PDA

View Full Version : Uke Snobs?



siesta171
05-21-2011, 01:45 AM
Bought a well reviewed entry level concert uke a few months ago and making steady progress. Sounds good to me and the few people who listen to my playing. Keep reading and sometimes hearing that you only get what you pay for and my playing will benefit greatly by getting a quality instrument. Opinions appreciated. TIA.

byjimini
05-21-2011, 01:49 AM
Play what you're happy with. My issue was paying massive amounts for instruments, ie are they really worth it, do I deserve it etc, but it's all down to personal preference.

hannson
05-21-2011, 01:57 AM
Hi.

The difference is not so much the pricing (how expensive a Uke is), but the type of wood (which do have an impact on price) and the setup.

i.e. the question is ... a good uke that will not (my apologies for the earlier typo) frustate you ... instead of how expensive a uke you should buy.

I started with a US$20 Uke and eventually bought a uke that was more expensive.

The main difference I've found is in the setup e.g. does it stay in tune throughout the fret board, are the tuners (e.g. geared tuner) of good-enough quality (such that the uke don't go out of tune too often, or in the middle of a song LOL).

Here are 2 videos of the same song I played and recorded. Have a listen and let me know what you think.

Uke 1:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgAx_dVIqqY

Uke 2:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHrDXhUSe4Q

olympusmons
05-21-2011, 02:04 AM
I'm a beginning ukulele player but I play guitar and think the more you spend the better quality the instrument is gonna be and the better you're going to sound, I'm sure there are exceptions but thats just the nature of the business. Of course there are so many guitars, ukuleles, trumpets, saxaphones, etc. out there it pretty much all comes down to what you think personally and how the instrument fits you, if you like and are comfortable with the ukulele you're playing now then by all means stick with it. If not then there are a great many ukes out there that will probably take you to the next level if you're cool with spending more.

siesta171
05-21-2011, 02:10 AM
Thanks so much for your quick reply. The Kala sounds much nicer to my ear. The forum is a great way to help form an opinion.

Hippie Dribble
05-21-2011, 02:18 AM
ukuleles are fun fullstop. If I didn't have any expensive ukes would I still get by and be happy with a painted mahalo. heck yeah. to be a 'snob' about such matters is to miss the point. I played a sky blue painted mahalo for two and a half years before I bought another uke. It bought me days and days full of pleasure, and still does. You buy what you are willing and able to pay for, and you have fun whatever you play. Ukuleles are defined by a far wider range of things than the brands and builders - the simple joy of strumming a few chords and playing a song is where the rubber hits the road, sharing music and jamming with others, the 'aloha' spirit. To me, the whole point about the ukulele community is that it stands in direct opposition to such things as 'snobbery', ego, who's got the best licks etc. Mate, stick with your uke and play the daylights out of it till the frets have worn away. Cheers!

Ukulele JJ
05-21-2011, 03:46 AM
I agree that the most important thing is the setup. It really doesn't matter how much you pay for a ukulele, as long as you can tune it, it holds the tuning, and the intonation is reasonably good up the fretboard. More expensive ukes are generally (but not always!) set up better than the el cheapo ukes, but the "middle of the road" ukes tend to be good enough on the whole.

If you're handy, you can often adjust a less-expensive uke to be setup better (which is why the MGM dolphins were such a good deal).

Things like build, wood, etc., will help with sustain, tone, and volume. But IMHO that's not nearly as important for someone who is still dipping their toe in the ukulele waters.

JJ

allanr
05-21-2011, 03:59 AM
In one way ukes are like anything else. The more you pay the more you get.

But in another way ukes are NOT like everything else... Ukes are supposed to be fun. Heck! Not only are they "supposed to be" fun, they ARE fun!! And the uke that is the most fun in the world is the one that is in your hands being played right now.

roxhum
05-21-2011, 04:10 AM
In my limited experience, and I have now had a number of ukes pass through my hands. My first uke was a second hand Lanikai laminate for $20 and my most expensive the Kamaka in my signature line. I think I have been lucky because each and every ukulele I have had kept in tune with no buzzing, sounded good and made me very happy. Is the Mainland better that the laminates and the Kamaka better than the Mainland. Heck yeah. But not necessarily enough difference to justify the price differences. In my opinion the Mainland is still the best bang for buck and the laminates in my life have been very sweet.

