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mangorockfish
09-05-2010, 05:39 AM
When you are considering buying a new uke, how do you decide what to buy when there is a lot of money involved ($500+). What are your considerations and in what order? Just curious as to why people buy certain ukes as opposed to others. As for me, I would love to have a Big Island, but for a little more $$ I could get a Kamaka. I know choices are very personal and subjective and this is what I'm asking about. Thanks

Regster
09-05-2010, 06:29 AM
I mostly look for sound and playability for mine, construction doesn't bother me much as long as the uke doesn't have scratch n cracks.

but for the record get the kamaka you'll enjoy it more.

cletus
09-05-2010, 06:43 AM
I love my Kala tenor.
My baritone Kamaka has a spirit living inside it.

There was an interesting documentary on PBS about the Kamaka story. Look it up, it may help you decide.

Good Luck!

Pippin
09-05-2010, 06:51 AM
First I think about the music I want to play and the sound that would be the best for that purpose. After that, I consider the construction of the ukulele (materials-- not workmanship). If I want to use electronics, that may have an influence on my decision. I also consider string tension... do I want a long-neck version of the instrument or will I be happier with, say tenor rather than concert or soprano. For me, string tension is more important in the "sound" than the actual size. For example, I have one concert-bodied ukulele with a tenor-scale neck. I have lots of standard size ukes, too. Take a soprano, the string tension is lower than a concert model, but, if I want more the soprano voice and would like higher string tension, for a sharper attack, do I want to go to a long-neck and have the soprano body with a concert-scale neck?

What tone, over all, do I want? A rosewood back and sides will have better low and mid-range tone than a mahogany uke. Spruce will be brighter than mahogany and will not mellow as much as cedar with age. Cedar will sound bright at first and just continue to get more mellow and sweeter with age. Then there are the exotic woods, starting with koa, very punchy with clear tone. Mango is softer and sweet, but it doesn't carry as well as koa. Zebrawood, pretty new on the market is bright, but it is a thinner tone than any of the others mentioned thus far. Maple is bright and combined with a spruce top will be one of the loudest ukes you can ever find, yet played softly, it can be about as sweet and mellow as any instrument. Maple is usually laminated, so the solid spruce top is important.

Considering all of these things, all of the Chinese imports are competitive in price. Quality can vary, so, buy from a trusted shop, MGM, UkeLadyMusic, Elderly, etc... If there is an issue, a good return policy is vital.

In the "K" brand ukes from Hawai'i, Kamaka and KoAloha get lots of love around here. KoAloha is very loud, very smooth, and has become a very big player in just fifteen or so years. They are a can't miss and have a "better than the weather" warranty... pretty safe investment.

Graymalkin
09-05-2010, 10:41 AM
When I can play well enough to justify spending that kind of money, how it looks will be hugely important. I'm shallow like that.

Actually, how it looks is hugely important even at the cheap end of the scale I'm at, hence my Kala KA-FMS...

mm stan
09-05-2010, 10:45 AM
Aloha Mangorockfish,
Buy the best you could possibly afford...in the long run you'll save on all the cheap updates and you'll probally won't
have alot of cheap ukes that you've got accustomed to lying around and can't get much of anything if you tried to sell
them. Plus with a quality uke, You''ll probally learn faster and get less fustrated....and it's more comfortable and playability
is much greater...not to forget sounding a whole lot better!! tuning and intonation would be more consistant on a higher
end brand, but not always....be sure to try them before buying for the sound quality as each uke is individual in sound
even though it's the same brand , type and model made by the same guy....too many variables...By the way, if you
get the Kamaka, it's probally a Keeper for life....I hope this helps....Good Luck!!! MM Stan...

Nuprin
09-05-2010, 12:27 PM
I mostly have my UAS in submission (although a myrtle Mya Moe has been triggering it). In the past, the sound was what was most important for me. I heard many beautiful sounding examples of Kamaka tenors and became obsessed with getting one. Fortunately I didn't have to wait too long as a used one became available in the UU marketplace.

