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omlove
01-13-2018, 05:15 AM
Hi fellow members,

A loooong time guitar player here, who has never paid much attention to uke. I do have a Martin S1 made in Mexico for a long time, but uke to me is just a convenient tool that I can very easily carry around while camping or going to friend's parties etc. I bought that Martin because I play Martin guitars and I trust the quality and all solid wood construction.

Until recently...

I went to Hawaii for a friend's wedding and visited some vintage guitar shops. Obviously in Hawaii you gotta try some uke. I played some Martin ukes made in the old days - they sound so sweet. It made me feel like my modern Martin uke is a cheap sounding instrument. That sure opened some cans of worms for me.

Afterwards I discovered there are all those venerable Ks but they are pricey. There are also Kiwaya which are very faithful Martin copies. Ohana has Martin copy models too. Doing some research, I found the old Martins and Kiwaya can be had around $500 in US. Cheapest Kamaka though is double the price.

I'm thinking of getting an "upgrade" for my S1 and leaning towards an old Martin but would like to humbly listen to the people's advice here. Really appreciate your time and help.

jer
01-13-2018, 05:33 AM
Welcome to the forum!

My opinions:
I actually think the S1 is a very good instrument in every way, including sound. Maybe you should try a variety of strings on it before writing it off completely. I also wonder if it has been played a lot and has had time to open up a bit. I know, even then it's not a vintage Martin that many love, but perhaps you could at least like it a bit better.
I would scratch Ohana off the list, personally (not saying they're bad, just not as good)...but Kiwaya are known to have a very high build quality. I haven't played one of their more expensive ukes. I only got to play their least expensive model and it was exceptionally well built. That should say something for them.

That said, if what you're really wanting is a vintage Martin, by all means go for that if you can. Try to find one that you love. Maybe any other uke would just be a substitute for what you really want and you'd still be longing for that vintage Martin. I've learned if you can afford to get what you really want to begin with, it can save you some money on down the road. Wait and save up if you have to. You have a fine uke now in the meantime.

Croaky Keith
01-13-2018, 05:49 AM
Welcome aboard. :)

Guitar companies make great guitars, but they don't always make a great uke, they are relying on their reputations. ;)

I think you might be surprised at how some of the uke companies can make a uke sound good. :D

I'd suggest you take a good look & listen to uke performances, Youtubes, etc, before buying another one.

Different sizes, woods, laminates, & of course strings, make for different sounds with ukes.

kohanmike
01-13-2018, 06:18 AM
Welcome aboard. :)

Guitar companies make great guitars, but they don't always make a great uke, they are relying on their reputations.

Not when it comes to Martin.

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7 tenor cutaway ukes, 3 acoustic bass ukes, 8 solid body bass ukes, 7 mini bass guitars

• Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children's hospital music therapy programs. http://.www.theukc.org
• Member The CC Strummers: https://www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/videos (https://www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/videos)

omlove
01-13-2018, 08:14 AM
Thanks. Those are some sensible advice, appreciate it.

I like D'Addario strings a lot. EJ16 for acoustic, EJ46 for classical and EXL110 for electric. No complaint as they are very consistent. On my S1 I've been using Martin M600 since day one - as mentioned, never really paid attention and wasn't even aware of the uke community. Now that I've learned some, I think to try out different string could be the first step.

hendulele
01-13-2018, 08:23 AM
Actually, the M600s are fine strings. I've used them often.

And if you dive into the UU community, you'll learn that people take their string preferences VERY seriously. Be warned!

jer
01-13-2018, 08:58 AM
Thanks. Those are some sensible advice, appreciate it.

I like D'Addario strings a lot. EJ16 for acoustic, EJ46 for classical and EXL110 for electric. No complaint as they are very consistent. On my S1 I've been using Martin M600 since day one - as mentioned, never really paid attention and wasn't even aware of the uke community. Now that I've learned some, I think to try out different string could be the first step.
So only fluorocarbon strings so far. I would suggest you try some standard nylon strings. D'Addario has one soprano set that claims to be for a higher tuning, but I have been thinking of trying those lately in standard gCEA. D'Addario Nyltech are also worth a play for you. I find strings can make an even bigger difference on uke than guitar since they vary so wildly.
I'm a big fan of the LaBella Uke Pro 200 series rectified nylon strings. I think the nylons have a softer feel and a warmer and more interesting sound.. Some people find them dull and dead sounding, and much prefer the brighter tone of fluoros. To put it in guitar terms, at least the way I see it: Fluorocarbon=Taylor sound, Nylon=Martin sound.

Try one set of everything. :)

P.S. : In all fairness, not all fluoro sets are the same either...I was just speaking in very general terms.

Uke Don
01-13-2018, 01:19 PM
Play as many different ukes as you can and then form your own opinion. Since, well, opinions are like bellybuttons -- everybody has one.
One thing I believe most do agree on is that strings can make a difference and not every uke will respond the same to the same strings.