McBruce
05-21-2011, 04:59 AM
I agree that the most important thing is the setup. It really doesn't matter how much you pay for a ukulele, as long as you can tune it, it holds the tuning, and the intonation is reasonably good up the fretboard. More expensive ukes are generally (but not always!) set up better than the el cheapo ukes, but the "middle of the road" ukes tend to be good enough on the whole.

If you're handy, you can often adjust a less-expensive uke to be setup better (which is why the MGM dolphins were such a good deal).

Things like build, wood, etc., will help with sustain, tone, and volume. But IMHO that's not nearly as important for someone who is still dipping their toe in the ukulele waters.

JJ

JJ is right on. If you have a reasonably good instrument it will not hold you back from learning and enjoying the ride. Buying an expensive instrument will not make you sound good, practice and time will.

A great player makes even the cheapest instrument sound fantastic, a poor one makes even the best instruments sound bad.

spookefoote
05-21-2011, 05:17 AM
If you're happy and you know it clap your hands! The end.

SweetWaterBlue
05-21-2011, 05:19 AM
If you're happy and you know it clap your hands! The end.

clap, clap, clap.

SweetWaterBlue
05-21-2011, 05:20 AM
JJ is right on. If you have a reasonably good instrument it will not hold you back from learning and enjoying the ride. Buying an expensive instrument will not make you sound good, practice and time will.

A great player makes even the cheapest instrument sound fantastic, a poor one makes even the best instruments sound bad.

+1 on that

PhilUSAFRet
05-21-2011, 05:31 AM
That Kala you have is a good example of "getting good value for your money." They are generally more playable and sound better than several similarly priced ukes. When lots of folks say "you get what you pay for" they are talking about getting your Kala rather than one of the "el cheapos" that aren't made as well, play as well, or sound as well.
Sounds like you are doing well with that sweet little Kala. Thanks for joining us.

OldePhart
05-21-2011, 05:54 AM
I don't think it's a mattery of snobbery so much as wanting to see that the newbie gets an instrument that is not going to discourage them.

As a general rule you have a much better chance of getting an instrument with good volume and tone, and that is easy to play, when you spend more money. (Note that this isn't an absolute guarantee until you get into the high-end market - even ukes in the $300 range will often vary quite a bit from specimen to specimen even within a single model.) That doesn't mean you can't get a great uke for $50 - just that the variability will be higher and you need to shop more carefully. By shopping more carefully I mean either in person where you can try a number of ukes or by purchasing from a "ukulele professional" who cares enough to check the setup on the instruments they sell.

If you are handy, and patient, then setup is not such a big issue because you can learn to do it yourself. The vast majority of ukes need only to have the slots in the nut adjusted and the saddle lowered a little to become well-intonated, easy-to-play ukes. I do highly recommend purchasing a nut file if you plan on doing much of this. Just one double-sided nut file (.026/.032) from StewMac will pay for itself the first time you use it. If you plan on doing low G ukes you should also get the .05/.06 size.

A good setup is not going to turn a Dolphin, or even a $300 Kala solid wood uke, into a KoAloha or Kamaka, but the difference is not something most people really need to be concerned about. The KoAloha will almost certainly be louder and probably a little sweeter, even after a Kala is set up perfectly. But, that's really not what we're worried about when we urge beginners to get the best uke they can afford. The important issue for the beginner, in fact probably for all but a few tone freaks and pros, is whether or not the uke is easy to play and how well it's intonated. In that respect, you can set up many inexpensive ukes to be every bit as "good" as a K-brand. The little Lanikai LU-11 that I bought from MGM for my granddaughter is a great playing uke - volume and tone can't hold a candle to my more expensive ukes - but it really is a fine "beginner's instrument" because intonation and action are perfect thanks to Mike.