More recently I will find ukes that are aesthetically beautiful to me and that will trigger my UAS. For instance, I love the look of the thick rosette and slotted headstock on Aldrine's Kanile'a. Started doing some research and came across MP Custom Ukuleles which had very reasonable prices on a custom. After more research I found what a great reputation his ukes have so I was pretty sure I would be happy with the result. I paid a little extra for the slotted headstock but the thick rosette was included.

On the same note, I saw pictures of thejumpingflea's myrtle Mya Moe tenor and, again, the looks have triggered my UAS. Mya Moe has a wonderful reputation and, after hearing some sound samples of their myrtle ukes, I'm thinking I'm going to be putting in an order in the next few weeks.

So, long story short, looks are what are initially attracting me to ukes but the reputation and sound are what still sells me on them.

Ahnko Honu
09-05-2010, 12:30 PM
First thing it has to be shaped like a pineapple, second it has to have at least a solid wood top. From there the sky's the limit. ;)

Lexxy
09-05-2010, 12:38 PM
For me, nice headstocks are a must. (Not saying that the regular headstocks isn't nice)
Friction tuners/Slotted headstocks prioritised (Something authentically ukulele :P )
After that, anything goes :)

KevinV
09-05-2010, 12:58 PM
For me, it has to be a tenor, solid wood, sound good, and preferably be used (I'm cheap).

Chris Tarman
09-05-2010, 01:14 PM
For me, the prime prerequisite is that it must be an ukulele!

telebob
09-05-2010, 05:01 PM
Budget or available cash is the primary factor for me. Second would be looks 'cuz I'm a sucker for pretty eye-candy, like curly koa, zebrawood, etc. tops with loads of abalone or other fancy inlays and binding. Third is feel; does it play well, fit good in the hands, and fingers/frets okay? Fourth is intonation as I do like to play in tune up the fretboard; at least for the first 7 frets. Fifth is the sound, because that can be changed electronically... unless one is playing totally acoustically. Sixth is brand: Koaloha or Kamaka or Kala. BTW, I do have an Ohana that I like very much too.

P.S. Lots of great thoughtful replies here... loved reading all of them. Please know my reply is a combination of fun and seriousness. :cool:

mds725
09-05-2010, 06:01 PM
Great posts in this thread! My thoughts behind my first purchase -- a Kala solid mahogany concert -- were (i) to buy an ukulele of good enough quality that I would not become discouraged and stop playing; (ii) to buy an ukulele with a traditional "plinky" sound that was bigger than a soprano, which, for me has too small a fingerboard and not enough tension on the strings; and (iii) to buy a solid wood instrument (I fell in love with the sound of solid mahogany). For my second purchase -- a Kala solid acacia tenor -- I wanted the larger size and an ukulele that sounded just a bit more like a guitar than my concert ukulele. I played both of these ukues extensively before buying them. I recently bought a Big Island solid koa Honu Traditional tenor that became available in the UU marketplace (thanks, Jake!) because I thought it represented a slight upgrade in build quality over my Kala tenor and I wanted the sound of a solid koa uke. (Although I didn't play this uke before buying it, I watched several videos of Honu traditional koa tenors, includintg the one I bought.) My next purchase is likely to be either one of the K brands or a custom uke made by one of the luthiers who get raves here at UU. (I told myself that I'd buy a $1,000 uke when I was good enough at playing to feel and hear the difference between the ukes I have and the one I want to buy.) I'd have to say, with the experiences I've had, that my top priority would be playablility -- how the ukulele feels in my hands when I play it. A close second priority for me is tone -- I tend to prefer a deeper rich tone to the somewhat more twangy tone of some ukes and tonewoods. My next uke will be one that feels great in my hands, is hand built, and has a nice rich tone to it. Only one person's expreience, but I hope that helps.

haolejohn
09-05-2010, 06:23 PM
I mostly look for sound and playability for mine, construction doesn't bother me much as long as the uke doesn't have scratch n cracks.

but for the record get the kamaka you'll enjoy it more.
I disagree. I prefer my Mele to my kamaka.

