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Joyful Uke
05-26-2016, 10:29 AM
I've become intrigued with the Kamaka Ohta San, (especially with a cedar top), but only have YouTube to go by. I've never played any Kamaka, but wonder what all those familiar with the Ohta San can share.

What is the neck like? Width at nut? Pros? Cons?

I did email one vendor on Sunday who is mentioned on UU, but assume that my email got lost in cyberspace, since I never got a response. She seems to have one in stock, but maybe the lack of response is just an indication that UAS shouldn't be encouraged. LOL.

wayfarer75
05-26-2016, 10:35 AM
I've never played an Ohta-san, only Kamaka sopranos. They're not known to have a "thick" or "thin" neck, more middle of the road, and that's definitely how I feel about my Kamaka pineapple. There's a cedar top Ohta-san at The Ukulele Site/HMS: http://www.theukulelesite.com/shop-by/brand/kamaka/kamaka-concert-bell-shaped-deluxe-ohta-san-cedar-top.html

peanuts56
05-26-2016, 10:53 AM
I believe the Ohta San model is a hybrid of the tenor and concert. Would be interesting to try one. David Iriguchi also makes a hybrid size.

Ukulele Eddie
05-26-2016, 10:56 AM
Yes, it's a 16" scale. I've only played two, but they are lovely instruments! Were I do buy a Kamaka 100, it would be a cedar-topped Ohta-san. Check with Andrew at HMS.

warndt
05-26-2016, 10:56 AM
Mim is a well known,and trusted dealer.

http://mimsukes.com/product/kamaka-hb-2d-ohata-san-concert-bell-shape-deluxe-all-solid-cedar-top-koa-back-and-sides-ukulele/

kvehe
05-26-2016, 11:11 AM
Mim is currently in London.

sam13
05-26-2016, 03:04 PM
Both Mim at Mim's Ukes and Andrew @ HMS are trusted dealers.

I have only bought from Andrew, and can attest he has always offered me exceptional products and quality service.

stevejfc
05-26-2016, 03:34 PM
1 3/8" nut and good wide string separation. Neck is of moderate thickness (Wayfarer), and as mentioned by Eddie, a 16" scale. All of which lend to an excellent finger-picking uke. It is also on the louder side, mostly attributable to the large bell shaped lower bout.

Not to step on your thread or push you off purchase suggestions (HMS, Mim) which are great choices, I may be selling my Ohta-san (I haven't firmly decided), and a couple of other ukes, as I need to downsize the collection due to travel /storage requirements. Mine is a spruce top. Shoot me a PM if interested.

mm stan
05-26-2016, 03:41 PM
I've own a couple of the earlier models, they play nice...

stevepetergal
05-26-2016, 04:15 PM
I've played a few. I like them very much. In fact, the Otah San is my favorite Kamaka model.

Joyful Uke
05-26-2016, 04:52 PM
Mine is a spruce top.

Am I correct in thinking that spruce would be a brighter sound, and cedar would be warmer?

Uke man
05-26-2016, 05:43 PM
Yes, I would explain it that way. Cedar is mellower and Less bright to me. Only gauge of that is I have tried a lot of Kala spruce top travel tenors and none sound like the limited production travel ones with the cedar top that I bought from music guy mike. He recommended it to me and said it was a prototype run that may or may not make regular production.

It also has their factory pick up installed and came with the Kala gig bag.

As for the Ohta San Kamakas, I played a few with the koa tops and liked them all. Luckily UAS did not cause me to add to the current stable of 2 kamakas.
I think you would be happy with any of the different soundboards on a Ohta San...I would.

Joyful Uke
05-27-2016, 09:19 AM
Does it have a radius fretboard?

Looking at some old threads, a few people mention that playing an OS caused them pain so they sold theirs. If any of those people are reading, can you only play soprano ukuleles? What was it about the OS that caused pain?

janeray1940
05-27-2016, 10:01 AM
Does it have a radius fretboard?

Looking at some old threads, a few people mention that playing an OS caused them pain so they sold theirs. If any of those people are reading, can you only play soprano ukuleles? What was it about the OS that caused pain?

I'm one of those people. I had an Ohta-San and gave it a good year-plus trial before deciding it was just too large of a scale for my little hands. (To illustrate - my hands are smaller than a friend's 8- and 10-year-old kids' hands, and my fingers are shorter than my palms.) I developed pain in my fretting hand and decided that I didn't want to take chances, so at that point I gave up.

I do play soprano, but for me, the most comfortable scale is concert, and the narrower the nut the better (I've passed on some lovely ukes that had a 1.5" nut because I couldn't reach the G string with my pinky - same problem I had on the OS). I play a lot of intricate stuff, often on the G string since I play low G. My pinky, which I just measured to be 1.5" long, curves in toward the ring finger (5th digit clinodactyly (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1255945/) in medical terms), making the reach even more difficult for me. I might have been able to manage the OS if I only strummed chords, but I just couldn't get the precision I needed for single-note playing.

