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View Full Version : Just back from Maui! Hoping for advice!



NewbieUkie
05-15-2008, 05:24 AM
Here's the short story!
I'm a middle aged guy who is finally able to travel a little, and recently came back from Maui, (my second visit there in the last 3 years...thought I'd NEVER do THAT plane ride again but Maui is irresistable....I just got back last week and I feel it tugging at me to come back already!)

Anyway....

I have collected interesting and some quite beautiful guitars for years, and have sold and traded them as well, to maintain my GAS. (I'm sure you guys all know what that means!)
While in Maui, I stopped in a guitar store, as I always do when in a new place, hoping for that "score" we all dream of finding. (And almost never do!)
Well.....the inevitable in Maui happened...I started looking, (seriously for the first time), at ukuleles!

I looked at the brands I recognized, and the ones I didn't, and marveled at the fine woods and build, and absolute beauty of many of them, just as I do when looking at fine guitars, which I consider to be works of "functional art" when crafted by a master luthier.
I was also happily surprised to hear the charming and unique tone of these amazing little instruments up close, and to see how relatively "simple" they appeared to be to play. (compared to violin, for example...lol!)

Did I buy, even though my wonderful wife encouraged me to just go ahead and make a leap of faith and indulge in a purchase right then and there?

NO!

Why not?
Well, simply put, I know NOTHING about the instrument....and know enough at this stage of my life to NEVER buy a "pig in a poke".
When looking at guitars, while I am an average player at best, and maybe even not THAT good, my years of collecting have taught me what to look for in a guitar....what's good, what isn't, the things to watch out for, and to be glad for, the different effect of the various tone-woods, etc, etc, etc.

Do all those same things apply to the uke, as my wife tried to insist they must?

I don't know!
Guys...I came back from Maui "uke-less", and frankly, so far, have found much of the information from musician acquaintances of mine USELESS, as none of them know any more than I do about the ukulele!

This site popped up on a google search and I just signed up.
Obviously there is a wealth of information here, and I won't try to take the lazy way out and ask what the best uke is to buy, or where to buy it. I can read the info available here, as I should, and will.

That said....I wanted to take this opportunity to say "Hello", introduce myself, and ask a few, (just a few!) "simple" questions:

A. Does my story sound familiar? How did YOU get interested in the ukulele? I ask this because I am wondering if this infatuation is temporary, or the familiar story as to how many you guys got started.

B. I've set a budget for my first uke of $500-$700 dollars, give or take a couple hundred. While I own guitars that cost that much, and less, (mostly more), and some many times more, I don't know yet if this thing will be on eBay in a month! Is my budget realistic for a nice uke that will perform well and be an instrument I will be happy to play if I stick with it, which I sincerely hope to do? Any specific recommendations as to the brand, etc, within that budget? New or used?

C. What are the common pitfalls, outside of "re-wiring" my brain from guitar, which already intimidates me a little. (I'm a guy who has a hard time finding my car keys every day!) Any specific advice here?

Well....I actually have a LOT more questions, but I promised to make this a "short story", and have already failed to keep THAT assurance, so I'll cut it off right here.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to hearing all of your words of wisdom!

Jack33@
05-15-2008, 06:00 AM
Hello and welcome,

your story sounds familiar, I have come to the ukulele world quite late in the day as well. I've been skirting round ukuleles for a while now and I regret not picking one up seriously before now.

I have an old banjo uke that I am renovating and getting back to playable condition. In the mean time i bought a cheap Mahalo to learn how to play. Cheap ukes are fun and give you a chance to make mistakes for less than 100

You seem like a cautious sort of buyer so I guess the 'buy a cheap uke to try out and learn' method might not work for you? After all that GAS you would need to feed your UAS with a piece of art as well as an instrument.

There are great threads on this site discussing the various merits of uke makers and luthiers. There are great deals to be found on the internet on all kinds of instruments, sizes and styles. I'd reccomend you get over to one of the bigger uke stores or gatherings to try some of these beauties out yourself.

For a more European slant try googling 'Ukulele Cosmos' as well, they have a forum that might shed light on other Uke makers.

On the whole though, congratulations on keeing your nerve and not buying on impulse, good luck with the search and I look forward to seeing pictures of your new aquisition soon!

Take care

jack33

Lanark
05-15-2008, 06:58 AM
I think we're coming at this from a pretty similar perspective, so hopefully I can be of some help...

