.

sam13
05-09-2015, 04:43 PM
I think for me ... 14 fretted Sopranos are the smallest I will go ... I would consider a Large Bodied Kinnard Super Soprano with sound port and radius ... sweetness.

wayfarer75
05-09-2015, 04:54 PM
My Keli'i Super Soprano has wider fret spacing at the nut, and wider string spacing on the saddle than Dave's LoPrinzi SS. We both prefer the Keli'i for finger style ... as it is quite comfortable to play plucking and the sustain is lovely. Now, getting up past the 7th fret the sound starts thinning out ... but it is full and warm.

Yes, the Kelii ukes are great; my concert is their koa "gold" model. Interestingly, it has a longer scale than most concerts, about 15.5 inches, which helps the notes ring. Mine does almost all the way up the neck. No piano wire there! 10th fret seems to be the sweet spot on mine. I love it.

Lori
05-09-2015, 07:08 PM
Sopranos are less forgiving to your fretting hand. You have to be both soft and precise with your finger placements as you move further up the neck. Any string bending is always exaggerated on a shorter scale.
:agree:Yes, this. Another factor can be old strings. You never know how old the strings on a used instrument are, and it can make a difference in intonation. Combine bad strings, and subtle fretting problems, and it could account for the problem.
–Lori

igorthebarbarian
05-09-2015, 09:17 PM
I have small hands (for a guy) so I actually don't mind sopranos at all. I think any guy with decent-sized hands would probably want a concert at the smallest end. I like the comparison too about sopranos being speedsters. I pretty much am strictly a strummer so I guess maybe soprano is right for me(?).
But in the end, it's all really trial-and-error. It's not like you can just go to Kohl's and try them all on, like they're pairs of slacks.
I suppose someday I'll find a good mix of sizes/types/woods, and a good reasonable # of ukes to have that will keep me satisfied without running out of closet space and without upsetting my wife!

caspet
05-09-2015, 09:49 PM
Soprano too small you say?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrcfwwfD5eY

geetee
05-10-2015, 01:45 AM
I'm curious to know if you realize that your Ohta-san, which Kamaka also calls the Concert Bell, has an almost one inch longer scale length than the standard concert. When you drop down to a soprano, you're essentially going down two sizes, so it's definitely going to seem a lot smaller than what you are used to.

tbeltrans
05-10-2015, 03:12 AM
Fair enough mate. Guess I was trying to say that to ask the question itself is crazy given sopranos are the original scale length and have stood the test of time through all eras. Not sure they would have done so if they weren't intonated well.

To your other question about Kamaka sops and white labels v 200s: the two white labels I owned were absolute sound cannons; light and loud and gorgeous to play. The newer ones in my opinion are a little mellower sounding. Cheers!

Yes, I know (and agree) that Soprano ukuleles have been around a long time. Aren't they the "original" ukulele, with the other larger types coming along later? Anyway, until I encountered the larger ukuleles much more recently, the ukulele playing I had usually heard, seemed slightly out of tune. I thought maybe what I was hearing was inexpensive ukuleles and when I finally heard an expensive one that played in tune ( a year or so ago), that maybe that was the difference. I have since learned that what I heard was expensive, but also a larger model (concert or tenor), and that cost does not seem to necessarily be a factor in how well in tune it plays.

What I have since learned in this thread, indicates that Soprano ukuleles CAN play in tune, but that the player needs to be careful to make that happen (i.e. different technique than one might use with the longer scale length of the larger ukuleles). So all of this is making sense, and though my questions may seem "crazy" (and probably are), I am getting rational answers here from which I am learning why a Soprano in general may go out of tune while being played, and also why there is good probability that the particular ukulele I played had the issues I noticed. I recognize intonation issues from having played guitar a long time. There are things a person learns from being around and involved with various types of musical instruments. Those, such as yourself, who have been around ukuleles for some time, probably know these things about ukuleles. I am learning these things.

