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View Full Version : UK players: Best concert uke for 50? + other questions.



yookyoolayleeh
07-27-2009, 11:45 AM
Hi all,

I bought a horrible little Ashton uke (20) a little while ago and I'm hooked. I'd like to upgrade to something that I can really learn on and I have about 50 to spend. I could really use some advice - particularly from UK-based players.

My budget is quite limited and I don't want to push it above 60. If I stick with uking for a while I may save up for a nicer uke (a Brueko perhaps - 120ish inc. shipping, or a Flea, or maybe a Tenor of some kind), so don't want this initial purchase to creep up too much. Besides, I'll need to think about new strings and a tuner soon anyway.

So far I've read some good things about the Makala Concert MK-C, which I can have in my hands for about 50, and I've also read good things about the Lanikai Concert LU-21C, but that's over budget at around 65. There's also a Kala Mahogany Concert Ukulele for 54 at Newcastle Music (link (http://newcastlemusic.co.uk/Item/448/Kala_Mahogany_Concert_Ukulele/)), but I don't know anything about that one yet.

I'd be really grateful for some feedback, especially if you have compared any of the above ukes yourself.

Thanks a lot!

====================

Bonus questions:
- I keep reading about how wonderful MGM's set-ups are, even for entry-level ukes. At this point I just can't justify having a uke shipped from the other side of the planet though. Have any of you had a nice set-up (strings, action, frets etc) from a UK seller? If so, please tell me about it.

- I live in a shared house and I really don't want to inflict my beginning pluckings on my housemates any more than I have to. Do you have any ideas for a very quiet but still usable uke? Would putting a car-wash sponge inside one do anything?

- What are the most reliable uke stores in the UK (and Europe)? So far I've come across Purple Turtle Music (http://stores.shop.ebay.co.uk/Purple-Turtle-Music), Southern Ukulele Store (http://stores.shop.ebay.co.uk/Southern-Ukulele-Store), Newcastle Music (http://www.newcastlemusic.co.uk/), Juste Cordes (http://www.justecordes.fr/catalogue/), Exquisite (http://www.exquisite.fr/catalog/index.php), and ukulele.de (http://www.ukulele.de/menu/). I've also read a little about Duke of Uke (http://www.dukeofuke.co.uk/), but their prices are a bit London for my pocket.

ukulelearp
07-27-2009, 11:53 AM
Makala is Kala's budget brand. Out of those three I'd take the Kala, sounds like the highest quality one.

6stringconvert
07-27-2009, 12:33 PM
Hi,

I'm new to the uke, but I've played the guitar for a few years. I picked up a kala concert ka-c it's good, well made, but on reflection I would have spent a little more to get a solid top uke. The laminate ply of cheap ukes doesn't have the sustain.

I have a rubber sound hole cover for my guitar. It quitens it a bit. So something like that could work. Ukes aren't exactly loud though! You could really please your housemates and play the drums!

I would have a shifty at the stagg uke which has a cheap solid wood. See if you can try them out. I tried a lanikai, a kala, and something else and the kala was the best price. Nice tuners too. My only critisism other than the sustain is the fret edges are a touch sharp. I play the d chord with my thumb across the three strings, too much hotel California and it gets a bit sore!

I wouldn't think about an MGM unless you are spending the sort of money which compensates for the shipping.

upskydowncloud
07-27-2009, 12:47 PM
Hi all,

I bought a horrible little Ashton uke (20) a little while ago and I'm hooked. I'd like to upgrade to something that I can really learn on and I have about 50 to spend. I could really use some advice - particularly from UK-based players.

My budget is quite limited and I don't want to push it above 60. If I stick with uking for a while I may save up for a nicer uke (a Brueko perhaps - 120ish inc. shipping, or a Flea, or maybe a Tenor of some kind), so don't want this initial purchase to creep up too much. Besides, I'll need to think about new strings and a tuner soon anyway.

