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View Full Version : I'm looking to step up from my kamaka tenor



jdavani
07-16-2018, 09:34 PM
Thinking moore bettah or mya-moe. Does anyone else have any suggestions?

Barrytone
07-16-2018, 10:07 PM
Check it Noah ukuleles. I have just purchased a spruce topped tenor and it is superb in sound looks and build.

anthonyg
07-16-2018, 10:37 PM
Thinking moore bettah or mya-moe. Does anyone else have any suggestions?

What is it about the Kamaka that you want to improve Upon?

At this level you probably should try them first to find the one you want to keep.




There's a Moore Bettah Tenor for sale in the marketplace that may be of interest :D https://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?133676-FS-Moore-Bettah-Slotted-Headstock-Tenor

I'm not in touch with Chuck but given that he has had to leave his home/workshop due to the Hawaii volcano there may not be any new Moore Bettah's coming for a while.

DownUpDave
07-16-2018, 11:25 PM
Thinking moore bettah or mya-moe. Does anyone else have any suggestions?

Chuck Moore does not put people on a waiting list so other then finding a used one pretty much a no go. Mya Moe is no longer making ukuleles under Gordon and Char, again a used market deal. Although a new owner is starting it back up.

Custom builder that will take your orders, Koolau, I'iwi, Hive, Kinnard, LfdM (through HMS) Beau Hannam among many others. Is your Kamaka all koa, do you want to try something more guitar like ie soft wood top and hard wood back. Do you have a tonal preference.....warm and soft and delicate or bright, loud and powerful.

RichM
07-17-2018, 01:19 AM
The good news is that there is no shortage of builders making premium ukuleles-- in addition to the ones listed by DownUpDave above, I would add Maui Music (Peter Lieberman), Barron River (Allen McFarlen), Compass Rose (Rick Turner), Eric DeVine, Jason Wolverton, Dave Talsma, and Pohaku (Peter Hurney).

In my own experience, I own or have owned ukes by Luis Feu de Mesquita, Chuck Moore, Compass Rose, Maui Music, Mya Moe, Pohaku, and a custom-built uke by Dave Talsma. I also had the opportunity to play a John Kinnard uke for a week during a mail-around he did a few years back. Each and every one of these was an excellent instrument, but they were all quite different.

What does it mean to upgrade from a Kamaka? A Kamaka is a very high quality instrument. What is the goal? Better tone? I suspect you will get different tone from another builder, but better is subjective. A prettier uke? Nothing wrong with that, although my Mya-Moe was one of the plainest-looking ukes I've ever owned. Magical fairy dust? I've heard it happens :)

I will say this: despite having owned some wonderful ukes, my Dave Talsma uke is my prized possession, because I worked closely with Dave on the design, followed the build closely, and even had a couple of my own ideas incorporated into the design (or at least Dave made me feel like they were my ideas ;)). Not only is it a very fine musical instrument, it's a constant reminder of the thrill of being part of the creative process and something that was built just for me.

Pete F
07-17-2018, 02:18 AM
I take it you've swapped out the black kamaka strings? that from what I've heard would be a significant step up alone...

anthonyg
07-17-2018, 03:20 AM
I take it you've swapped out the black kamaka strings? that from what I've heard would be a significant step up alone...

Yes this. Swap out the standard strings before you decide that its not for you and want to sell it.

dsummers
07-17-2018, 04:34 AM
If I were you, I would give Dave Talsma a call. Check out his web site.

70sSanO
07-17-2018, 05:57 AM
As others have alluded to, there is not a lot of upgrading from a Kamaka in terms of a well made trditional Hawaiian ukulele. Some people have built a career playing one. As already mentioned, changing the original strings might improve the tone. And if you don't play out with others, tuning down from C to B also gives a new perspective.

That said, there are upgrades, so to speak, if you are looking for a non-traditional Hawaiian sound. Different tone woods (redwood, cedar, spruce, etc.), build features such as side ports, bevels, radius fretboards are typical options that you may want to consider if you are going to pony up for a more expensive ukulele. And not every custom is ends up tuned to C.

A lot of luthier suggestions were given, but you should try to figure out what you want over what you have.

John

anthonyg
07-17-2018, 02:55 PM
Tuning is important to as well as the strings. I'm not really keen on the sound of any tenor ukulele using fluorocarbon strings in standard tuning.