Guitars tend to have more intonation issues as the scale gets shorter. To me, the tenor and concert ukuleles have short scales, but the ones I have encountered, seem to play in tune rather well. I thin I will check out a few more decent Soprano ukuleles to see if they exhibit the same issues as the one I played yesterday. Thee is a store around my area that stocks Collings, Martin, and some Kamakas and the occasional Ko'olau. Mostly, they have the larger ukuleles, but I see on their web site that they do have a Kamaka F-1L, which is the current version of the ukulele that I tried yesterday, but with a long neck. According to the Kamaka site, it will have the same tuners as the one I tried yesterday. The HF-1+ has (I think) the same tuners as my Kamaka Ohta-San.

So in the end, I now do have a couple of possible explanations for why the ukulele I played yesterday sounded out of tune, making my question less crazy and more of a learning experience, which is what I was looking for.

Tony

tbeltrans
05-10-2015, 03:18 AM
I'm curious to know if you realize that your Ohta-san, which Kamaka also calls the Concert Bell, has an almost one inch longer scale length than the standard concert. When you drop down to a soprano, you're essentially going down two sizes, so it's definitely going to seem a lot smaller than what you are used to.

At the time that I purchased the Ohta-San, I only knew that it sounded very good, played in tune and easily, and was different from what I typically had previously thought of as "ukulele". I have since been learning the things you mentioned. As I mentioned in another post in this thread, I have played guitar a long time and know that the shorter the scale, the greater the possibility for intonation problems. Ukuleles have a much shorter scale than most guitars, so I would expect (based on my "guitar" thinking) that ukuleles would have a much higher probability of intonation issues. However, I have the Ohta-San and a Ko'olau tenor, and neither seems to have such issues.

The Soprano I played yesterday was quite small and had a 12 fret neck. As I asked in my original post, I wondered if ALL such small ukuleles have intonation issues. The answers I have gotten have indicated that this is not the case, but that one must be really careful not to pull the strings while playing since the short scale makes it very easy to do (i.e. very low tension). Also, apparently Kamaka has had quality issues in the past, and the particular ukulele I played was from one of those eras. So I have learned some new (to me) things in this thread.

Tony

tbeltrans
05-10-2015, 03:21 AM
Soprano too small you say?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrcfwwfD5eY

Wow! That is a shirt pocket ukulele! Wear it like a pen in the pocket and play anywhere. It is difficult at those ultra-high notes to really hear intonation issues, but it seems to sound OK to me. How is he able to chord on such a small fretboard? There would seem ( to me) to be a practical limit to how small the ukulele could be and still be functional. Obviously that ukulele is still functional even though you can barely see it through his hands.

Tony

tbeltrans
05-10-2015, 03:23 AM
I have small hands (for a guy) so I actually don't mind sopranos at all. I think any guy with decent-sized hands would probably want a concert at the smallest end. I like the comparison too about sopranos being speedsters. I pretty much am strictly a strummer so I guess maybe soprano is right for me(?).
But in the end, it's all really trial-and-error. It's not like you can just go to Kohl's and try them all on, like they're pairs of slacks.
I suppose someday I'll find a good mix of sizes/types/woods, and a good reasonable # of ukes to have that will keep me satisfied without running out of closet space and without upsetting my wife!

Well, fortunately, my first two ukuleles were "it" for me. I wasn't shopping for a Soprano, but I was surprised to see a Kamaka at Guitar Center, and to see it selling relatively inexpensively. As another poster here said, there is a reason it is still hanging on their wall.

Tony

tbeltrans
05-10-2015, 03:24 AM
:agree:Yes, this. Another factor can be old strings. You never know how old the strings on a used instrument are, and it can make a difference in intonation. Combine bad strings, and subtle fretting problems, and it could account for the problem.
–Lori

Good point. The strings on it were black, and for me, it is difficult to determine how old they are. Usually, with lighter color strings, I can see wear.

Tony

SteveZ
05-10-2015, 03:48 AM
How one plays, and how much of the fretboard is actually used, also impacts instrument choice.

I'm one of those folk that no matter whether it's the tenor guitar, banjo uke or the Flea soprano, I rarely go beyond the sixth fret. There's a lot of chord combinations within the first six frets (especially in fifths tuning), and knowing a lot of them makes my board-range limitation a minor one. My right (picking) hand usually covers for my lack of left-hand speed/dexterity. Because of that, up-board intonation problems common in many instruments are nonexistent.

