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SamWise
09-19-2008, 04:22 AM
Those in the UK might be familar with Acoustic, a magazine for (guess what?) acoustic guitars. I'm one of the writers, and for an upcoming issue, I have to review probably 12 of 'em, right across the range of prices and sizes. I have a couple of concerts and a tenor from Hudson (they seem good, but I never see them mentioned elsewhere), and sopranos from Hamano (seems great) Koloa (not great so far) and Mahalo (also not good). My observations so far are that the bigger the uke, the easier to play for a guitarist, and that the cheap ones have appalling tuners, which don't go well with already bad intonation.

Since I knew all of 3 Uke chords, I set about doing a bit of learning in preparation for this article. I decided to be predictable, and I can now play a decent version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, though the changes are not perfect yet, and I've been having fun working on transferring other songs over.

So, I guess I have three purposes in posting this. One was a heads-up, so that you would know to look for the article if you're interested. The second was to ask you all, as a bit of a ukulele dilettante, if you have any advice for me in writing this article. The final one was to say that I've inadvertantly falled in love with the uke. I have a day job with a lot of travelling, and I've been carrying one with me, practising in my car in client's car parks, in hotel rooms, all over. So much easier to transport than a guitar! So I wondered, I'd like to get myself a uke, but with a new baby, money is tight. What's the least one can spend and get a decent, useable instrument? If someone asked me the same question about guitars, I guess I'd say you can get something playable that has all the frets in the right place from about 150, and that for 250, you can get a guitar which you'll still have a use for even if you decide to buy a better one, in other words, a guitar you won't grow out of. What's the ukulele equivalent?

salukulady
09-19-2008, 04:27 AM
We have "Acoustic Guitar" mag. here in the states....any affiliation?

SamWise
09-19-2008, 04:34 AM
No, but I used to read Acoustic Guitar before Acoustic existed, and it's a great magazine. Acoustic is owned and published by a small company in Devon, and is UK only, I think. This is us:

http://www.acousticmagazine.com/

deach
09-19-2008, 04:37 AM
For $100 US you can get a great starter uke that will stay in tune and intonate correctly.

SamWise
09-19-2008, 04:41 AM
Could you hit me up with some brand names? None of the cheapies that I'm reviewing at the moment meet with my, uh, exacting requirements.....

salukulady
09-19-2008, 04:43 AM
No, but I used to read Acoustic Guitar before Acoustic existed, and it's a great magazine. Acoustic is owned and published by a small company in Devon, and is UK only, I think. This is us:

http://www.acousticmagazine.com/Thank you.....so we may be able to read your article online. Make sure and let us Yanks know when it comes out. Perhaps you could give readers info on UU. So glad you have discovered the uke, watch out for UAS. And yes, listen to Deach, he knows what he's talking about.

upskydowncloud
09-19-2008, 04:57 AM
Could you hit me up with some brand names? None of the cheapies that I'm reviewing at the moment meet with my, uh, exacting requirements.....

Hey Samwise, welcome to the forum. I'm in the UK too. I bought my current uke from Newcastle Music (based not surprisingly in Newcastle upon Tyne). They also deliver anywhere in the UK with reasonable prices.

The uke I currently have is the Lanikai CK-C (concert sized) and cost £140. It's a great uke, it has a bright tone and keeps in tune perfectly. It also looks quite good for a uke of this price. I haven't been able to locate anywhere in the UK that sells ukes other than this place and a few I know in London.

If you live in/near London I can recommend a few places to go and look?

If not the Lanikai CK-C is definitely a good one to start with, or the Lanikai LU-21 which is cheaper and also available in the UK.

Hope this helps,

John

salukulady
09-19-2008, 04:58 AM
Could you hit me up with some brand names? None of the cheapies that I'm reviewing at the moment meet with my, uh, exacting requirements.....I had very good luck with my starter concert uke...it's an Ohana CK-10 about $100 here.

SamWise
09-19-2008, 05:05 AM
I'm in London fairly often, and could look in on some places.

Tell me a little about how one chooses whether to play soprano, concert, or tenor. So far, I'm liking the tenor best, but as I pick up tunes with longer stretches, I'm finding the soprano fun, plus of course the most transportable. I read somewhere here that sopranos were considered just for strumming, and as a fingerstyle guitarist, I'd personally find that limiting. That said, the Hamano soprano (a rhyme!) doesn't give me too many picking problems.

upskydowncloud
09-19-2008, 05:14 AM
I'm in London fairly often, and could look in on some places.