Some people will doubtless disagree with me that having a well-intonated uke is important for the beginner but I believe that it's very important for two reasons. First, your "ear" will develop much more quickly - i.e. you'll learn to recognize the sound of various chords and intervals and this helps immensely in learning songs. Second, if a uke is poorly intonated you can unknowingly develop bad fingering habits. The slight and sometimes brief discordances from bad fingering habits are much more noticeable, and therefore more likely to be corrected, when the properly-fingered chords sound "sweet" because the intonation is spot-on.

So, no snobbery from me - if you can get a $20 uke that is easy to play, is well-intonated, and stays in tune - I don't care if it's made out of brick, go for it! But, don't handicap yourself early in your "career" by settling for a uke that has high-action, is poorly intonated, etc., etc.

John

hannson
05-21-2011, 06:40 AM
That Kala you have is a good example of "getting good value for your money." They are generally more playable and sound better than several similarly priced ukes. When lots of folks say "you get what you pay for" they are talking about getting your Kala rather than one of the "el cheapos" that aren't made as well, play as well, or sound as well.
Sounds like you are doing well with that sweet little Kala. Thanks for joining us.Hi Phil :)

er.. do you mean the Kala Video demo that I posted? :)

Cheers :)

hoosierhiver
05-21-2011, 07:52 AM
Youtube has some great examples of folks playing the hell out of cheap ukes, loving it and making them sound great. Look up Gugug or Twoblokestwoukes for a couple examples.

ukeeku
05-21-2011, 08:00 AM
I look at it this way. Yes you get what you pay for. Will a Dophin last 20 years? No, but it was cheap and it may implode some day. But you payed so little for it that you go and buy another. a k-brand or a nice one, like a mainland, will last a long time and be way more playable and mature in sound over time and you pay more for that. I have found that there are many great inexpensive ukes out there and they are very playable, but over time they will be more likely have issues with the tuners and bracing.

hannson
05-21-2011, 08:11 AM
Bought a well reviewed entry level concert uke a few months ago and making steady progress. Sounds good to me and the few people who listen to my playing. Keep reading and sometimes hearing that you only get what you pay for and my playing will benefit greatly by getting a quality instrument. Opinions appreciated. TIA.hmmm... i re-read the original question.. and realised that some of our answers may not have addressed the concerns raised.

1. siesta171 bought an entry level concert and making steady progress
2. uke sounds good to siesta171 and friends
3. but siesta171 reads and hears that his "playing will benefit greatly by getting a quality instrument

Based on the above,

a. siesta171, you may wish to share with us your "ultimate" goal with the Uke :)
e.g. if it's for fun and leisure, I think the uke you have is fine (based on 1. and 2.)
but if you want to "push it to the limit" and see how far you can go with it, we'd need to know a couple more things

b. siesta171, how are you learning the uke? from books/dvds? or do you go for classes?

c. do you intend to perform professionally etc?

The above will help steer the advice the rest on the forum can provide you. It may not be best/only advice, but the background would definitely help the rest figure out their opinion as it relates to your background and aspirations :)

Personally, I'm an amateur and intend to play for my family and friends. So I'd only go out to buy a more "quality" Uke as a "reward" to myself over time heheheeh

But as most will say, Have FUN with the Uke That's the right spirit.

Pukulele Pete
05-21-2011, 08:37 AM
I would suggest getting a Flea. The uke I play the most is the one sitting on my coffee table. It's the first one I bought,it's an old Souvenir uke but it sounds good and it is always right there for me to play. I dont keep it locked up like my expensive ukes. A Flea has great intonation, almost indestructible and you can take it anywhere ,have it always accessible. I play alot during commercials beacause it is right there, on the coffee table. If you only have a few minutes to play you dont have to go get it and take it out of the case. I agree completely about having correct intonation. My best uke I play the least , I play it but the one that gets the most playing time is the one on my table . I guess I got off on a tangent there , I think what I am trying to say is get good uke you can leave out all the time without worrying about it, I think you will find you play alot more.

hmgberg
05-21-2011, 09:58 AM
As usual, I agree with the OldePhart - maybe because I'm an old fart, too. This sentence seems to sum it up: "I don't think it's a matter of snobbery so much as wanting to see that the newbie gets an instrument that is not going to discourage them."

