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View Full Version : Buying a first uke - that I won't want to instantly upgrade



Intrigued
05-08-2009, 11:16 AM
Hey all, I've been recently thinking about picking up an ukulele to mess around with. I am currently a mandolin player, and I'm thinking I would like to have an instrument that offers a very different style. I am looking for something that has more sustain, is better for strumming and something to possibly try some finger picking stuff with. Does it sound like an ukulele would fit those needs well, or am I off base?

Anyways, I was hoping to get a little more personalized feedback. I looked through the stickies and searched a little, and was flooded with posts about what are good beginner ukuleles. However, I don't really want to pay $100 for something just to find out that it is only a passable beginner instrument, and that I will probably want something nicer in the next few weeks.

I'm not looking to spend $1000 or anything, but it sounds like a good ukulele can be had for far less than that anyways.

So I don't know how to explain myself, but I guess I'm just looking for a feel from anyone here. What range do you think I should be looking in? Do you have any great bang for your buck deals? Is it really possible to get something for $100 that wouldn't need replacing if I started to spend some time with the instrument?

I'm also currently torn between a concert and a tenor. I'm currently thinking I like the look and size of the concert more, but does a tenor offer better sustain?

Thanks!

buddhuu
05-08-2009, 11:53 AM
Welcome to UU :shaka:

I'm a mandolin player too. Good ukes come much cheaper than good mandos, thank goodness!

I started soprano, went to concert and am picking up my first tenor tomorrow.

Actually, I'd say uke has no more, maybe less, sustain than mando - a good mando - because of the nylon strings. However it is much better for strumming, IMO, especially as an instrument to accompany vocals.

In general, ukulele is a great instrument for strumming and fingerpicking.

Again, just my opinion, but a good solid mahogany uke is a great place to start. If you live near a uke store you could try mahogany and maybe koa ukes, and spruce and cedar tops. There is commonly plenty of choice in tonewoods used for ukulele... more so, I would say, than for guitar or mandolin.

As for the size thing, there's no getting around the fact that you'll want to try them all eventually. Concert is a good size, but personally, despite having small hands, I think tenor will suit me better. More frets, more room to use alternative fingerings for awkward chords such as E, possibly more resonance and more volume.

Sustain? Uke isn't really a huge sustain instrument. Not as bad as banjo! But not as good as a steel string guitar. About on a par with some mandolins.

But the stuff you'll find yourself getting into on uke doesn't need too much sustain.

Concert or tenor would be fine, I'm sure, but it would be best to try both before buying.

Kanaka916
05-08-2009, 12:18 PM
Intriqued, check this thread (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=11346) for entry level ukes. There are a number of links you can check out. Hopefully, it'll provide some guidance and assistance purchasing your first uke.

Spooner
05-08-2009, 12:36 PM
Two great resources I have found and used to get an idea of a brand of uke and the sound quality of it were:

ukulelefriend.com

and

ukuleleghetto.com

They both put up some sound files on YouTube which can give you an idea of the ukes they feature.


I'm one of those living in an "ukulele challenged" region and have relied on sound samples and reviews to make purchases.

Kanaka916
05-08-2009, 01:03 PM
Both Sean Yacavone (Ukulelefirend) and George (GX9901, Ukuleleghetto) are both members of UU. Sean just deals in custom instruments and George just has custom instruments (William King, Collings, KoAloha, Koa Works, LoPrinzi, etc.). Both good sites for info . . .

Spooner
05-08-2009, 01:11 PM
Two great resources I have found and used to get an idea of a brand of uke and the sound quality of it were:

ukulelefriend.com

and

ukuleleghetto.com

They both put up some sound files on YouTube which can give you an idea of the ukes they feature.


I'm one of those living in an "ukulele challenged" region and have relied on sound samples and reviews to make purchases.

Damn...I posted this in the wrong thread lolol.

Intrigued
05-08-2009, 01:31 PM
Thanks for the great responses. I thought I had went over this, but I think I was just thinking about it. I did actually check out the stickies and do some searching already, but mostly found information on the lower end stuff, and what people should buy as introductory ukuleles, especially in the area of 50-100, and I was more wanting to ask if that was really a good idea, or if I should step up, if I'm looking for something a little more serious.

@buddhu - Thanks, that was a great response, and is exactly the kind of mindset I was hoping for. I realize my original post was a little muddled, and didn't have good direction nor a really clear question to it. Anyways, I'm entirely sure that I did not mean what I said when I said sustain. Note sure entirely what I was thinking at the time. What I really want is something to play with backup strumming (specifically, as you said, to back up vocals) and also something that I can play with finger picking to get some arpeggiated type stuff going on. I'm just learning some basic mandolin crosspicking, but that is not even close to the same.