As a guitarist to begin with I didn't actually find it too difficult to adjust to playing the ukulele. The note intervals on the ukulele correspond to the top four strings on the guitar so I didn't find it too difficult to wrap my head around them. Chord shapes are familiar and you should already have no problems playing barres (the bane of any beginning string player). You're 3/4's of the way there already. There's just a certain amount of initial weirdness adjusting to the scale of the neck that soon passes and the whole new key thing (as in that D chord shape is now a G chord etc...)

I picked it up because my wife's from Hawaii and we were there and I play guitar and I thought it was a law or something that I had to come home with an ukulele...

As for an infatuation or not, that depends on you. My own personal experience is that I've found the ukulele to be one of the most fun things I've ever played (and much easier for me to pick up than aborted attempts at banjo or steel guitar.) I can do all sorts of things with it that I'm not able to do with any proficiency on guitar (ie. fingerpick) and there's a lot to be said for the cool combos and partial chords that you can do with an easy five fret reach. I've barely picked up my guitar at all since I got the ukulele. (I've got a rock and roll show to play on Saturday and I still haven't picked the damn guitar up but I've played uke every day this week for well over an hour a day at least)
When I'm out doing other things I find my mind wandering back to thinking about playing it. I spend lots of time on Ebay monitoring ukulele auctions. I have pictures of it on my Zune and make people admire it....It's become a big part of my life.

With your budget range you get to immediately step right over the "starter" instruments and get to the good stuff that will play, sound and feel right which in turn will help make it just plain more enjoyable to play. All kinds of reputable makers come into play. (Kamaka, G-String Kanile'a, KoAloha et al.) You can easily get a very nice solid wood instrument. You just have to decide what scale of ukulele you want and what maker has something that appeals.

I went with concert as a good middle ground between the soprano which is the classic uke and the tenor which is a scale more initially friendly to guitar players, but not quite the sound I was looking for. And after much reading of various forums and reviews and looking at websites I decided I wanted one made by Kanile'a (based on reputation and the build philosophy on their website) and eventually purchased a Lanikai LK-1C which was made for Lanikai by Kanile'a. (which I could get within my budget restraints) I'm quite happy with it.

Naturally YMMV, but I don't think you'd go wrong with any of the known quantities as far as manufacturers go and solid wood models in that range without bells and whistles and fancy inlays are going to give you a good introduction into what an ukulele sounds and plays like. You can definitely get a quality instrument which is in turn less likely to turn you off of playing. Hell, you could get a nice old Martin with that kind of budget.

Just keep doing research and asking questions. Folks round here are always ready to offer their friendly two cents. And when you're ready to pull the trigger, just go for it. You shouldn't regret it.

acabooe
05-15-2008, 09:28 AM
To Newbie:

Aloha and Welcome.

If your budget is between 500-700, I would suggest these brands, starting with the best.

Ko Aloha ( $500-700)
Pono ( around $400 )
Kala ( $200-400 ) <-- I have a Kala Tenor & love it.

As far as ukulele love being temporary, maybe 4 some people, but not anyone I know.
Once a person hears that sweet Ukulele music, they are hooked for life.

Good luck
Acabo'oe

salukulady
05-15-2008, 10:36 AM
I just started playing in January and I've got UAS bad. I started with a low priced concert ($100) and then decided I had to have one of every size. I play alone everyday and with various groups 4 days a week. I have 6 from various price ranges, 2 soprano, 1 concert, 2 tenor, and 1 baritone (I restrung it GCEA so I don't have to transpose). With the budget you have, you can afford a very nice uke OR maybe two really good ukes. I like the various sizes for different kinds of music, my soprano for hawaiian, my baritone for ballads, etc. I even have a $30 soprano I keep in the car for practicing at stop lights.

Try to find a group in your area to play with. That's how you really learn and can try different sizes and price levels. My favorite ukes are the ones I got to play before I bought. There is a world of difference between a $30 uke and a $300 one. And if you already play guitar you'll know the difference when you hear it.

Good luck with your new habit!

NewbieUkie
05-15-2008, 08:01 PM
What a warm "Aloha" welcome and what great advice already! As one of you mentioned, I too am scanning the eBay auctions, where I have gotten some of my very best guitar deals in the past. That said, I think I am going to zero in on the brands mentioned here and just pull the trigger, either on eBay or some on-line retailer! (Any specific retailers you guys recommend?)
I'll let you know where I land very soon!
Mahalo!

