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70sSanO
06-29-2010, 06:12 PM
There was a recent thread on the virtues of solid wood ukuleles. I can’t disagree with those virtues, as I feel fortunate to have a couple of them; but it got me thinking.

There was a time in my life when the only instrument I had was an old cheap Japanese made Ventura classical guitar. I bought it new for $30 in the early 70’s and it was sold as a freight damaged instrument. When I bought it, there was a piece of aluminum molding screwed onto the headstock that had been cracked and glued back together.

I had long since sold off my Guild archtops because I needed to pay bills. That old guitar went with me everywhere, took a lot of abuse and got me through a lot of lonely nights. Not once did I analyze the tone. It sounded good to me and more importantly gave me something to play. As I got older I loaned it out to all sorts of friends, relatives, and kids who wanted to play or learn to play guitar. Right now it sits in the closet in an old chipboard case and it’s missing a few strings.

So in my mind it doesn’t matter what you play. The only thing that matters is that you are playing and it is bringing you some joy.

John

StereoJoker
06-29-2010, 06:24 PM
*cough* (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?24316-In-Praise-of-Cheap-Ukes) ;)



So in my mind it doesn’t matter what you play. The only thing that matters is that you are playing and it is bringing you some joy.

Anyway, sure, I agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly -- I'll toast to that!

Well, unless you go too cheap and you're stuck with something that sounds like a dying cat (that can't be pleasant for anybody's ears, unless they're the ears of a mentally deranged person), or something that's built so poorly, it becomes downright frustrating to try to play. I find that middle-of-the-road instruments are great because they produce sounds that are very workable, and because I won't have a heart attack* if somebody puts a(nother) hole in my uke.

*I certainly would have one if something dreadful happened to something I spent $2000 on. I know it's only money, but for me at this stage in my life, that sort of dough is better off spent on rent.

Brido
06-29-2010, 07:27 PM
I have to say that there is a great deal of beauty in wood and good design and workmanship in musical instruments. Various instruments do sound differently (not necessarily better) but regarding price versus sound I would suggest there is a cut off somewhere. After making a number of "lutherie" type instruments, I have, in my retirement, gone to making instruments from both my "leave overs" wood (good stuff) and nice thin ply. Yes they sound different but better? I doubt it. If you are a concert grade player, you may well need to buy an expensive instrument to meet the critical needs of your listener, but for a Jam session, or a gig in a local pub I doubt if the quality of your instrument would be appreciated.

Then there is always the personal pleasure of owning and playing a top grade instrument, and if you paid a lot of money for it then it is bound to sound great!

In the end I ask myself... "Am I having fun playing this instrument" If you are, then it does not matter how much you paid for it.

PS. My greatest critic (my wife) often says "I do not know which is worse, you whistling or you singing" She never criticizes my uke! (A cheapie)

Ahnko Honu
06-29-2010, 07:32 PM
In Praise of Cheap Ukes

http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?24316-In-Praise-of-Cheap-Ukes&highlight=cheap

clayton56
06-29-2010, 10:10 PM
cheap instruments are fine until you hear an expensive one

Skitzic
06-30-2010, 02:22 AM
In the end I ask myself... "Am I having fun playing this instrument" If you are, then it does not matter how much you paid for it.

This sums it all up. If someone enjoys playing a uke that sounds like a dying cat, then it's worth it to them.

iDavid
06-30-2010, 02:45 AM
cheap instruments are fine until you hear an expensive one

or until you play one!

that's what happen to me...

jkevinwolfe
06-30-2010, 03:55 AM
I think the better sound comes from perception and attachment. I think we can become more attached to a uke that's cheap. It can go anywhere without a fear of it getting stolen or heat damage in a trunk. We let people who don't have a clue what they're doing bang on it. It's like having had an old Karman Ghia: You'll always say it's an incredible car even if you drive a Porsche now.

