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View Full Version : Discriminating player in need of a discriminating first uke.



fscott
03-23-2012, 04:47 AM
I've spent quite some time listening to uke's on the web, but I don't have the luxury of playing anything good in my area. So I need some advice.

First, I am an accomplished fingerstyle guitarist, both chet atkins style on steel string, as well as a classical guitarist. I also play a fine Gibson A5L mandolin that I've owned for 15 years. My current acoustic is a 1989 Martin D42 custom with brazilian rosewood and Engelmann top. I've owned countless instruments over the years and end it selling most due to not meeting my requirements.

I am not looking to start at the beginner level of ukes. I know I like them and I see the potential so I'm ready to purchase one that will sit along side my others. I enjoy playing solo.

Both of my main instruments possess similar qualities, and I would like to find a uke that possess these qualities also. They are:

1) Sensitive and responsive without sounding scratchy, or bright. Sometimes called a dry woody tone, but with sustain.
2) A tone that seems to come from the "gut" of the instrument rather than a loud, open, tubby sound.
3) A focused tone, ala higher end Ramirez classical guitars.
4) Good resonance all the way up the fretboard.
5) Growl (if you don't know that that means, then I can't explain it.)
6) Poppy tone. (Again, sorry I can't explain it).

Every stringed instrument is capable of these qualities, whether it be a cello or a banjo. Unfortunately I haven't quite heard these qualities via the internet, probably due to the internets. Some instruments have stood out to me but then again it's probably due to the internets. Sometime the same instrument will sound great, but then it will sound bad on the next example. So where do I start in the uke world?



ps: This is similar to the tone I would like to find, but of course achieving it without having to plug in. I know that's a tough requirement. But this sound is very similar to the needs I specified. But I notice a few things here, hardly any scratchiness (which I abhor), a dry poppy tone with sustain (obviously from the artificial reverb, but still...).


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2f5VkLUtGE4&

Kanaka916
03-23-2012, 05:12 AM
My dos centavos. I think you should contact a luthier or builder to really get what you want. This way, you'll be able to convey exactly what you want in an instrument and will work with you to achieve your specific needs. Custom Builders (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?12834-A-Partial-List-of-Custom-Builders) and 808 Builders (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?16211-808-Builders). Just a FYI, some of the names have a wait list like Mya-moe and Moore Bettah.

Pukulele Pete
03-23-2012, 05:18 AM
Take a look at Kiwaya ukuleles. I have a KTS-4 , and it is awesome.

Kanaka916
03-23-2012, 05:41 AM
The one Kalei is playing a custom Kamaka, I believe a spruce top with Koa back and sides. Since Kamaka doesn't take custom orders, it may be hard to find an instrument with similar tones. You might look into a custom Ko'olau or a custom Kanile'a. As I said best bet would be to contact John Kitakis (Ko'olau) or Joe Souza (Kanile'a). IMO, I think a KoAloha is a tad brighter.

Mandarb
03-23-2012, 05:45 AM
The one Kalei is playing a custom Kamaka, I believe a spruce top with Koa back and sides. Since Kamaka doesn't take custom orders, it may be hard to find an instrument with similar tones. You might look into a custom Ko'olau or a custom Kanile'a. As I said best bet would be to contact John Kitakis (Ko'olau) or Joe Souza (Kanile'a). IMO, I think a KoAloha is a tad brighter.

It is Brazilian Rosewood back and sides - about 1:10 into video.... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmXKAr0IgPQ&feature=plcp&context=C49222ddVDvjVQa1PpcFNS6L8ftNY7L8Dw7-5wRHUbsJNwbHxex1U=

wmboy
03-23-2012, 05:45 AM
Take a look at DeVine. Those sound samples played by Kimo are incredible.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtIXhdjxQ40&feature=relmfu

Kanaka916
03-23-2012, 05:50 AM
It is Brazilian Rosewood back and sides - about 1:10 into video.... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmXKAr0IgPQ&feature=plcp&context=C49222ddVDvjVQa1PpcFNS6L8ftNY7L8Dw7-5wRHUbsJNwbHxex1U=
Thank You . . .

fscott
03-23-2012, 06:13 AM
Take a look at DeVine. Those sound samples played by Kimo are incredible.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtIXhdjxQ40&feature=relmfu

Niiiiiice. That is nearly the tone I want, at least via the internets. Thx so much for directing me in the proper avenue. I knew someone could offer wisdom. Wow, really that's awesome.

stevepetergal
03-23-2012, 06:16 AM
You need to talk to the real ukulele builders. Chuck Moore, Mya-Moe...

My opinion is you'll not find the wide range of sounds you're looking for in one instrument as easily as you might with a guitar. You might find one that growls, but the sustain won't please you. One that's poppy, but isn't gutsy enough. You may need two or three just to start. And, sustain with an ukulele is much more difficult to achieve because of simple physics. If you want resonance all the way up the neck you need a tenor or larger, unless you get a top quality custom.

As far as production models, from what I've seen Kanile'a has the most of what you're looking for. I don't think you'll get a growl out of a Divine, Collings, or Koaloha. You can get a Kamaka, but the range of abilities isn't quite as wide as that of the Kanile'a, unless you're ordering a custom like Kalei's.

Good luck. Keep us informed.

Mandarb
03-23-2012, 06:52 AM
Thank You . . .