I play low G Nylguts tuned down to A# usually and sometimes B. A completely different sound like this. Not the classic Hawaii sound.

kissing
07-18-2018, 12:20 AM
A nice beater like a Kala? :P

Jerryc41
07-18-2018, 12:30 AM
Thinking moore bettah or mya-moe. Does anyone else have any suggestions?

I'm guessing you want a "prettier" ukulele, like one of the fancy Moore Bettahs. They can be pricey, though. Take a look at this Kanile'a. It looks even better in person. It's out of stock now, but I'm sure they will have more. KANILE'A HONU PREMIUM KOA CONCERT HNS-CP, S

https://www.theukulelesite.com/shop-by/custom-builds/kanile-a-honu-premium-koa-concert-hns-cp-s-1.html

Joyful Uke
07-18-2018, 07:59 AM
There are lots of great ukuleles out there. Can you be more specific about what you might be looking for that you would consider an upgrade?

The Ono tenor that was posted here looks great, and I can say that I love my Ono, (not a tenor, not as fancy, but sounds and plays beautifully.)

Other brands/builders that you might look into are Kinnard, (one of my favorites), Hoffman, LFdM (there is one in the marketplace, based in Europe), Moore Bettah (one in the marketplace - surprising to me that it hasn't sold yet), among others. LoPrinzi makes great ukuleles, with a neck that will be a bit different than your Kamaka.

An upgrade to your Kamaka might be the Jake model Kamaka that Elderly has listed, depending on your budget.
Kamaka makes deluxe models, too, sometimes with a spruce or cedar top instead of koa, which would give you a little different sound.

If you can give us some more details on what you might be looking for, (bling? different sound/wood than your Kamaka? custom? any specific features like a sound port?), maybe people here can help point you to some options that might work well for you.

Have any specific sound samples from HMS, Vimeo, YouTube, or elsewhere caught your ear?

Have fun with the search for a new ukulele!

SandChannel
07-18-2018, 08:03 AM
Research "The Law of Diminishing Returns" before you go down the rabbit hole! ;)

Joyful Uke
07-18-2018, 08:16 AM
Research "The Law of Diminishing Returns" before you go down the rabbit hole! ;)

Or, depending on your budget and reason for looking for something else, enjoy going down that rabbit hole. It can be a fun journey. And you can sell what doesn't work for you.

I think Kamakas are great, (love mine), but IMO, the attention to detail, intonation, and different sound of some of the other options, (like Kinnard, since that's a favorite of mine), really outshines Kamakas, and is worth the "upgrade." Base price on a Series One Kinnard is $1750, so not a massive jump up in price from a Kamaka. Base price on an Ono is $1800. Check around for the prices on any that strike your fancy, and have fun in the rabbit hole. :-)

Kenn2018
07-18-2018, 06:30 PM
There are several lists of Luthiers on the Forum and other places. Do you know what you are looking for in a uke? Are you planning to perform? Does it need to have a pickup for amplification? Radiused neck? Bigger voice than the Kamaka. (Try Worth Browns or Living Waters.) Low-G vs. High-g. More booming? Do you have any ukuleles in mind that you think are a clear step upwards? You can pay $10-$15k for a Kamaka without any problem.

What exactly do you mean?

jdavani
07-18-2018, 07:30 PM
my kamaka is all koa. I was thinking something like cedar. not sure though. open to suggestions. i play fingerstyle a lot. i'd like more sustain and more resonance--well, i know it's a ukulele, so as much as I can get.

jdavani
07-18-2018, 07:31 PM
i know what i'm looking for somewhat. i play high-g. i need a pickup, i play at church and occasionally at open mikes. i'm looking for more sustain, more resonance

jdavani
07-18-2018, 07:34 PM
that jake model looks cool. besides appearance how is it different than the tenor i already have from them?

jdavani
07-18-2018, 07:34 PM
i'm only interested in tenor ukuleles.

anthonyg
07-18-2018, 09:42 PM
Detuning your Kamaka 1,2 or 3 semitones will improve resonance and sustain straight away. Are you still using the standard Kamaka strings? Different strings can improve sustain.

