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BostonUke
08-09-2017, 10:24 PM
Sorry if this is a dumb question, but what makes an instrument a jazz ukulele?

I recently got a U-Bass and thus was introduced to the Wonderful World of Playing With Amps. So now I want a tenor and a baritone with electrics (of course -- the heartbreak of Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome is very real), and with the combination of not wanting to spend a great deal of $ as a decent amateur (but not performing) player, being a tiny little bit of a Kala fangirl, and the fact that I just love its look, I found this one:

Kala Archtop Jazz Uke KA-JTE Sunburst

I see that it has two smaller soundholes and is absent the large traditional uke soundhole, and in the play videos I can find on YouTube, it sounds a bit quieter/more muted, which I'm not sure I really want. Is that what makes it jazz? Annoyingly, even though there are lots of videos online, everyone seems to be playing it unplugged, so I can't tell what it sounds like plugged in.

But in my (admittedly limited) ukulele experience, including way too many hours spent noodling about online for information about all things ukulele, this is the first time I've ever come across the idea of a "jazz uke."

Thanks!

Croaky Keith
08-09-2017, 10:39 PM
Jazz is a way of playing - any instrument can play jazz. :)

I think the Kala was a marketing ploy - it is quieter unplugged than a normal tenor, but plugged in it sounds OK from what I have read.

I'd be inclined to suggest you go for solid top ukes with fitted pickups, most are good quality ukes. The choice of manufacturer is a personal thing, I have experience of Baton Rouge, Kala, Ohana, & Risa, & am very happy with my later choices. Solid top cedar, solid top spruce, all solid spruce, & all solid mahogany. I also have laminates that are good too, & not too expensive. ;)

wayfarer75
08-09-2017, 11:53 PM
That Kala is just made to resemble archtop guitars that have been popular with jazz players. But you can play jazz on any uke, really.

DownUpDave
08-10-2017, 01:01 AM
That Kala is just made to resemble archtop guitars that have been popular with jazz players. But you can play jazz on any uke, really.

I agree completely. A friend has the Kala archtop you pictured and it is indeed quieter with less resonance and projection than most "normal" ukes. If you don't like that characteristic don't buy it. You can achieve the jazz sound with playing techniques incorporating lots of barr chords to control note decay or sustain.

maki66
08-10-2017, 01:25 AM
Have you watched any Gerald Ross vids? He plays serious jazz ukulele.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YafhDexY6I

ukulelekarcsi
08-10-2017, 01:33 AM
The Kala archtops have archtop looks (bulging top, f-holes) but not the archtop physics (bridge glued on top and pulling upwards under tension, instead of the typical floating bridge pushing downwards). Kala did make some floating bridge archtops in 2014, but not for long. So they're archtops in looks only.

Why are archtops called 'jazz' guitars, mandolins or ukuleles? By association mainly. Using a more violin-like construction was the big thing Gibson brought to luthery, in a quest for more volume in a small soundbox. When done well, these instruments did have a lot more volume (although mainly in the mid-frequencies) and were not only used in country and classical music, as intended, but also in big bands. Hence the jazz association.

Having said that, some artists do prefer this one. I think it has to do with the stiff top, which not only equals a modest acoustic volume, but also a much easier amplification. See Dutch band Zazi, and Ian Clarckson and the Jive Aces.

Chopped Liver
08-10-2017, 02:32 AM
Have you watched any Gerald Ross vids? He plays serious jazz ukulele.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YafhDexY6I

Ooo! Thanks for that info!

sam13
08-10-2017, 09:51 AM
Have you watched any Gerald Ross vids? He plays serious jazz ukulele.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YafhDexY6I

I second this ... look up www.glenrosejazz.com with Glen Rose ... he is awesome.

ripock
08-10-2017, 10:06 AM
I would like to second, third, or even fourth what others have said. The jazz ukulele is a jazz ukulele because is looks like a jazz guitar. I bet my Corboda has played more jazz than any self-styled jazz ukulele. It would be like calling the RISA solid body ukulele a Randy Rhoads ukulele.

I would, and do, also endorse glen Rose's instructional materials. It is a wonderful gatweay into jazz. My only problem (which is totally personal) is that he is so un-intellectual in regards to theory. He takes great pains to provide instruction without nomenclature and theory. I want the theory. I have talked to Glen and he has forgotten more about theory than I shall ever learn, and it is obvious his approach is therefore calculated to be inviting to initiates. That being said, if you want a very straight-forward approach to jazz that prioritizes the movable chords needed to start playing immediately, then Glen is the guy. In particular his book devoted to playing jazzy blues was very liberating to my style...although it kind of ruined chord progressions for me. After all, who would want to play something as buttery as a C triad once you learn about C dom13's?

sam13
08-10-2017, 10:49 AM
I would like to second, third, or even fourth what others have said. The jazz ukulele is a jazz ukulele because is looks like a jazz guitar. I bet my Corboda has played more jazz than any self-styled jazz ukulele. It would be like calling the RISA solid body ukulele a Randy Rhoads ukulele.

