View Full Version : NUD Kala travel soprano advice

02-06-2017, 10:43 AM
I knew these ukulele we're out of balance with geared tuners and I plan to put on friction tuners. But the neck is so heavy, I am doubtful friction tuners would solve that problem. I love the diminutive size, the tone is really great for what it is. My fretting hand gets tired after two songs from holding up the weight.

Anybody have a good experience with changing to friction tuners in solving the problem? Should I just rehome this little thing and save myself the trouble of more disappointment? So sad. So much potential...

Also interested in string advice. In general I don't like aquilla's which these have at the moment . I usually like worth clears on my Uke. Was thinking of trying worth Brown. Open to suggestions.

Just want to say I so appreciate reading people's posts here. I don't post often and I have to change that because I feel so a part of this community. I made some great ukulele decisions because of you.

02-06-2017, 04:35 PM
I did it now Tenor version a few years ago. It definitely helped. It is indeed unbalanced and head heavy. I can't imagine the soprano would be better. I did it myself with no handy work skills and it wasn't too difficult.

02-06-2017, 05:36 PM
If you would consider using a strap, you could tie onto the headstock and that should balance it out. I like these things for that: http://www.stringsandbeyond.com/plwaacquresy.html
Of course you'd need a strap button in the other end (bottom) of the instrument.
That would still cost a lot less than new tuning machines...

If playing without a strap is a must, I got nothing.

02-06-2017, 05:51 PM
Get a piece of Para-chord (~8-10? Feet), double it and tie a small loop in the middle then a knot in the running ends. Put the loop over the A string tuner knob and the up over your shoulder and put your right arm in the open loop. Tie another knot in the open loop so it fits under your armpit and is long enough to hold the head at the "proper" angle. You can readjust the armpit knot for other size Ukes and it weighs less than a strap, fits in a gig bag, and needs no buttons or screws. Your forearm holds the lower end of the Uke.

Discount hardware stores (Harbor Freight?) sell para-chord in ~100 foot lengths in many colors for a couple of bucks. Pro trick, when cutting Para-chord hold the end in a flame for a couple of sec's then blow out the flame and let it cool for a minute. This keeps the ends from unraveling, makes a nice knob on the end too.

02-07-2017, 05:52 AM
Great reply with the home made strap JackLuis. I don't like playing with a strap, so I think I'll keep some paracord around for special occasions. ;)

Regarding the travel soprano...I feel that the spruce makes the uke especially bright. A bit too bright for me, so I put Worth browns on it to mellow it out. They are wonderful and it worked just as I hoped. As far as the tuners are concerned, I don't notice the weight of the tuners. At least not that it's any kind of a problem. But as I mentioned, I don't use a strap, on any size uke, so I think I kind of expect to hold the weight of the head. You know, just me.

Messing with the tuners on this one might be a slippery slope. It fits that little case perfectly, etc. Have you thought about getting a Bruko? They make "flat" sopranos from solid wood by hand in Germany. They are pretty amazing and are actually less expensive than the Kala travel uke. Here's a link..


I've been drooling over the no.6 flat with a rounded back and the inlayed headstock. Oooh baby! They make a lot of ukuleles, they're all solid wood and all have friction tuners. It's worth taking a look. ;)

02-07-2017, 09:21 AM
I have enjoyed a couple of these over the years. I found them to be great sounding and playing ukes. Worth browns were my string of choice.

I never found the head heavy ... but that's me ... as a guitar player, most ukes feel feather light to me.
A strap is the way I would go.

02-07-2017, 09:41 AM
I don't play with a strap either usually, but find it useful with the soprano and sopranino sizes. they are so little it's hard to get enough grip with just my forearm.

I'll have to try Worth Browns on my spruce topped Ohana Concert.

02-07-2017, 04:31 PM
Thank you everyone who responded so far. I'm still resting with the question about tuners, and hoping someone can weigh in on this. Pun intended.

For balance yes a strap might help, but I'm not a fan of strap on sopranos. To me they look silly and defeat the purpose of a grab and go uke. I do use a strap on concert size. I have used the paracord method with a shoelace. It works but I prefer a strapless soprano :rolleyes:

I'm going to try Worth browns. I was leaning that way. It should soften the spruce which is bright, but pleasantly lively IMHO. I recall Bruko in the past sounded strident to my ear. I like it picked, but I mainly strum. However, your suggestion led me back to listen again. Same verdict, but the flat hog pleased my ear. So thanks - that's a possibility.

Thank you for validating that the Kala travel is a worthy instrument. If I can't adjust, hopefully easy to rehome. I thought I was immune to UAS, but I see I have succumbed. Pondering "what next?"