Tell me a little about how one chooses whether to play soprano, concert, or tenor. So far, I'm liking the tenor best, but as I pick up tunes with longer stretches, I'm finding the soprano fun, plus of course the most transportable. I read somewhere here that sopranos were considered just for strumming, and as a fingerstyle guitarist, I'd personally find that limiting. That said, the Hamano soprano (a rhyme!) doesn't give me too many picking problems.

I think you hinted to the possible limitation of the soprano size in that the range of notes isn't that great. I play a concert and currently find it a bit too small (for some songs that have a wide range) so am planning on getting a tenor uke next.

It just depends what you prefer really! That's why it's a good idea to play around and get a feel for the size that best suits you.

SamWise
09-19-2008, 05:18 AM
I don't think I follow you. Same tuning, right? Same number of frets? Obviously a fuller sound to the bigger instruments, but what do people tend to prefer for different sorts of playing?

upskydowncloud
09-19-2008, 05:24 AM
Sorry if I'm not being clear. The tuning is the same on most ukes (re-entrant tuning with a high g) although there are others like low g etc. The different sizes have different numbers of frets, most manufacturers state the scale length and number of frets on their websites.

You'll have to wait for other people to respond about what people prefer for different types of playing, it's very subjective. I just find the number of frets on my concert restrictive when playing some songs, especially things that Jake Shimabukuro plays so am going for a tenor next time. As you mention the projection is greater with a bigger uke too.

salukulady
09-19-2008, 05:33 AM
I own all four sizes (actually five including my sopranino) and a banjolele. I play my sopranos for traditional hawaiian songs. My concerts and tenors when I want a fuller sound. My baritone for ballads and Jimmy Buffett songs. My banjolele for tin pan alley, banjo type music. My sopranos are tuned traditional high gcea and my larger ukes are strung Low Gcea for a fuller sound, including my baritone, (baritones are traditionally tuned dgbe. I started on uke and didn't want to have to learn guitar fingering at the time.)

Craig Robertson
09-19-2008, 05:50 AM
Hi, Samwise;
Looking forward to your articles in Acoustic.

I would suggest that, if you want a true ukulele sound, you get a soprano. I play all the sizes and and a soprano (or a mezzo soprano) is louder and more present than any of the other sizes. Koaloha makes some great solid wood ukuleles for reasonable prices.
While tenors are nice, they seem to be the default instrument for guitarists. Picking on a soprano is just as easy. Ukuleles require a much different touch than a guitar.

oh, and this by upskydowncloud: "As you mention the projection is greater with a bigger uke too." I haven't found that to be true at all. Baritones and tenors are much quieter than sopranos.

Futch
09-19-2008, 06:09 AM
Hey there.

I would suggest that if you are in ondon you should go check out Duke of Uke, a short walk away from Aldgate east tube station. I went there a few weeks ago and bought my second Uke. They offer excellent advice, and as you know it is much better to try out an instrument first rather than buying blind. At around the 100 mark there are many choices. I bought a solid mahogany Bruko made in Germany for 80.

Like yourself I have been a guitarist for many years before having discovered the uke. I play a soprano size, which although takes a little getting used to at first for a guitar player, i wouldn't write it off in favor of the larger sizes. Your money will also go further with soprano size.

freedive135
09-19-2008, 07:47 AM
Thanks Salukulady
You just gave me a reason to buy another Uke, the I need a Baritone to play Jimmy Buffett one!!!! like I need a reason...

I do like the way JB sounds on my Maghonay Tenor over the Spruce/Maple.

Even being a fairly new player I don't find my Sopranos to be limiting over my Tenors and I am even doing stuff down on the 12 fret (thats as far as any of my sheet music takes me).

salukulady
09-19-2008, 08:31 AM
Thanks Salukulady
You just gave me a reason to buy another Uke, the I need a Baritone to play Jimmy Buffett one!!!! like I need a reason...

I do like the way JB sounds on my Maghonay Tenor over the Spruce/Maple.

Even being a fairly new player I don't find my Sopranos to be limiting over my Tenors and I am even doing stuff down on the 12 fret (thats as far as any of my sheet music takes me).
My baritone's name is Desdamona...........

LoMa
09-19-2008, 08:54 AM
Ohana has some very inexpensive solid mahogany ukes that are very very good!!! They;re made in China and quality control may not be the greatest, so I would buy these cheapo ukes in person so I could try it out, or buy it from a dealer like elderly.com who sets up each uke with proper action and checks the intonation and playability, and all at no extra charge. They have competitive prices too.

But yeah, check out those Ohana's!!!!

