View Full Version : Epiphone for Active Kid?

03-05-2018, 08:49 AM
Sorry if this is in the wrong place. Was not sure where to post it.

I have an Epiphone that cost around $100. I never use it and even tried to sell in on here a few years back. Only got 1 offer and it was way too low. My grandson's 10th birthday is next month. He likes music and is pretty smart. He's also very active. I was going through the usual thought process of which beginners uke to get him. My wife reminded me that he's sort of "rough" on things and a wood uke might be too delicate for him to handle. I thought of the epiphone which is either a concert or soprano and built tough. If I give him the epiphone, I won't have to shop further and I think it would hold up to his abuse ok and still give him some exposure to music. His sister and parents are musicians and another sister has a uke we gave her a couple of years ago. I would appreciate any comments on what others think of this idea both pro and con. Thanks!

03-05-2018, 09:56 AM
The Epiphone LP is indeed a concert scale (I have one). The wood of the body and top are quite a bit thicker than standard ukuleles, and as such should hold up to abuse.

However, that thickness tends to make it a little quieter acoustically, which may be a good thing for the parents.

The sound of the included pickup leaves a lot to be desired, but is good enough to get started, either with the addition of an external preamp, or an acoustic amplifier.

The preamp and acoustic amp are necessary as opposed to a standard guitar amp on account of 'impedance mismatch' with passive piezo pickups.

I've previously written tomes on UU on these topics of how to improve pickup sound and why impedance mismatch needs to be rectified, which you can access via the FAQ link in my signature below.

As far as the play feel, intonation, neck profile, and build quality, the Epiphone LP is actually not that bad, but the instrument might benefit from a proper setup to correct intonation at the saddle, as well as lowering the string height at the nut, which will make it much more comfortable to play chords, otherwise if the strings are too high off the fretboard at the nut, not only will the intonation be all screwy and never be in tune when fretted, but it will be much harder to press the strings down, and usually hard enough to discourage most beginners unless they have extreme amounts of determination.

So having said all the above. The Epiphone LP can be a fine starter instrument, and likely a better choice for one to take a beating than other ukes in this price range.

Plus, IMHO, it looks really nice as well.

Hope this helps! :)

03-05-2018, 12:40 PM
Thanks so much for your response, Booli. I do have a little micro guitar amp, but was not even thinking of the pickup. I'm not doing any amp'd stuff with the uke at all. If grandson gets going, I'll give him the amp. I had a tech do the setup The string height at the nut looks low and it has a low G string on it. I probably read some of your "tomes" about this ebfore, but then there's CRS..... I'm sure I'll be going back and reading some more if he advances to that point. Thankfully, they live out in the woods :)

Your info is most appreciated since I know nothing about amp'd instruments except my wife's flute that I mic'd.

03-05-2018, 12:51 PM
Thanks so much for your response, Booli....

Sure thing and I'm glad to help. I appreciate that your approach to all of this is so well thought-out.

It sounds to me like you've got something very nice to offer for your Grand-son.

I had considered selling or giving my own Epiphone LP to my nephew, but having been an authentic Gibson Les Paul die-hard back in the days when I was guitarded, I really want to keep mine, even just because of the looks.

Mine is heavily modded, with a custom bone nut and saddle I shaped myself, as well as replacing the pickup with a better one, and also putting a shim under the neck block where it bolts on to the body to improve the string geometry...and it plays like butta, but acoustically is not very satisfying for me as I have better sounding ukes.

However, with all these changes and into the right audio path for amplification it suits my needs fine when I get the urge to rattle the windows every now and then.

:music: :rock:

03-06-2018, 03:28 AM
Outdoor ukulele might be your best bet as far as "indestructible"...

03-06-2018, 06:10 AM
I've owned the Epiphone Les Paul ukulele for several years at time... twice.
One in Cherry Sunburst... and another more recently in "Clown" burst (yellow/black).

For an "active" kid - it's a pretty cool, appropriate ukulele.
They're robust, decent quality for their price and I guess they're kinda easily replaceable if you do manage to wreck it somehow.

The setup isn't necessarily perfect straight out of box. I find the setup right away a bit high for my liking, and sand the saddle down a bit and file the nut slots slightly.
However, this is nearly always the case even for a lot of more expensive ukuleles. Spend $30, $100 or even $500+, the setup will rarely be perfect.
Any skilled guitar technician or luthier will do a setup for a small fee if you're not familiar with doing it yourself.
That being said, it's not the worst setup. It is definitely playable with no setup at all - it all depends on whether the player himself/herself feels the need for better setup.

Not much to be said about the acoustic sound, other than it sounds "ok". It's not as loud as some thinner laminate ukes out there, but loud doesn't always mean better. It has a usable sound - a bit on the mellow side. Definitely not an awful sound, especially with good strings like fresh Aquila's on them.

Now, one of my favourite topics - the pickup system.
As previously noted by Booli, the stock undersaddle piezo leaves more to be desired.
They use a rather cheap unit which sounds a bit harsh and often unbalanced.

The good news is, it is extremely easy to replace the stock undersaddle piezo unit with one of these:


(same thing, just alternative seller. They are pretty reliable, I've bought many pickups from them).

This Artec undersaddle piezo is like 100 times better than any stock pickup that comes on inexpensive acoustic-electrics. I know at least one well known ukulele manufacturer that resells these Artec pickups under their own "brand" name and charges a lot more than the listings above. It's a pro quality piezo for low price.

Another great news is, installation is usually quite easy. On an existing acoustic-electric, all the holes are drilled for you and you already have the output jack installed. Sometimes all you need to do is just loosen the strings, undo a few screws and replace the pickup by threading it through and plugging it into the instrument's jack.
Usually, they're just plug and play. The plug is universal across many pickup systems. The Epiphone's output jack unscrews and will take the same plug as the Artec.

I'm sure a guitar technician or luthier will be happy to install it for you if you're not a DIY hands-on kinda person. You may be required to do some minor handywork, like filing the "hole" under the saddle for the wiring (especially the plug) to fit through, and sandpapering down the saddle to accomodate for the new pickup unit's height, etc.

If you do choose to get a professional to do it, ask them if they could also replace the connection with a solder/weld, rather than just using the plug.
Old fashioned soldered/welded connections tend to have less unwanted hum than these newer (and cheaper) plug-in types. Something to do with better grounding, etc.

As for plugging into an amplifier.
With the Artec piezo upgrade, the raw tone is actually surprisingly decent for a passive.
With a bit of fiddling with the tone and gain settings, you should be able to get a usable sound for a bit of fun and amateur performance.
But indeed - for any refined performance, a preamp helps.

However, I would recommend swapping out the pickup to Artec if you are interested in plugging it in at all.
The stock pickup is not good at all.

03-06-2018, 08:17 AM
Thanks so much to all for the many suggestions and detailed instructions. If we get to the point of improving the pickup, I will certainly be using your great info. There is only one place to take repairs/modifications to here and they always have a backlog. I have my concert Mainland in for a simple repair right now and don't know when I'll get it back. Grandson lives a 1:15 drive from here so time and distance come into play to set down with him. Luckily, he's a self-starter on things that he likes so we'll see how a uke works out. They also have a piano. Again many thanks for all of the very helpful comments. Most appreciated!

03-06-2018, 09:53 AM
I'd ask him first if he was interested, and if so, would tell him he could borrow your "good one", but he needs to take care of it for you. If he does well, and continues with uke, then let the gifting begin!