haolejohn
09-05-2010, 06:30 PM
When you are considering buying a new uke, how do you decide what to buy when there is a lot of money involved ($500+). What are your considerations and in what order? Just curious as to why people buy certain ukes as opposed to others. As for me, I would love to have a Big Island, but for a little more $$ I could get a Kamaka. I know choices are very personal and subjective and this is what I'm asking about. Thanks

I decide what i am looking for. I have two main uke companies that I look at first. Mele and KoAloha. Then I look at what I want in a uke. I got my Kamaka b/c it was available for trade for a PS that I just wasn't feeling and it had a pick-up. A bonus of the Kamaka is that it has curly koa which I love. My next uke will be a Mele curly koa top/mahogany back and sides. I factor in price and looks. I stick with uke companies, I have played b/c I know they have quality instruments. I also look for handmade solid wood first. My mainland is my beater uke and it is currently loaned out.

A kamaka canbe had for a little more than a Big Island and will it make you happier? depends. Was I happy with my Meles? Yes I was and I desired to get a KoAloha tenor (Loved that crown bridge and the koaloha story) but if Papa KoAloha hadn't of given me my first koaloha, I'd still be buying Meles.

roxhum
09-05-2010, 06:51 PM
Fun thread. I am a total newbie but already 2 ukes. # 1 uke I searched the web and bought a second hand Lanikia off ebay and in hindsight should have waited before upgrading because it is a pretty decent ukulele. I know that a ukulele that plays well, sounds that I love and no problems as I learn to move up and down the fret board would make learning more fun, less frustrating and more successful. My criterea was to purchase a ukulele that I could try out first so I hit every music store in my county and bought the one that felt the best holding, playablity and a sound that I love. I first bought a concert and returned it because I preferred my cheap soprano to the concert that had a lot more tension in the strings. I now happily have a Bushman (no longer available) 2A KOA Soprano and she plays sweetly. She has a traditional ukulele sound and although looks were not part of my criteria she is beautiful! Someday I want a concert size but that can wait for a good long time. I went over my limit with this one, $350, but she will be my forever soprano. Oh and as a side note and as uku newbie and having purchased accordions always over the Internet because I could never find one within 5 hour drive of me I had such a blast. The guy selling these used to be a Bushman dealer and he FOUR of these soprano's and he pulled them all out and let me chose the one I like best. The wood on all of them were different, the sounds only slightly different. It was like a kid at Christmas being able to choose my favorite.

Enjoy your shopping!

clayton56
09-05-2010, 06:56 PM
I consider the wood it's made of first, because that's the most important part of the overall sound. I've tried quite a few woods so far, and I think ulawood (toon) fits my concept of sound the most. It's about halfway between spruce and mahogany. I have some koa, and they sound great, but it's not really the sound I'm looking for. My favorite sound is kind of lute-like, classical, not electric sounding. Mahogany and koa are both a little hard for the sound I want. I haven't gotten a spruce top yet, and might try one, but so far the ones I've played haven't sounded that good.

After that, I want at least 15 frets because some of my arrangements are using those notes. I need alternatives for all notes and if I have only 12 frets I run out of alternatives quickly. And sometimes I need the high B or C. More often I need to use the higher frets for F#, D, G, A on the lower strings.

I didn't know this when I got started and have 2 ukes with 12 frets, and one with 14. Eventually they'll go on the block but there's no rush.

Skottoman
09-06-2010, 05:26 AM
I've decided to buy ukes based on places I visit. Mostly Hawaii. I find they mean more when I get them from some sort of adventure.
I have a few that I just bought at a store and they mean less to me.

Purchasing a uke on a trip, or for a trip, or a gift from someone makes that uke special. My store bought ones just do not have that same "feel" to them.
When I pick up my KoAloha I bought in Hawaii, I can remember playing that very uke on the beach on Ohau.