Howlin Hobbit
05-15-2008, 08:55 PM
(Any specific retailers you guys recommend?)

Musicguymic (http://stores.ebay.com/Musicguymics-Room) won't steer you wrong.

Here's a nice KoAloha soprano (http://cgi.ebay.com/KoAloha-Standard-SOPRANO-KOA-UKULELE-KSM-00_W0QQitemZ230251858238QQihZ013QQcategoryZ16224QQ cmdZViewItem) he's currently got up on his eBay store. KoAloha is a brand I feel really good about recommending and at $459 (and free shipping) it's actually under your budget.

Mind you, there were several other good brands mentioned in the thread. I've heard good things about them but have actually played several KoAloha. I don't want to sound like I'm casting doubts on the other brands.

And, since pretty much everyone here knows I'm a soprano fanatic I'll step out of character for a minute and point out this nice KoAloha concert (http://cgi.ebay.com/CONCERT-Koa-KOALOHA-KOA-KCM-00-UKULELE-w-case-extras_W0QQitemZ230251485254QQihZ013QQcategoryZ162 24QQcmdZViewItem) model. At $689 it's still within your budget.

(But I'd go for the soprano. ;) )

Note also that these are just the first KoAlohas of their respective sizes I found on Mike's list. He has tons of ukes available.

Welcome aboard!

Lanark
05-16-2008, 01:34 AM
I'll also add that I had a really good experience getting my ukulele from ukulele4u (http://stores.ebay.com/ukulele4u_W0QQcolZ4QQdirZ1QQfsubZQ2d999QQftidZ2QQt Zkm)

I have nothing but nice things to say about the whole deal.

I'm not sure what he's currently offering though. I haven't looked...

seeso
05-16-2008, 02:52 AM
Welcome to the forums, NewbieUkie. I still consider myself a newbie too, but this site has helped me a lot. I hope you'll find this forum as useful as I have.


When looking at guitars, while I am an average player at best, and maybe even not THAT good, my years of collecting have taught me what to look for in a guitar....what's good, what isn't, the things to watch out for, and to be glad for, the different effect of the various tone-woods, etc, etc, etc.

Do all those same things apply to the uke, as my wife tried to insist they must?

You don't have to tell her, but your wife is right, sir. :D Pretty much all the criterion that one uses to evaluate a guitar also holds true for an ukulele.

Check for the usual. Intonation, buzzing, action/playability, craftsmanship, neck straightness, etc.

The more subjective qualities like tone characteristics of woods will also translate to the ukulele. Solid wood will get better with age, Spruce is brighter than Mahogany, Cedar's inbetween, etc.

Of course, the one wood that you see most often in the ukulele world that you don't see too often in the guitar world is Koa. If you took a poll of all the ukulele players in the world, most would agree that a solid wood Koa ukulele is the holy grail. YMMV, but the general consensus is that Koa will give you a tone that is brighter than Mahogany but does not sacrifice warmth.


A. Does my story sound familiar? How did YOU get interested in the ukulele? I ask this because I am wondering if this infatuation is temporary, or the familiar story as to how many you guys got started.

This thread will give you a good idea of how some of our members started down the ukulele path.

http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1785

I would suspect that many of us recognize your story as being similar to their own. As for me, I just picked one up one day, fell in love with the sound and feel of it, and bought it on the spot.


B. I've set a budget for my first uke of $500-$700 dollars, give or take a couple hundred. While I own guitars that cost that much, and less, (mostly more), and some many times more, I don't know yet if this thing will be on eBay in a month! Is my budget realistic for a nice uke that will perform well and be an instrument I will be happy to play if I stick with it, which I sincerely hope to do? Any specific recommendations as to the brand, etc, within that budget? New or used?

Your budget will allow you to purchase a very nice instrument. My first recommendation for you is KoAloha (http://www.koaloha.com/). I played one for the first time yesterday, and I loved it.

Do you remember what size ukulele that you played in Maui? Prices increase as size increases. You can afford superior sopranos, but the concerts and tenors of the same quality are above your ceiling.

You can afford a new Kamaka soprano. I've never played one, but they are considered the best brand of ukulele.


C. What are the common pitfalls, outside of "re-wiring" my brain from guitar, which already intimidates me a little. (I'm a guy who has a hard time finding my car keys every day!) Any specific advice here?

I wouldn't go so far as to call it a "re-wiring." You're still using the same wires that you use for guitar. They just produce different results.

