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View Full Version : Suggestions for Inexpensive Boys & Girls Club Instructional Ukuleles



Kenn2018
02-08-2019, 01:30 PM
I need some suggestions for some inexpensive yet durable ukuleles.

I want to buy some decent-sounding ukuleles for 3rd to 5th grade young people to learn & play at a Boys and Girls Club. I don't want to spend more than $50 each.

Is there anything available here in the USofA that will sound reasonably good, be easy enough for them to play, and come with a good setup?

There's no point in teaching the kids how to play on bad-sounding instruments. They won't enjoy them and won't practice between lessons.

I suspect that it would be good if they were durable as well. A laminate or plastic, maybe?

I'm thinking 2 sopranos and 2 concerts, but I can be persuaded otherwise.

Thanks for your help.

EDW
02-08-2019, 01:55 PM
I have used the Kala KA-15S in a class situation and found them to be decent players. The tone is reasonable and intonation and action is fine.

Wukulele
02-08-2019, 02:35 PM
Post #6 on this thread may be of interest to you. https://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?133071-Ukes-in-the-classroom
Choirguy's YT channel cool cover photo is a row of OU sopranos w/ rainbow Aquilla nylon strings.
I vaguely recall his review of Kala Waterman talks about both https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5YJGRd0cik

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5YJGRd0cik

Personally, I am so impressed w/ how well my Kala Waterman Concert & Sopranos have been (ABS plastic). Out of the box, w/o change of strings. I got them for less than $50 & $30 respectively.
And my Outdoor ukulele moonshine (polycarbonate) feels bombproof w/ spot on intonation right out of the box. Would hand it over to most kids in a heartbeat. Their sopranos are $105 right now, more spendy now but perhaps more cost effective in the long run.
Both Watermans & OUs are so easy to maintain (what maintenance?) & no fretting over humidity & humidifiers in winter when central heat is in use.

In a classroom situation, using 100% fluorocarbon fishing leader line could be more economical for restringing. If you go that route, Hi-Seas is more economical than Seaguar Blue.

There are a few music teacher blog posts on restringing w/ fishing leader line... will edit this response & add those if I come across them again.

SailingUke
02-08-2019, 03:45 PM
I use Ohana 10s ukes. I have 30 ukes with Aquila Kids Strings (colored).
Ohana has been a great partner for my program at the Boys and Girls Club.
I do various fund raising events to raise money to buy the instruments.
Good Luck with your venture. Feel free to keep in touch as you progress.

Kenn2018
02-08-2019, 05:48 PM
Post #6 on this thread may be of interest to you. https://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?133071-Ukes-in-the-classroom
Choirguy's YT channel cool cover photo is a row of OU sopranos w/ rainbow Aquilla nylon strings.
I vaguely recall his review of Kala Waterman talks about both https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5YJGRd0cik

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5YJGRd0cik

Personally, I am so impressed w/ how well my Kala Waterman Concert & Sopranos have been (ABS plastic). Out of the box, w/o change of strings. I got them for less than $50 & $30 respectively.
And my Outdoor ukulele moonshine (polycarbonate) feels bombproof w/ spot on intonation right out of the box. Would hand it over to most kids in a heartbeat. Their sopranos are $105 right now, more spendy now but perhaps more cost effective in the long run.
Both Watermans & OUs are so easy to maintain (what maintenance?) & no fretting over humidity & humidifiers in winter when central heat is in use.

In a classroom situation, using 100% fluorocarbon fishing leader line could be more economical for restringing. If you go that route, Hi-Seas is more economical than Seaguar Blue.

There are a few music teacher blog posts on restringing w/ fishing leader line... will edit this response & add those if I come across them again.

Great information. Thank you. I will check them out.

Kenn2018
02-08-2019, 05:49 PM
I have used the Kala KA-15S in a class situation and found them to be decent players. The tone is reasonable and intonation and action is fine.

I'll check it out.

Thank you.

Kenn2018
02-08-2019, 05:51 PM
Oh, I like the idea of the kids strings. That would be a fun touch.

I'll pick your brain as we, the CheezLand Uke Club, progress.

Jerryc41
02-09-2019, 01:41 AM
I've bought from alibaba.com, and so have several friends. You can get surprisingly good ukuleles for surprisingly low prices. After a friend got one, I ordered a pretty little Amoon soprano for about $30. It's no longer listed on their site, though.

https://www.alibaba.com/trade/search?fsb=y&IndexArea=product_en&CatId=&SearchText=ukulele

Enya is another good, inexpensive brand. I got a concert for $18.31, delivered, during a temporary sale on Amazon. I would go for uniformity in the instruments - four identical ukes. Otherwise, the kids will all want what the kid next to them has. (The grass is always greener)

70sSanO
02-09-2019, 06:22 AM
Malala Dolphin. We have a 2-1/2 year old grandson and we bought him one when he turned 1 year old. Even though it was just something for him to play with, I did a setup on it. It lives in a toy box and has a few nicks here and there, but when we visit I tune it up and play it. It actually sounds pretty good, and it has held up. Whatever you do, get a uke with geared tuners.

