View Full Version : 1st Uke. Kinda between 4 Kala tenors. Some random newbie questions!

09-08-2008, 11:22 PM
Hi! I'm just startin' the uke, but I figured since I'm half Polynesian, I gotta live up to my ancestry and at least try to gain some uke cred now...right? :D
I was hoping you guys would be able to help pick out my first uke...

So basically, all I know right now is that I'm drawing the line at about $350, and have decided I'm ordering from musicguymic because 100% Positive Feedback can't be lying! Playing-wise, I mostly wanna sing & strum all Hawaiian reggae style like all the cool kids do! Hehe. After a little web research, I am kinda-sorta-pretty set on the Kala brand because it seems to get consistently positive feedback, and am leaning towards a tenor. But from here, I got a billion questions! It'd be great to get opinions on 'em!

Q #1: Tenors over in Hawaii?

Lurkin' on YouTube, it seems like the kids covering the songs I'd like to eventually play with my uke (Rebel Souljahz, Ekolu, and stuff like that) are mostly using tenor size ukuleles - or at least the covers I like the most. Unfortunately, I'm totally from a suburban town far away from Hawaii -- and I know I'll sound like an islander wannabe for asking this, but that's because I am :) : Are tenors the most popular with the younger peeps aka teens over there, or is it split with concerts?? A kinda random but kinda relevant question, haha.

Q #2: Are tenors hard to handle with smaller hands? Concert instead?

I am a girl (yup!), and have read on the forum about an unsuccessful experience another girl had with her tenor because of her small hand size. I've been playing guitar for two years now, so I'm used to the grip required, but I gotta admit my hands are small-to-average girl size: Could this be a problem if I purchase a tenor? Should I go for the concert size instead?

Q #3: Final uke judgements?

Here are the four tenor ukes I have narrowed it down to in my own search...any new suggestions also appreciated!:
Kala Spruce Top Koa Tenor (http://cgi.ebay.com/JUST-OUT-NEW-KALA-SPRUCE-TOP-KOA-TENOR-UKULELE-UKE_W0QQitemZ330268975253QQihZ014QQcategoryZ16224Q QcmdZViewItem)
Kala KA-KTE Koa Tenor (http://cgi.ebay.com/KALA-KA-KTE-Koa-Tenor-Ukulele-w-pu-case-Chordbook_W0QQitemZ250291184706QQihZ015QQcategoryZ 16224QQcmdZViewItemQQ_trksidZp1742.m153.l1262)
Kala All-Solid Mahogany Cutaway Tenor (http://cgi.ebay.com/KALA-ALL-SOLID-MAHOGANY-CUTAWAY-TENOR-UKULELE-ka-asmtec_W0QQitemZ250292569590QQihZ015QQcategoryZ162 24QQcmdZViewItemQQ_trksidZp1742.m153.l1262)
Kala Mango Tenor (http://cgi.ebay.com/KALA-MANGO-TENOR-UKULELE-W-CASE-PITCHPIPE-BOOK_W0QQitemZ230289435080QQihZ013QQcategoryZ16224 QQcmdZViewItemQQ_trksidZp1742.m153.l1262)
Yeah, I read in a thread the characterizations of the different types of wood, but I know nothing about this, and it'd be great if you guys could give a critique of what wood would be best for the singing & strumming I plan on doin'!

Whew! That was long...sorry, guys! Thanks soooooo much in advance for any replies!


09-09-2008, 01:49 AM
1. dunno. do what you like. they won't take away your half-polynesian card at the next meeting.

2. you should be ok with a tenor especially if you've been playing a guitar for 2 years.

3. I'd probably go with the Mahogany.

09-09-2008, 02:07 AM
1. im not sure about hawaii and tenors, but seriously its up 2 you. personal preference.

2. i also have small hands and im a guy, the reason i chose a tenor is because the tone it produces compared to the concert and soprano. again personal choice!

