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View Full Version : Flea Vs. Kiwaya



GreyPoupon
05-12-2009, 02:36 AM
This is an extended response to the thread I saw recently from someone who was singing the praises of the flea (or was it the fluke?) and was saying "Lordy, why would anyone reach for anything but a flea!"

I've been playing a KTS 4 Kiwaya for a few months now. (Totally deeply addicted btw, ukulele is really a great instrument for someone with a mild obsessive compulsive disorder as it is so easy to pick up and play with little or no advanced notice.)

I have a one year old daughter whose greatest passion in life is to rush me when playing and she grabs my sheet music and throws it into the air all the while giggling with great gusto. And lately she has taken to coming up to the ukulele and trying to grab the strings while I play. So I thought, hey, time to get the girl her own ukulele. I thought I would get her a $10 toy, but then the wife got involved and one thing led to another and I ended up getting a flea for the house. You know, a uke that you play but that you're not afraid to let the kids mangle.

The flea is great. I was surprised at how good it sounds - and how unique it sounds. It has a deep resonant and simple voice. But it is such a different animal from a kiwaya. Now I don't know if Kiwaya here can mean 'solid wood high end ukes' but I suspect so.

The kiwaya is a very sensitive instrument. A slight twitch of a finger can bend a note. The sound is complex and capable of being both gentle and strong. The instrument hands you a wide range of options in how you want to craft a particular note. A flea, on the other hand, is not so sensitive. It's either making its sound or it is not.

A kiwaya will also broadcast any slight mistake you make. You hit the string from a sloppy angle and it'll make a sloppy sound. But the flea just marches on regardless.

I aspire towards finger pickin' so the kiwaya is just more interesting to play. So I do suspect that if someone is primarily strumming the additional sensitivity of the kiwaya may not be so needed or even welcome... not sure.

In short: a flea is great, but limited, it's like a hammer. A kiwaya is a fine paint brush.

Just some thoughts on the topic.

If any of the above is just plain wrong, please call me on it.

Ukulele JJ
05-12-2009, 03:05 AM
Not having played a Kiwaya, I can't really confirm or deny most of your assessment.

But I'm not so sure I'd buy a Flea as a "kids and drunks" ukulele. I just like keeping my Flea in working order too much.

Some friends brought their two-year-old over the other day. I kept him away from the Flea, but let him have free rein on my Oscar Schmidt OU-5. :p

JJ

Witters
05-12-2009, 03:20 AM
I have the same Kiwaya as yourself. I also have a Flea.

The Flea in my opinion is superb.
I have given up the ghost of buying something off the internet because my past experience has not been good. I also donít think its right to buy something and then have it altered to make it right. Iím not talking about the tweaking that some do, I am referring to having it altered so it comes up to how it should have been before it was sent out.
The Flea however was something that was right and personally I like the sound and non conformity of it.
It is a plastic back, laminate sound board, plastic fret, superb instrument.

I bought the Kiwaya after trying it first ( I was lucky to do that as I donít live anywhere near a retailer). This little Uke is 1st rate.
Ken Middleton gives a superb review on it on Youtube and I agree with everything he said.
It was only after buying the Kiwaya that my faith in all solid wood Ukeís was restored - in so much as quality. I know they fall into the expensive bracket but I donít regret buying it for a minute.
If I had a second chance however, I would probably opt for the Concert, but that is only because of the slight size difference. Otherwise I am more than happy just using a Soprano.

jkevinwolfe
05-12-2009, 05:09 AM
The fleas and flukes are worth having if nothing else than for a beater. The plastic is not affected by humidity and temperature change as much as all-wood ukes. I think part of the lack of pitch sensitivity is the Hilo Black strings. It's as if the Flea was made for those strings. They're stretchy and have a great feel. (I tried them on a custom uke and it sounded like my flea.)

The fleas and flukes don't have the magical sound of an expensive uke. But they're very consistent and dependable. They're wonderful starter instruments and feel like a lot of non-serious fun. I think that's what ukes always were meant to be.

General Zod
05-12-2009, 08:20 AM
The fleas and flukes are worth having if nothing else than for a beater. The plastic is not affected by humidity and temperature change as much as all-wood ukes. I think part of the lack of pitch sensitivity is the Hilo Black strings. It's as if the Flea was made for those strings. They're stretchy and have a great feel. (I tried them on a custom uke and it sounded like my flea.)