Despite the above, sopranos are at the bottom of my instrument choice. CeeJay's "speedster strummer" label says it all, as it succinctly describes where sopranos shine. That "speedster" style doesn't fit my playing method(s) and rarely fits the genres i prefer. i appreciate the "speedsters" and what they do, but the span of ukedom is broad enough to cover much more.

Back to UAS.... until one has handled a variety of instruments by scale length, weight, tonal response, string types and such long enough to determine if the human/instrument combination is a good one, one never knows if one's choices are optimal. There are so many lower-cost but with satisfatory musical response instruments in the marketplace that being able to "sample the lot" can be done without needing a second mortgage to cover the costs.

New ukulele choices where I live are darned few. As a result, I glean as much information as I can from reviews and rely mainly on online sources. About half of the ukes which have been or are part of the stable have come through as resales on the UU marketplace, and that has kept costs under reasonable control.

caspet
05-10-2015, 04:06 AM
No "speedster strummer" here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrDLOaPdgGM

CeeJay
05-10-2015, 04:22 AM
No "speedster strummer" here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrDLOaPdgGM

Quite so , no "intonation" issues either , and to be fair I did say "generally" .

Sam's Soprano uke is a custom made special , it has a concert sized neck :nana: ;)

But supoib playing ...................and yes there are others King, Ohta-San are the two that spring to mind.

tbeltrans
05-10-2015, 04:26 AM
No "speedster strummer" here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrDLOaPdgGM

It would be worth getting a Soprano just for THAT sound. It is a wonderful rendition of "Jesu". David Qualey, the guitarist, plays Jesu with a similar bell-like tone on his classical guitar by capoing way up on the neck. I think the Soprano ukulele in this video allows more finger room. CeeJay indicates that the neck on this Soprano is longer. I know that Kamaka makes the HF-1L, which has a longer (Concert size?) neck on a Soprano ukulele. One thing for sure, this one in the video is in tune!

Edit: Just as I mentioned David Qualey, the nxt video up on Youtube is him playing Jesu, but without the capo. I have never seen him do it that way before. I think I personally prefer the bell-like tone from the Soprano ukulele and/or David Qualey capoing way up the neck.

Tony

tbeltrans
05-10-2015, 04:42 AM
How one plays, and how much of the fretboard is actually used, also impacts instrument choice.

I'm one of those folk that no matter whether it's the tenor guitar, banjo uke or the Flea soprano, I rarely go beyond the sixth fret. There's a lot of chord combinations within the first six frets (especially in fifths tuning), and knowing a lot of them makes my board-range limitation a minor one. My right (picking) hand usually covers for my lack of left-hand speed/dexterity. Because of that, up-board intonation problems common in many instruments are nonexistent.

Despite the above, sopranos are at the bottom of my instrument choice. CeeJay's "speedster strummer" label says it all, as it succinctly describes where sopranos shine. That "speedster" style doesn't fit my playing method(s) and rarely fits the genres i prefer. i appreciate the "speedsters" and what they do, but the span of ukedom is broad enough to cover much more.

Back to UAS.... until one has handled a variety of instruments by scale length, weight, tonal response, string types and such long enough to determine if the human/instrument combination is a good one, one never knows if one's choices are optimal. There are so many lower-cost but with satisfatory musical response instruments in the marketplace that being able to "sample the lot" can be done without needing a second mortgage to cover the costs.

New ukulele choices where I live are darned few. As a result, I glean as much information as I can from reviews and rely mainly on online sources. About half of the ukes which have been or are part of the stable have come through as resales on the UU marketplace, and that has kept costs under reasonable control.

Yes, I was EXTREMELY fortunate that the owner of Willie's in St. Paul is also an avid ukulele player. He tends to keep a few "high end" ukuleles in stock and I was able to pick the two that I have from playing them. I also think that, having played guitar for many years, I had a sense of what I wanted in general - easy to play, good sound, in tune. I also agree that one could get all of that in a much less expensive ukulele. Since I didn't have to borrow (I do live debt-free), I figured I could afford these - but I would not be able to afford to continue buying instruments. I did pay for the Ohta-San, but the Ko'olau was a straight-across trade for a guitar that I bought back in the mid-90s that I wanted to sell.