I recently bought a Makala Pineapple for $40 specifically for a video where it might get damaged. I am truly amazed at how good it sounds, the feel it has and how well constructed it is for the price. Still, it's a plywood ukulele. But I find myself learning to play to it's imperfections to get the best sound I can. If someone is looking for a starter uke for their child or I know they're likely to put it in a closet in 6 months, with confidence I could recommend this as a solid starter.

However, when I record it and compare it to my Boat Paddle custom, there is no comparison. Our ears can be deceived by our sentiments, but the mic can't.

RevWill
06-30-2010, 05:16 AM
Define inexpensive. For some of us a $300 ukulele is an expensive instrument; for others nothing less than a Hawaiian K will do; for still others a K is just a "production" instrument and they require a custom luthier-built uke. Yes, K's and customs get me salivating with envy and UAS pains but my Mainland tenor is one sweet instrument. It's more than good enough for me.

I can't say enough good things about your standard Flukes and Fleas either. (I love the sound of the Fluke recordings on the CD that came with the Solos book. Flukes and Fleas really mic and record well.)

At the same time, I get a huge kick out of strumming the Dolphins around the house and I am always surprised at how good it sounds and how well it plays in tune up and down the neck. You want to have some fun learning to strum some chords and sing? A Dolphin will take you there.

In the grand scheme of things a Mainland (or an Ohana or a Kala, etc...) is an inexpensive solid wood uke, but a tremendous instrument for the money and more than good enough for the rigors some of us will ever put it through.

tuscadero
06-30-2010, 05:29 AM
In defense of inexpensive ukuleles: The first time I saw a ukulele in a store was a display of Fleas at the Music Emporium in Lexington, MA (a notable source of high grade string instruments, and pretty damn expensive) I was intrigued, as I am drawn to the cute and colorful, but I thought they were kind of pricey. I didn't even know if I could/would play it. I didn't know anything about ukes at the time, it was probably around 2003-2004.

Fast forward to 2007, I'm buying guitar strings for my son and I see a very cheap Hilo baritone at Daddy's Junky Music. Again, still knew nothing about ukuleles, so I didn't even realize that's what it was. I thought it was a kid-sized guitar. I have tiny hands, so again, intrigued. It cost $40. That made it cheap enough to take a chance on. Two weeks later I bought a Hilo soprano and a couple of months after that I was in the Music Emporium buying my first Fluke. I don't want to tell you how much I've spent since then, but you can read my signature and do the math ;)

Cheap ukuleles make the instrument accessible. They take the pressure off. It's ok if you don't sound good, it's not like you made a major investment, play it, hang it on the wall, give it to your nephew, it's a couple of bucks, right? Cheap ukuleles are the price of admission to a wicked cool club. And if you've got a couple of bucks to spare you can hook up a friend so you have someone to play with.

Yay! Cheap Ukes!

Now I'm off to play my Deluxe Concert Honu, hee!

Tudorp
06-30-2010, 05:48 AM
"Cheap" need to be different than "in-expensive". A cheap Uke can turn ya off of the instrument, and make ya just walk away. You can get a decent "In-Expensive" Uke to get ya started and a taste of it so you can decide to take it further, or not. But if you buy at any cost a "cheap" one, it can be counter productive..

My Ohanas are IMHO "inexpensive" Ukes, and I love em. But not to be confused with "Cheap". I've played "cheap" ukes, and I just want to smash them into a wall after only a few minutes of playing them..

On the other hand, my LU-21, I paid about $35 for on the Amazon Gold Deals. A VERY inexpensive Ukes, and it plays better than some I have played that cost $75.

Just sayin..

Uncle Rod Higuchi
06-30-2010, 05:56 AM
This says it all for me:



Cheap ukuleles make the instrument accessible. They take the pressure off. It's ok if you don't sound good, it's not like you made a major investment, play it, hang it on the wall, give it to your nephew, it's a couple of bucks, right? Cheap ukuleles are the price of admission to a wicked cool club. And if you've got a couple of bucks to spare you can hook up a friend so you have someone to play with.

