View Full Version : "I'll Know When My Love Comes Along"

08-10-2015, 05:25 AM
I just recently experienced the excitement and slight anxiety of shopping for the first instrument that I chose for myself. Iíve been learning on a Mahalo beginnerís uke and last month it suffered an accident which, though there was no visible damage, left it sounding not quite the same to my ears. The good news was that my teacher told me I was ready to upgrade. Oh I was psyched! I spent a while researching on this forum and elsewhere, got a bit overwhelmed by all the different threads and opinions, but finally felt prepared to start shopping.

I was thinking of moving from a soprano to a concert, but I had never handled that size before. The one recommendation that seemed universally agreed was that regardless of make, model or price, only I could decide what ukulele sounded and felt the best to me. My teacher advised me to get the best I could afford (about $500, I decided). I had two sources of instruments within about 20 miles Ė one rather high end shop specializing in stringed instruments, one a more conventional general interest music store which I had not visited before. I also was expecting to see some vendors at the NH Uke Picnic next weekend. Between these 3 sources I was hoping, at the least, to personally try out enough ukes that, if I didnít buy one (or win one in the picnic raffle!;)) I might be able to confidently order from the likes of MIM.

So I went out Saturday to start shopping around in person. The stringed instrument shop was unfortunately out of concerts. ďItís Uke Season,Ē they explained. But they get frequent trade-in activity so that could change quickly. They did have a number of sopranos and tenors, a majority of them Martins. Though most of them were out of my budget, I tried out each and every one for the experience, including the tenors. Only one of them made my heart beat faster Ė a funky, beautiful all-plastic vintage Maccaferri Islander from 1953. But I still wanted to shop around. They promised to call me when a concert came in.

Then we drove the other direction to the general music store. The junior salesman who greeted me asked my budget, then seemed taken aback and rather apologetically said that the lines they carried were generally not that pricey. But behind him on the wall I saw a concert uke, so at least I would get to handle one and see how it felt! It was one of a whole line of Amahis that they had. I tried it and actually was liking the fuller sound though I still felt that more shopping was necessary. Then the proprietor himself chimed in and brought out something that he said was a discontinued model that they had had for a long time and he could give me a good price.

It was an Ohana SK-50 WG soprano. It was absolutely gorgeous, in cedar and figured willow, rope rosette, Aquila strings. I strummed it and heard bells. It had a big, shimmering voice, somehow different from everything I had tried out earlier. It was so easy to play. I was transfixed. I listened to the Ohana over and over as the shopkeeper lowered the price two more times. (And I had to wait between blares as elsewhere in the shop someone was testing guitar amplifiers.) ďYouíll know when you find itĒ is what I had seen repeated on the forum. And I knew I had found it. Even though I had been planning to wait till the Uke Picnic to check out more models, even though I had been thinking maybe a concert, I listened to the Ohana and thought, I love this, what more am I hoping for? - and the deal I was being offered didnít hurt either.

In the end I walked out of the shop with the Ohana plus a hard case for $200 total and a big grin that hasnít left me, and a song in my heart, the title of this thread, from "Guys and Dolls." Why couldnít they sell this beautiful ukulele before? Because it was mine I guess.

Hereís what it sounds like when Ken Middleton plays it:

Well, apologies for the long telling, but you folks are the ones I can tell, that I knew would understand.

08-10-2015, 07:46 AM
Great read - I enjoyed that!

Look forward to hearing YOU on your find.

Live well.

08-10-2015, 11:10 AM
Congratulations. I have enjoyed my concert version of that model.

08-10-2015, 01:19 PM
Congrats. After the price reductions, and with a hard case, you got a decent deal. Now you get to play with strings. Perhaps some others with the same uke can chime in on their experiences with string changes.

08-10-2015, 11:33 PM
I love this write-up of your experience! I hope you enjoy your new ukulele for many years! :)
I've been looking at the 50WG for a while too... I'm hoping to get to try one out when I finally get to go to a specialist store soon!

Purdy Bear
08-11-2015, 12:42 AM
I loved to read about your purchase expereince, and Ohana sounds gorgeous. I've come to the conclusion that Ukuleles are much like musical long necked, teddy bears, they have that wonderful sound coming from the big round bellies sending comfort to the player.

08-11-2015, 07:00 AM
Thanks for the kind words. I was hoping my account would be of interest to other beginners without a lot of shopping experience. I have discovered a few more things about my lovely Willow. (Yes, I do sometimes name my favorite possessions, like my car, my MP3 player and my ukes. I don’t try to give them names. It just happens.)

I held Willow next to my older cheapo uke and found out that Willow’s body was not only a tiny bit larger on all sides but also, startlingly, almost a half inch “deeper”, i.e. the side dimension from top to bottom. Which helps explain the big voice. The sound hole is also bigger, though I’m sure this is one of the factors that’s different in every model. It seems as though Ohana made the body as big as they could and still have it fit in the standard soprano case, where it is snug.

The headstock and neck are also a little longer; the neck near the nut is slightly more slender, which I really like for getting my fingers around. Looking at the neck from the side, I noticed a small light streak on the dark wood which, examined under a magnifier, turned out to be a flaw – a thin line of glue that wasn’t wiped off before the varnish was applied. However, it is also a helpful flaw, because it occurs just at the fifth fret. This model only has the usual fret markers on the top of the fretboard. So now I can see where the fifth fret is from the side.

And, Willow’s got friction peg tuners. I had read that these take some getting used to. It does take a bit more fussing to tune. The store proprietor had mentioned that I could screw these down more tightly if I was having trouble. I had been reluctant to do so till I researched and found further confirmation elsewhere – now I may try that, after I live with it a little.

Aside from the friction pegs, these are all just factors that I wasn’t aware of when I bought her that may help someone evaluate their own prospective purchase. I had no clue about looking for glue flaws, and on another instrument, one may not be so fortuitously placed.