Regarding the "speed strummer" style, I agree with you. It is definitely a skill, and as can be seen with Jake Shimabukuro's performances, a definite crowd-pleaser. However, it is not my interest to play like that, though I can appreciate those who do go that direction. I have similar tastes in the guitar. I really don't care for the Eddie Van Halen approach, nor do I care for the slapping acoustic guitar style that seems to have taken hold. Both of those techniques can be used tastefully to add a bit of "spice" to one's playing, but to me doing it all the time seems overdone. However, it is quite a skill to be admired, and definitely a crowd-pleaser.

For me, the most beautiful presentation of the ukulele is in a solo acoustic instrumental setting (I have similar taste with the guitar too). The most-listened ukulele album for me is Daniel Ho's "Polani". Also, I really enjoy the three albums by Gordon Mark. I have downloaded some really nice Youtube videos of Ohta-san playing solo instrumental pieces. This is the style I aspire to. That said, I can certainly appreciate what other players are doing. I do enjoy watching Jake Shimabukuro's live DVD from time to time, and the numerous videos put up by people across a variety of styles in this forum. We all have our favorites, and mine just happens to be solo fingerstyle.

Tony

CeeJay
05-10-2015, 04:56 AM
It would be worth getting a Soprano just for THAT sound. It is a wonderful rendition of "Jesu". David Qualey, the guitarist, plays Jesu with a similar bell-like tone on his classical guitar by capoing way up on the neck. I think the Soprano ukulele in this video allows more finger room. CeeJay indicates that the neck on this Soprano is longer. I know that Kamaka makes the HF-1L, which has a longer (Concert size?) neck on a Soprano ukulele. One thing for sure, this one in the video is in tune!

Edit: Just as I mentioned David Qualey, the nxt video up on Youtube is him playing Jesu, but without the capo. I have never seen him do it that way before. I think I personally prefer the bell-like tone from the Soprano ukulele and/or David Qualey capoing way up the neck.

Tony

I don't "indicate";) , I "know" ;) because I have conversed with Sam , and I also know by whom and where it was built.

Give me a minute and I'll rustle up his web page.


http://www.wunderkammerinstruments.co.uk

Told you.

tbeltrans
05-10-2015, 04:58 AM
I don't "indicate";) , I "know" ;) because I have conversed with Sam , and I also know by whom and where it was built.

Give me a minute and I'll rustle up his web page.

Sorry, I did not mean anything different than what you said by using the word "indicate". You have provided a lot of solid insight in this thread, and that post was no exception.

Tony

CeeJay
05-10-2015, 05:13 AM
Sorry, I did not mean anything different than what you said by using the word "indicate". You have provided a lot of solid insight in this thread, and that post was no exception.

Tony

Nor did I , Tony , I was just emphasising that the comment was based on actual knowledge from Sam herself rather than an observation of the vid. No worries,no probs.

tbeltrans
05-10-2015, 07:35 AM
Nor did I , Tony , I was just emphasising that the comment was based on actual knowledge from Sam herself rather than an observation of the vid. No worries,no probs.

Fully agreed. :)

Tony

caspet
05-11-2015, 12:00 AM
Of course if you just want to put a smile on your face - or uke.

http://www.facebook.com/100000893845139/videos/vr.929039487135837/956150397758079/?type=2&theater

Brian W
05-11-2015, 08:09 AM
Sopranos are generally played differently to Tenors which tend to be finger picked like (please excuse,this is not belittling ) small guitars and are a little better with intonation because they are a bit larger and longer in the scale .

I find that Sopranos are the "speedsters" of the uke world and tend to be strummed ...you can finger pick a Soprano but you have to be more aware of the range limitation (after about the 7th fret they get a bit strangled sounding) and the intonation issues .

I believe Ohta - san does this with some success. As do I. Though,probably not as well as as the aforementioned gentleman.