I would, and do, also endorse glen Rose's instructional materials. It is a wonderful gatweay into jazz. My only problem (which is totally personal) is that he is so un-intellectual in regards to theory. He takes great pains to provide instruction without nomenclature and theory. I want the theory. I have talked to Glen and he has forgotten more about theory than I shall ever learn, and it is obvious his approach is therefore calculated to be inviting to initiates. That being said, if you want a very straight-forward approach to jazz that prioritizes the movable chords needed to start playing immediately, then Glen is the guy. In particular his book devoted to playing jazzy blues was very liberating to my style...although it kind of ruined chord progressions for me. After all, who would want to play something as buttery as a C triad once you learn about C dom13's?

I too would like to have a more theoretical book or system to learning jazz chord progressions ... anyone have anything they are working with?

BostonUke
08-10-2017, 11:42 AM
Well, I think I've been successfully talked out of the KA-JTE. It's neat-looking, but I play mostly with two kids (one in grade school and one in middle school) and brightness and projection are two things I value, which it doesn't sound like are this uke's strengths.

Thanks too for all the cool jazz resources -- I'll check them out!

ripock
08-10-2017, 02:04 PM
I too would like to have a more theoretical book or system to learning jazz chord progressions ... anyone have anything they are working with?

I have Abe Lagrimas' book, Jazz Ukulele, and it is a nice resource. It doesn't have a system, but it has some examples as well as instruction on comping. It does have a nice bibliography at the end naming the hallmark recordings in Jazz ukulele. What I do is google searches and find jazz guitar sites. Although I have never played a guitar I find I can adapt much of what I see there.

WCBarnes
08-10-2017, 04:42 PM
I second this ... look up www.glenrosejazz.com with Glen Rose ... he is awesome.

Is Glen's stuff for re-entrant or linear? Or does it even matter?

Kimosabe
08-10-2017, 09:14 PM
Can't say enough about Glen Rose's Jazzy Uke material, all of it. He turned me into a jazz player and Jazzy songwriter. You don't need low G for chords. You need low G for playing melodies. So, don't worry if basically you want to start out singing and accompanying yourself with chords. You'll learn from Glen how to simplify the jazz charts you find in Hal Leonard fake books. You'll learn to recognize patterns that are used over and over and you'll know the chord shapes and how to move from one to another within a pattern. The shapes are much easier than you might fear. You'll learn how to substitute a jazz chord you know for a chord in a book.

If you want to sing and eventually play melodies learn to read soon. Curt Sheller has a reading book that will get you reading single line melodies with a couple weeks practicing a half an hour a day and you'll read the rest of your life just as you are reading now.

Another interesting thing about jazz is that good accompaniment can consist of simple four down strums per measure. Very steady and often there are no more than two changes per measure or no change at all.

Eventually a serious ukulele player has low and high for whatever tuning he or she is using. There are advantages and uses for both.

Jazz chords sound fine with reentrant tuning.

Benjolele
08-10-2017, 10:36 PM
While I wouldn't disagree with the idea many have stated, that what makes a jazz instrument is how you play it, there are certainly characteristics of individual instruments that make them more suited to different styles of music. You can play jazz guitar on a Schecter Hellraiser, and you can play metal on a Gibson L-5. Most players don't, for a reason. As with most styles, jazz musicians tend toward instruments with certain tonal qualities.

I'm curious how many commenters here have owned, or at least put in a few dozen hours on a Kala Archtop. Ive had mine for a few years, and I would say you are unlikely to find another ukulele as well suited to jazz for the same money.
It has a nice crisp and clean but dry tone. It has decent sustain for a ukulele, excellent in fact for a laminate instrument. And I did once have a band mate tell me mine sounded too jazzy for our funk rock band. He was kinda right. Also, the arched top and f-holes look the part. Anyone who tells you that looks aren't part of the presentation is short-sighted. Audiences absolutely process and respond to visual stimuli as it is part of the whole of the experience.

As far as volume when played unamplified, it's not my loudest tenor, but it's also not my quietest. Though I used to have a couple pieces of foam that I shaped to stuff into the f-holes, so I could play super quietly after my wife had gone to bed.

Now I'm divorced so I can play my Kamoa E3 in the middle of the night, and the Risa Les Paul played through my Hot Rod Deluxe sounds about as rock and roll as I had ever thought a ukulele could.