3. With those choices, i'd have to go with the Kala all solid mahogany for sure!! the sound that a solid mahogany produces is pretty gold! then again, personal choice

hope that helps!
and welcome to ukuleleunderground!!!

09-09-2008, 08:55 AM
Welcome! It's a really cool forum. Here's my list:

1. From a few news reports I've read about the sale of ukes the tenor is very popular in the Hawaiian islands, I think the tenor is Kamaka's best selling size.

2. My hands are avg for a guy and I find my current uke a bit small for some songs, I don't think you'll have a problem with either uke.

3. Is all about personal preference but my favourite is the Mango tenor, I don't really like cut aways or ukes made of wood that makes them look just like small acoustic guitars.

Good luck!

09-10-2008, 10:34 AM
Hi, some quick thoughts:

1. I can't say I know what's going on in Hawaii, but tenors definitely seem popular on youtube. I think tenors are generally most versatile especially strung high g since they still have that uke sound, but they're easiest for picking and navigating the fretboard, IMO. I have a soprano for travelling and taking to the beach and a tenor for actually "playing". Whatever size you get, it won't be your last, just search "UAS" -- you'll understand :)

2. You will be totally fine with a tenor, especially coming from guitar. If you can handle bar-chords on guitar, you'll be perfectly fine.

3. I agree completely with everyone else -- go with the mahogany. I really like the full, mellow sound. I think the spruce is a bit bright in a tenor and I have direct experience with the Kala KTE Koa tenor. For whatever reason, the wood, or the cutaway, or the electronics, it just sounded terrible, especially compared to my soprano (and I expected it to sound better). I had to return it. I haven't heard mango yet.

One other note. The feedback is right, MGM is awesome! I impulsively ordered the KTE from him and he was great about the return, etc.

Good luck - happy strumming!

09-10-2008, 12:18 PM
I am a girl (yup!), and have read on the forum about an unsuccessful experience another girl had with her tenor because of her small hand size. I've been playing guitar for two years now, so I'm used to the grip required, but I gotta admit my hands are small-to-average girl size: Could this be a problem if I purchase a tenor? Should I go for the concert size instead?

I'm that girl! If you're comfortable playing guitar I'd say you'll be just fine with a tenor. I have teeny weeny hands, like little kid hands, and there's no way I can reach simple chords like "G" on guitar, so my hands are much smaller than most women's. I think the tenor will work fine for you...

09-10-2008, 12:28 PM
i know you got your heart set on a kala. i like em too. but my experience at the $350 mark is that kala isnt where you want to be leaning. thats a pretty big budget. add $50 and youre basically at the next level. ive owned a KA-KE model. and for the price, i wish i just went with a pono. the spruce tops sound real nice to me and are well below your budget limit. i havent heard one in person, but ive been told by others that the solid mahogany kalas dont sound that great (especially when you can get a pono or koa pili koko in that same price range). the mangos have gotten great reviews, despite the fact that they are not solid mango.

since youre already planning to buy from MGM, browse through his ebay store. then look through all the ukes in the $350 budget. dont stick with a certain brand name. it can hold you down. but go with the bang for the buck.

things to think about:
-if youre not planning to perform with it through an amp, you can look at higher quality ukes that dont have the pickups installed. pickups can add $50-200 to the price of an ukulele. you dont need a pickup if you stay acoustic. and with no transdeucer under the saddle, you get truer acoustic sound because of better transmission of vibration from the strings through the saddle through the bridge and onto the soundboard.
-if you end up performing later on down the line... you can always spend your money on a GOOD pickup. the shadow pickups that most of the lower end ukuleles come with( >$400) totally suck. they sound like butt chocolate, the QC sucks on them (ive had to resolder a couple), the sensitivity on the transdeucers is uneven (dead strings when plugged in), and some make too big of a hole which ends up being an eye-sore when you replace the control panel with a better one. better yet save that money now, let it build up, buy a DECENT one, install it, and rock on. my pono has a pono passive pickup in it, that i either run through an acoustic DI or through my acoustic amp for good tone. my bugsgear eleuke has a dean markley pickup that sounds real nice to me. all my other ukes with pickups have the shadows in them. ive either just ripped them out and left gaping holes, or ive torn them apart to use as spare parts for other pickups that were crappin out on me.