I personally go opposite to T-bell , I don't "get" the Tenor (I have one from Bruce Wei).

..and have just purchased a guilele which I play like a guitar . Which I think is the point (?) as it gives some oomph at the bass end.

My Tenor IS re-entrant tuned , so that may be why I moved on to guilele .(I have actually variously tuned the tenor from GCEA to DGBE ,
too slack then to EADbGb, which is better but odd so may try F etc......)

I also have two Banjo Ukes ...one soprano necked 9" pot resonater which I have had man and boy since I was about 14, so that's 43 years and it is a bit older , mainly a strum machine . And a much newer (1 this munf) Kala concert necked 8" pot which I use for picking and strumming as the neck is a bit more spacious.

So I have tasted the apple at various different sizes , 2 Sops ,3 Concerts ,1 Tenor ,1 Guilele (Just this week ...Jury ...still urmmmmmm), 2 Banjo Ukes in the last 5 years having solely owned and played a Sop BU for the past 40 odd on and off.

It has been nice to dip a toe in the water in the last five years on returning to the uke to see what all the other sizes are about , but the Soprano remains my favourite. Horses for Courses I suppose.

I don't actually have UAS , I find that a strange thing ...I had curiosity ..that is now mostly curbed ....



As primarily a soprano player, I have to agree with CeeJay's assessment. The shorter scale tends to augment the slight "out-of-tune" sound of these instruments more than a quality tenor will. I noticed this years ago while comparing a Fender Strat to a Gibson Les Paul at a local music store. I played both guitars through an amp's clean channel and could never make the Les Paul play as "in-tune" as the Fender; at least without any added distortion. I found out later that the scale length of the Fender is actually 3/4 of an inch longer than the Gibson. I also agree that sopranos are the "speedsters" of the ukulele world, and shine best when strummed. Their plunky, percussive tone works so well with the different strumming techniques, that they always bring a smile to my face when played. They are definitely more challenging to play precisely, but with a little practice can sound great in the hands of a seasoned player. I too have played around with different scale lengths, but keep coming back to the soprano size as they sound the most "ukulele" to my ears. This is by no means a put-down of the other scale length ukuleles, as I think tenors sound great for fingerstyle. It's just that style of playing does not appeal to me. I like the fact that there are so many more options, such as body size, number of strings, scale-length. and tunings, available to ukulele players, compared to say the guitar. There is always an interesting debate among players as to which scale is the "best", to which I say they all are :) .

CeeJay
05-12-2015, 03:07 AM
I may have got my wires crossed with the Sam Muir / Liam Kirby ukelele . :o

Caspet has been in touch with Liam Kirby who assure that the uke in Sams hands is standard Soprano scale ,which makes it all the more impressive and leaves me scratching my head and looking back over my previous messages back and forth . I think I'll just ask her if I am cracking up .It happens .:nana:


Is it a concert width at the nut ?...maybe, I dunno, I give up.:stop:

Apologies if I unintentionally misled anybody . I shall go and give myself a right duffing up now.

tbeltrans
05-12-2015, 03:21 AM
I may have got my wires crossed with the Sam Muir / Liam Kirby ukelele . :o

Caspet has been in touch with Liam Kirby who assure that the uke in Sams hands is standard Soprano scale ,which makes it all the more impressive and leaves me scratching my head and looking back over my previous messages back and forth . I think I'll just ask her if I am cracking up .It happens .:nana:


Is it a concert width at the nut ?...maybe, I dunno, I give up.:stop:

Apologies if I unintentionally misled anybody . I shall go and give myself a right duffing up now.

I think we all do that from time to time. It is normal and the right thing to do, as you did, is correct the information. Nothing wrong with that. I think in one post I said my Ohta-San is high G, which is not true. I don't know if Ohta-Sans are shipped with low G or not, since the only one I have had contact with is the one I have. I once claimed that Jerry Donahue ( the Telecaster player) lives locally, when I meant to say that Pat Donahue does (or at least did at the time). I could go on, but I think the point is that we all mistakenly say one thing when we meant another or didn't have quite the right information or whatever.

Tony