I do have probably larger than normal hands, so I'm not worried about larger fret spacings, but I'm also comfortable with smaller ones from mandolin, not sure how these would compare. I am in CT, I've done a little bit of searching but haven't found any shops around, but I'll look some more before I give up.

From my lookings around, my inkling before posting this was that something in the $200-400 range, having a solid wood body was probably where I am thinking I want to be. You seem to have confirmed that suspicion. I will be continuing my search, thanks again for the advice.

@Spooner - Thanks for the links, I will be checking them out now! Sounds like they could be very helpful.

GX9901
05-08-2009, 04:46 PM
Right now it seems to be a great time for fairly inexpensive solid wood ukes as there are many offerings from Kala, Ohana, and Mainland that are in your $200-400 price range.

Going up a level price-wise, you're looking at Ponos, Honus, and LoPrinzi model A. For $550, a LoPrinzi (http://www.augustinoloprinzi.com/)model A (check here (http://www.kiwayaukuleles.com/loprinziukuleles.html)for all models) is tough to beat. It is an instrument that's on par with the Hawaiian factory made ukes (KoAloha, Kamaka, Kanile'a, etc.) but somehow priced a level below.

You should probably browse around these brands on musicguymic's ebay shop (http://stores.ebay.com/Musicguymics-Room) and Mainland Ukulele (http://www.mainlandukes.com) to see if anything tickles your fancy. Have fun with your search!

Ukuleleblues
05-09-2009, 02:17 AM
Buy a solid wood uke. If you get one without the binding, inlays and figured woods you will have a choice of a whole bunch of solid mahogany ukes from $175 - $250. All of the above mentioned appointments are expensive to add and don't make it sound better, just look better.

ichadwick
05-09-2009, 08:40 AM
There are a dozen or so makes of good quality ukes in the $200-$500 US range, depending on size, pickups, cutaway, etc. Look at Mainland, Kala, Ohana, Lanikai, Fender, Fluke and Pono to start. I have several models reviews on my ukulele page.

As a mandolin player, you'll find most of the scale lengths accessible. Soprano is 13", concert 15" and tenor (my favourite) 15".

With the exception of the Fluke which has a laminated top, I'd recommend you stick with solid wood tops - you will appreciate the difference and not need feel the need to upgrade as quickly.

Harold O.
05-10-2009, 07:47 AM
About a month ago I posted a comparison between my Ohana TK 35G and Fender Nohea. They are right in your price range and the sound file will give you some idea of the how similar instruments can produce different sound.
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/fo...ad.php?t=12213

There's also no harm in getting a $100 uke and learning to play. Then stepping up from there. After playing a more basic instrument, you will have a better appreciation/understanding of the difference in build, materials, sizes, etc. of the ukulele at large. Of course, that's usually when UAS chimes in...

Ahnko Honu
05-10-2009, 08:03 AM
If you're after a nice quality great sounding solid top ukulele at a great price that you won't be in any rush to upgrade from the Kala spruce top series are hard to beat.

Intrigued
05-12-2009, 09:49 AM
So do you guys think that this might fit well into my expectations?

http://cgi.ebay.com/Kala-ka-asmc-SOLID-MAHOGANY-CONCERT-UKULELE-Package_W0QQitemZ330329661871QQihZ014QQcategoryZ16 224QQcmdZViewItemQQ_trksidZp1742.m153.l1262

I am going to try to see if I can find any sound samples of this model for comparison, and I'm also going to keep looking around. This sounds like it may be basically what I am looking for though. It would actually still be getting away cheaper than I really expected.

I am very interested in some of the other woods, which I think are beautiful (koa/mango), but haven't been able to find solid varieties unless you jump to something like double the price of the one above.

edit:
I've also seen these seemingly comparable Ohana models

http://cgi.ebay.com/Ohana-CONCERT-solid-Mahogany-CK-35G-gloss-ukulele-w-cs_W0QQitemZ330328578448QQcmdZViewItemQQssPageName ZRSS:B:SRCH:US:101

Does anyone have experience with this one vs the other?

ScottieUke
05-13-2009, 11:36 AM
Hey dude!

