PDA

View Full Version : New uke, and chit-chat...



vickersdc
12-03-2011, 03:30 AM
I seem to have come home with a new ukulele :0) But more about that in a moment.

Recently I've been thinking about learning to play a mandolin instead of a ukulele, and in a music store near to me (Guildford, Surrey), they had a few. I looked up a few reviews, and on MandolinCafe to see what people said about them and I came away with the [purely personal] view that the people that played mandolin weren't as friendly as the uke-players.

It felt that if you weren't going to spend a serious amount on a mandolin then you shouldn't bother. Now, that is just so unlike what I have come across in the ukulele world - whilst we all seem to appreciate the top-end uke's, people seem to be genuinely happy if you have a cheap uke too. It's about the playing and joining in, rather than what you own. [Apologies to any mandolin players out there!].

So, off I went to Guildford to a music store, picked up a few mandolins, played around with them a little bit, tuned them up and... no-one came over to see I wanted some help. Now I'm pretty much a beginner at all this, and I found this store quite intimidating. In the end, I put the mandolin back on the hanger and walked out the store.

There's a guitar store just down the road to me (Guitar Village in Farnham) and, quite frankly, I have only praise for this store. It's a world away from the Guildford shop, small rooms in an old building, very friendly staff, no pushy sales, just sit in a comfy chair and try out the instruments. The staff are helpful, polite and it's just a great place to hang out.

By this time I had decided against a mandolin, and figured I'd carry on with my ukulele playing as I'm just beginning to get somewhere with it; ready to move up from a Makala Dolphin, I tried a few out and settled on a Kala-MC.

So, it's now sitting next to me, still in the box as I've just got in and can't wait to try it out this evening :0)

Cheers,
David.

garyg
12-03-2011, 04:55 AM
I don't have much to compare with because I'm fairly new (~1year, 7months serious playing) to the music world but I have been in a number of online groups since the start of the www. I will say that the folks on this board are fantastically helpful and what is more impressive is that there are well known builders such as Rick Turner, Chuck Moore, Duane Heilman (apologies to those that I've missed) who post fairly regularly on this list. These folks responded to posts that I made as an outright newbie and that impressed the hell out of me. The folks on this board are something special. I've also been impressed with several stores/vendors that I've visited like Uke Republic in Atlanta, McCabes Guitarshop in Santa Monica, and Dusty Strings in Seattle where I walked in off the street and was able after quickly establishing my chops to play any uke in the house, even Martin 5K's. There's something about the uke that just brings out the goodness in everyone and causes most folks to drop their pretensions. I mean how can you be hoity toity when you're up there playing a uke -- we all look kind of silly don't we, but that's part of the whole trip.

vickersdc
12-03-2011, 06:56 AM
Hi there garyg,

I guess that was my point... my buying a new uke was as much about the support and friendliness of the uke-playing community as it was about the actual uke itself.

I certainly don't want to knock mandolin players, and I'm equally sure that they too are a helpful bunch really - but I just kinda feel at home right here :0)

David.

Nickie
12-03-2011, 07:02 AM
Much congrats on the new uke! You made the right choice, mandolin players can be so serious (Ex: Bill Monroe, Sam Bush). I say ukulele all the way! Besides, who the hell wants to re-string a mandolin?

vickersdc
12-03-2011, 07:27 AM
Besides, who the hell wants to re-string a mandolin?

Eight strings is four too many, huh?! ;0) Actually, as soon as I started tuning the mandolin, I realised that it wasn't going to be the instrument for me :0)

mds725
12-03-2011, 08:27 AM
Before I bought my first ukulele, I almost bought a mandolin from craigslist. (I wanted to play like David Grisman.) When the craigslist deal fell through, I went to a few local music shops and played a few mandolins, and I also did a little how-to-play-the-mandolin research online. What persuaded me to try the ukulele instead was learning that unlike ukulele chord shapes, the chord shapes on a mandolin are awkward and complex and are not transferable to playing chords on a guitar. In addition, the double strings made it a little harder to fret. Because I was a bit intimidated about learning to play a stringed instrument anyway, I decided to learn an instrument that had more easier-to-make chord shapes and might easier to fret. I will say that the people in the music shops I visited were as friendly to me when I was trying mandolins as they were when I was trying ukuleles. As for having to tune eight strings, I recently bought an eight-string Kamaka -- I like the way the extra strings make is sound a little more like a mandolin -- in spite of the fact that I have to tune, and will eventually have to change, eight strings instead of four. Also, because I've already developed some fretting skills, I seem to be able to handle fretting eight strings now better than I would have if I'd bought that mandolin from craigslist two years ago.