Cheers,
Skottoman

deepeepee
09-06-2010, 02:27 PM
Initially mine was purely a budget thing. I did not know if I was going to take to the Uke so bought a Makala Dolphin. Loved it, so bought a Makala concert, loved it. Went to a local music shop and fancied upgrading. I wanted a concert size but with the brightness of a sop. (I tried a few tenors but they did not float my boat at all). Found a Kala Flame Maple Concert with solid spruce top. Beautifully constructed, very pretty and very bright like a sop, loads of volume but as in an earlier post, when you strum or pick softly it has a lovely mellow quality it rings like a bell. I still play my Dolphin and my Makala MKC as they all sound and feel so different. All this in a mere 2 months. I will probably get myself a quality sop one day, but that is for the future.

luvdat
09-07-2010, 01:09 AM
First I think about the music I want to play and the sound that would be the best for that purpose. After that, I consider the construction of the ukulele (materials-- not workmanship). If I want to use electronics, that may have an influence on my decision. I also consider string tension... do I want a long-neck version of the instrument or will I be happier with, say tenor rather than concert or soprano. For me, string tension is more important in the "sound" than the actual size. For example, I have one concert-bodied ukulele with a tenor-scale neck. I have lots of standard size ukes, too. Take a soprano, the string tension is lower than a concert model, but, if I want more the soprano voice and would like higher string tension, for a sharper attack, do I want to go to a long-neck and have the soprano body with a concert-scale neck?

What tone, over all, do I want? A rosewood back and sides will have better low and mid-range tone than a mahogany uke. Spruce will be brighter than mahogany and will not mellow as much as cedar with age. Cedar will sound bright at first and just continue to get more mellow and sweeter with age. Then there are the exotic woods, starting with koa, very punchy with clear tone. Mango is softer and sweet, but it doesn't carry as well as koa. Zebrawood, pretty new on the market is bright, but it is a thinner tone than any of the others mentioned thus far. Maple is bright and combined with a spruce top will be one of the loudest ukes you can ever find, yet played softly, it can be about as sweet and mellow as any instrument. Maple is usually laminated, so the solid spruce top is important.

Considering all of these things, all of the Chinese imports are competitive in price. Quality can vary, so, buy from a trusted shop, MGM, UkeLadyMusic, Elderly, etc... If there is an issue, a good return policy is vital.

In the "K" brand ukes from Hawai'i, Kamaka and KoAloha get lots of love around here. KoAloha is very loud, very smooth, and has become a very big player in just fifteen or so years. They are a can't miss and have a "better than the weather" warranty... pretty safe investment.

Finally!!! Start with the music!!!

If we were talking aquarium keeping...people often start with "what size tank" vs. the fish they would like to keep...

Have come to conclude that even putting "tonal preference" first has it kind of backwards.

BTW I think someone like Ahnko Honu's love of pineapples DOES start with the music.....

Captain_Lovehandles
09-07-2010, 01:37 AM
I think you've already taken the first step. Aren't you coming to the Uke2Gether in 2 weeks? You can play a wide assortment and see what speaks to you. And you can see what UkeRepublic has on hand too. You might even win one of the 3 or 4 ukes that are being given away.

Hippie Dribble
09-07-2010, 01:51 AM
I'm a sucker for the aesthetics first. Like the start of a relationship, you're not gonna get past first base if the eyes aren't drawn to it. Second is the action. Third is the wood. 4th is the price and the related 5th issue is how long I have to think of a reasonable explanation or excuse for the wife when she notices another chunk of money has been withdrawn from the bank account.

France
09-07-2010, 01:57 AM
Have a look at the Mya Moe website. They have a huge variety of wood to choose from and details of the different acoustics that come with the different wood types. These guys seem like they really care about the product they produce and are very knowledgable. Good luck finding the best uke to suit you. UAS will soon set in.

Lexxy
09-07-2010, 02:11 AM
I think you've already taken the first step. Aren't you coming to the Uke2Gether in 2 weeks? You can play a wide assortment and see what speaks to you. And you can see what UkeRepublic has on hand too. You might even win one of the 3 or 4 ukes that are being given away.