If you were to remove the low E and A strings from a guitar and put a capo on its fifth fret, you would have the intervals of an ukulele. The difference is an ukulele's re-entrant tuning.

Frood
05-16-2008, 03:08 AM
I can offer absolutely no advice except that after purchasing a cheapo to make sure it wasn't a 'Uke Fad' I was going through, I played for a few days and never turned back. It's awesome amounts of fun!!! You won't regret it.

Now all i have to do is use buying a new uke as an excuse to go to Maui!! It's been nearly 2 years since I was there and Aussie winter is kicking in. *Nostalgic sigh* the steaks at Kimo's, the surf, the ukes, the sake......

menehunenyc
05-16-2008, 05:18 AM
I love me kamaka tenor, just be sure if you are going to go this high end that you go with an authorized dealer. If anything should happen to it you will be able to ship is to the maker to have it fixed, otherwise, I don't know how helpful people will be. There is a guy in Staten Island NY (http://www.mandolinbrothers.com) who has a web site, he has a bunch of vintage-vintage martins for thousands of dollars, as well as a kamakas, flukes, etc. Good luck, can't wait to see pics of your first uke-baby!!

GX9901
05-16-2008, 06:58 AM
Welcome to the Ukulele Underground!

There has been a lot of great advice given out already. I'll just add my 2 cents regarding what you should do with your $500-700 (it's so fun to spend other people's money isn't it? :D ).

Coming from a guitar background, you'll probably want to start with a concert or tenor sized uke. Perhaps concert is a better starting spot since it does provide a slightly more "ukey" experience than a tenor. Here's what I would recommend for your budget:


Concert:

1. G-String: These are great sounding, no-frills Hawaiian made ukes. I would rate these the highest for sound and playability.

2. KoAloha: Just a slight step below G-String based from personal experience. Considered the benchmark concert uke by many.

3. Kanile'a: Usually has better looking wood than other Hawaiian makers at the same pricepoint. Sounds great too. Kind of hard to find right now.

4. Kamaka: In the same league with the others but with the Kamaka name.

5. Honu: Has the most bling for the least money in this group (made in Vietnam or Indonesia). My Japan spec Honu (http://gx9901ukes.blogspot.com/2007/10/revisiting-honu.html)is outstanding and I would put it up against any Hawaiian made concert uke. U.S. spec ones appears to be not as outstanding but still very good.

Tenor:

1. Pono Ebony Deluxe: I just got one of these babies. It's a very heavy ukulele (ebony is very heavy and dense) that looks and sounds great. I have only played it for a very short while but it's definitely worth the money. I don't think there are too many available right now though.

2. Kelii: This is a Hawaiian made tenor that would probably rank higher had I actually got to play one. By most accounts Kelii ukes are great and in the same league as the other Hawaiian makers but for less money.

3. Koa Pili Koko: Kelii's import line. I did get to play a few of these and they are well made and sound very good. I actually liked these a little bit more than most Ponos I've tried.

4. Pono (other than Ebony Dlx): Great professional looking ukes with excellent workmanship. These seem to be a tick more difficult to play than the other ukes I've mentioned, but not bad by any means. These are hard to beat if you want looks in addition to good sound.


You'll probably note that there aren't a lot of Hawaiian made tenors within your budget. The prices of Hawaiian made ukes have really gone up over the last year and most have MSRPs closing in on $1k. If you want a Hawaiian made tenor, perhaps monitoring ebay or Buy/Sell postings on various uke forums is your best bet.

Have fun!

acabooe
05-16-2008, 08:31 AM
To GX9901:

Wow man, that was more like 10 cents:p just kidding.
That was alot of info, thanks for sharing.
Some of those brands I haven't heard of.
I feel like googling now.

Aloha
Acabo'oe:cool:

GX9901
05-16-2008, 09:51 AM
To GX9901:

Wow man, that was more like 10 cents:p just kidding.
That was alot of info, thanks for sharing.
Some of those brands I haven't heard of.
I feel like googling now.

Aloha
Acabo'oe:cool:

Haha, I'm a pretty quiet guy in real life, but for some reason I get long winded when writing stuff.

If you've got the spare time, here's an account (http://gx9901ukes.blogspot.com/2008/01/impressions.html)of all the ukes I played on a trip to Oahu this past January. Talk about long winded...:P

Dino
05-16-2008, 11:33 AM
Another welcome to UU. Nobody has mentioned you might want to try a baritone ukulele which is tuned to the bottom 4 strings of a guitar. Might be an easier transtion to a small instrument from your guitars while having similar fingering that you are used to instead of trying to learn new chords and fingering for such a small instrument IMO. Aloha, Dino

seeso
05-16-2008, 01:53 PM
Haha, I'm a pretty quiet guy in real life, but for some reason I get long winded when writing stuff.