Yay! Cheap Ukes!



Thanks for sharing your thoughts and putting into words the feeling of my heart.

Keep uke'in',

arashi_nero
06-30-2010, 06:31 AM
cheap instruments are fine until you hear an expensive one

i'd have to disagree with you on this one. it depends on the "cheap" uke you're talking about, but some inexpensive ukes are really good. i have friends with kamaka ukes and they told me that ukes aren't worth the money unless they're a k brand. i bought my oscar schmidt tenor and even before i changed the strings to the d'addarios, they were impressed by the sound my $120 uke could produce. albeit, i did spend a month finding the right sounding instrument. another friend just bought an inexpensive concert because of my tenor. he had the same idea that he would never buy anything but a k brand.

i will agree that there is something about the more expensive ukes that the cheaper ones don't have, but it's like the difference between my $6,000 bassoon and my old teacher's $21,000 bassoon. Both are solid maple, but his was aged a little more and had just enough of a better tonal quality to make me drool. there are professionals that use my model and i know i can get my bassoon to sing, but there is something about that $21,000 bassoon that makes me want to take out a loan to buy one. if i ever did that, tho, i'd probably take out another $2k and buy a really good uke too haha.

byjimini
06-30-2010, 06:46 AM
"It doesn’t matter what you play. The only thing that matters is that you are playing and it is bringing you some joy."

Such a fine statement right there, gets a thumbs up from me.

Joeythegrape
06-30-2010, 05:45 PM
I recently slapped some Aquilla strings on a soprano my dad found in a dumpster outside a school about 15 years ago and it sounds pretty nifty.

So it cost about $8.50 CAN and it sounds great for bluegrass and classical. Doesn't sound Hawaiian at all mind you (it's a low-G).


It's a Hoffman model 201 (made in japan) if that means anything to anyone. It doesn't mean anything to google.

StereoJoker
06-30-2010, 09:11 PM
I recently slapped some Aquilla strings on a soprano my dad found in a dumpster outside a school about 15 years ago and it sounds pretty nifty.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, in a dumpster? It saddens me to know that there are folks who decide to chuck instruments willy-nilly like that. But at the same time, thumbs up for you and your freebie! (Even though I'm completely unfamiliar with that type of uke -- is it particularly old?)

GrumpyCoyote
06-30-2010, 09:52 PM
Whoa, whoa, whoa, in a dumpster? It saddens me to know that there are folks who decide to chuck instruments willy-nilly like that. But at the same time, thumbs up for you and your freebie! (Even though I'm completely unfamiliar with that type of uke -- is it particularly old?)

There was a time, just a few years ago and in large chunks of this country, that ukes were decoration at best. They were hardly considered instruments at all. Just a novelty knicknak you pick up in the islands - or a toy guitar, meant to be played with, not actually tuned and played.

It was largley the fault of course, of novelty and toy companies making unplayable facsimiles of ukes and selling them for peanuts. You couldn't tune some of these things to save your life. It's no wonder they stopped being associated broadly with musical instruments.

Tossing one in the trash for most people would be akin to tossing out an old print of the beach or a string of tiki lights. Just decoration gone dated.

Thankfully those days are gone for now. They may not be looked at favorably by everyone, but most acknowledge they are at least instruments.

beergeek
06-30-2010, 11:05 PM
I'm pretty much in agreement with what's been said here. You can see from my sig, I have a pretty good sampling of low to mid to high end ukes.

My only criteria for an inexpensive instrument is that it has good intonation up and down the fretboard, it shouldn't cramp my hands or shred my fingers and it shouldn't sound like mud.

The LU-11 cost me $70 with a gigbag, an extra set of Aquilas and tax. I played a $99 Mitchell concert cutaway in a music store the other day that sounded fabulous. I didn't buy it but I'm still thinking I will ;)

As long as the quality of the instrument does not make it difficult to play and the sound is not unpleasant, it's a winner in my book.