So far I've read some good things about the Makala Concert MK-C, which I can have in my hands for about 50, and I've also read good things about the Lanikai Concert LU-21C, but that's over budget at around 65. There's also a Kala Mahogany Concert Ukulele for 54 at Newcastle Music (link (http://newcastlemusic.co.uk/Item/448/Kala_Mahogany_Concert_Ukulele/)), but I don't know anything about that one yet.

I'd be really grateful for some feedback, especially if you have compared any of the above ukes yourself.

Thanks a lot!

====================

Bonus questions:
- I keep reading about how wonderful MGM's set-ups are, even for entry-level ukes. At this point I just can't justify having a uke shipped from the other side of the planet though. Have any of you had a nice set-up (strings, action, frets etc) from a UK seller? If so, please tell me about it.

- I live in a shared house and I really don't want to inflict my beginning pluckings on my housemates any more than I have to. Do you have any ideas for a very quiet but still usable uke? Would putting a car-wash sponge inside one do anything?

- What are the most reliable uke stores in the UK (and Europe)? So far I've come across Purple Turtle Music (http://stores.shop.ebay.co.uk/Purple-Turtle-Music), Southern Ukulele Store (http://stores.shop.ebay.co.uk/Southern-Ukulele-Store), Newcastle Music (http://www.newcastlemusic.co.uk/), Juste Cordes (http://www.justecordes.fr/catalogue/), Exquisite (http://www.exquisite.fr/catalog/index.php), and ukulele.de (http://www.ukulele.de/menu/). I've also read a little about Duke of Uke (http://www.dukeofuke.co.uk/), but their prices are a bit London for my pocket.

You're right about Duke of Uke, they are expensive. I bought a Lanikai uke from Newcastle Music (Lanikai CK-C) and saw it advertised in Duke of Uke for 70 more!

However, Newcastle music and a lot of other shops in the UK are just music shops that stock ukes and aren't really experienced with them. The Duke of Uke does make up for that element but the prices are high.

In terms of quietness your flatmates shouldn't mind too much as long as you play at a reasonable time of the day. It's easy to play quietly and sounds decent as a beginner anyway. You can get electric ukes that plug into headphones which would fulfill your sound requirements but will be too expensive for your budget.

Unless you have an excellent ear and already play another stringed instrument I don't think you'll notice much in the set up you get at any shop and the set up MGMs offers. As has been said the shipping price and import duty will wipe out any dollar saving you'll make on a uke, even a high end one.

As for the ukes you mentioned I'd always say go for the Lanikai, they're well made and sound bright and pleasant, they also stay in tune.

Enjoy whatever you decide!

yookyoolayleeh
07-28-2009, 01:52 AM
Thanks for the responses so far :D

Does anyone know if the Kala uke that I linked (http://newcastlemusic.co.uk/Item/448/Kala_Mahogany_Concert_Ukulele/) to at Newcastle Music is a KA-C?

scooch
07-28-2009, 04:19 AM
Hi, if you can get to London for the day then I'd recommend going to Denmark street. Yeah its mostly about the guitars but they do have a good number of Ukes that would be within your budget. You get to try it out (although I must admit I am always really embarassed doing this :o), but its worth doing. Also, there is a Hobgoblin shop at Rathbone Place in London also has a good few Ukes. good luck ! :D

6stringconvert
07-28-2009, 05:01 AM
Thanks for the responses so far :D

Does anyone know if the Kala uke that I linked (http://newcastlemusic.co.uk/Item/448/Kala_Mahogany_Concert_Ukulele/) to at Newcastle Music is a KA-C?

It does (the white binding, matte finish, chrome tuners) - except my one has Aquilla strings on it. maybe that was done at the Duke's - as I paid £75 for mine

It's really not a bad instrument at all - I'd go for it.

