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whistleman123
08-31-2015, 01:55 AM
I'm in the market for a soprano uke. I would prefer a vintage instrument and the budget is tight. Plus as a former horn player I don't know anything about fretted instruments.

As I browse ebay, I see a lot of old "off brand" ukes. What do I look for to determine weather a used uke is a quality instrument or junk?

UkerDanno
08-31-2015, 03:07 AM
Look for a 50's Harmony, just make sure it's not a plastic fretboard.

pbagley
08-31-2015, 03:33 AM
If money is tight I'd recommend a Kala for your first Uke. With "Vintage" instruments you sometimes pay more for the age/rarity/condition, and the quality of the sound produced is secondary. With the lower end ukes this seems to be more the case in the local music shops I visit.

I played a '50s Harmony soprano with wood fretboard and wire frets last weekend that was quiet and tinny and had poor intonation. It could have been the vintage strings... The new Kala KA-S hanging nearby was $20 cheaper, was louder, sounded better, and played in tune. I own a '50s vintage Silvertone baritone uke, and it too is very quiet and tinny sounding.

I prefer to play the uke before I buy it. That said, I was very fortunate in my three on-line purchases (two from eBay, one from a member on this site) but I spent a bit more to get a better instrument. Good luck.

DownUpDave
08-31-2015, 03:42 AM
If this is your first uke I would recommend staying away from vintage. It is a total crap shoot because you don't have the knowledge or experience to determine good from bad.

What is your budget, that would help. If you really do want vintage think of buying from our Marketplace Get it from an established member who will get you an honest opinion and value.

Hippie Dribble
08-31-2015, 03:46 AM
Don't buy a Harmony.

Buy a new instrument that's been set up properly. Safer bet. Once you get more familiar with your style and what scale you prefer, then perhaps start looking vintage. Wouldn't go in that direction for a first up uke.

Hippie Dribble
08-31-2015, 03:56 AM
Oh, and don't buy from ebay. Go through an established and respected ukulele dealer who does preliminary set up work. For example: Mim's Ukes; Uke Republic; HMS.

Rllink
08-31-2015, 04:25 AM
I will second, or third, the advise, don't buy some off brand on e-bay. You have no idea what you are getting and there is nothing to look for that would determine if you are getting a great deal.

Ukejenny
08-31-2015, 04:42 AM
Ohana is another brand that makes some nice instruments at good prices. For what you pay, you get a nice instrument. I have an SK-28 (soprano Ohana) that I purchased from Mim. It is a wonderful ukulele.

river_driver
08-31-2015, 04:54 AM
I would agree with these guys, if you're buying your first uke and have no prior stringed instrument experience, don't go for vintage from Ebay. Total crapshoot.

If you really want vintage though, are not partial to any particular brand, have a budget of maybe ~$200-300 or so, and don't mind biding your time, check out Jake Wildwood's Antebellum Instruments:
http://antebelluminstruments.blogspot.com/

Jake does OUTSTANDING restoration/repair work on all sorts of stringed instruments, and I think his prices are extremely fair. He is very knowledgeable and appreciates ukuleles as ukuleles (i.e., he doesn't consider them to be toy guitars the way some restoration guys do). He usually doesn't have more than a couple ukes available at any given time, but something 'new' comes up for sale every couple weeks, and he keeps a list of what's in his work queue posted on his site.

river_driver
08-31-2015, 04:56 AM
Ohana is another brand that makes some nice instruments at good prices. For what you pay, you get a nice instrument. I have an SK-28 (soprano Ohana) that I purchased from Mim. It is a wonderful ukulele.

There is a vintage-styled Ohana SK-28 for sale in the UU Marketplace right now:
http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?109766-FS-Ohana-SK-28-and-Tweed-Case
Ohanas are good ukes, and that one is dead sexy.

PhilUSAFRet
08-31-2015, 09:06 AM
If this were a concert size, I'd have already snagged it. These little babies have some character.


There is a vintage-styled Ohana SK-28 for sale in the UU Marketplace right now:
http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?109766-FS-Ohana-SK-28-and-Tweed-Case
Ohanas are good ukes, and that one is dead sexy.

k0k0peli
08-31-2015, 09:21 AM
I'll go with most of the advice above, all except the Ohana. Their low-end sopranos can be iffy. My SK-10CR was, anyway, but the shop had not done a setup. I had to shim-up the saddle with a strip of paper to get the right intonation. And if you're not sure of the meaning of 'setup', 'saddle', or 'intonation', then you CERTAINLY don't want to start vintage!

Avoid eBay crapshots. Avoid vintage unless it's something you inherit -- I started mandos with grandpa's banjo-mandolin. ;) I'll suggest that you actually go into music shops, ask questions, and try different instruments. With rare exceptions, I do NOT buy instruments I have have not handled first. And depending on the size of your hands, a soprano may be too small for you, and a concert or even a tenor may be better suited.

kypfer
08-31-2015, 12:17 PM
I'll agree with most of what's been said above ... vintage instruments are usually that either because they weren't very good to start with and haven't had much use, or were good and have accrued a "value" which reflects this ... doesn't necessarily mean they're any better than a modern instrument!

I'll also second the Kala recommendation. My KA-C was excellent value for money and sounds good and plays well.

actadh
08-31-2015, 01:48 PM
I bought a few vintage ukuleles early on. I actually have more than what is reflected in my signature, but they turned out to be wall hangers.

In retrospect, I wish I put the money I spent on them towards my Martin OXK. It has vintage style and vintage sound and it withstands knocks and fumbles. I rarely play my vintage ukuleles. I rarely have a day go by that I don't play my OXK.

dsummers
08-31-2015, 03:58 PM
I think a Martin OXK would be a great choice- I really like mine!

Mivo
08-31-2015, 10:58 PM
There is a vintage-styled Ohana SK-28 for sale in the UU Marketplace right now:
http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?109766-FS-Ohana-SK-28-and-Tweed-Case
Ohanas are good ukes, and that one is dead sexy.

This is a good deal, especially since the case is included (a nice one, too). And it was professionally set-up. As always, I'm both happy and sad that all the delicious offers that could lead me off my "I have enough ukuleles for now" path are overseas, safely behind the barrier that is shipping costs and the darn customs office!