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View Full Version : Finally played a Kamaka



iDavid
07-02-2010, 04:21 AM
I live in Northern Japan, aka the boonies. Much to my surprise the local music store had a new Kamaka Tenor which I got to play! It looked lovely, had a great finish and was set-up really well. I am not sure what strings it had but they were dark in color. Taking the weak dollar into account, it was about $1,400.

It sounded pretty nice, but was not overly loud, nor did it have quite the sparkle of my KoAloha.

I wish I could play more high end ukes, it was FUN!

Made me appreciate my KoAloha concert even more.

Mr. Miyagi
07-02-2010, 04:53 AM
Yeah, I thought it was just me, but when I compared a Kamaka to my KoAloha, it didn't seem as bright and loud. I'm very happy with my KoAloha!

iDavid
07-02-2010, 05:39 AM
do you have a tenor or concert KoAloha?

wickedwahine11
07-02-2010, 12:46 PM
I'm glad you got a chance to play one.

One thing I'd like to say in defense of the Kamaka is that the stock strings on them are not very good at all. I always feel like when people don't care for the Kamakas they play in stores, that I really wish they came standard with better strings so you could hear the true capabilities of the instrument.

I agree with you, that out of ten KoAlohas and ten Kamakas, you might find the KoAlohas better six or seven of the tries. But I have found some Kamakas that sound better than some KoAlohas so I don't really feel it can be a generic "rule" that KoAlohas always sound better, it is just the more likely outcome.

I've played five different KoAloha Pineapple Sundays, two KoAloha Sceptres, a KoAloha Jukulele, a KoAloha concert, a KoAloha soprano, and three KoAloha tenors. The Sceptres were both great, and the Pineapple Sundays were nice sounding as well, and the concert and soprano are great, but of the tenors, I actually prefer my Kamaka over one of them (though another was equal, and the third's tone was better than my Kamaka tenor). I agree though, they do have more volume when strung High G. With the right low g strings though, my Kamaka is as loud as a KoAloha tenor (though not a Masterpiece KoAloha).

Plus, I have yet to hear any ukulele sound better than Jake Shimabukuro's Kamaka tenor. :)

Enjoy your KoAloha though, I agree, they are wonderful instruments, and it is great this helped you appreciate yours even more!

dnewton2
07-02-2010, 06:45 PM
Of the K's I have yet to play a Kamaka. Guess I need to get out more.:p

iDavid
07-02-2010, 08:28 PM
I would have liked to put some Worth Clears on the Kamaka! If those strings were not that great than that uke may have been amazing...

cocohonk
10-21-2010, 06:20 AM
What stock strings does Kamaka use?

I have to agree with the quality of their stock strings. I was quite excited to finally see and play a Kamaka (the one I saw was a soprano) in person a while ago, and while it looked gorgeous, I was actually a bit disappointed by how it sounds and how it feels playing it (so I'm pretty sure it was the strings I didn't like, because they felt odd).

I played a Honu soprano (which were the only other brand of ukuleles that are solid koa) just for comparison, and I thought that one felt and sounded better. I guess the strings do make a huge difference.

molokinirum
10-21-2010, 06:26 AM
Yes, the Kamaka stock strings are not good. The uke is not playing up to it's potential. What a shame, such a beautiful instrument, hand made, considered "the Hawaiian" ukulele, and they put bad strings on it.
My Kamaka is due for a string change very soon, still has the stock strings on it, not sure what will go on next.

wickedwahine11
10-21-2010, 07:00 AM
Yes, the Kamaka stock strings are not good. The uke is not playing up to it's potential. What a shame, such a beautiful instrument, hand made, considered "the Hawaiian" ukulele, and they put bad strings on it.
My Kamaka is due for a string change very soon, still has the stock strings on it, not sure what will go on next.

For low g tuning, I recommend you try Worth CH low g (these seem more balanced to me than regular Worth CT low g) or Fremont Fluorocarbon Blackline, and for high g tuning, I like the Savarez Alliance setup.

kenikas
10-21-2010, 07:03 AM
I got to play an older Kamaka in our local shop a while back and really liked it, I played a Martin of about the same vintage and thought the Kamaka was far better. No idea what strings they had on them, but I really liked the Kamaka. They were about the same price and if I could have afforded one the Kamaka would have been my choice. I've never had a chance to try one along side Koaloha, but am looking forward to it.

molokinirum
10-21-2010, 07:14 AM
For low g tuning, I recommend you try Worth CH low g (these seem more balanced to me than regular Worth CT low g) or Fremont Fluorocarbon Blackline, and for high g tuning, I like the Savarez Alliance setup.