Now, admittedly, I'm also a fan of Kala (I own three, have a fourth back-ordered, and have bought two more to give as gifts), but for good reason. They give you a good product for the money. However, if you want acoustic volume at a similar price point, the Kamoa E3 is fantastic for the money. Not quite as dry, but as my high school band teacher used to say, it's close enough for jazz.

wayfarer75
08-11-2017, 12:06 AM
With jazz, it is, absolutely, more about how you play than what you play it with. Percussion, brass and woodwind instruments need no modification or specific styles of an instrument to go from jazz to classical and back. Only guitarists seem to make things more complicated than they need to be (personally, I think it's more about looks). I've played jazz in a group, and the guitarist and bassist did not use special jazz instruments, just an electric bass and a flattop acoustic steel string. The ukulele, being a short sustain instrument by nature, can easily sound jazzy.

ukantor
08-11-2017, 04:24 AM
Jazz on the ukulele? Check out Azo Bell on YouTube.

Kimosabe
08-11-2017, 06:26 AM
I had an arch top and I really liked the feel and the neck. I found it loud enough to enjoy unplugged. What I didn't like were the electronics. I had some popping. Now I have a Pono chambered electric and I love it and have no electronic problems. It is, however, more expensive.

So, if you have an arch top and don't have pickup problems or know how to fix them, it's a fine and cool looking little instrument. I remember playing it one day thinking, in terms of feel, that I was playing my Kanilea K-1 acoustic and then being amazed that it was my archtop.

maki66
08-11-2017, 07:43 AM
While I wouldn't disagree with the idea many have stated, that what makes a jazz instrument is how you play it, there are certainly characteristics of individual instruments that make them more suited to different styles of music. You can play jazz guitar on a Schecter Hellraiser, and you can play metal on a Gibson L-5. Most players don't, for a reason. As with most styles, jazz musicians tend toward instruments with certain tonal qualities.

I'm curious how many commenters here have owned, or at least put in a few dozen hours on a Kala Archtop. Ive had mine for a few years, and I would say you are unlikely to find another ukulele as well suited to jazz for the same money.
It has a nice crisp and clean but dry tone. It has decent sustain for a ukulele, excellent in fact for a laminate instrument. And I did once have a band mate tell me mine sounded too jazzy for our funk rock band. He was kinda right. Also, the arched top and f-holes look the part. Anyone who tells you that looks aren't part of the presentation is short-sighted. Audiences absolutely process and respond to visual stimuli as it is part of the whole of the experience.

As far as volume when played unamplified, it's not my loudest tenor, but it's also not my quietest. Though I used to have a couple pieces of foam that I shaped to stuff into the f-holes, so I could play super quietly after my wife had gone to bed.

Now I'm divorced so I can play my Kamoa E3 in the middle of the night, and the Risa Les Paul played through my Hot Rod Deluxe sounds about as rock and roll as I had ever thought a ukulele could.

Now, admittedly, I'm also a fan of Kala (I own three, have a fourth back-ordered, and have bought two more to give as gifts), but for good reason. They give you a good product for the money. However, if you want acoustic volume at a similar price point, the Kamoa E3 is fantastic for the money. Not quite as dry, but as my high school band teacher used to say, it's close enough for jazz.
Just found you youtube channel, very impressive.
I really like your cover of One Paddle, Two Paddle using your Jazz Kala. Nice!

Benjolele
08-11-2017, 08:07 AM
Just found you youtube channel, very impressive.
I really like your cover of One Paddle, Two Paddle using your Jazz Kala. Nice!

Thanks, but that isn't me.

maki66
08-11-2017, 08:14 AM
Color me impressed.

photoshooter
08-12-2017, 03:36 AM
Jazz Uke.... let's set the tone here with Abe Lagrimas jr :cool:


https://youtu.be/hKpk9SO7iLM

I'm a Kala fanboy and at some point I'll probably get the archtop model because I think it looks cool. Will I play better jazz with it? Probably not but one can hope :) If you're playing plugged-in it seems that your EQ and amp settings will help tailor the jazz sound.


However if we're talking rockabilly, it can only be played with a dedicated rockabilly uke :p

Oldtoolie
08-29-2018, 03:23 AM
To reopen an old thread. I just got a Kala archtop secondhand. It did sound a bit quiet but I replaced the old strings (looked like Aquilas) with Fremont Blacks. Much more volume and cooler look.

Jerryc41
08-29-2018, 06:27 AM
With the "onboard electronics," it should sound as loud as you want. It's impossible to judge the volume of a ukulele online, in my opinion, because of the electronics of both recording and playing back.

This review makes it seem like a very desirable ukulele, and there is, apparently, a difference between jazz ukes and non-jazz. Ken Middleton makes it sound beautiful plugged in.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5dqcRpOiac