6sc

Monosabio
07-28-2009, 01:24 PM
I'm in a similar situation as my cheap Ashton soprano has served me quite well and my level of ability means that I wouldn't appreciate the difference in a more expensive uke. I have been thinking about upgrading to a tenor but at not much more than 100. Working in central London means I can get up the Charing Cross Road easily and I bought my Ashton at Hanks in Denmark Street. The guy in there was really helpful especially as I am paranoid about visiting music shops at the best of times, and once practiced a couple of tunes relentlessly before buying a guitar so I could try it out in the shop without looking a right novice - which I was. I always think it's best to try out a new instrument so, if you're in Denmark Street in the next couple of weeks and see some bloke attempting to strum "Fisherman's Blues" on a tenor - come and say hello!
:music:

yookyoolayleeh
07-29-2009, 02:10 AM
Thanks again for the replies everyone.

I know what you mean about being intimidated in music shops Monosabio. I feel like a right fraud in them. And they're not the kind of shop you can just anonymously browse in - you always have to talk to someone. Euuuch! Times like that I wish I had a convincing fake beard.

So I took my coin jar down to the Coinstar machine at Sainsburys and I'm 13 better off. That puts me in LU-21C territory (65)! Meanwhile I've been practising on my Ashton, which I increasingly want to smash and burn, and I think I'm getting a tiny bit closer to being able to play a simple tune, but I'm not there yet. Even if I can get the hand movements down though, the thing still sounds like crap.

Just out of curiosity (for now at least), what happens to entry-level ukes as your budget increases into the 70-100 range? Seems like if you get to 130 a range of solid woods, fleas/flukes, and bruekos opens up, but I'm not sure about level below that one. Where do you think the sweet spot is?

Thanks again!

ukulele2544
07-29-2009, 02:14 AM
How much is £20 in $?

buddhuu
07-29-2009, 02:18 AM
How much is 20 in $?

It obviously fluctuates, but just now Google says 20 British pounds = 32.74 U.S. dollars.

Any time you want to check just type "20 gbp in USD" into Google and it'll convert for you.

yookyoolayleeh
07-29-2009, 02:29 AM
That's right, but it seems that in uke terms a £20 uke here in the UK is a $20 uke in the US. We have VAT to pay here, and this sort of price disparity is the norm whether you're buying cameras, computers, ipods, ukuleles or whatever.

6stringconvert
07-29-2009, 02:30 AM
Thanks again for the replies everyone.

I know what you mean about being intimidated in music shops Monosabio. I feel like a right fraud in them. And they're not the kind of shop you can just anonymously browse in - you always have to talk to someone. Euuuch! Times like that I wish I had a convincing fake beard.

So I took my coin jar down to the Coinstar machine at Sainsburys and I'm £13 better off. That puts me in LU-21C territory (£65)! Meanwhile I've been practising on my Ashton, which I increasingly want to smash and burn, and I think I'm getting a tiny bit closer to being able to play a simple tune, but I'm not there yet. Even if I can get the hand movements down though, the thing still sounds like crap.

Just out of curiosity (for now at least), what happens to entry-level ukes as your budget increases into the £70-100 range? Seems like if you get to £130 a range of solid woods, fleas/flukes, and bruekos opens up, but I'm not sure about level below that one. Where do you think the sweet spot is?

Thanks again!



Check out the Taunton Ukulele Strummers Song books. There are a few songs with just 2 or 3 simple chords to play; this could be a really great start if you ask me:

[/URL]

http://www.tusc.co.uk/songbook.html (http://www.tusc.co.uk/songbook.html)

There should be something there you know - and should enjoy playing. Getting into the strum of it can be tricky - so starting with something you know really help.

My tip would be "less is more" - don't go strumming like crazy just strum maybe once each chord whilst you learn the chord shapes and changes.

Have you got a tuner - seriously an out of tune instrument sounds pants. I've just tried this online ukulele tuner that works well:

[url]http://www.get-tuned.com/ukulele_tuner.php

A trick to tuning - pluck the string the same time as the note on the tuner - and try and hold the uke to a speaker. The two notes will mix and reverberate in the uke and if they are different - they will stand out.