I think that people say, "you get what you pay for," in reference to inexpensive purchases when expectations were somehow such that they would provide greater value. It's all about expectations and value. If you buy a Makala Dolphin for example, with the expectation that it will sound like a Kamaka, you will be disappointed and likely end up saying, "Oh well, I guess you get what you pay for." If you buy a Dolphin with the understanding that it is an inexpensive instrument, you are likely to find that the sound isn't bad, the intonation is pretty good, all in all a good value; you won't be saying, "You get what you pay for." You'll be saying, "This is a pretty good ukulele, especially given what I paid for it." Same ukulele - opposite reaction.

The point is, you'll be more inclined to play any ukulele if you have good feelings about it. I don't think there are snobs on this forum. As Phart is saying, and you have from others in this thread, people on the forum love the ukulele and want to spread the joy. It's hard to feel joyful when you feel you got ripped off. They're likely to give you advice about what purchases are going to maximize your ukulele bliss - keep you happy and clapping. This forum is a very good resource for newbs in this way. More often than a newb will hear from members the suggestion that they buy the most expensive ukulele they can find because it's likely to be the best ukulele they will ever play, newbs will get advice about instruments in various price ranges that are of high value. Makala Dolphins, Mainlands, Solid Kalas and Ohanas, Kamakas, Koalohas, Martins O's (not S-O) are all in this category (there are others, too) and, obviously, they are sold at quite different prices.

I usually advise to get the best ukulele one can afford. This is not the same thing as advising someone to get the most expensive ukulele they can afford. While what is "best" is a highly subjective matter, newbs reading over the posts will see that they can garner some consensus.

janeray1940
05-21-2011, 10:06 AM
Confession: I'll admit to being a uke snob, but only when it comes to buying for myself. I need all the help I can get, and I know from experience that higher-end ukes sound better and are easier for me to play. But I'm, um, a bit of an overachiever in the first place when it comes to ukuleles - from the start, I wasn't happy just strumming three chords. One of the first uke books I bought was John King's.

However, I've seen my instructor make a Mahalo sound brilliant. I've been impressed with my uke friends' Kalas and Lanikais and Ohanas. So in my heart I know it's not the equipment, but the player, that makes the difference.

mm stan
05-21-2011, 10:21 AM
Aloha Siesta171,
I have many expensive ukes and play premimums and customs too...however I prefer to play my rogue soprano and baritone..chinese ukes...24.99 and 29.99.. and enjoy them very much..maybe more than some of my expensive ukes...Of course a better uke will sound better and be more comfortable and improve playability and you learn faster..but I like the simple non complex sounds too.
As you get better, you learn to play them better....as for snobs...not too many uke snobs, maybe improve your playing skills counts more..

hannson
05-21-2011, 06:40 PM
Wow. Some of the most well meaning and thoughtful advices here!!

Kudos to all who've contributed.

I am newbie as well, playing the Uke for less than a year and my playtime between my ukes, the Kala and Parrot is pretty much equal.

