PDA

View Full Version : New Ukulele question



wawakelvin
06-18-2015, 06:22 AM
I recently bought a Kohala KA-SL. I like it a lot, but I'm a little annoyed that the intonation is wrong on the third fret. I also can't play some tabs I looked up since there isn't enough room on the fretboard.

Do you think I should go for a concert instead? I bought this instrument to travel with, but as someone pointed out, taking a concert along in a soft bag isn't going to be much easier than a soprano--it might even be the same bag size.

I was reading good things about the KALA KA-C concert ukulele. My local shop can order one for me, and will let me do an exchange. They told me that the instruments come in good condition from the factory and generally don't need a setup. If I do order one, is there anything I should have done to it, like lowering the action? Is that typically free?

Thanks for any ideas related or unrelated.

PhilUSAFRet
06-18-2015, 06:31 AM
Many local shops do not do setups on inexpensive ukes, if they are able to do them at all. While it's true that some Kala's arrive "ready to play", many do not arrive that way. Learning to do a setup is not rocket science and may involve only deepening a grove on a nut, or lowering it and the saddle slightly.
Smoothing the fret ends is easy as it adjusting screws on loose tuning machines. As long as the neck is installed correctly and the intonation check's out halfway decent at the store, it can usually be fine tuned and there are many, many tutorials on the subject.

Here's one of the better articles on the subject. There are more that are also good. http://www.theukulelesite.com/ukulele-setup

wawakelvin
06-18-2015, 06:42 AM
They said they would be able to do a setup if it needs it. Maybe that's just business talk.

Would it be better to order from The Ukulele Site online in terms of getting the correct setup? I don't know how much this local store deals with ukuleles. They seem to be more of a guitar store.

What about the sizing?

Mivo
06-18-2015, 07:36 AM
Yes, always order from a site, or a store, that performs proper setups. That's the best way to ensure that you get an instrument that is perfectly playable, has proper intonation, and won't disappoint you. A good setup is the most important aspect, and probably the one that most people starting out overlook because they don't even know about it (that was the case for me, too).

As for the size, it's a matter of preference. I feel that a tenor is ideal for finger picking, but then you have players like the late John King who played complex classical pieces on sopranos and concerts in amazing perfection. You're probably pretty good already if you are working on pieces that require more than 10 or 12 frets! I'm definitely not there yet. It's also not just scale length that matters. Some brands and builders offer wider necks, thicker or thinner necks, some have more or fewer frets to the body (and on the body), and so on. Wood choice matters also for the sound. Concert is probably a happy medium as far as frets and volume/fullness of sound are concerned (but this is not a hard rule, really).

See, you are about to discover a dilemma that many of us face! Ideally, I'd only like to have one ukulele, but I find myself being somewhat unable to decide on the "one" size, because I like different aspects about the three major sizes. I just made a stronger commitment to a tenor (will post about it when it arrives), but I still also enjoy the soprano size for its cuteness and extreme portability, and I never had a good concert, so lacking experience with that. As you wrote, though, in terms of portability the size differences aren't all that large. Can't think of too many situations where you can take a soprano in a hard shell case, but not a tenor. (Maybe that matters on planes? I've never flown!)

One thing I learned is that if you're sure that you will keep playing, buy the best instruments you can reasonably afford. Buying twice and thrice and more times, always slowly upgrading a little, is not necessarily cost efficient in the long run. Better instruments also have better resell value.

There are many other views on all of this, all equally valid. In the end, it depends on you and what is right for you personally.

Icelander53
06-18-2015, 07:40 AM
I have found that buying and selling (I'm weak on the selling part) is a necessary part of the process for determining what is a "best" instrument at any cost.

However your point is well made that starting off on a sub par instrument is a recipe for quitting.

wawakelvin
06-18-2015, 08:29 AM
Thanks for the help.

I just have to decide whether it's worth paying the $25 shipping to buy online from The Ukulele Store, in the hopes that the setup makes a difference, or buy it locally.

I'm pretty sure I will be playing for a while. I've played guitar before but the ukulele feels more natural to me. (I'm definitely still very inexperienced. The song that used more frets was a version of Hawaii Five-O.) I'm all for buying the best instrument I can afford to start off with. It seems like the KA-C is a real instrument, playable and enjoyable--maybe that's not right, though? Is there something else that would be significantly better if I went up a little in price? I'm very broke, but could probably sell an old guitar to make up the difference. I'll be traveling with this instrument, 'backpacking,' buses, planes, hostels, hotels, etc. in Mexico. I'm on Amazon now trying to find a waterproof soft case with a shoulder strap.