09-10-2008, 12:35 PM
I would have to recommend going with either a Koa Pili Koko or even a Fluke (with a rosewood fretboard) The Koa Pili Koko gets you a solid wood uke which is a much better choice then the laminates you are looking at. For bang for your buck though, I really recommend a fluke. They have a VERY good tone and the playability is perfect to learn on. They are rugged ukes too and if you catch UAS then the Fluke can become your travel uke.

If I HAD to choose from the ones you are looking at though, I'd go with the Mango. I have heard good things about it.

Hope that helps, I really recommend looking at other ukes other than Kala though!

09-10-2008, 02:41 PM
Gah! Thanks everyone SOOO much for the comments! :worship: I've decided to start at square one...without your guys' feedback, I would've jumped into a purchase I wasn't so sure about! 'Cause I gotta tell ya the truth that I've actually had a pretty crappy $100 Mitchell uke from Guitar Center for a little less than a week, and that was not the best purchase of my life (DEF not worth that much $$$...but I gotta admit I have it. I mean, it did make me want to get another "real" first uke, right? :)). Hellooo, 30 day return policy.

Okay, so yesterday I went to the Groth music store downtown. The ukuleles they had were Lanikai...so I played a couple songs I knew on the Tenor CK-TEQ and some other Lanikai concert sized one. And...You guys were right! The tenor wasn't THAT hard to play, although the concert seemed a lot easier...I'm happy playing guitar paid off, ha! The tenor I played did sound a little "muted" (I don't really know how to describe it) compared to the concert for some reason though? Anyways, verdict: I actually liked the sound of BOTH the concert and the tenor! Ahhhh, they both have perrty tones. I must have UAS (yerp, I looked it up, haha)! Makes it that much harder to choose. But anyways...

Thank you for commenting about the spruce wood type...If I was going to get a Kala, I don't think I would get the spruce if it has a reputation for a predominantly bright sound - I mean, I want semi-bright and semi-mellow tone...if that makes sense? And whew, good I'm not making up that tenors are popular on the 'Tube! I can understand why, 'cause I kinda got that sense you were saying about tenor having more versatility. Errmmm this'll make me sound lame but...what is high g? Is it just an alternate tuning (like you can do Drop D or half-step down on a guitar), or is it something that requires different strings?? Woot. Go newb-ness.

Yay! Girls unite! Hey-o! Thanks for starting that thread, or I wouldn't have even thought about the hand size thing that could actually make an impact in picking an uke. Yeah I have kinda small hands...I would much rather have small hands than massively big ones, personally! So go us. Barre chords on the guitar still get challenging to me - like, the F's are a pain in the you-know-what :eek: !

nukeDOC & thejumpingflea:
Thank you MUCHO for suggesting other brands! I should've asked that in the first post, because I was basically goin' in blind about the Kalas. Yeah, I didn't do much extensive research. It's awesomely helpful to hear about the other brands that could be better picks! The Pono and Koa Pili Koko are definitely on my list now, and I wouldn't mind bumping up $50 if it means a step up in quality! But maybe not the Fluke, 'cause - and I think I'm uke-racist - I think the Flukes are not so appealing to the eyes. Eek! Don't hurt me, haha...

Thanks so much again for the feedback!! You've helped a lot. I have two new questions, if that's okayyyy:
1. What are some of the other brands I should look at??
2. Would you think the wood explanations on this (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=3979&highlight=solid+wood) thread are basically true, and if so, what are your favorite wood types??

Now I'm more anxious to get one!
:nana:. <-- I'm liking these smiley things...