Thanks wicked...mine is high g tuning. How does the Savarez Alliance sound?

hmgberg
10-21-2010, 07:17 AM
I have played many Kamakas, Koalohas, and Kanileas. They are all nice. The problem is most definitely with the stock strings. I own a Kamaka concert. I put Worth CMs on it. It sings. I'm not sure what the Kamaka folks like about the factory strings, but surmise that their sound is very traditional. The newer types of strings on the market, fluorocarbons and nylguts, appeal to players, and for good reason. If you have another opportunity to play a Kamaka, and are willing to part with a few bucks, ask the dealer if you can swap out the strings. Try Worths and you will hear a superior sounding instrument.

mm stan
10-21-2010, 08:22 AM
Aloha All,
In defense to Kamaka and their strings, When I first started, I blamed the Ukulele or the strings, if it didn't have the sound I wanted to hear.....Then I noticed my cousin play my Kamaka and it
sang and I thought to myself....I must be using the wrong technique...in the right hands of a competant ukulele player can make a big difference because he knows how to make adjustments to
compensate his/her playing to accomadate the prevailing issues with either the uke or strings...Although it may not come natural, he/her would have to try harder...in anything if you get used to
them, it becomes easier... Tuning accomadations can also make a big difference in sound but will never fix underlying problems..Now if you would like a different sound of the traditional sound, that's a whole different story...many get confused between the two... that's where string preference will make a big difference of what sound you may like................I agree there are some ukes that
sound better, and if you had a chance to pick and choose.....you could weed out the better sounding ones...if you're trying to fix a lemon with strings, it will improve a little, but not as good as
a good sounding uke with good strings...As for strings they change the dynamics of the sound and tone to your preference....As always if you start off with a good sounding ukulele and put better strings on it
it will improve greatly...Choose wisely when buying strings or ukuleles...

bobby b
10-21-2010, 08:37 AM
Nice, I wish I could find a Kamaka here to try out, I really want one but dont want to order one online, I want to play a few and chose one as I feel that there is always one instrument in the bunch that will just speak to you. I guess I got an excuse to go back to Hawaii though....lol

Couple of my experiences with strings so far...

The choice of strings on any uke will have an affect one way or another. I have not played a Kamaka, but on my Kelii tenor I have tried out a few different sets of strings and each set completely changed the the character of the sound, the response and playability, the harmonic content etc, etc, etc....
These were not subtle differences, they were dramatic!

I have tried Hilo's ( wound C ), Aquila's ( unwound C ) and Pro Arte's.

The Hilo's are punchy and can produce some of the sweetest mellow tones. They feel 'high tension', but seem to lack a bit in high harmonic content, tapping to get harmonics on the 5th, 7th and 12 frets seems quite muted.

The Aquila's, I considered them to be far to strident for my ears on this uke. Finkerpicking was nice and clear but when strumming, I lost the woody "koa bark" that the Hilo's gave me, the Aquila's just did not do it for me on this uke.

The Pro Arte's ( Extra hard tension ) have started to appeal to me some. At first I found them a bit bright too. I've been using them for about a week now and I find that when strumming they lend an almost 'banjo' like quality to the sound which I like. This is probably a result of the rich upper harmonic detail that is present, they excel here, just gorgeous trebles and sustain. I can control the volume a lot easier than with the Aquila's. Finger picking, I find to be a bit quieter than the others but I can adjust my attack more and am getting good results. They are very responsive and I notice improved playability.

Each set have their own 'influence' on the Uke and on my playing.

So yeah.......

Michael_
10-21-2010, 10:37 PM
The Aquila's, I considered them to be far to strident for my ears on this uke. Finkerpicking was nice and clear but when strumming, I lost the woody "koa bark" that the Hilo's gave me, the Aquila's just did not do it for me on this uke.

I own a Kamaka and a Koaloha soprano. The Koaloha is definetly louder and has more sustain, but the Kamaka has this "Koa bark" and sounds more traditional. I found that the Aquilas really bring out the koa bark on the Kamaka. They're perfect for percussive strumming. However, they sound horrible on the Koaloha because they kill its brightness.

If I had to choose between the 2, I'd go for the Kamaka.