JUST bought a Kala all solid mahogany tenor uke from "musicguymic" on ebay. I was seriously pleased. Worried I'd buy a low-end Mahalo ($30) and hate playing cause of the quality, OR love playing but wish I had a better Uke.
I made the same choice as you are looking to make and bought the exact Kala you are looking at (except mine's a cutaway).
Point being. I love this Uke! I can't put it down.
Not sure about the other brand you're looking at, but this uke is for serious, hah.

Here's a link where you can hear what this Uke sounds like,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYU8j_99Hw0

Keep it Real!
///S

buddhuu
05-13-2009, 12:46 PM
Intrigued, I picked up my tenor. It is the Kala ASMT which is the next size up in the same solid mahogany series as the concert you're looking at. Like ScottieUke I love it. Gigged it for the first time last night and it delivers.

From what I have here, and what I have read, I would say that a solid wood Kala from MGM would be a very safe way to start your uke journey.

Funster
05-13-2009, 02:25 PM
I'd give a nod to KALA. I now have two ukes and they're both KALA and I'm waiting on a third. Solid tops and all solids are great. Only needed some nut work. I liked the Lanakais I formerly had in the cheaper priced laminate type. Hardly needed a set-up at all with a nice slim neck. I ordered a Mainland and regretfully sent it back. Sounded real good but very high action that couldn't be lowered much. Could have been my sample.

Intrigued
05-14-2009, 02:51 AM
Thanks guys, I think this will be, at the very least, the series that I am going with. I thought concert was what I wanted, but I saw and listened to some tenors online and am once again divided. Particularly, I was also looking at the kala-asmtec for the built in pickup. I have seen there are tutorials on how to add this to your ukulele, but I wasn't sure how difficult they are, or how the end result compares. Do you lose anything acoustically by having the electric installed?

@buddhu - Thanks for the confirmation, I'm starting to feel much more confident in getting the basic type right (the kala solid mahogany), and just need to fill out with the rest of the details (concert v tenor, electric?, etc.)

@scottieuke - How do you feel about the cutaway? I like the style of the non-cutaway, but I don't know how useful it may or may not be. The current one I looked at below does have the cutaway.

Here is a link to that model -

http://cgi.ebay.com/KALA-ALL-SOLID-MAHOGANY-CUTAWAY-TENOR-UKULELE-ka-asmtec_W0QQitemZ330329661891QQihZ014QQcategoryZ162 24QQcmdZViewItemQQ_trksidZp1742.m153.l1262

Kanaka916
05-14-2009, 04:52 AM
Your question about cutaways. It does come into play if you use the upper end of the fretboard. IMO, mostly aesthetics. Read this thread (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=7754) for more opinions.

PickNStrum
05-15-2009, 12:58 PM
Welcome to UU :shaka:

I'm a mandolin player too. Good ukes come much cheaper than good mandos, thank goodness!

I started soprano, went to concert and am picking up my first tenor tomorrow.

Actually, I'd say uke has no more, maybe less, sustain than mando - a good mando - because of the nylon strings. However it is much better for strumming, IMO, especially as an instrument to accompany vocals.

In general, ukulele is a great instrument for strumming and fingerpicking.

Again, just my opinion, but a good solid mahogany uke is a great place to start. If you live near a uke store you could try mahogany and maybe koa ukes, and spruce and cedar tops. There is commonly plenty of choice in tonewoods used for ukulele... more so, I would say, than for guitar or mandolin.

As for the size thing, there's no getting around the fact that you'll want to try them all eventually. Concert is a good size, but personally, despite having small hands, I think tenor will suit me better. More frets, more room to use alternative fingerings for awkward chords such as E, possibly more resonance and more volume.

Sustain? Uke isn't really a huge sustain instrument. Not as bad as banjo! But not as good as a steel string guitar. About on a par with some mandolins.

But the stuff you'll find yourself getting into on uke doesn't need too much sustain.

Concert or tenor would be fine, I'm sure, but it would be best to try both before buying.

Sustain between a concert and tenor is actually quite noticeable. I personally like the sustain even though it's not a traditional sound

haolejohn
05-15-2009, 01:18 PM
Before you buy, check out MELE ukulele. They are having an anniversery sale I believe and there are some killer deals to be had. You can find some of their ukes in your price range. The Kalas are also good ukes as well as all the others. I just think that the best uke in your range are MELEs. Check out Ukerepublic.com or here on forum. He is on the east coast so he can ship quick and MGM is great as well. Here is an Ebay link
http://cgi.ebay.com/MELE-HANDMADE-Solid-Big-Island-KOA-CONCERT-UKULELE_W0QQitemZ310129423877QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH _DefaultDomain_0?hash=item4835277605&_trksid=p3286.m20.l1116