Contest? Where? :P

UkuLeLesReggAe
09-07-2010, 03:16 AM
I go off youtube to be completely honest, also reviews and threads from this site.... I have absolutely NO way of getting my hands on an ukulele to try it out. If it sounds perfect by somebody else playing, then I will get to that standard one day. Only a few more days before I buy my Kanilea, it's costing me over $1000.... kudos to all those who helped

sukie
09-07-2010, 07:31 AM
For my first quality ukulele I went by wood, size and what sound I wanted. I called MGM and told him what I was looking for: A loud, traditional Hawaiian sounding concert. He suggested a Kamaka or a KoAloha. Both were in my price range. I got the KoAloha. I LOVE it. The sound is great and boy, is it loud.

I'm now getting a custom built. How did I choose what to get? Easy. It had to be better than what I already have. Its still being made of koa and it's still a concert. However, this time I'm going with a tenor neck on it. In the end, the longer neck is the only thing bugging me about the KoAloha. I have a thing about flamingoes. I've adored them for years and years. Somehow I bumped in to Chuck Moore's ukulele site. I am ordering this ukulele for the "bling" he is doing to my ukulele. And from what I've seen so far, I will die and go to heaven when it actually arrives at my home. (In maybe a month and a half) Ukuleles with flamingo inlays? pant, pant!!! Moore Bettah ukuleles are the most beautiful ones I've ever seen. They sound beautiful and look gorgeous. I'll post stuff when I get it.

In my opinion -- if it isn't going to be of better quality than you already have, why waste the money? But remember -- that is just my thought. Lots of people disagree.

mangorockfish
09-07-2010, 09:16 AM
I think you've already taken the first step. Aren't you coming to the Uke2Gether in 2 weeks? You can play a wide assortment and see what speaks to you. And you can see what UkeRepublic has on hand too. You might even win one of the 3 or 4 ukes that are being given away.Had kind of a slow couple of weeks at work with a lot of personal expenses. What an August!!! Really going to try,and trying out a lot of different ukes was one of the main reasons for coming. However, 529 miles from Little Rock to Atlanta is quite a distance, but am still considering it. Maybe I'll see you guys there.

Ingrate
09-07-2010, 09:36 AM
UAS seems to me to be dominating the responses to this thread.

If you find a 'uke with accurate intonation, action that you like, and sounds good like a 'uke should, what more is there? If this is an inexpensive 'uke, so much the better! It's hardest to find that. I'd rather impress someone with a budget 'uke than disappoint them with an expensive one. Once one acquires a "good" 'uke (as described herein), don't buy any others until you earn the money playing the 'uke, a sure way to control UAS.

UAS is rampant - just look at the skyrocketing prices of the top-end 'ukes these days.

CTurner
09-07-2010, 09:51 AM
I recently found myself looking longingly at sopranos, but based on past experiences with a number of styles and models had never found one that sounded or felt right to me. My two Kanile'as, a tenor and a concert, were so satisfying and gave me such pleasure in the sound of their music as well as playability and looks that I was not sure I could find a soprano that worked for me.
As I browsed various online and local sources, I happened across a MGM sale on Koaloha Pikake soprano. I knew that the Pikake had the kind of sound I wanted, to contrast with my tenor and concert: brighter, "punchier", and good sustain. The online videos I found for Pikake seemed to present this sound. I wanted basically a "strummer" that would do the funny, silly, off-the-wall, and up-tempo songs I had in my files. The Pikake was in the last two days of its sale period and still sitting there.....although the look was simple (not plain, just not fancy), it looked in the pictures like it would be a satisfying uke to gaze at. I knew that the Koaloha, one of the Ks, had a fine reputation and I wanted something that would provide solid playability (low action, frets appropriately high) the way my Kanile'as have always done.
I took the leap and for the last month I've enjoyed the Pikake very much. I was afraid that sopranos were just too small for my hands, but not this one anyway.
Oh, and the price was right: more than the Kiwaya I had had before, but knowing the quality I felt actually reassured.

70sSanO
09-07-2010, 10:18 AM
I am typically an off-the-beaten-path person. Always looking for that gem that is over looked.

First I like to find something that is not one of a million made but is still good quality.

New is fine, used is better.

If I find something that fits what I am looking for then it is sound and playability. It has to fit your style.

Construction is next. I want it to be well made.

Looks are last. In fact, I'd rather have a ukulele without the glitz but sounds like a million. Last thing I want is all show and no go.

John