SamWise
09-19-2008, 10:38 AM
I can find Ohana in the UK, and they look like they're in the right price point. Better, or worse than the similar price Lanikai ones? I will try to find somewhere to play one, of course....

tad
09-19-2008, 10:55 AM
I can find Ohana in the UK, and they look like they're in the right price point. Better, or worse than the similar price Lanikai ones? I will try to find somewhere to play one, of course....

I think their solid wood ones are cheaper is the main thing. I have an Ohana sopranino-- solid wood for like $150US shipped. It's got a surprisingly good big sound for the size, and you can do some really fun reaches on a neck that small... check one out-- it's kind of amazing the things you can pull off on one of those little things...

hoosierhiver
09-19-2008, 12:01 PM
check out a website called Ukehunt,it has alot of good video reviews of different ukes.

LoMa
09-19-2008, 12:06 PM
I think the Ohana's are significantly better ukes than the Lanikai's at the same approximate price point, at least here in the US (Lanikai's are actually a bit cheaper).

For one thing, all the mahogany Ohana's (except for their very cheapest model) are all solid wood - no laminate!!! The Lanikai's and Kala's are mostly either all laminate or solid top only. That's a big difference!

In addition, the Ohana ukes are factory strung with Aquila strings!!! Lanikai and Kala give you the cheapest of strings.

Most importantly, the Ohana's I have played have had much better dynamics and been much more resonant than the Lanikai's I've played. (I've never played a Kala.)

Yep, you can get an all solid mahogany Ohana soprano for $125 with free shipping and free set-up from elderly.com
http://elderly.com/new_instruments/names/ohana-sk-25-soprano-ukulele--SK25.htm

If you want it a little fancier and add rosewood binding, you can get it for $159:
http://elderly.com/new_instruments/names/ohana-sk-35-soprano-ukulele--SK35.htm

Or maybe you'd like an all solid mahogany concert for $229?
http://elderly.com/new_instruments/names/ohana-ck-35g-concert-ukulele--CK35G.htm

Or a tenor for $239?
http://elderly.com/new_instruments/names/ohana-tk-35-tenor-ukulele--TK35.htm

By the way, maybe it's my imagination, but I think the satin/matte finish Ohana's have more resonance and volume than their glossy brethren.

upskydowncloud
09-19-2008, 12:13 PM
The problem with buying from the US is that as soon as it reaches the UK customs add 17.5% value added tax onto it making it really expensive!

Howlin Hobbit
09-19-2008, 03:18 PM
Haven't played a lot of Ohanas but I own the sopranino and it's just wild how good it sounds. And, being solid wood, it'll open up a bit more with time.

Bonus!


oh, and this by upskydowncloud: "As you mention the projection is greater with a bigger uke too." I haven't found that to be true at all. Baritones and tenors are much quieter than sopranos.

Great to see you here, Craig.

And yep, I'd put any one of my sopranos up against most exemplars of other sizes with no qualms whatsoever about who was going to be heard. (I say most because I'm sure that there are high end models of any size that are just going to be great instruments in all the places that matter, including volume.)

I took my new Dominator soprano (yes, it's here!) out yesterday to a gig that Snake Suspenderz landed.


We're playing every Thursday this month at the Queen Anne Farmer's Market. We started busking there (just me and Sketch, the drummer/washboard player) and after the first time the whole new quartet showed up, they hired us.

w00t!

In any event... our two main formats for our busking -- and sometimes gigging -- sound are "tuba, guitar, washboard and vocals" and "tuba, trombone, washboard and vocals." The new soprano was clearly heard by our audience, some of them 15-20 feet away, in both those variations.

Higher frequencies have more "cut" to them, i.e. they cut through the sonic mix better, and are therefore more easily heard.

So even if a given instrument might be louder on a decibel meter, it's the cut that reaches through and grabs the human ear.

MGM
09-19-2008, 09:47 PM
Samwise...Being in UK hook up with Rufus or Ray Shakeshire there You can find them on ukulelecosmos.com ...a uk ukulele forum they are the bigwigs as far as the ukulele community there and can lead you to great stores and sources in your backyard.