So glad I can ask some experienced people here!

Hawkshaw
06-18-2015, 09:17 AM
I would recommend the Ukulele Site (Hawaiian Music Supply). They do a fine set-up, are dependable, and honest.

Icelander53
06-18-2015, 09:34 AM
Thanks for the help.

I just have to decide whether it's worth paying the $25 shipping to buy online from The Ukulele Store, in the hopes that the setup makes a difference, or buy it locally.

I'm pretty sure I will be playing for a while. I've played guitar before but the ukulele feels more natural to me. (I'm definitely still very inexperienced. The song that used more frets was a version of Hawaii Five-O.) I'm all for buying the best instrument I can afford to start off with. It seems like the KA-C is a real instrument, playable and enjoyable--maybe that's not right, though? Is there something else that would be significantly better if I went up a little in price? I'm very broke, but could probably sell an old guitar to make up the difference. I'll be traveling with this instrument, 'backpacking,' buses, planes, hostels, hotels, etc. in Mexico. I'm on Amazon now trying to find a waterproof soft case with a shoulder strap.

So glad I can ask some experienced people here!

You may be throwing away $25 bucks because it's already in good shape. So hey save yourself a few.

or

It comes in hard to play, you finally pay a luthier to set it up for $30-40 or you just give up.

Buy your ticket and take your chances. I'd go HMS. Even if money is tight $25 is not going to be missed long term.

Inksplosive AL
06-18-2015, 10:26 AM
Elderly seems like a much better deal what with free shipping and all.

http://elderly.com/new_instruments/cats/180N.htm

BTW. Use your nail pressed down on the string to the body where the fret should be and bingo fretless note off the scale.

Nickie
06-18-2015, 02:05 PM
Not to confuse things for you, but my favorite uke seller is Mim's Ukes. I've bought three ukes from her, and have never been disappointed. Her setups and customer service are top notch. So now you have plenty of good choices! Good luck.

Icelander53
06-18-2015, 02:44 PM
Mim, uke republic, HMS. Three we can trust to go above and beyond many of the others.

wawakelvin
06-18-2015, 03:32 PM
Thanks for all the options. A lot of sites don't seem to stock the KA-C, but only the slightly more expensive versions. Also didn't see free shipping unfortunately.

After reading the comments, I will definitely return the Uke I have and go with an online site.

SteveZ
06-19-2015, 02:16 AM
Buying from a store that does setups definitely is a plus, but often still leaves a little more to be done. Too many shops sell a "box containing a ukulele-like item," making the purchase a "buyer beware" event.

Shops which do setups prior to shipment also do something more important - a quality insurance inspection of the instrument. Mass production by the thousands of units coupled with international shipping means a certain percentage of stock will have problems at the consumer end. Having that pre-delivery inspection and warranty service site has a value, as those shops rarely let a defective instrument be shipped under their label.

As far as setups go, there really are three. The first is the manufacturer's setup. It usually involves the last tweak of the instrument to prove sound will occur. The action is usually quite high at both ends, because the lower the action is set en-masse the higher the potential of a greater rejection rate. So, "high" is safe.

The second setup is the shop's setup. A good example of what's done is shown at the HMS website (great video!). It's a combination quality inspection and playability tweak. These setups are fairly generic, setting actions to more comfortable heights and such, and are normally satisfactory for the bulwark of players.

The third setup is the custom tweak. Some players prefer actions at both ends lower-higher than the generic norm. In addition, some folk prefer a certain "feel" which requires special strings (and tension). For this, the player will have the work either done by a local luthier or do the work him/herself. The custom tweak is not that hard to do, but if done wrong may require replacing the nut or saddle.

Bottom line: expecting perfect play from a mass-produced instrument which never is inspected-setup between being packed by the manufacturer and delivered to the consumer is highly optimistic. Saving a couple bucks at one end often means a greater expense in the end.

Booli
06-19-2015, 03:03 AM
Last time I checked a few days ago, HMS was charging $23.45 for 2-DAY FEDEX (for the Kala KA-SL for example), which is in fact completely different from other vendors that charge anywhere from $15 and up for UPS or Fedex ground, which is typically SEVEN CALENDAR DAYS.

The longer your uke is in transit, and subject to temperature/humidity extremes (which I would consider climate abusive to the instrument), is up to you, but I personally think that the shipping charges from HMS are justified.