And no - not a radius fretboard.

Hope that helps! The OS is a great uke - after I got mine, two other people I play with ended up opting for Ohta-Sans as well. They still both play them and love them, but they don't have midget-freak hands like I do :)

Joyful Uke
05-27-2016, 11:06 AM
(To illustrate - my hands are smaller than a friend's 8- and 10-year-old kids' hands, and my fingers are shorter than my palms.) I developed pain in my fretting hand and decided that I didn't want to take chances, so at that point I gave up.

Thanks for explaining. (I even read the link on clinodactyly.) It makes sense that you might have found the OS to be less than a perfect fit for you.

I have small hands, I assume, (small person), but my pinkie is definitely larger than yours. But having smashed and otherwise injured my fingers over the years, I consider comfort in playing to be a top priority, though a great sounding ukulele is a close second.

Soundbored
05-28-2016, 01:31 AM
I thought a vintage Martin soprano was "the Ohta San". Does/did he even play one of these Kamakas?

stevejfc
05-28-2016, 02:34 AM
This style Kamaka ukulele was designed by Herbert Ohta and Sam Kamaka in the mid- 1960's.
QUOTE=Soundbored;1855734]I thought a vintage Martin soprano was "the Ohta San". Does/did he even play one of these Kamakas?[/QUOTE]

Katz-in-Boots
05-28-2016, 06:07 PM
Looking at some old threads, a few people mention that playing an OS caused them pain so they sold theirs. If any of those people are reading, can you only play soprano ukuleles? What was it about the OS that caused pain?


I'm another who reluctantly had to give up their OS because of hand pain. Fretboard width was a little wide for me, but I play a Kanile'a concert (I only play concert, sopranos don't interest me) which has that slightly wider nut anyway, so it wasn't that bad.

It was the 16" scale that was my issue. I like to be able to place fingers on the 3rd, 5th & 7th fret easily and the spread was just that bit too much. I should point out I have had serious over-use injuries (which prevent me working & functioning fully), which are easily triggered by tension in my hands.

I loved the big, open sound of my koa/cedar OS, it was a joy to play. Once I picked it up, it was hard to put it down again. Maybe that was the problem...


Unless you have hand issues, I would think that most women with medium-size hands would be able to handle the OS.

Joyful Uke
05-29-2016, 05:22 AM
I'm another who reluctantly had to give up their OS because of hand pain. Fretboard width was a little wide for me, but I play a Kanile'a concert (I only play concert, sopranos don't interest me) which has that slightly wider nut anyway, so it wasn't that bad.

So Kanile'a is easier on your hands than the OS? Is the OS neck thicker? Or is there some other difference that makes one possible for you and not the other?

I've had hand injuries over the years, like smashing all my fingers, but so far, have been finding ways to work around what my fingers can't do. John Hartford is credited with the line "Style is based on limitations", and it definitely is shaping my style. Lots of chords are out, but fingerpicking gives me options to work around the cranky fingers.

stevejfc
05-29-2016, 05:47 AM
Kanile'a concert at the nut is 1 1/2", OS is 1 3/8". It's the 16" scale (compared to a standard concert 15" scale) that is the difference. The finger stretch from one fret to another is greater. Kinda like going from a concert to a tenor, but not as extreme. I have problems with tenor size, but I'm ok with the OS. I think the OS neck thickness is slightly on the thinner side.

Just realized that Katz had already discussed the 16" scale.......... sorry for the repetition.

Joyful Uke
05-29-2016, 06:56 AM
So many variables! Unless my fingers are having a super cranky day, I can handle a Kanile'a tenor neck, so it sounds like the OS should be OK for me, too. Thanks.

Teek
05-29-2016, 02:41 PM
I only played one, back a couple of years ago. I found it to be very pretty and comfortable to play, but also surprisingly heavy, which made me think it was overbuilt compared to my white label concert which is very light. I really liked the 16" scale and it had a lovely voice, but sounded very soft. That may have been the build as well as the crappy Kamaka strings. I also prefer a radiused neck if I can get it but the fretboard was comfortable. I was very tempted to buy it at full retail, but the shop wouldn't restring it for me so I could hear it with better strings, so I said no thanks. I would buy from someone who offers a trial period, usually 48 hours, if you buy it online.

janeray1940
05-29-2016, 02:47 PM
I can handle a Kanile'a tenor neck, so it sounds like the OS should be OK for me, too. Thanks.