ricdoug
09-19-2008, 10:45 PM
Try an Ovation Applause electric/acoustic soprano, Sam. Great action, sound and playability, plus you can plug it in. I own two of these and they are a perfect compliment for a Vox DA5 battery powered amp/PA (You can plug in a microphone and a uke into two seperate controllable inputs). Ric

http://folk-instruments.musiciansfriend.com/product/Applause-UAE20-AcousticElectric-Deluxe-Mini-Ukulele-?sku=516727

http://www.voxamps.co.uk/daseries/da5.asp

http://img3.musiciansfriend.com/dbase/pics/products/5/3/6/561536.jpg

http://img3.musiciansfriend.com/dbase/pics/products/0/8/3/230083.jpg

http://www.voxamps.co.uk/daseries/images/DA5_front.jpg

http://www.voxamps.co.uk/daseries/images/DA5_rear_000.jpg

Futch
09-19-2008, 10:46 PM
Visit Duke Of Uke In London!!

ricdoug
09-19-2008, 10:57 PM
Duke Of Uke

That's Bill's liscense plate, on his red Lexus! Bill's a local Californian, now. Ric

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0007KL994?tag=walkingirisfi-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=B0007KL994&adid=1Y3VA4ZNTCYRH57EAQ5A&

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Tapia

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51CB8NMHEHL._SL500_AA240_.jpg

SamWise
09-19-2008, 11:06 PM
Duke of Uke is definitely on, plus I'll get to Ukulele Cosmos, for sure. The Ovation, I'm less sure of. I am, as you might have gathered, a bit of an acoustic guitar aficionado, and I've never been a fan of Ovation. In the 80's, they had their place - they were the only guitar that sounded at all sensible amplified, and they had great tuning stability - a great stage guitar. Unamplified, however, they never sounded good, and I couldn't get on with the lyracord bowl back one bit - they slipped all over the place. These days, there are plenty of great flat-back acoustics that sound good amplified, and I wouldn't touch an Ovation, least of all one of the Adamas multi-soundhole ones, with a pole!

I do appreciate the steer however. I'm also interested in the amp. I have a great acoustic guitar amp, and I'm hoping and expecting it'll be a great uke amp too, but we'll see.

ricdoug
09-19-2008, 11:21 PM
The adamas holes resist feedback much better than a regular circular sound hole. The tone of the Applause is sweet, especially with Aguila concert strings.

I also own an Ovation Celebrity thin back guitar, that does not have the slippage issues. A regular sized Ovation does not work well with my bowl shaped belly! :D

Every acoustic guitar amp I've tried with a uke, works well. Some regular guitar amps do, too. It does not require a lot of power to project the uke. I recently did a review on several battery powered amps:

http://ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=5333

Howlin Hobbit
09-20-2008, 09:37 AM
Being in UK hook up with Rufus or Ray Shakeshire there You can find them on ukulelecosmos.com ...a uk ukulele forum

Rufus Yells (aka Uncle Rufus) and Ray Shakeshaft.

tad
09-20-2008, 10:23 AM
Duke of Uke is definitely on, plus I'll get to Ukulele Cosmos, for sure. The Ovation, I'm less sure of. I am, as you might have gathered, a bit of an acoustic guitar aficionado, and I've never been a fan of Ovation. In the 80's, they had their place - they were the only guitar that sounded at all sensible amplified, and they had great tuning stability - a great stage guitar. Unamplified, however, they never sounded good, and I couldn't get on with the lyracord bowl back one bit - they slipped all over the place. These days, there are plenty of great flat-back acoustics that sound good amplified, and I wouldn't touch an Ovation, least of all one of the Adamas multi-soundhole ones, with a pole!

I do appreciate the steer however. I'm also interested in the amp. I have a great acoustic guitar amp, and I'm hoping and expecting it'll be a great uke amp too, but we'll see.

As a rule of thumb, being a good guitar maker doesn't make you a good uke maker, and vice versa. They seem to be just different enough animals. Everyone I've talked to who's owned a soprano Applause has been happy with it. The tenors don't seem to satisfy people as much. So even the size of the uke makes a difference.

ichadwick
09-20-2008, 12:13 PM
I have posted a few of my own comments on some mid-range ukes at
www.ianchadwick.com/essays/ukuleles.htm (http://www.ianchadwick.com/essays/ukuleles.htm). My comments are aimed at amateurs like myself, not pros, of course.

Don't overlook the Ovation or Fluke. They have their place, especially the Ovation in amplified (not simply mic-ed) performances. And the Fluke is a durable everyday instrument that can withstand a variety of ailments including children and pets.

SamWise
09-20-2008, 09:46 PM
The other challenge for me to overcome is how much I hate the appearance of the multi-soundhole Ovations, but I'll take advice and try one. I'm certainly no pro (not a pro player, anyway - I don't think guitar journalists really deserve the same level of respect ;) ), and I'm not after a pro instrument, certainly not at this stage.