View Full Version : Introspection/I want the next level/I Get by with a little help from my friends.

02-16-2011, 03:36 AM
Introspection: Yesterday my fiance said something that really resonated with me. I had showed her a video of James Hill playing Billie Jean (she loves that song).

She made a comment that "that could be you doing stuff like that."

I retorted that I couldn't ever play like James Hill.

To which she replied "Well you could if you focused on one instrument."

That idea has been stuck in my head all night. The more I think about it, the more I begin to like the idea of it. The most productive I had ever been in terms of learning music was when I had to sell all of my electric guitar equipment and was left with only my acoustic. So I think there is some truth to what she said. I have a few different instruments, but I don't really feel proficient as I should on any given one. I do play and enjoy playing my uke more than any other. So over the course of the night (I work 3rd shift) a crazy idea began to develop.

I want the next level: This not only pertains the my level of playing, but more specifically to the point of this thread, the next level in uke.

Here's what I mean. As I said I've got a few different instruments. Namely a guitar, ukulele, mandolin and banjo. The mando rarely gets played (its a right I'm a lefty yadayadayada...) and the banjo is on eBay as I type. The idea was to buy a tenor banjo and string it up uke tuning with nylon strings. My crazy idea is that perhaps I shouldn't get that tenor banjo. Maybe I shouldn't hang on to that neglected mando. I'm thinking that if I am really serious about devoting my time to mastering (or getting as close as I might) one instrument, then just maybe I should invest in an ukulele that I can be proud to call my primary instrument. An uke head and shoulders above my previous ukes.

I get by with a little help from my friends: Now comes the fun part for you guys. I am asking you all to bestow your extensive knowledge of ukes upon me. I very well can't test most ukes available, as I'm in Wisconsin. But I think I have the next best thing. The ability to ask those who have experience with a number of different makes and models.

Here are some requirements that might help you guys help me.

Tenor size
Solid wood
No cut aways (remember, I'm lefty)
It would be nice if it had a pickup (preferably passive)
Budget ~$750 possibly could be extended to $800 given the instrument.
And above all "next level" quality. I'm coming from a Pono MTDX-E that I hate to say just isn't my uke. It's a great instrument, but its just not for me.

I've noticed that the Honu KTE-ER seems to fit my requirements, but I've never heard of Honu and don't really know anything of their quality. http://www.bigislandukulele.com/products/index.html

So my friends, what should I be looking at?

(sorry for the long read)

02-16-2011, 08:21 AM
Hmm, maybe my post seemed a little demanding. Or maybe It was just too much rambling.

Thanks to those who viewed it anyhow.

02-16-2011, 08:31 AM
I just didn't have anything to say that could be of help to you.sorry. Hope someone can help you :D

02-16-2011, 08:35 AM
I am with Joey... I read every word, but such a newbie, and may never own and instrument of that value... However I think it is great if you are thinking to focus on the instrument that brings you joy! That's awesome!
Good luck and I hope you find your dream uke!

02-16-2011, 08:36 AM
As far as the new uke goes...you could find a used Kamaka HF-3 Tenor, or KoAloha Tenor in that price range. Just recently a Kanilea Tenor sold for $599. Lots of Hawaiian made if you keep an eye out you could get, may not have a pickup but any guitar tech should be able to install a pickup that you'd want.

02-16-2011, 08:45 AM
You could pick up a Keli'i tenor for $500 or so from Musicguymic. They're a k-brand, high quality, all-koa instrument.
Mike Pereira of MP ukuleles will sell you a custom tenor ukullele for $850.
For $750 you can get an amazing ukulele.

02-16-2011, 09:21 AM
Wow! Thanks for the replies folks, its much appreciated. To tell you the truth the Kanilea K1-T has been tempting me terribly. I'm almost going to break regardless of the price and the fact that it lacks a pick up. I figure I can last a while without a pick up, then when I get some money saved for it, have one installed. I had seen that Keli'i tenor that you mentioned Rasputin. However I've not heard much about the brand. Maybe I should do a quick look into them.

02-16-2011, 10:45 AM
I can't help you choose a uke, but I think your fiancee is pointing you in the right direction. There's that old saying about being a jack of all trades but a master of none. :)

That's not to say you can't play more than one instrument proficiently, but if you spread yourself too thin, it will take a lot more time to improve.

02-16-2011, 10:55 AM
That's not to say you can't play more than one instrument proficiently, but if you spread yourself too thin, it will take a lot more time to improve.

:agree: I do think this is correct!

02-16-2011, 11:56 AM
I too am in the same boat. Sold the banjo, now only have mandolin and guitar along with my ukes. I thought about unloading the guitar but was just asked to play at an event friday..... needless to say the guitar playing has suffered. You are on the right track and brave. It is fun to be a heinz 57 on multiple instruments but focusing on the uke primarily will make you a much better player. I hope to get brave enough to commit to the same. congrats!

