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View Full Version : Have you ever purchased the "wrong" uke?



Caught2
01-21-2012, 05:30 AM
I recently purchased a new ukulele. It is often mentioned on the forums as a sought after/coveted model. It is solid wood. I have owned/played it for a month now. At this point, I am just not bonding with it. It is the size I prefer (tenor), so I am sure that is not an issue. I understand that solid ukes need time to "open up". I guess I am second guessing my selection. I know it is subjective, but I am wondering how long should I try to bond with this instrument? Has anyone had a similar situation and how did you resolve it?

ukuraleigh
01-21-2012, 05:40 AM
I generally find that ordering an uke online can be hit or miss, unless I have previously played it.

I would suggest a month is plenty of time to know if you like it or not.

My advice would be to sell it, maybe in the UU Marketplace.

Just my 2 cents.

buddhuu
01-21-2012, 05:42 AM
I'd try a few different kinds of strings. Perhaps ask other owners which strings work for them.

As for "opening up" and "waking up", I've experienced that on mandolins and fiddle, but not noticeably on guitar or 'ukulele, so I wouldn't wait around for some magical transformation. If different strings and a set-up don't make you like it more then maybe let it move on.

YMMV.

efiscella
01-21-2012, 05:44 AM
I recently purchased a new ukulele. It is often mentioned on the forums as a sought after/coveted model. It is solid wood. I have owned/played it for a month now. At this point, I am just not bonding with it. It is the size I prefer (tenor), so I am sure that is not an issue. I understand that solid ukes need time to "open up". I am guess I am second guessing my selection. I know it is subjective, but I am wondering how long should I try to bond with this instrument? Has anyone had a similar situation and how did you resolve it?

I had the same experience. Everything I read said that this uke was a great uke, yet for me, it was not a joy to play and I could not get a good sound out of it. I had a friend of mine play it. He is an accomplished guitarist who also started playing the uke. the sound he got from it was far far better than I was getting. He told me he loved the rich quality and the great sustain. He talked about ease of playing. Also, the uke was physically beautiful and from a top uke company. I put it up on the marketplace for sale with the comment that I was selling because the uke and I just did not connect. I worried that it would not sell because of my comments, however, it did sell, and sold for the price I was asking. Not only that, the buyer loves the uke and knows that he got a wonderful uke at a great price. I believe that just because you don't bond with an uke, it does not mean that there is something wrong with the uke, nor with you. Like clothing, it just has to be a good fit.

elisdad
01-21-2012, 05:56 AM
This happened to me with a couple of ukes. In both cases, I ordered online after reading several good reviews. There was just something about both of them that didn't work for me. I know folks really like both the brands/models I tried, but they weren't for me. I know it is hard to try before you buy for a lot of us, but I think it really does come down to the feel of the instrument for the person.

stevepetergal
01-21-2012, 06:03 AM
I have bought many ukuleles that I have just not liked. I've returned a some, changed strings on a couple, and sold some off. But, the ones I didn't like when they were new are all gone.

If it's a high end instrument, I would call the seller and ask if my warranty would be void if I changed the strings. If so, I'd return it. If not, get advise from a reliable source on what strings to try in order to get more of what you're hoping for. If the second set doesn't do it for you, send it back. Otherwise you could go on trying for years.

If it's a cheapie, I would just return it and look for something different.

Thanks to buddhuu for saying what I've thought all along. I think "opening up" is 99% myth. We develope an ability over time to get better sound out of an instrument. We learn how to play it and coax better sound out of it, we get used to it's unique characteristics in sound and feel, without even knowing these things are happening. If there is any actual change in the sound over the course of its first few years, it is probably very small. It's a good story though.

Drew Bear
01-21-2012, 06:12 AM
If you don't think a change of strings will make a difference, sell or trade it for another uke. Just chalk it up as a learning experience. Like you, most people don't name the brand or luthier, but it's clear that many have felt this non-connection even with high end and custom ukes.

GinnyT11
01-21-2012, 06:40 AM
I agree with trying new strings, and if you still don't care for it, sell it with the I'm-not-bonding-with-it reason. No need to explain further---I've seen it many times on UU.