Jerryc41
07-18-2018, 11:57 PM
I received this email from Ukulele Friend, in Honolulu. They sell "special" ukuleles. I bought a Mya-Moe from them. Very nice to deal with.

http://ukulelefriend.com/uke-store/

bearbike137
07-19-2018, 05:02 AM
Honestly, once you reach the level of Kamaka in terms of cost, there are innumerable choices when it comes to more sustain and resonance. You just have to get out there and play a lot of ukes. You will likely buy and sell quite a few in pursuit of your keeper. No two ukes - even by the same maker, made on the same day - sound exactly alike. You will even find other Kamaka tenors have more sustain and resonance than the one you already own. I bought and sold 3 high end Ko’olau tenors before I found my keeper. Personal taste is a big factor as well. I sold one of my Ko’olaus to Corey Fujimoto and it is one of his main ukuleles - exactly right for him. Also, try a lot of different brands of strings. If you haven’t already, you will be surprised what a difference it can make. And if you have those black Kamaka strings on your uke - take them off immediately! :-) Worst strings ever. I nearly asked Chris Kamaka during my recent tour of the Kamaka factory why they stick with those awful strings. Ultimately I did not ask because they are clearly very proud of what they do, and I did not want to be rude.

So good luck in your uke search. I will add that on my recent trip to Oahu, I was very surprised by how consistently good the Koaloha ukes sounded. I may have to get me one of those!

jdavani
07-19-2018, 05:27 AM
No. I use d’addario Clear nylon

jdavani
07-19-2018, 05:28 AM
I don’t have any ukulele shops around me that sell high end ukuleles for me to try in person.

Joyful Uke
07-19-2018, 05:53 AM
I don’t have any ukulele shops around me that sell high end ukuleles for me to try in person.

Most of us don't, unfortunately.

Most places have a return policy, so if something doesn't suit you, you can ship it back. You're out shipping costs, (to and from you), and some have a restocking fee, so of course it's best check the policy before you order.

My approach has been to spend time listening to sound samples on HMS, YouTube, Vimeo, here, (there, and everywhere.)
When I find a sound I like, I ask questions here about the specific brand/builder, since this forum is a great source of information.

You could also talk to some of the knowledgeable sellers, who can give you some guidance on what might work for you.
They want happy customers, so we'll come back and buy more from them, and say good things about them on the internet. :-) I called one place about a ukulele one time, and after talking with them, they suggested that I not buy the high end ukulele I thought I wanted, because it would be too similar to one I had. They didn't have anything in stock that they thought would work for what I wanted. That impressed me, since they could easily have made the sale, but chose to do the right thing for the customer instead.

Maybe reading up on the different woods, if you're not already knowledgeable about them, would give you some direction. Here is one example: http://www.ianchadwick.com/ukuleles/woods.htm

You might be happy with another Kamaka, but with a cedar or spruce top this time. Or, it might be fun to try some other brand/builder. There are lots of options. Have fun with the search.

Joyful Uke
07-19-2018, 06:00 AM
that jake model looks cool. besides appearance how is it different than the tenor i already have from them?

My guess is, aside from the bling, higher quality wood, greater attention to detail, (and Jake's name.) I don't know if there are any out in the wild yet, but maybe if you call one of the sellers, (like Elderly - not sure who else is selling them), they can give you some better input.

anthonyg
07-19-2018, 06:02 AM
Historically, Tenor ukuleles weren't tuned to g,C,E,A. They started out tuned f,A#,D,G. Only Concerts were tuned g,C,E,A and Soprano's were tuned higher at a,D,F#,B.

For convenience we now nominally tune them all the same. The reason for this story is that Tenor ukuleles are tuned too high at g,C,E,A and it does reduce the sustain and resonance. To get the best possible sound from a Tenor ukulele you have to detune them. ANY Tenor ukulele you can buy will sound better detuned. Nature of the instrument.

If you want an instrument that sounds great at g,C,E,A then you need to find yourself a great Concert ukulele.

bearbike137
07-19-2018, 06:22 AM
Historically, Tenor ukuleles weren't tuned to g,C,E,A. They started out tuned f,A#,D,G.

Interesting. What is your source for this? Just two weeks ago, I heard Fred Kamaka state the opposite.

bearbike137
07-19-2018, 06:35 AM
Great post, Joyful Uke! I agree with everything you wrote there. I have had to do nearly all my uke shopping via mail order. However, HMS and their videos has been a great help!

Kenn2018
07-19-2018, 10:04 AM
Jdavani, I know what you mean, there aren't any music stores nearby that stock high end ukuleles. So virtually no chance of trying before buying.
If I was looking for a ukulele that was more satisfying than your Kamaka, but weren't sure what you wanted, I'd start a list of the things you like and dislike on the instruments you have owned and played. Such as:

Likes: Wider nut & string spacing, satin neck, higher/lower/wider/rounded fret wires, perfect intonation, 18:1 tuners, perfect balance, certain shape of headstock for hand position, strap, no strap, cutaway, etc. Things that make your fingerpicking easier & more pleasurable for your style of playing.
Ideal Sound: Great balance, resonance, sustain, clarity, brightness, upper frets have to sound clear and crisp, what woods sound good to you? Mahogany with spruce top or Mahogany with cedar top. (Use quality earphones to listen to sound samples and performances.) What strings do you lean towards? etc.