Martinlover
01-13-2018, 03:29 PM
There is nothing like a vintage Martin soprano.

omlove
01-13-2018, 03:36 PM
Please pardon my ignorance. I understand fluorocarbon is much thinner than nylon. But compare nylon to nylon, for instance these two D'Addario sets:

EJ65S Pro-Arté Custom Extruded
A 0.024 E 0.032 C 0.034 g 0.028

EJ88S Nyltech
A 0.023 E 0.03 C 0.036 g 0.025

The first set is consistently thicker but suddenly the tension/diameter drops on the C string? I can't wrap my head around it.

Also there are differences between brands on fluorocarbon too. Unlike acoustic or electric strings that I'm used to - 12-53 or 13-56 pretty much means the same across brands and models.

EJ99SC Pro-Arté Carbon Ukulele
A 0.0205 E 0.026 C 0.0319 g 0.0224

Martin M600
A 0.0191 E 0.0256 C 0.034 g 0.0216

Again the EJ99SC C strings is considerably smaller than the peers.

Never knew I'd one day dive so deep into uke world lol... I'm intrigued.

70sSanO
01-13-2018, 07:55 PM
Also there are differences between brands on fluorocarbon too. Unlike acoustic or electric strings that I'm used to - 12-53 or 13-56 pretty much means the same across brands and models.



As far as strings, you need to stop comparing steel strings and start looking a classical guitar strings. Ukulele strings are similar to nylon/fluorocarbon classical strings. Not to start a flaming discussion on steel strings, but in my opinion, there is not too much difference between brands, especially electric. There are some, but there's more hype than substance.

But back to your original question. You really need to figure out what you are going to play on the ukulele. Are you playing chords or are you interested in fingerstyle instrumentals like Jake Shimabukuro (YouTube).

If you play guitar, you can play a ukulele. If you have stores close by, try out different sizes and try to figure out what is going to fit your style. Check out HMS (The Ukulele Site) videos and sound samples so you can get educated on what this instrument can do.

John

spongeuke
01-13-2018, 08:50 PM
I'm thinking of getting an "upgrade" for my S1 and leaning towards an old Martin but would like to humbly listen to the people's advice here. Really appreciate your time and help.

When I first got the UAS I couldn't afford the typical vintage Martins so I bought ones with issues and taught myself how to repair on some very cheap and free broken ukuleles. It is now a collection of 6 WWII Martins and have a few waiting rescue and better weather to French polish. I will probably have one or two this May or June ready to go.
You could pick up some for less than 300 but would need attention. I've seen a few go for less than 500. A few years ago Martins were more expensive till the flood of decent Asian made ukuleles arrived. I don't think they will get back to their previous prices

maki66
01-13-2018, 11:29 PM
Vintage Favilla Ukulele are worth looking into.

DownUpDave
01-14-2018, 01:05 AM
Please pardon my ignorance. I understand fluorocarbon is much thinner than nylon. But compare nylon to nylon, for instance these two D'Addario sets:

EJ65S Pro-Arté Custom Extruded
A 0.024 E 0.032 C 0.034 g 0.028

EJ88S Nyltech
A 0.023 E 0.03 C 0.036 g 0.025

The first set is consistently thicker but suddenly the tension/diameter drops on the C string? I can't wrap my head around it.

Also there are differences between brands on fluorocarbon too. Unlike acoustic or electric strings that I'm used to - 12-53 or 13-56 pretty much means the same across brands and models.

EJ99SC Pro-Arté Carbon Ukulele
A 0.0205 E 0.026 C 0.0319 g 0.0224

Martin M600
A 0.0191 E 0.0256 C 0.034 g 0.0216

Again the EJ99SC C strings is considerably smaller than the peers.

Never knew I'd one day dive so deep into uke world lol... I'm intrigued.

The two "nylon" strings you compared are not both nylon. The Pro Arte are a very typical nylon string, both in sound and diameter. The Nyltech is a hybrid material, for lack of a better word.

The florocarbon are both florocarbon but being a chemical compound with many components that make up the material. Because of this they vary a bit in diameter, tension and of course in sound. Experimenting with strings is a rabbit hole that once you go down you will not return the same person:p be warned.

As a long time guitar player you know what you like when you hear it. Vintage Martin sopranos are legendary for the specific sound. You played one, you loved one, you could have already found what you really like.

Rakelele
01-14-2018, 03:36 AM
Sounds to me like you did not only enjoy the sound of that vintage Martin, but you also appreciate its history. With this background, I would not settle for a copy, be it accurately done or more blunt and hence more affordable. Get the real thing.

Then again, knowing you like an instrument with a legacy, why not save up for a Kamaka, either a used one or a new one? The have the longest continuing history of building ukes, and they are deeply rooted in the instrument's place of origin.