09-10-2008, 03:01 PM
Welcome to UU. Everyone has their own opinion on brands and so do I. I own 3 Mele ukuleles. It is a luthier from Maui and for the price you can't beat them. My ukes sound better than my friends Kamaka. My opinion and his. Anyways. You can get a solid handmade Koa uke from the in concert size for around $400.
www.meleukulele.com check them out and call them. Cheryl is great. They also have an ebay store. I have never purchased from MGM yet but he was super nice and set up a sweet deal for my ukulele club at my school.
Regardless of your brand go with a solid wood uke.
High G is traditional tuning on the G string. Low G is a wound G that has a lower octave. They both sound great and i prefer the low G on my Koa and my 6 string I have high G. There is another company of ukes called Tangi. His prices are pretty good and I am thinking of getting one from him. Good luck and keep strumming.

09-10-2008, 09:17 PM
i dont know if im to late to comment and suggest things but i just wanted to say i agree with nukedoc Kalas are pretty good but like he said if you spending int he 350 to 400 range look for other types of brands such as ponos! you could probably find a pono concert in that range even the koa ponos. or look into the kanilea sound monster series i believe the concert is under 500 cause the tenor soundmonster is 600. ( they sound super nice)!

here are some examples
http://cgi.ebay.com/PONO-Solid-MANGO-TENOR-ELEC-ACOU-cutaway-UKULELE_W0QQitemZ330269898432QQihZ014QQcategoryZ16 224QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem
thats a pono (solid curly mango) DUDE it has a pickup and they pickups they use are pretty nice! and the best part you get the koolau hard case..

here another one
http://cgi.ebay.com/PONO-TENOR-Solid-Mahogany-PTE-Ukulele-w-PU-del-case_W0QQitemZ250291830344QQihZ015QQcategoryZ16224 QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem
SOlid mahogany. with a pickup, and the hard case.. amazing.. its under 500 its 450

http://cgi.ebay.com/NEW-PONO-MAHOGANY-SERIES-UKULELE-PTOE-GREAT-SOUND_W0QQitemZ330268527925QQihZ014QQcategoryZ1622 4QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem
another mahogany pono with pickup and hard case.

take your time LOOK around ! =) and oh yeah have FUN DUDE.

get at me if you wanna chat about it haha im always down.

06-06-2009, 12:57 PM
This is a really old thread, but since I'm also choosing between some very similar models, I figure better here than to start a new thread.

I've been lurking around this forum for a while (mostly in the past couple of days while researching ukes), and I've been playing the uke for just about a year or so. I'm definitely upgrading my fun but realistically pretty crappy and cheap soprano uke that doesn't even have a brand (I think it says GLOBAL inside, but, hm.) to a real instrument now that I know I'll keep on playing, but as with all first time buyers, I'm a bit overwhelmed by what would be the best for me to buy.

So, after much researching, I've narrowed it down to 3 choices that are available at the local store (I love the internet, but for my first real uke purchase, I'd rather support the local shops. The internet can wait for my future purchases). I'm pretty set on either another soprano or a concert size even though I actually prefer the way a tenor sounds; but I'm partial to having a smaller instrument so I'm most likely going with a concert size. (are there particular brands that have better concerts than sopranos, and vice versa?) Anyway, my three choices are:-

1 Kala solid spruce top concert(on sale ~$110 plus aguila strings and bag, but they are out of stock at the moment, which means the new stock might be more expensive)

2 Kala all solid mahogany concert (~$190, I'm not sure if it comes with anything other than the uke)

3 Pono all solid ohai concert(~$240, comes with the ko'olau strings and bag)

Now, price is a consideration (cannot spend anything more than 250), but amongst these three only in the sense that I would like to get the most bang out of the buck out of these three choices.

I can't seem to choose which sounds the best to me. I do like the way spruce sounds the most (I've only heard a tenor one though in a youtube video since they're out of stock), but there's something very tempting in buying a all solid mahogany instead. Both the mahogany and ohai sound pretty pleasing to the ear (though I think I prefer the mahogany one just a teeny tiny bit more, which makes it that much harder to decide.