I had a beautiful uke that didn't ring my chimes after the new-uke-day feeling wore off. After a change of strings and a couple months, I took it to a local guitar store that sells ukes on consignment. A sales clerk played it and made it sound 5x better than I ever did. And now I'm legend among consigners at the store because my not-for-me uke sold in the time it took me to drive home.

Coda: I took a uke workshop at the store, and among the attendees was a man playing my former uke, as happy as could be with its beauty and sound.

vanflynn
01-21-2012, 06:44 AM
The Uke chooses the player Mr. Potter

freackykit
01-21-2012, 06:54 AM
The Uke chooses the player Mr. Potter

Love that quote...Yep I have done this. Problem is that us whom have no access to uke stores within trave have to buy over the net...and it may happen again!

Imagine Harry Potter buying a wand over the net...now that's a thought!

Chris

808boy
01-21-2012, 07:08 AM
If it's the sound, try different strings. If it's the feel, find a new home for it, whether it is sold, traded, or gifted. As for the time frame, varies from person to person. Don't feel bad about it. We ALL went through it. It's part of the learning curve, part of the journey, part of the fun................................BO............. ..........

coolkayaker1
01-21-2012, 07:10 AM
I agree with my friend, Stevepetergal, that the only "opening up" a uke does is when it cracks from low humidity.

I own a solid Mahogany Silver Creek (on musician's friends) that is such a hunk of crap that it could only seriously function as a doorstop. I didn't love it when I bought it, but thought some Aquilas would help--which they did. So, I kept it. Now, a year later, the fifth fret is buzzing, and I drilled in a Shadow pickup and, even electrified, I like it nada. Every time I even look at it, it makes me ill. I keep it in the back of my pickup truck., and the irony is that, when I'm on the go or someone wants an impromptu song, that's the one I now have most handy. Ugh! Moreso than even my buzzy crapola Cordoba CK25, which is a real hunk of doo-doo itself. I told my wife that, when I die, she can cremate me with my Koaloha or Donaldson (I know, I know..but I want to play them in Hell, okay!?)--just my poop luck, my non-uking wife will likely think the Silver Creek is the one I want to be burned with since it's in the back of my truck, and that'll go into eternity with me!

I swear, if that Silver Creek (or the Cordoba, for that matter) sits with my ashes in a clear jar (so I can see out) atop my fireplace mantle for eternity, I'll come back and haunt those luthiers, if that's what they're called, at Silver Creek until my buns are blue.

So, yeah, original poster, I have the same experience.

Nickie
01-21-2012, 07:12 AM
Me too. The first one I bought was a baritone. Small mistake, bought a concert and gave the bari to a friend. He loves it.

PoiDog
01-21-2012, 07:14 AM
Like everyone else, I'll just agree that if it's been a month and you still aren't feeling it with your uke, then either sell or return it and hope for better luck in the future.

It doesn't matter how prestigious the name, how great the construction, how pretty the wood, or how much others rave about the uke. If it isn't connecting with you, then it isn't the right one.

That being said, I will disagree with those who think that an instrument opening up is baloney. I've noticed that both my solids have started to acquire a more refined, more characteristic, and more clear sound after playing them regularly for a couple of months. And it wasn't due to recent string changes nor a vast improvement in my style (at least I don't think so about the latter). My Kanile'a in particular has undergone a very nice transformation. At first it felt as if the instrument was too rigid sounding -- almost as if it were made of concrete. But over the last month or so, it has started to relax and sound more alive.

Yeah, I know these adjectives are lame, but it's the best way to describe the change.

But there is nothing about the concept that vibrations through the body due to regular play can affect the grain and the settling of the wood that sounds silly to me. The cellular structure and grain of a wood isn't locked into place. There is some settling, shifting, moving, expanding, and other internal changes that can happen, and regular vibration will directly impact that.

That said, don't wait for your uke to open up, because I doubt that will suddenly bring about your desired bonding.

coolkayaker1
01-21-2012, 07:27 AM
I know each individual uke is different, even of the same make and model, but I would wager my house that given a sound test (like the recent one posted here from NPR where even the "experts" couldn't tell a genuine priceless Stradavarius violin from a modern knock off) that one could not consistently tell an "opened up" uke from one "not opened up". Not even the uke's owner.