The closer you get to tune the wider the in-out wobble you will get - it's hard to describe - but if you have an almost in tune string against an in tune one (e.g. different strings on the uke) you should be able to hear it. You can fine tune with this - and hit the sweet spot. Trust me; a well tuned uke will sound sooo much better.

6sc

Monosabio
07-29-2009, 06:15 AM
Interesting thread this. I sometimes wonder how much better things will be with a better Uke. I'm no great shakes on the guitar but can certainly appreciate the difference in sound when having a go on a friend's Martin but it's not as if I actually play any better - any more than driving a Rolls Royce would make me a better driver. Keeping the Ashton in tune can be tricky, at first I was re-tuning every hour, and replacing the strings does help as does filing down the nut. For what it's worth I started with a few easy songs - "You ain't going nowhere" by Dylan is the easiest - and just banged away at them starting real slow and working out strum patterns as I went along. I'm forever scanning the excellent Chordie site for stuff to practice and watching YouTube, well, you've got to keep yourself busy in the office haven't you?

yookyoolayleeh
07-29-2009, 06:59 AM
6stringconvert:

Thanks a lot for the TUSC songbook recommendation. That looks perfect for my needs. I've been working through some YouTube lessons but it can be hard to keep up sometimes even if I keep pausing and unpausing the vid.

I'm a bit unsure about something though - if the tab picture thing tells you which strings to fret for a specific chord, how should you decide which fingers to use? I suppose the simple answer is that when you encounter a new chord you should go and find an explanation somewhere of how it should be fingered - do you have any favourite sources for that info? I've got C, F, and G7 down so far. Another thing - looking at the songbook, the chords are interspersed with the song lyrics, but it's not clear how the tune should be strummed. Should I try to maintain something like a 4/4 up-down pattern and change chords when the name (e.g. [C]) pops up in the lyrics? Or should I try to strum in time with the lyrics and just change chord when the book says? I'm totally new to music - my ignorance is shaming :) I tried harmonica and tin-whistle once but that really didn't work out. Uke is looking a lot better so far. I really hate harmonica and tin-whistle music though - maybe that should have given me a clue.

Oh and one more thing - do you recommend any specific clip-on tuners? Thanks.

Monosabio:

I know what you mean, I wouldn't drive any better in a Rolls than I would in a Punto, but... I drive a hell of a lot better in a car with power-steering than I did in a car without. I get your point, but I really wonder if it's worth pimping the Ashton out with new strings when I could just use that money to pay for the postage on a better (but still modest) uke. How did you find out how to improve the nut? What sort of tool(s) did you need?

I'm so pleased I found this forum by the way!

6stringconvert
07-29-2009, 09:21 AM
Yyy,

good questions. In terms of fingers I'd say same as the guitar. Use index for first fret, middle finger for second, third for third, etc.

So an F is mu index on second string first fret, and middle finger first string third fret. With more than one position on a fret use what makes the most comfortable orientation.

Somestimes you can think a move ahead like a chess player and get your hand ready for the next chord.

Don't forget you can use your thumb too on the top string.

In terms if the song book you will have to work out a rythym. Try struming std4 to start as you suggest. The chords are roughly in the right place. But there are one or two mistakes in there. But I wouldn't sweat it.

Try a song with 2 or 3 chords you know well to start.

Oh yeah, remeber Paul mcartney didn't read music...

There may be uke TAB out there which would give more musical info than just chords and lyrics. Have a surf.

For the guitar, the classic song everyone knows is house of the rising sun. I wonder what the classic uke song is eh?

upskydowncloud
07-30-2009, 06:12 AM
Don't forget you can use your thumb too on the top string.


I know a lot of guitar players do this but the uke fretboard isn't really big enough to warrant using your thumb like that, it looks pretty clumsy and I'd recommend fingering the chords properly even if you're starting out. It might be difficult but it's worth doing!

ukulelearp
07-30-2009, 06:13 AM
Well as far as the thumb for top string goes, I know there are certain chord patterns where either one can be useful. It can't hurt to be able to do it both ways.