The fleas and flukes don't have the magical sound of an expensive uke. But they're very consistent and dependable. They're wonderful starter instruments and feel like a lot of non-serious fun. I think that's what ukes always were meant to be.

@ $159 they're a pretty expensive starter. I don't know if any of you got in on that Kona with hardshell case deal for $49 on ebay recently but that's what I would call a starter. And a pretty good player with a good set of strings I might add. Comes with a very well made hardshell case. Heck buy a good hardshell case and get a free beater uke with it! :rofl:

I agree about the Flukes as consistent and dependable. Add durable. They took a cue from Leo Fender with that maple neck. Leo Fender was out bowling one night and noticed that the bowling pins being made of wood took a lot of abuse. After his game he asked the guy at the desk what type of wood they used and the guy said "maple" and the rest as they say is music history.

Beater? I would feel comfortable packing a Flea in a suitcase or throwing it up in the overhead compartment on a plane in its gig bag. @ $159 new I would not throw it around and beat the crap out of it nor would I ever call it a "beater". It's made well, sounds great and has it's own signature tone, what's a beater about that?

haole
05-12-2009, 09:37 AM
I thought my Flea would be a good beater, but it looks, sounds, and plays too nice to be a beater or a starter instrument. :eek: After realizing how well it works as a serious instrument, I've decided to take much better care of it. ;)

A Makala would've been a better choice for a beater, I think. I'd love to get one as a beach uke.

Ukulele JJ
05-12-2009, 12:12 PM
A Makala would've been a better choice for a beater, I think.

Yeah, and the "dolphin" models in particular are perfect for a child beater uke.

Er... not a uke that you'd beat a child with. Well, I suppose you could. But, um, you know what I mean.

JJ

Witters
05-12-2009, 04:35 PM
Well I donít know how the FleaFluke ever got put in the category of starter Ukeís in the first place, but at $160 or so I don't think that is a bad price to pay.
If they are classed as starter Uke's then cudos to them because when you go to an all solid wood Uke you certainlt have to live up to something special.

swervy jervy
05-12-2009, 05:30 PM
I've ordered a custom uke, scheduled to arrive next month. Pricey, but I tend to throw nickles around like manhole covers so I can buy nice things occasionally.

I have no intention of putting my Flea back in the gig bag after the new uke arrives. It's a blast to leave on the counter or computer table (or on the floor leaning against the wall!) and pick up and play at any time. I take it with even when I escort the dog out for his poop in the alley.

That flea hatchet sounds great.

It is *not* a beater. It's the most reliable endorphin machine I own.

JT_Ukes
05-12-2009, 05:36 PM
I've ordered a custom uke, scheduled to arrive next month. Pricey, but I tend to throw nickles around like manhole covers so I can buy nice things occasionally.

I have no intention of putting my Flea back in the gig bag after the new uke arrives. It's a blast to leave on the counter or computer table (or on the floor leaning against the wall!) and pick up and play at any time. I take it with even when I escort the dog out for his poop in the alley.

That flea hatchet sounds great.

It is *not* a beater. It's the most reliable endorphin machine I own.

I also strum my flea whilst the dog does her business in the evenings...

interesting.

swervy jervy
05-12-2009, 06:18 PM
I also strum my flea whilst the dog does her business in the evenings...

interesting.


I think it helps him go.

GreyPoupon
05-12-2009, 06:19 PM
I've ordered a custom uke, scheduled to arrive next month. Pricey, but I tend to throw nickles around like manhole covers so I can buy nice things occasionally.

I have no intention of putting my Flea back in the gig bag after the new uke arrives. It's a blast to leave on the counter or computer table (or on the floor leaning against the wall!) and pick up and play at any time. I take it with even when I escort the dog out for his poop in the alley.

That flea hatchet sounds great.

It is *not* a beater. It's the most reliable endorphin machine I own.

I hear ya. My kiwaya is my favorite, but f most of my play time now is on the flea. Why? She's the one standing at attention and out in the open waiting to be picked up on a moment's notice.