For the sake of comparison - I can't even handle a Kanile'a concert neck comfortably, so - if that's the case you should be fine with the Ohta-San. Lucky you! :)

Katz-in-Boots
05-29-2016, 05:32 PM
So Kanile'a is easier on your hands than the OS? Is the OS neck thicker? Or is there some other difference that makes one possible for you and not the other?

wouldn't say the OS neck was thicker - just different.


Kanile'a concert at the nut is 1 1/2", OS is 1 3/8".

I did feel that the OS was wider across the fretboard than my Kanile'a concert although I didn't measure the OS.


It's the 16" scale (compared to a standard concert 15" scale) that is the difference. The finger stretch from one fret to another is greater. Kinda like going from a concert to a tenor, but not as extreme.

That is exactly it. I was working on fingerstyle playing at the time, and bought the OS exactly for that purpose, so stretching between frets was a big issue for me.

I think in my case it was just a matter of the pre-existing hand problems and the fact I couldn't put this thing down.



I only played one, back a couple of years ago. I found it to be very pretty and comfortable to play, but also surprisingly heavy, which made me think it was overbuilt compared to my white label concert which is very light. I really liked the 16" scale and it had a lovely voice, but sounded very soft. That may have been the build as well as the crappy Kamaka strings.

I didn't find mine heavy, but perhaps cedar is lighter weight? I found mine comfortable to hold and it just felt great in my hands - until I'd been playing a while.

Soft? Wow. Mine sounded huge to me. First thing I did was change the Kamaka strings for Fremont Blacklines, that made a big difference.

Anyway, if you can handle a Kanile'a tenor, an OS is probably going to be fine for you.

Teek
05-29-2016, 09:44 PM
Kamakas are known to be pretty variable in sound quality. I took my Kanile'a tenor into the store with me, and between my own particular Kanile'a (all flamey koa) and the OS, my K beat the pants off the store's OS. Volume, sustain, ring, everything. I think that particular one was overbuilt and had crap strings. I think a nice fluorocarbon string set would have made a huge difference, but I'm not sure it would have matched the Kanile'a. I've had three Kamakas, all were great. I'm on my second Kanile'a. I did love the size and feel of the OS, that's what made me try to buy it. I had cash and everything. I was glad I didn't later. I think they had one that wasn't top notch.

I think they are a super uke, I just would want to be able to have an evaluation period in case it was not up to expectation. The scale is great, I love my 16" custom concert pineapple.

hmgberg
05-30-2016, 01:46 AM
I ordered a centennial, cedar top OS. I haven't received mine yet, but I have played about half a dozen of them including ones with koa, spruce and cedar tops. To my ears, the spruce and, particularly, the cedar top were most appealing, more responsive and complex in tone. Cedar tends to sound pretty good right away, whereas spruce can take a while to open up. I found all of them very easy to play even though I, like others above, prefer a radius if I can get one.

I love the Kamaka sound. I don't even mind the factory strings. However, I have Fremont Blacklines on my Tiki and newer concerts. I also have them on my custom, 1969 Ohta-San, which is a strange but lovely instrument. It has a 14" scale length and a very wide nut width. The neck doesn't taper much, if at all, like a classical guitar. It took some getting used to, but it is great for fingerpicking. I believe the Blacklines bring out the best in the Kamakas (also tried Worth clears and Aquila Reds and a bunch of nylon strings).

I don't play low G, but I hope the new OS will inspire me.

Oh, following janeray's lead, I measured my pinkie. I have medium size hands, but my pinkies are short relative to my other fingers. It's 2.5" long. I had no problem with the OS scale length. That said, the callous on my pinky is on the outer edge of the fingertip.

Joyful Uke
05-30-2016, 05:48 AM
Today's daydream: fly to the big island, and try out an OS in person. LOL.

I need to find my tape measure so I can measure my pinkie too.

Meanwhile, off to work on this beautiful holiday day.

Joyful Uke
05-30-2016, 10:45 AM
It looks like someone bought the OS from HMS! (Not me.) Hope it was someone here. The sounded like a great one. Enjoy, whoever has it coming their way!

Corhoff
09-14-2016, 07:47 AM
I have one for sale atm. It's a dark cedar top and highly figured koa back and sides. Mint condition $1600 obo

quiltingshirley
09-14-2016, 04:13 PM
I have a OS with a spruce top that I ordered while at their factory. My hands definitely are on the small size but I've found it easy to play. I also have a concert Kanile'a but it's a bit harder for me. I do like the fact that the strings on the Kanile'a are set back a tiny bit more off the fretboard so when doing fancier stuff they don't slip off the edge. I used the Kamaka strings for some time before deciding all black would look better, went to Orcas and now the black Freemonts. All sounded good. It's my "keeper" uke and worth every dollar. Kamaka set it up exactly the way I wanted and I tell folks "it plays itself". Makes me play and sound better than I am.