Ukeeku Tim, after his current contest, may have a soundwave contest of solid versus laminate ukes -- although there's some difference, tested head-to-head, I think even though the "sound" is different, few (any?) would be able to honestly and accurately say which is 100% laminate and which 100% solid. We'll see, if he runs the contest this summer. Cheers!

kaizersoza
01-21-2012, 07:27 AM
i have 2 ukes that i am just not hitting it off with the reason is that they just have'nt lived up to the expectation i had before i got them, i still play them but not as much as my favourite ukes, i will probably end up selling them on and using the money towards another uke, i agree with PoiDog on the opening up issue, my solids certainly sound tighter and sweeter after a few months, there is no difference in the appearance of my solids it just sounds better than it did when new

Teek
01-21-2012, 08:47 AM
I was so unhappy with a Pono solid koa tenor even after trying 4-5 different string sets on it that I bought a Kanile'a from MGM. While waiting for the Kanile'a I put Worth Clears on the Pono, and thoguht "Oh, crap!" because it finally found it's voice. When I put it side by side with the Kanile'a, which came strung with Aquilas, they sounded very similar to my ears at the time, but the Pono finally had some volume and sustain.

So I wouldn't necessarily stop at trying just one other set of strings. My hubby forced me to sell the Pono as "there was no reason to have two tenors", and it was a nice uke. So is the Kanile'a though!

coolkayaker1
01-21-2012, 09:10 AM
Teek: I agree. Those Worth Clears are something special. They can help make a purse out of a pig's ear.

mm stan
01-21-2012, 10:10 AM
whether it is the tone, voice or playability and comfort..or as simple as strings..if that doesn't do it,a set-up
is a last ditch effort..I've bought ukes that others have given up on and after doing some setup and strings
have become my best ukes..you will know right away if the setup works, it will be a like a totally different new
ukulele..from worst to the best.. I have one like that right now and the playability makes it a dream to play.

byjimini
01-21-2012, 10:23 AM
Yep, plenty of these. I always buy on the internet too, so it's not really an issue. I like to spend a few weeks/months playing the instrument before I make a decision on whether it goes or stays, you simply can't do that with a shop unless you walk past every day. The money you lose by selling it you would have lost anyway in petrol/rail fares.

Doc_J
01-21-2012, 11:06 AM
I agree with trying new strings, and if you still don't care for it, sell it with the I'm-not-bonding-with-it reason. No need to explain further---I've seen it many times on UU.

I had a beautiful uke that didn't ring my chimes after the new-uke-day feeling wore off. After a change of strings and a couple months, I took it to a local guitar store that sells ukes on consignment. A sales clerk played it and made it sound 5x better than I ever did. And now I'm legend among consigners at the store because my not-for-me uke sold in the time it took me to drive home.

Coda: I took a uke workshop at the store, and among the attendees was a man playing my former uke, as happy as could be with its beauty and sound.


I'd try a few different kinds of strings. Perhaps ask other owners which strings work for them.

As for "opening up" and "waking up", I've experienced that on mandolins and fiddle, but not noticeably on guitar or 'ukulele, so I wouldn't wait around for some magical transformation. If different strings and a set-up don't make you like it more then maybe let it move on.

YMMV.



+ 1 on string changes.

Some ukes it take a couple of string changes. Try the usual strings (different from what is on the uke): Worth, Aquila, and my new favorite ..South Coast. If you do that and don't like the uke, sell it.

Change the strings at least once before you sell it.

haolejohn
01-21-2012, 12:13 PM
I'd try a few different kinds of strings. Perhaps ask other owners which strings work for them.

As for "opening up" and "waking up", I've experienced that on mandolins and fiddle, but not noticeably on guitar or 'ukulele, so I wouldn't wait around for some magical transformation. If different strings and a set-up don't make you like it more then maybe let it move on.

YMMV.