Cons: Deep body, skinny neck, thick neck, gloss/satin/oiled finish, What hampers your playing? What is a characteristic you just don't like? etc.

What features do you really want? Binding, purfing, rosette, open/closed tuners. How do you want the uke to look to please your aesthetics?

Keep a list going. Take several weeks to research and figure out what you absolutely must have and what you can do without. Then ask around and see what's available that will meet your needs or decide if you need to have a custom uke made. Otherwise, you're just shooting in the dark hoping that you will find an instrument that you love and that meets your needs as a player.

Oh, and don't be too swayed by professional players that you admire. Many of the top players have company endorsements or were presented with special instruments by a maker to promote their product. They are not necessarily what they would play if they had a choice of any instrument and no endorsement conflicts. What they play is high end and top quality, but most have been tweaked or modified to suit the pro.

It's easier if you have a strategy to find & get what you need. Best of luck.

Pete F
07-19-2018, 10:13 PM
....... Collings.......

quiltingshirley
07-20-2018, 11:42 AM
My guess is, aside from the bling, higher quality wood, greater attention to detail, (and Jake's name.) I don't know if there are any out in the wild yet, but maybe if you call one of the sellers, (like Elderly - not sure who else is selling them), they can give you some better input.
When I was in the factory a couple of years ago, they had made some (very few) of the Jake model that they sold by lottery. There was one done that hadnít been picked up yet that they let me play. It wasnít the bling, that Uke played like nothing Iíve since played. It was wonderful but expensive for good reason.

Joyful Uke
07-20-2018, 03:19 PM
When I was in the factory a couple of years ago, they had made some (very few) of the Jake model that they sold by lottery. There was one done that hadn’t been picked up yet that they let me play. It wasn’t the bling, that Uke played like nothing I’ve since played. It was wonderful but expensive for good reason.

Good to know. I think that the current Jake model is different than the one from a few years ago, but it sure looks lovely, & I bet it will sound great, too.

Do the Kamaka deluxe versions in general play & sound better than the standard models? I realize that the Jake models are even more special than the "usual" deluxe models, so thought I'd ask about the "usual" deluxe models.

Rakelele
07-20-2018, 07:40 PM
Jdavani, the two makers you mention are very different. A Moore Bettah is a top of the top high end instrument with a perfect high gloss finish and specialized on very individual artwork of inlays that will cost more than 5000 Dollars even for a used one. As mentioned above, you cannot just order one. Mya Moe, on the other hand, was an "affordable" custom shop with a very clever way of marketing their products with an ordering system on their site from a number of options. They had a pretty high output, so their instruments pop up on the used market ever so often. The one I got to play had a very unflattering finish and didn't sound anywhere near as full and clear as my Moore Bettah - or my Kamaka, for that matter.

A good number of makers have already been mentioned who build instruments that will be very different from your Kamaka, more "guitar-like" and with a fuller, deeper sound. My suggestions would be Ko'olau, LFdM, Beau Hannam, or one custom maker who doesn't get mentioned here as often as these others but who builds instruments of extreme resonance: Jay Lichty. Best bang for the buck, in this league, is Beau Hannam's "player's model", but he has a wait list of about two years and may no longer be offering this modestly priced model.

In your case, I think I would give Ko'olau a try; their CS model is a full step up or two from the other K brands with several options to customize, but still made in Hawai'i by a great company.

Patrick Madsen
07-20-2018, 09:19 PM
If you're into a full volume, guitar like sound; Brian Griffin from Griffin ukuleles is making some really nice Kasha tenors and baritones. Check out his blog for what's on the workbench now. Very reasonable.

wickedwahine11
07-25-2018, 05:58 AM
Just my two cents, but if you can find your way to getting a Moore Bettah (and as others have said there is one available in the UU Marketplace), you will not regret it. I have had tenors by Kamaka, Kanile'a and KoAloha. They were all quite nice, but Moore Bettah ukes are in a different level. It is not just the bling, one of my Moore Bettahs has no bling at all, they are just divine in terms of playability and tone.