Some songs sounds better on the cheaper 'Parrot brand' uke because the tone of the 'wood' actually works to its advantage :)

enjoy and uke on!!!!

siesta171
05-22-2011, 02:48 AM
Thanks all for your insights. My uke does what makes me happy. Thanks for making practice even more worthwhile.

misty
05-22-2011, 03:49 AM
The best uke is the one you can't keep your hands off of. What's the point if you don't play it? If you are having fun, you are doing it right. That's my opinion anyway. :)

wolfybau
05-22-2011, 04:34 AM
instrumets are mearly tools of expression. whatever instrument speaks to you personaly and the gets the job done the way you want is right. Its not a matter price.

usage and purpose is soemthign to consider too:
an inexpensive instrument good for beginners, everyday use and taking ti aroudn where you dont have to worry if it gets damaged.
an expensive intrument for recording , performances , etc where you want the best quality.

as McBruce said , a good musician can make anything sound good, as long as it is in tune that is ;)
the tuning can be a factor with inexpensive intruments, which is something to be considered. i've found though that a good setup can make a real differnece with any instrument, and realy improve the quality and playabilty of the cheap ones.

I've found it a real benifit learning basic luthery so i could tweak and repair any instrument just as I like it and not have to take it to a show, and also fix any problems as they arise. If your on a very tight budget like myself, you can get good quality used instruments cheap that may need some work and fix them up with something fairly nice.

as far as 'snobbery' Ive not realy noticed that in the uke community. the guitar community is a different story...

Huna
05-22-2011, 05:04 AM
well you want the playability part of it good so that you can play it without the instrument impeding you such as if the action is too high at either end etc.... but it seems you can get that pretty reasonably. Otherwise you are talking about taste in tone. Its not like a piano where you get the weighted keys and strings you can pound on without breaking on larger Pianos .... so I don't think an entry level uke... like for example my Makala MK-T is limited.

Huna
05-22-2011, 05:07 AM
does this guy playing a 70 dollar Luna Honu sound limited? lol
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRvL_SjmPxA

Huna
05-22-2011, 05:16 AM
haha check this out
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUgMZVvYkT4

SweetWaterBlue
05-22-2011, 05:53 AM
That Honu sounds like it has a buzz when he plays jazz on it, or is it just my imagination? Given his level of playing, I would be surprised if its bad fretting. Maybe he put the action too low?

I liked the little Honu you brought to Atlanta, but it didn't sound anything like it does when he plays it - I wonder why [g]. Great price o nthose too. Next time you come to Atlanta, we should get someone with a Koaloha, a LoPrinzi, and I'll bring my SK-35 and we will do a proper A-B test of them all.

Huna
05-22-2011, 06:14 AM
yeah he lowered the action on it and seems to like the buzz. It only buzzes when he plays it hard. I had lowered the action on mine a little too much and then shimmed it back up because I don't care for the buzz myself but I just shimmed it up, it was still buzzing a little when I had it in Atlanta but I was just strumming it. I also switched off the aquilas and put martin's on it and now it sounds even better. I was debating if I didn't like it better than the Hamano lol.

Lately now I am getting into playing this Makala Tenor tuned like a baritone though... really liking it a lot...

I also got one of the Concert Tattoo Lunas recently but I think the soprano sounds better.

I found the soprano luna and soprano hamano sound better than the concert luna and concert hamano... at least for my tastes. I am thinking I can skip concert size and just like Tenors and sopranos now haha!

wolfybau
05-22-2011, 06:16 AM
haha check this out
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUgMZVvYkT4

I agree with the $20 uke as the best sounding in this vid haha

My uke is a cheap tiny childs guitar rescued out of a dumpster that I modified to be a uke and I love it <3

SweetWaterBlue
05-22-2011, 06:22 AM
I found the soprano luna and soprano hamano sound better than the concert luna and concert hamano... at least for my tastes. I am thinking I can skip concert size and just like Tenors and sopranos now haha!

That is about where I am. I still own a concert necked Flea, but I let my mom have it for as long as she wants it, so now I am pretty much down to playing either my soprano or my tenor, depending on my mood. I have Martins on the soprano and Aquilas on the tenor, but I am probably going to replace them with something a little less harsh soon. I still have one baritone (the one I made from an old kids Harmony guitar) but I never play it anymore.

mandrew
05-22-2011, 09:24 AM
I have discovered something since I began playing a few months ago. I bought a KA-S and it is just a good basic beginners uke. I have noticed that as I practice, the uke sounds better. Not because of the uke, but because I am slowly learning finger placement, and a lot of other things. As you become more proficient at playing, you will discover how to get the maximum out of even a modest instrument. My uke was well set up by MGM, and it makes all the difference in the world to a new player. Play what you enjoy, and enjoy what you play! Someday I will get a an all wood instrument, but this is great for now.