Ok. I'm curious. You have"experienced" it on mandolins and fiddles. But b/c you've never experienced it on a Uke or guitar it is now a magical myth? So wh at were you smoking to experience on the mandolin and fiddle? Lol. Just curious b/c it sounds like you don't believe it yet you do.

buddhuu
01-21-2012, 01:29 PM
Ok. I'm curious. You have"experienced" it on mandolins and fiddles. But b/c you've never experienced it on a Uke or guitar it is now a magical myth? So wh at were you smoking to experience on the mandolin and fiddle? Lol. Just curious b/c it sounds like you don't believe it yet you do.
I didn't say it was a myth, John. I am a true believer in the phenomenon but, as I say, I have never experienced it on an 'ukelele.

As far as magical, on the first (I think) Eastman f-hole mandolin I owned, the degree of change from tight new instrument to loud, fairly full-bodied instrument that occurred over a couple of years of hard playing was, to me, pretty magical.

I've never known it on a uke or guitar and, based on guesswork, I don't expect to. They don't seem, to me, to be subjected to such extreme string tension and vibration energy as mandolins.

As for fiddles, that's more the "waking up" thing than "opening up". If left unplayed for a long time they seem to go a little dead, but liven up again after being played for a while. It may be an illusion, but I find it noticeable. That strikes me as being possible on a uke but, again, I've not experienced it.

As I said, YMMV.

buddhuu
01-21-2012, 01:30 PM
Oh, and I don't smoke. ;)

buddhuu
01-21-2012, 01:42 PM
[...]Thanks to buddhuu for saying what I've thought all along. I think "opening up" is 99% myth.[...]

Sorry to disappoint, but I'm afraid you misunderstood. ;) See above.

Chopped Liver
01-21-2012, 01:46 PM
I recently purchased a new ukulele. It is often mentioned on the forums as a sought after/coveted model. It is solid wood. I have owned/played it for a month now. At this point, I am just not bonding with it. It is the size I prefer (tenor), so I am sure that is not an issue. I understand that solid ukes need time to "open up". I guess I am second guessing my selection. I know it is subjective, but I am wondering how long should I try to bond with this instrument? Has anyone had a similar situation and how did you resolve it?

I'm new here so I don't know you. So some questions: how long have you been playing uke? How many ukes do you have? Are you comparing the new uke to others or letting it stand on its own? Is it the sound or looks that are causing this?

Now, that being said, I totally get the not connected thing. I have bought several Native American flutes that others have raved about by a certain maker. He's one of the top makers. For me? Nothing. They don't speak to me.

I just bought my first uke. I had the luxury of being able to try it out in the store. I went on Friday of last wek and tried some. I was pretty sure I was going to buy the Tenor. It had great sound and the wood was so pretty!

When I went back the next day, I played it and the concert that I had also heard. I kept going back and forth between the two. I knew I had returned to get the tenor. But I am so glad I listened to my heart. I started feeling a real connection to the concert. It was almost as someone said - it was choosing me.

Maybe you are doubting yourself because others love that kind. I believe you know whether you are going to connect or not and should trust yourself. It may be best to return or sell this one.

Shastastan
01-21-2012, 02:24 PM
This happened to me with a couple of ukes. In both cases, I ordered online after reading several good reviews. There was just something about both of them that didn't work for me. I know folks really like both the brands/models I tried, but they weren't for me. I know it is hard to try before you buy for a lot of us, but I think it really does come down to the feel of the instrument for the person.

I agree. Whatever the instrument, you actually have to try it yourself to discover if you really like it. I was surprised at how much I like my Flea. I also have a Mainland Tenor and will be getting my Mainland mahogany pineapple soon.

haolejohn
01-21-2012, 02:29 PM
I didn't say it was a myth, John. I am a true believer in the phenomenon but, as I say, I have never experienced it on an 'ukelele.

As far as magical, on the first (I think) Eastman f-hole mandolin I owned, the degree of change from tight new instrument to loud, fairly full-bodied instrument that occurred over a couple of years of hard playing was, to me, pretty magical.

I've never known it on a uke or guitar and, based on guesswork, I don't expect to. They don't seem, to me, to be subjected to such extreme string tension and vibration energy as mandolins.