I am amused by who responded, among you fish, ape and barbarian! :biglaugh:

02-07-2017, 08:55 PM
Hey Ruby. Here's a post of mine from a long time ago. But you can see how I switched the tuners out and I thought it made a world of difference. http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?44059-(Another)-Kala-Travel-Soprano-for-sale!&highlight=Travel+soprano
It was really easy to do.

Recovering Bassist
02-08-2017, 04:54 AM
I find this thread interesting. I recently purchased my first soprano, a Kala KA-PWS, and I like it, but I do find it to be headstock heavy and balanced weird. My theory is the nice metal geared tuners add weight to the headstock, my other ukes have plastic tuners. I don't notice it as much after playing it for awhile, save for certain moments, but I always notice it when I first pick it up, or just hold it. I have used a Mobius strap on it some and it helps when standing to play, but not when playing seated. I'm the least handy person in the world, so changing out the tuners wouldn't be "easy" for me, and not sure I'd want to do that anyhow. Does it change the tone and sustain of the instrument to do that?

02-08-2017, 05:16 AM
Try a Uke Leash (https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwibu-zY8oDSAhUFwmMKHYp3CCsQFghJMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ukeleash.com%2F&usg=AFQjCNEuOBhTUf1yrswqddS-sDUAy_AutQ&sig2=BcmlANNDaiQZeUQH8zIRMw) - it attaches to the headstock and takes all the weight.

02-08-2017, 01:41 PM
Hey Ruby. Here's a post of mine from a long time ago. But you can see how I switched the tuners out and I thought it made a world of difference. http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?44059-(Another)-Kala-Travel-Soprano-for-sale!&highlight=Travel+soprano
It was really easy to do.
Thanks. I remember reading about this but couldn't locate. Also remember a thread with video link showing how to. I like how you call it an upgrade. It is.

I know a luthier who sells Mainland's. He often switches out friction tuners for geared. So I probably can get credit for a swap. He is always reasonable and does good work. He used to sell these Kala's as well (with setup), so planned to ask him, and will have him do it.

The neck is so top-heavy I am sceptical it will solve the problem, but encouraged that it will help. The pics you provide prove that the uke looks better! I have no problem with friction tuner. I like em in fact.

02-09-2017, 06:14 AM
There is no reason to give up the advantages of geared tuners because of the disadvantage of the weight. The best of both worlds are PEGHEDS. Go to www.ukeeke.com to see what Tim thinks of them. Yoou can get a cheap Chinese made knockoff at a couple of the mass merchandising music stores, but they have a 45 DAY warranty, as opposed to the real thing which has a life time warranty....provided you don't drive over your uke or something like that.
He also says my prices are the best around.

02-09-2017, 08:48 AM
Is your travel uke the one with a compass in the head stock? Just curious.

02-09-2017, 11:02 AM
With Pegheads, you will need to taper the holes ... which your luthier should be able to do. It's interesting that I never noticed the headstock was heavy. That uke in my hands was light and comfy ... but that may because I'm used to playing heavier instruments ... or don't really give a rip. :cool: Sounds like you may want to rehome and find an alternative uke that more closely fits your preferences.

02-09-2017, 01:15 PM
Is your travel uke the one with a compass in the head stock? Just curious.
No compass. I am adrift going from uke to uke.

02-11-2017, 08:10 PM
Here's pictures from my Kala Travel Tenor switcheroo

02-18-2017, 06:53 PM
The verdict is in Ö Yes Ö makes a world of difference with friction tuners! Oh and it fits the case better. No more ugly ears sticking out the side, and struggling with the zipper around that bulge.

I live near Berkeley and know Mike DaSilva uke maker extraordinaire. He was of the opinion that it wouldnít make a dif, and I should get used to the heavy headstock. We weighed geared tuners and friction tuners on a scale. I canít remember if it was a Ĺ lb or full pound difference. We both agreed that soprano ukes look better with friction tuners. Mike is very generous and offered to change them for essentially the cost of the tuners. So glad I did. He had black Grovers. I think black coordinates better with the binding all around. He needed to ream the holes bigger, so Iím glad I went to Mike.

Second pic shows ugly scars left behind after removal of the geared tuners. I filled the screw hole with brown crayon shavings then heated with a blow dryer, because wood putty doesnít stain. For smaller minor open wood areas I just coated with Minwax stain. I cannot remove the indentation in the wood, but I donít mind. I think it looks good considering. But for anyone considering a switcheroo bear in mind there will be some battle scars. The trade off of weight loss is worth it.

Thanks to everyone who shared photos and experience. It helped nudge me on. And thank you Jack Luis for reminding me of the parachord system. You are right. I resurrected my shoelace and will keep it in the case for when I might need a prop if standing while playing up the neck.

Included pics of balancing the uke on two fingers. Iím not supporting it with my hand or thumb. With geared tuners, it would flop over. Now to get some Worth Brown strings.