PhilUSAFRet
12-03-2011, 09:45 AM
Uke players are the friendliest people on earth. A uke is the only instrument that makes people smile before you even play it. Regardless of skill level, playing uke just makes you happy. What more does someone want out of an instrument.

Kem
12-03-2011, 10:10 AM
I play both the uke and the mandolin. The mandolin is not as difficult as some think; yes, the chord shapes are different, but the instrument is set up as per the circle of fifths, exactly like the violin. It makes a very nice solo instrument in a group. I recently played a set with my band in which I was on the uke for one song and the mandolin for the other. I was miked both times. The mandolin was easy to hear throughout; the uke was almost inaudible, which was a shame, as it had a pretty part. I am not (heaven forbid!) calling the mandolin superior to the uke, but I do think it's nice to be able to play both so you can pull 'em out whenever the situation requires. I vastly prefer the uke when I'm playing alone or just accompanying my own voice; the mandolin can get shrill and zingy, and it can't be finger-picked. On the other hand, I like the sound of the mandolin in combination with the guitar and/or the banjo. There are also a lot of common and useful mandolin chords that are extremely easy to play. Don't give up on it because some music stores are run by snobs. (We have one like that here. I had to go stand pointedly in front of the cash register in order to get someone to notice my existence, and when I called about ukulele repair once, I was basically laughed off the line.)

The uke is, indeed, a very happy instrument. I think it's because it's so conveniently huggable.

Plainsong
12-03-2011, 05:10 PM
My father in-law has a mandolin, and both my husband and his younger brother had the same response to the ukulele: that the neck and fretboard made all sorts of sense over the mandolin. The first fret was actually playable by human fingers. In fact my husband originally recommended against the uke because he thought it was like a mandolin. Meanwhile his younger brother was so impressed with how much more comfortable the uke was, he bought my tenor Fluke.

vickersdc
12-04-2011, 02:26 AM
Don't give up on it because some music stores are run by snobs. (We have one like that here. I had to go stand pointedly in front of the cash register in order to get someone to notice my existence, and when I called about ukulele repair once, I was basically laughed off the line.)

I just don't think I'd do that, I'd go somewhere else (which probably says more about me than anything). I was surprised just how intimidated I felt in one store, and yet in the other I was quite happy to take down the instruments from the wall, sit in a chair and just play... every now and then one of the staff would pop his head round the door and ask if all was ok. If anyone reading this is around Surrey (UK) I'd seriously recommend a visit to Guitar Village in Farnham; even the building it's in is great (timber-framed, medieval) and the staff are quite happy for you just to look around the building, as much as checking out the 1200 or so guitars and other chordophones. They have everything from a 50p pick, to a 15k+ guitar...

As for the mandolin, once I picked one up, I kinda knew it wasn't going to be for me, the neck is too 'skinny', tuning took longer (obviously) and I just wasn't sure about the sound. It also seemed a 'serious' instrument, and the uke is, well, just plain fun to play. So, the mandolins stayed on the wall for someone better than myself to take home, and I worked my way through the uke's before choosing one.

I have to say, I'm really pleased with my Kala-MC, the sound is mellow(?) - certainly mellower than my Dolphin! The wood is beautiful and I also glad I went up to a concert size too.

David.

Kem
12-04-2011, 03:16 AM
I just don't think I'd do that, I'd go somewhere else (which probably says more about me than anything).

David.

In normal circumstances, I would just have left; I have a weird shopping phobia and am often afraid even just to enter an instrument store by myself. However, I was determined not to chicken out this time. The same thing happened when I was phoning about the repairs; I had to steel myself to do it, then somehow tolerate the obvious contempt of the person on the other end of the line, who made it clear than my ukulele was not expensive enough for him to bother with.

etparadox
12-04-2011, 07:45 AM
I started on uke, but a while back decided to try mandolin. To me it seems like a more stressful instrument in general. The chord forms are trickier, the neck is very skinny, and a lot of the parts are fast tremolo. Comparing that to the happy and laid back ukulele, it makes sense that the uke community would be bigger, and friendlier.

vickersdc
12-04-2011, 08:08 AM
I started on uke, but a while back decided to try mandolin. To me it seems like a more stressful instrument in general. The chord forms are trickier, the neck is very skinny, and a lot of the parts are fast tremolo. Comparing that to the happy and laid back ukulele, it makes sense that the uke community would be bigger, and friendlier.

I never intended to make out that the entire mandolin community was 'unfriendly' as such... it was just that my first impression was not as welcoming as the uke community.

Anyway, over here in the UK, the popularity of the ukulele is incredible, it seems to have risen exponentially... although I'm not quite sure why, and I'm wondering if it's anything to do with the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (really cool!).

I also wonder if different instruments attract different types of people..? Or, to put it another way, what does your choice of musical instrument say about you?!