No....thank you.

imabuddha
03-23-2012, 07:07 AM
You might also consider Pepe Romero:

http://www.peperomero.com/luthier/?page_id=286

specialk13
03-23-2012, 07:15 AM
You might also consider Pepe Romero:

http://www.peperomero.com/luthier/?page_id=286

That's very strange, I was just adding a post regarding Pepe Romero!

fscott, judging by the criteria and playing style you listed above, I would recommend a spruce top uke from Pepe with the 38mm nut width. His ukes are very similar to his guitars, they are have a very focused sound and are quite responsive. They also sound great all over the fretboard.

Plainsong
03-23-2012, 08:00 AM
Ya know, maybe a Boat Paddle ukulele is in your future. It doesn't look like classic ukulele, but from what I played (not owned), and from talking to the owner of it, it's built for any sort of finger style.

fscott
03-23-2012, 09:33 AM
Thx for these suggestions. Little disappointed on the Devine wait time. Hard to find anywhere. Seems like a custom order from them would b the only option. I'll look into these other suggestions. Esp the Pepe models as I am familiar with the Pepe sound.

ps> I've seen a few videos of the Compass Rose built by Rick Turner. These seem to have a lot of sustain, but with a small instrument that quality can embellish the scratchiness, (which i abhor). Some of the videos I've seen they sound scratchy. Anyone have an opinion on these?

Plainsong
03-23-2012, 10:52 AM
Oh, one note on Boat Paddle ukes, the sound samples are not an indication of the actual sound of the uke. Those sound samples are strictly IMO, off-putting. The sound in person, in pub conditions, was low and sustainy, and articulate. Another option might be Lichty Guitars. He makes tenor ukes and are well thought of by those who have them.

Edit to add, the scratchiness could strictly be in the strings. Aquilas can sound scratchy. I recently put D'addario t2's on my Kanilea and am pretty much sold on those.

Joshypogi
03-23-2012, 11:40 AM
I was going to place a deposit on a Devine uke and dissapointed with the wait time as well ...1 1/2 + years. Ko'olau was 6 months and more for a gloss finish. I'm very pleased with the custom Ko'olau uke.

Another great custom builder to look at is Phil Riggio, I have three of his custom ukes. Hawaii Music Supply carries his ukes now, really great as well. You can check out the sound samples in the HMS website.


Thx for these suggestions. Little disappointed on the Devine wait time. Hard to find anywhere. Seems like a custom order from them would b the only option. I'll look into these other suggestions. Esp the Pepe models as I am familiar with the Pepe sound.

ps> I've seen a few videos of the Compass Rose built by Rick Turner. These seem to have a lot of sustain, but with a small instrument that quality can embellish the scratchiness, (which i abhor). Some of the videos I've seen they sound scratchy. Anyone have an opinion on these?

philpot
03-23-2012, 12:18 PM
Yeah, if I were you, wanting something that specific and being willing to put what you need into it to get EXACTLY what you want? Get a custom. There's a ton of places that do them, and I'm sure there are luthiers that understand your wants and desires and can put that soul into your ukulele. You'll get so many different opinions here that you'd probably do best looking around for yourself and seeing if there are any that stand out to you in the sound samples, reviews, etc. As far as specifics, I can't really say much here other than the nicest ukulele I've ever played was a Collings tenor. Beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

Kekani
03-23-2012, 04:48 PM
You're describing sounds that will probably come from a low g/spruce top/custom tenor.

You will need to wait for what you want, unless someone has a custom for sale that is up your alley. You have specifics, which means your build will be specific more than likely.

If you can't wait for a custom, your first instrument will probably be followed by another one.

Good luck.

Aaron

coolkayaker1
03-23-2012, 05:23 PM
Take a look at Kiwaya ukuleles. I have a KTS-4 , and it is awesome.
I just got a second Kiwaya, a tenor Master Series, by Shinji Takahashi for Kiwaya, and so far, it's ideal! So, i second Kiwaya. Finding one to play, unless you live near me, will be tough.

maclay
03-23-2012, 06:57 PM
ps> I've seen a few videos of the Compass Rose built by Rick Turner. These seem to have a lot of sustain, but with a small instrument that quality can embellish the scratchiness, (which i abhor). Some of the videos I've seen they sound scratchy. Anyone have an opinion on these?

My opinion may be a little bias, but I love Compass Rose Ukuleles. They are very resonant, play true up the neck, and have a nice guitar-ish voice. The scratchy sound my be due to the aquilla strings (like plainsong said) or the playing style.

DeVineGuitars
03-25-2012, 12:29 PM
To the original poster:
Being a big fan of flamenco and classical guitars and the sound they produce myself, all of the characteristics of sound you are looking for can be accomplished from many custom builders by using different wood combinations, different strings and proper setup.
The video of you posted is a great video with great sound but... it is a blend of the the microphone and the pickup (and I'd say more pickup then mic) and it is highly processed with reverb and quite a bit of delay. My advice if you are trying to find examples to base your comparison on is to look for videos or sound clips that are only mic with minimal processing.

Gwynedd
03-25-2012, 12:33 PM
You might also consider Pepe Romero: How interesting, his dad is one of my fave guitarists. I have so many recordings.

keliiyama
03-25-2012, 12:37 PM
Hi, I'm getting a Compass Rose ukulele! The scratchiness sound comes from the MGM's nails! The ukulele coming out of Rick's shop are LOUD and have a ton of bass. Very rich and warm. I agree with Jake that it's most likely the Aquila strings. They rattle on most ukes if played hard. But if you want a great custom ukulele, for a pretty reasonable price, by one of the best luthiers in the world. Go get a COMPASS ROSE! I'm already planning on getting another one with extreme curly koa. If you've got some script, get a DEVINE. Just look at the pictures above my reply. Dang, superb stuff Eric!