I know from reading the threads that Pono is the more "fancy" brand, but physically, I think the ohai wood is not the prettiest and is also the priciest here, which is something to consider.

So, what are your thoughts in on these three ukes? How do they compare to you? I know it's really down to personal preference, but I'd love to know if there are specifics about each uke that makes it better/worse than the other. I appreciate any input. Thanks!

06-06-2009, 01:16 PM
I love my KALA mahogany tenor. When I bought my first non soprano uke, I did a lot of research and thought I would get a concert size. When I went to the store to play a few all my research went out the window. I picked up the tenor, and basically never put it down.

I suspect the mahogany concert sized KALA will be an equally sweet instrument, and it sounds like a really good price as well. I love the look of mahogany as well.

06-06-2009, 01:58 PM
:D If it weren't for my tiny hands, crap fingers, and general laziness to carry around anything biggish, I would get a tenor too. But I can see how a tenor can be alluring. Maybe in a few years' time.

OK, so that's one for the Kala mahogany.(It is beautiful, isn't it?) Opinions on the other two ukes?

ETA: BTW, will aguila strings work the best for all the ukes above? (I keep reading aguila pretty much everywhere on this forum) I only bought worth strings once for my existing uke, and they were eons better than what it came with.

06-09-2009, 08:08 PM
Howzit Sista!

Get the Kala's if you want to eventually play in a band or perform - great value for price and features, but there are other uke's in your price range, Pono which make very well built ukes, will be coming out (due the end of this month) with solid Ohai Tenor which retails for $300 with case. And if you are worried about your hand being too small, get a Mahogany Tenor Mele $329 which has the thinnest necks on the market using a truss rod just like guitars. Many of my female customers purchase Mele ukulele's for that reason, and they also sound good. http://meleukulele.com/default.asp This brand is used by many Hawaiian musicians.

If you still not sure about your hand size, the concert is easier to play. Whatever you get, make sure you use low G tuning. I know you are going to be playing Honey Baby, Drop Baby Drop, Nothing to Hide....etc..and all the locals use low G.

If you're ever in the San Francisco area, come check me out, I have all of these ukulele's for you to play...

A Hui Ho,

06-10-2009, 08:30 AM
Thanks, danged!

That's really good information for when I get a tenor (I didn't know they have different sizes for the necks!), but for now, I think I'll stick with a concert or a soprano.

I guess it comes down to trying the Pono Ojai, the Kala Spruce Top and the Kala Mahogany and seeing which one I like the most. From what everyone says, it seems that all three would be very good ukes to play with, and I wouldn't go wrong with any of them. :D

06-10-2009, 08:50 AM
First, are the Kalas solid or laminated tops? Unless it SPECIFICALLY says solid, it's a laminate. I suggest you reduce your list to only the solid tops. Sides and backs CAN be laminated, however (and in fact may produce better sound if laminated).

Second, Kala is a good brand and almost everything they make appears to be a good product.

Third, tenor is a good choice, Full, rich sound with oodles of overtones and harmonics and a fretboard with ample room for all sorts of finger sizes.

06-10-2009, 08:56 AM
Yes, they're all solid wood/solid wood top. The ukes are listed as Kala Solid Spruce top, Kala all solid mahogany and the Pono solid Ohai. Both Kala and Pono are good brands, and I have yet to hear a bad comment on any of of the three ukes, so hopefully, this would mean by next week I'll have decided and have one of them in my hand, and it'll be a great uke, which ever one it is. :D

Why's everyone tempting me to get a tenor? :D I will get one eventually, but for now, I'm pretty sure I'm getting a concert of a soprano just for the compact size and a size I'm used to playing with for now.

ETA: Just like to say that I've got the Pono Ohai, and it's beautiful. I liked how sweet it sounded compared to the Kala Mahogany, even though it is quieter.