EDW
01-14-2018, 03:59 AM
There are lots of ways you can go and there are and will be tons of great suggestions here. One thing I try to remember is that ultimately, the instrument is a tool to do a job. Try to find an instrument that you connect with, that has the voice that you desire, but don't go nuts. (That is the hard part)

The vintage vs new debate can be a long one, with people weighing in on each side. In short, the vintage instruments have a certain feel, sound and mojo going for them, but they can have issues. You may have to deal with instruments that need or have some repairs or that do not look perfect. You have to decide if that is ok with you. The character, both in sound and looks can be kind of cool. Some of the newer instruments can sound and play great and lack issues. The Kiwayas you mention are great examples of this. The workmanship, sound, playability, intonation is superb. The KTS-4 is one of the best instruments going.

I am sure with some thought and after playing a few things, you will find what feels right for you. While you can listen to lots of advice here and lots of videos and soundless, there is no substitute for having the instrument in your own hands. Have fun with it and let us now what you find.

omlove
01-14-2018, 04:14 AM
As far as strings, you need to stop comparing steel strings and start looking a classical guitar strings. Ukulele strings are similar to nylon/fluorocarbon classical strings. Not to start a flaming discussion on steel strings, but in my opinion, there is not too much difference between brands, especially electric. There are some, but there's more hype than substance.

But back to your original question. You really need to figure out what you are going to play on the ukulele. Are you playing chords or are you interested in fingerstyle instrumentals like Jake Shimabukuro (YouTube).

John

Thanks for the advice. I play finger style guitar, on both acoustic and classical. I did experiment a bit with classical guitar string but not long before I settled on D'Addario EJ46. I am not a classical guitar player so classical guitar is just a tool, of which I like the tone very much. I like the clear nylon treble strings for smoothness rather than the rectified/coarse strings, so an easy pick. Also classical guitar strings are not that different, EJ44 extra hard tension is only 2lbs more than EJ46 hard tension. It's almost negligible to me:)

Uke, being exactly the same string interval as guitar and with two less strings, is relatively easy for me to jump on. It's a convenient tool for family/friends gathering and entertainment. So mostly some strumming, singing, and finger style instrumental and turnaround. I guess in that sense I shouldn't be fretting too much about the tone as nobody in the room but me (and or some guitar playing friends) would probably notice it...

omlove
01-14-2018, 04:26 AM
There are lots of ways you can go and there are and will be tons of great suggestions here. One thing I try to remember is that ultimately, the instrument is a tool to do a job. Try to find an instrument that you connect with, that has the voice that you desire, but don't go nuts. (That is the hard part)

The vintage vs new debate can be a long one, with people weighing in on each side. In short, the vintage instruments have a certain feel, sound and mojo going for them, but they can have issues. You may have to deal with instruments that need or have some repairs or that do not look perfect. You have to decide if that is ok with you. The character, both in sound and looks can be kind of cool. Some of the newer instruments can sound and play great and lack issues. The Kiwayas you mention are great examples of this. The workmanship, sound, playability, intonation is superb. The KTS-4 is one of the best instruments going.

I am sure with some thought and after playing a few things, you will find what feels right for you. While you can listen to lots of advice here and lots of videos and soundless, there is no substitute for having the instrument in your own hands. Have fun with it and let us now what you find.

That's some very sensible words there. Appreciate it!

I remember a long time ago I went nuts about vintage Martin and Gibson stuff. They do sound unique, in a way, but in the back of my head I knew it was because of the "mojo", the history, the story, the Brazilian Rosewood, the whatever but sound that attracted me. It's vanity. For instance I had a very nice and all original Gibson L-00 from 1931, which can play blues by itself:) But it only has 12 frets and from 13th fret up because the fingerboard sinks, it's really really hard to play. Not to mention a few quirky spots here and there despite I had set it up as best as I could. Eventually I realized guitars are just tools. It's me that's making music. And as I got better and better, I could make cheaper and cheaper instruments sound as good. I did like the L-00 sound dearly so I settled on a new black Waterloo with 14 frets at neck joint and superb workmanship as well as perfect playability.

But every now and then I would be hit by something. It's this little vintage Martin on this random trip to Hawaii that struck me and started this thread.

Did I answer my own question:) Maybe a KTS-4 is the answer for now.

omlove
01-14-2018, 04:32 AM
Sounds to me like you did not only enjoy the sound of that vintage Martin, but you also appreciate its history. With this background, I would not settle for a copy, be it accurately done or more blunt and hence more affordable. Get the real thing.

Then again, knowing you like an instrument with a legacy, why not save up for a Kamaka, either a used one or a new one? The have the longest continuing history of building ukes, and they are deeply rooted in the instrument's place of origin.

Kamaka HF-1 is around $1000 in the US; Gryphonstrings right now has two Style 0 from 1950s that look really nice asking about $600-$700.

EDW
01-14-2018, 05:15 AM
Here is a very reputable place that often has vintage instruments as well as the Kiwaya http://www.vintage-instruments.com

Yes, you are right, you may have answered your own question!