John

Swamp Yankee
02-09-2019, 06:49 AM
Malala Dolphin. We have a 2-1/2 year old grandson and we bought him one when he turned 1 year old. Even though it was just something for him to play with, I did a setup on it. It lives in a toy box and has a few nicks here and there, but when we visit I tune it up and play it. It actually sounds pretty good, and it has held up. Whatever you do, get a uke with geared tuners.

John

+1
The Makala Dolphin sounds much better to me than the Waterman.

Choirguy
02-09-2019, 05:37 PM
We built a new school, and as the choir had so little in terms of need (versus our band & orchestra program), $4500 for 71 Outdoor Ukuleles was nothing (just one bassoon is $6000). You might not have that budget.

Being in a place that has winter, I think there's a lot to say for buying an instrument without a fretboard. Most schools do not have humidification systems (ours does), nor do many libraries.

For this reason, I'd steer most people away from any wooden fretboard in these conditions. Don't get me wrong...I own a number of ukuleles of my own, and most of them are made of wood. But if you have no way to humidify the instruments, fret creep is a real thing and it impacts beginning players. That includes Dolphins, although I do think they make great starter ukuleles.

I'm a little concerned about the quality control stories I have heard about Waterman. I'm heading to the Texas Music Educator conference next week, and I'll try to remember to bring a fret ruler with me. I'll measure all the Waterman ukuleles that I see.

If you can't afford an order of Outdoor Ukuleles (which sell to schools at a discount rate of about 40% on sets of 15 or more), then I'd also suggest the Flight TUS35. This model is a bit of a hybrid of a Dolphin and a Waterman. It has a wood soundboard and a plastic next and fretboard. I picked one up when the light blue models were selling for $29...I should have bought a few of them, but had not used a Flight before. The only two complaints I have about the model is that the body edge is sharp. Not "cut yourself" sharp, but certainly not a comfort edge. The other is that they are really loud. I have to admit I like the slightly muted aspect of an Outdoor Ukulele (they can get lost in a group) when 50 kids are playing at once, some with all their strength!

As for the colored strings, I love them. They make teaching so much easier. It is so hard to wrap your brain around the concept of an X/Y grid when starting. It is so much easier to say third fret blue string rather than third fret first string (I actually say both). In the video approach that I use with my students, the videos don't all have colors, so the students quickly adapt. Aquila sells them in packs of 20 directly to schools...contact them at their e-mail to order.

The other ukuleles that fit my criteria are either too expensive for a school situation (Fluke, Flea, Bonanza with Corian fretboard) or have mixed reviews (Bugsgear/Eddy Finn Beachcomer, Woodli).

If you decide to go with Kala (e.g. KA-15S), they do have an education site which allows you to buy at a significant discount. https://education.kalabrand.com/pages/edu-intro

P.S. I've become such a better player over two more years of playing. And I now believe that playing smaller scales can help you to be more nimble on any scale.

Kenn2018
02-10-2019, 05:03 PM
Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I will certainly look into those instruments.

Right now, there will only be 6 students. Hopefully after we get going it will grow.

Next will be to find some fun music that absolute beginner 3rd to 5th grade kids will relate to and enjoy playing...

Wavo
02-10-2019, 09:22 PM
Another vote for Makala Sharks and Dolphins. I bought one for my young kids to play. It’s very durable and sounds great - very balanced sound with a nice tone and good playability. I have several expensive ukes but often find myself picking up the Shark and playing it at home. I also travel with it strapped to my backpack and love that I don’t have to worry about puting it into a case. I did lower the action to about 2.5 mm at the 12th fret by filing down the saddle on some sandpaper. This is very easy to do yourself and made it even better to play. Highly recommended at the price point.

PhilUSAFRet
02-12-2019, 12:35 AM
Another for the Kala's

Cluze
02-12-2019, 03:51 AM
I want to add my vote for the Makala Shark/Dolphin ukuleles. I always describe them as "the cheapest ukuleles I would play on purpose." :-)

I know that the Waterman, being all plastic, are likely a bit more durable and a bit more forgiving of climate issues, but I have never been impressed by their sound or their intonation. I think they are harder to play and sound worse than the Dolphin/Sharks.

Lacole
02-12-2019, 04:38 AM
Have you checked with your local music shops to see if they would outfit? Think also of getting a kit for your students. Ukulele, gig bag, and tuner.

There are places like Empire music that provide instruments for school programs. I have bought from them, and know that they do setup on what they sell.