OldePhart
05-22-2011, 09:54 AM
I agree with the $20 uke as the best sounding in this vid haha

My uke is a cheap tiny childs guitar rescued out of a dumpster that I modified to be a uke and I love it <3

For me the Kiwaya (2nd place) was the hands-down winner (not as loud but much sweeter "bell like" tone). That's probably largely a reflection of the fact that I'm just not a fan of the "Aquila sound," though. From my own experience the Kiwaya is even better when you dump the blackline strings that come on it for some Worth clears. I did agree that the supermarket uke beat out the last one, though.

John

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
05-22-2011, 10:10 AM
Great thread!

My first ukulele had intonation so poor, I couldn't play past the 4th fret. (It's top was both warped and cracked.) But it sounded sweet, and felt terrific in my hands. Playing ukulele became a daily joy for me on that "bad" ukulele.

Every time playing a ukulele brings someone joy, that person has their hands on a great ukulele. Doesn't matter if it's a Martin Style 0 or a Mahalo Flying V, it's great.

ichadwick
05-23-2011, 04:15 AM
Bought a well reviewed entry level concert uke a few months ago and making steady progress. Sounds good to me and the few people who listen to my playing. Keep reading and sometimes hearing that you only get what you pay for and my playing will benefit greatly by getting a quality instrument. Opinions appreciated. TIA.
You don't need to be a snob to appreciate that sentiment. Lower cost instruments generally don't have the same quality build, same quality control, same quality woods as more expensive ones. Poor action, bad intonation and rough frets can make your practice less enjoyable and the journey to proficiency longer. Really inexpensive ukes don't sound as nice and a good sound will inspire you to play more.

You don't need to spend a fortune to get a good product, however. While there are beautiful ukes well over $1,000, there are many excellent makes at $200-$500. Look into Mainland. It's a sweet make at a reasonable price, good quality and an instrument you'll enjoy for many years.

frofrofro
06-12-2011, 07:19 AM
I started for my first few months of ukulele playing with a horrible piece of junk, and enjoyed it very much. However I outgrew what it was capable of (I wanted to be Jake Shimabukuro), and i bought myself a mahalo tenor, and i had that for about a year. Then I outgrew that (and realised I could never be Jake Shimabukuro), bought myself a $200 solid ohana sk25 soprano, which i feel i will outgrow in a few years.
With my mahalo, i was happy in my ignorance until i played in a ukulele club, and everyone else had much nicer, louder ukuleles.
I think if you're happy with you're uke that's cool, but you may eventually improve to a point where the quality of the uke is holding you back.
In a few years time I will buy a kiwaya kts7 and grow old with it.

Shastastan
06-12-2011, 10:38 AM
No question in my mind; #2 is the clear winner. Some good comments in your post that actually apply to the purchase of all instruments and a lot of tools, too. I just paid $169 for a LaniKai S-T tenor. There are both lower and priced ukes that I could have gotten. I play an other instrument. I didn't buy the most expensive or the cheapest of those and I knew what to get. As a uke beginner, I didn't know as much. However, having played cheaper horns, I knew that buying cheap new would not be acceptable to me since I wouldn't even want to play a cheap horn. If you know what you are doing or can get help from someone who does, you are probably better off buying a good quality used instrument---that has been cared for properly. Yes quality gear does make a difference, IMO.

poppy
06-12-2011, 12:17 PM
Just like location .location , location----set up , set up -set up. The best $35 dollars I have spent was on a set up for my OU6. Made a piece into an excellant uke.
Also will ya all please quit talking about them pinapple tattoo's I almsot got that UAS whipped.