Plus, if the uke does NOT ship IN a case, WITH a humidifier, no matter where you buy it from, you are playing russian roulette with the wood, hoping it wont crack due to shrinkage from lack of humidity.

wawakelvin
06-19-2015, 07:17 AM
MIM offers $10 standard shipping that will take a little longer than the $25 shipping. I'm pretty sure the KA-C is laminate wood, so would it be more resistant to temperature and humidity. I'm likely going to be traveling with this instrument.

wawakelvin
06-19-2015, 08:06 AM
Right now Mim has a Ohana Concert CK-10S Laminate Mahogany for $97. Have you heard anything about this instrument, or Ohanas?

Rllink
06-19-2015, 08:48 AM
Ohanas have a good reputation, often considered equal to Kalas and some prefer them (for subjective reasons, as far as I can tell). Note, however, that the CK-10S doesn't have fret markers on the side of the fretboard, one reason I've ruled out most Ohanas from consideration in the past. (A number of newer models, particularly tenors and baris, have the dots, but the smaller sizes generally don't.) When learning initially, you may not care, and some people never refer to the side markers, but they're easier to see than face markers when you play in proper position, and unlike face markers they're never hidden by the fingers (unless you're a thumb wrapper).Well, I agree that I like side markers, but just because a uke doesn't come with them doesn't mean that you can't put a little dab of white paint up there where you want it. My Mainland came without them, and the next day I fixed that. So I would not let that stop me from buying a uke.

By the way, use a tooth pick and a steady hand to dab those side markers on there, and give it plenty of time to dry.

Nickie
06-19-2015, 12:03 PM
I've been considering asking my luthier to install side fret markers on my ukes. Now I think I'm going to have to ask him about this, being that a new uke isn't anywhere near me in the near future (unless there's a gimmie lurking around the corner)

wawakelvin
06-19-2015, 07:14 PM
Maybe it's a mistake, but I tend to hole instruments so I can see the fretboard and its markings. I don't think the side markers would bother me much.

I just havn't found many reviews of the Ohana Concert CK-10S , but Mim says she prefers them for the lower quality instruments. She said in a message she likes some specific things about them better. I figure she knows what she's talking about since she deals with ukes a lot, and she does sell some other Kala models. What do you think? I was at the music store today and played all the ukuleles they had--concert is definitely for me, and I can see now that the action or something about my first uke was screwed up. I think it was a Cordoba concert that I liked there, about 100 dollars.

After watching and rewatching all the CK-10S and KA-C videos I could find, I think the Ohana has a better sound, although it's hard to tell from all the variables with a video. I like the look of the KA-C a lot more.

Mivo
06-19-2015, 09:06 PM
If in doubt, just go with Mim's recommendation. She has a stellar reputation and knows what she's talking about. Unlike a most of us, she's held and played a huge number of different models. You're in good hands with her.

As for holding the uke so you can see the frets, yes, it's probably a bad habit that cultivates poor posture. I still do that a lot too, though I make a deliberate effort not to. Still difficult when practicing unfamiliar chords/chord shapes. That's where side markers come in. My current tenor only has one, at the 7th fret, but the one that's in transit has multiple ones. My soprano also only has one, but it's less of an issue there.

Icelander53
06-20-2015, 01:46 AM
Elderly seems like a much better deal what with free shipping and all.

http://elderly.com/new_instruments/cats/180N.htm

BTW. Use your nail pressed down on the string to the body where the fret should be and bingo fretless note off the scale.

In my experience with Elderly they did not do a set up and claimed they did. Then backed off and allowed me to take it to a luthier for a set up. So that's my experience with them.

wawakelvin
06-22-2015, 03:14 PM
Thanks for all the help. I'm looking forward to getting my ukulele in the mail from Mim.

Another annoying question: Any recommendations on a bag? I think I want a unstructured soft case. Lightweight and small, with a shoulder strap, and possibly waterresistent, is what I'm looking for.

wawakelvin
06-23-2015, 06:57 AM
That looks like a very good bag. I wonder if it's more bulky than a gig bag with less padding.

Mivo
06-23-2015, 07:09 AM
I haven't experienced a whole lot of different gig bags, but I like the two padded Fusion (http://www.fusion-bags.com/) ones that I have. Not too thin, not too bulky. (The normal ones anyway. I haven't tried the premium models -- too expensive for me.)