If you've got the spare time, here's an account (http://gx9901ukes.blogspot.com/2008/01/impressions.html)of all the ukes I played on a trip to Oahu this past January. Talk about long winded...:P

GX9901's blog is an excellent resource and a good read, too. I recommend everyone visit.

NewbieUkie
05-19-2008, 02:08 PM
Well Guys,
I promised I'd tell you where I landed, and here's where I am!
In the last week, (mainly thanks to fellow members!), I have purchased not one but THREE ukes!

1. GString 6 String Tenor
2. Giannini Baritone
3. Cordoba Soprano

Now, the funny thing is I don't have my hands on any of them yet, but am excited about starting to experiment with them!
Nice little collection to start though, huh?

deach
05-19-2008, 02:11 PM
Nice little collection to start though, huh?

Yes, great start! Can't wait for pix.

Plainsong
05-19-2008, 02:28 PM
Just change the G in GAS to U and U have UAS! :rock: Congrats!

NewbieUkie
05-19-2008, 02:34 PM
Just change the G in GAS to U and U have UAS! :rock: Congrats!
THANKS!


Just curious..if you guys had these three on the way, which one would you be most anxious to experiment with?

deach
05-19-2008, 02:38 PM
THANKS!


Just curious..if you guys had these three on the way, which one would you be most anxious to experiment with?

6-string. .

seeso
05-19-2008, 02:41 PM
The 6 string, for sure.

Phil Major
05-19-2008, 06:22 PM
My two cents: I'd really recommend something like a Kala Tenor to start. It's not the higher quality that you can get in your proce range but it is definately serviceable and Musicguymic (on ebay) always has them. You get an instrument that is perfectly set up and ready to play, that sounds and looks quite good, and can get you going so that you have an idea of what you will really want in 'the one' when you decide buy it. I think just by playing something for a while you learn a bit about yourself as a uke player and what you want out of your instrument.

I think starting with a good (good is key) lower end model would help you pick the right higher end uke later.

NewbieUkie
05-20-2008, 02:21 PM
The Cordoba 25 SK Soprano, from one our own own members!
A sincere THANKS to Gary, who listed is Soprano in The Marketplace here at a really nice price, but more importantly, it's a REALLY nice uke!
While I have never owned a ukulele before, I have bought, sold, and traded guitars for the last 30+ years, so I know build quality when I see it, and this thing is a beauty!
Tone? Well..frankly, I can't say how it compares to other ukes, (YET!), only how it sounds on it's own merits, and it sounds terrific to me!
Really rich tones from such a tiny instrument, and really quite easy "playability" too, with smooth, easy, consistent action up and down the neck.
I'm just not knowledgable to give a much more detailed review, although I'd be happy to try to answer any questions. Just remember this is my very first ukulele, and once I recieve the other two enroute to me, I'll have a better sense of what I am looking at, (Maybe!), and can speak more to how well this one fits the bill for me.
I am glad the first arrival is the Soprano, the "standard" for ukuleles, as I understand it. What a tiny little thing, huh? LOL!
Any thoughts, guys?

seeso
05-20-2008, 03:55 PM
Congratulations on your first ukulele!! And thus it begins...

Are you going to name her?

NewbieUkie
05-20-2008, 06:24 PM
Congratulations on your first ukulele!! And thus it begins...

Are you going to name her?


Interesting!
Do you guys name your ukes? I've collected guitars for a long time....I know some guys who have named their "favorite" axe, but no one names them all.....do you guys do the same? Name your favorite, or your first...what's the criteria?

Kanaka916
05-21-2008, 06:30 AM
Interesting!
Do you guys name your ukes? I've collected guitars for a long time....I know some guys who have named their "favorite" axe, but no one names them all.....do you guys do the same? Name your favorite, or your first...what's the criteria?
Check out this thread What's Your Uke's Name? (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=227) to get an idea. I don't know if a criteria exists but some the guys/gals gave an explanation of why a particular handle was chosen.

NewbieUkie
05-21-2008, 01:15 PM
Started a new thread with pics of the ukes I have gotten since I joined last week...thanks Guys, for all your help!