02-16-2011, 03:27 PM
As others have said, it is tough to pick out a ukulele for someone else, especially as the dollars increase. I think your first step is to figure out why your Pono just isn't your uke. Looking for brightness... different string spacing... want a more traditional koa sound... more sustain... tension... ???

The safe move is one of the K brands. The riskier move ia to go with a non-production ukulele. I really love my Keith Ogata ukes, but they are a players uke and not a boutique uke. I've done some saddle, nut, string tinkering to tweak them. As mentioned above, a lot of people like Mike Pereira's ukuleles. I read an old post that James Hill's G-String was made by Wai'olu ukuleles and they look interesting. You just have to listen to a lot of sound samples.

As for putting all your focus on the ukulele, only you know if you can actually reach that level. It is up to you to get an honest answer. If you can't get where you want to be then get to a level you can enjoy.


02-16-2011, 03:42 PM
Don't be afraid to dream big! Maybe you can afford $800 this month... but what about next month? Or the month after that? Listen / Try as many ukes as you can and find out what makes you happy. Then splash out. If you can afford it, and you have no regrets, then whatever happens you'll be at the next level of happiness, which for me is what playing music is all about.

02-16-2011, 04:23 PM
You don't need a new $800 uke to get you to the next level. The pono you have can get you there with the commitment you appear to have. There are many people here that will tell you that the Pono is a great uke. The problem that you have is that you are not going to be truly happy until you actually tried your dream uke before you buy. There are many stories here of people trying K brands and having some that they liked and some that they didn't like as much. You may actually find ukes that cost less but have the sound you are going for. Maybe, mahogany is not your wood. Maybe, you like Koa or spruce better.

02-16-2011, 04:55 PM
Save up and get one from Chuck Moore. Moorebettahukes.com. That's as next level as it gets.

02-16-2011, 07:29 PM
I think your first step is to figure out why your Pono just isn't your uke. Looking for brightness... different string spacing... want a more traditional koa sound... more sustain... tension... ???

I agree with 70sSanO - We could probably give you more specific advice on ukes if we knew what you DON'T like about the Pono. So - what is it you don't like about the Pono? What makes it "not the perfect uke for you"?

02-16-2011, 08:05 PM
I agree with the wait and see method. It ain't the uke that's going to get you where you want to be, it's the practice. You can make great strides in your abilities regardless of the uke. If you're still on the fence about what your single instrument is going to be, then change your focus, not your uke. If you buy an $800 uke now and then improve by leaps and bounds, then you may want to buy an even fancier uke down the road. I say play now, buy later. As it stands, you've got all the right tools already.

02-16-2011, 09:32 PM
I can't help you choose a uke, but I think your fiancee is pointing you in the right direction. There's that old saying about being a jack of all trades but a master of none. :)

As you suggested by saying that your Pono is a good instrument but it just isn't your uke, there's a big subjective component to what IS someone's uke. We can give you a list of woods and their sound qualities, and different manufacturers and their strengths and weaknesses, but nobody can predict what uke you might be holding when you say "yeah, this is my uke." My suggestion would be to go to as many stores that sell ukes as you can find and play them all.

02-16-2011, 11:17 PM
A couple of things to address.

I do understand that you guys can't pick a uke for me. I was just looking for suggestions. I know some of the K brands, but for instance I hadn't heard of keli'i.

I also understand that it's not the uke that will make me better. Hell, I could do with just my Makala. I find there is a bit of inspiration that comes from playing a beautiful instrument. I'm not a beginner, I've been playing the guitar for nearly seven years and the uke for around three years. So I realize that it's not necessary to buy an expensive, but it's something that I would like to invest in.

As for what about the Pono I'm just not feeling. Well, I think that I'd like a bet more a punchy sound. I do like the warmth it has. I'd also like a louder uke. And finally, it might sound stupid, but, I just don't have a connection with it. I've owned instruments in the past that I feel a certain connection to. I wait a year to find it with my kala archtop and it never happened.

And a bit of an update. I received a bonus tonight, so I that up'd my budget a little bit. I'm still eyeing up a Kanilea K1-T.

Thanks for the replies everybody.

02-16-2011, 11:37 PM
Do they make K1-Ts with a pickup? If so where can I find one?

02-17-2011, 05:56 AM
Thanks for your input folks. I'm talking with MGM right now about purchasing a Kanilea K1 satin finish with a Mi Si pick up.

02-17-2011, 09:49 AM
My only suggestion is to let Mike know the type of sound you are looking for in the Kanilea.

Mike has played and sold so many of them that he will be able to tell you if this one particular Kanilea tenor is a little deeper sounding, or another particular Kanilea tenor sounds a little brighter, etc.


02-17-2011, 10:44 AM
If you are looking at a Kanile'a check out Kamaka!! (The original!!)

02-18-2011, 01:03 AM
Well it's official, I will be the owner of a new Kanilea K1-T with satin finish and a Mi Si pick up courtesy of MGM.

Thanks to everyone for their input once again.