As for fiddles, that's more the "waking up" thing than "opening up". If left unplayed for a long time they seem to go a little dead, but liven up again after being played for a while. It may be an illusion, but I find it noticeable. That strikes me as being possible on a uke but, again, I've not experienced it.

As I said, YMMV.
Ok. This is much better explanation. It just sounded like you were being a bit snobbish towards the other small instruments:) I know you weren't. But I have had a few ukes open up quite nicely. I'm a hack so when I notice the difference, there is a difference.


P.S. I'm glad you don't smoke. Nasty habit.

Nickie
01-21-2012, 02:48 PM
Speaking of selling a uke that you're not bonding with... today I sold my old Cordoba concert to a friend who wanted it more than I. I bonded with it the first day I owned it, but wasn't playing it anymore, since I bonded with my Kala. I don't want a bunch of instruments sitting around that I'm not playing, it makes the dusting chores take longer... I guess that makes me sorta uke monogamous... although I do have my eye on a new Moku... pssst, Mike...

Hippie Dribble
01-21-2012, 02:52 PM
shucks...only about 100 times :o

1931jim
01-21-2012, 03:45 PM
Here is another thought, nothing to do with change of strings. I only have two old secondhand instruments. A baritone and a concert. The house is getting drier with the cold weather and the furnace at this time of year so I give them both a transfusion by taking them into the bathroom whenever I have a bath or shower. They both sound much better after their trip and they are both laminates. I guess the change from 35% to 55% or 60% makes them feel good.
Singin' and Jammin' in the John. Oh Yeah !!

UKEON TERRITORY
01-21-2012, 03:54 PM
I am currently adopting ALL unwanted and homeless Ukes . I love them all equally .

Hope the two of you warm up to each other soon !

Caught2
01-22-2012, 01:28 PM
Thanks to everyone that replied to my post. I can't really place my finger on the issue I have with the uke. I have been playing about two years (I have little God-given musical talent). My other uke is a Tenor Fluke. We alos have a Lanikai concert, Kala tenor, and two Geckos in the house. After playing today, I have decided there is nothing wrong with my new uke's voice and it plays nice. I am wondering if it just asthetics? Would that make me shallow or could I be a nut-job? When I look at my Fluke, I think "fun". I wonder if it isn't just the sound that matters to me. Maybe the uke needs to be "fun" in order for me to bond with it. If that is true, then I guess that proves that I am not a musician in its true since. Maybe a CBU or pineapple or something a little different would have been a better choice. I will keep the uke for a while and if I don't decide to sell it, maybe I can find a trade at UWC.

vanflynn
01-22-2012, 01:37 PM
You have plenty to play so why don't you put it aside for a while and try it later, then see if you feel the same. I changed my mind on my soprano after ignoring it for a bit.

mr moonlight
01-22-2012, 05:52 PM
I've purchased two uke's I just didn't bond with. A Cordoba uke that was very inexpensive and a custom uke thr was on the other end of the spectrum. Fortunately I purchased the custom uke through a dealer with fantastic customer service and they took the uke back and had another made for me. The second uke was absolutely amazing and was an entirely different instrument. If youre going to buy a uke sight un-seen, just make sure you buy from a reputable dealer. It makes all the difference in the world.

buddhuu
01-23-2012, 04:13 AM
Ok. This is much better explanation. It just sounded like you were being a bit snobbish towards the other small instruments:) I know you weren't. But I have had a few ukes open up quite nicely. I'm a hack so when I notice the difference, there is a difference.


P.S. I'm glad you don't smoke. Nasty habit.

What I find difficult to be certain of with the opening up thing is how much of it is a change in the instrument and how much is a change in my playing. With the Eastman I mentioned, other people frequently used to borrow that at sessions so I got to hear it quite objectively and I was very sure that the evolution of its sound was real. Not had that opportunity so much with my other instruments, and any changes I thought I perceived seemed to be more down to variation in my playing. Hopefully that too was evolution!

Mandarb
01-23-2012, 04:50 AM
Have you ever purchased the "wrong" uke?

Nope.

strumsilly
01-23-2012, 05:05 AM
No, but I have sold the RIGHT uke. it just wasn't right for me. I'm a slummer, my least expensive uke is my go to.