PDA

View Full Version : Advice On First Ukulele



Lawn Jockey
11-14-2008, 04:24 AM
Hello all. Second post and looking for guidance purchasing my first ukulele.

I *think* I have narrowed down the makes I am interested in. I have looked at Larrivee (obviously), Ko'olau, Kamaka, and Kanile'a.

Since I don't live in a particularly ukulele rich location I will be relegated to purchasing over the internet (which I don't mind at all).

Out of the four I makers I listed, I think I've narrowed that down to two. A Larrivee KK (used), and a Ko'olau C-1 Concert (new).

I am open to suggestions, recommended dealers, etc.

Thanks in advance for any help given.

Kaneohe til the end
11-14-2008, 08:20 AM
personally, i recommend koaloha. my tenor is louder than most and sustains really well, and aesthetically, they cant be beat.
but i (as well as everyone else) will recommend MGM (http://stores.ebay.com/Musicguymics-Room), hes fast, nice, and a member here. i would say over half the active members have bought at least one 'ukulele from him.

drubin
11-14-2008, 08:52 AM
I've found that, if you can play before you buy, it can make a world of difference. :D

Lawn Jockey
11-14-2008, 09:01 AM
I've found that, if you can play before you buy, it can make a world of difference. :D

Well, that would be nice. However there is NOBODY around these parts that sell quality ukuleles. Buying guitars over the web has worked out well for me but I have known most of the dealers I buy from for ten years or so. This won't be the case with the uke.

experimentjon
11-14-2008, 10:00 AM
If you're affiliated with Larrivee, maybe you should go with them, although I have never heard of their ukuleles.

As for an online dealer, your best bet would probably be MGM on ebay, since he is very well known for his excellent customer service.

I've never tried the Koolau, but personally, I'd have to reccomend a Kanilea K1 Tenor. They are beautiful, and they sound very bright and have excellent projection at a price point slightly under the Kamaka equivilant. The thing is that you actually have to try a Kanilea to know how good it actually is. But since you don't seem to have that oppertunity, you may be taking a bit of a gamble. Best of luck with your search!

Lanark
11-15-2008, 02:16 AM
You're looking at concerts I take it. It's nice to see someone looking for a first uke that is willing and able to spend more than a hundred bucks. Among you're choices in that kind of price range, I don't think you're really going to go wrong with any. It's going to be down to options and the subtle differences of different makes.

I'm unfamiliar with Larivee, but I have read some good things about them as I'm sure you have too. Since they're discontinued, might be a good future investment.

JumpingFlea on here just traded a dud G-String in for a Ko'olau (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=6951) and he'd be a good place to get some impressions on those.

I've got a Kanile'a built concert (It's branded Lanikai, but is essentially an early K-1. there's threads about that.) and a Koaloha concert (from 2000 before the musubi soundholes) Both are very excellent instruments and play wonderfully and sound great. In essence it's sort of like a decision between Fender and Gibson. It'll be down to personal preference.

The difference between the two are subtle. I think the Kanile'a one has a deeper fuller more complex tone. (This one is a great for recording.) Slightly wider neck which is great for fingerstyle playing (which is what I do) and The UV finish is lovely and seems really solid. It's a little heavier but since I prefer to play seated, that's not a problem. My only complaint with it is that the end of the fretboard right above the sound hole is straight across rather than tapered so I tend to catch my thumb on corner of it when I play. It feels built to last and I can only imagine it sounding better over time and probably becoming more sought after. The sound of it still makes me pause every once in a while. It's just gorgeous. This is the one I'd use if I ever had to demonstrate to an unbeliever what a ukulele can be and sound like.

The Koaloha is perhaps a quarter inch shallower in the body and has a really bright, spritely and louder tone than it's counterpart. Super light. One piece top and back and a koa neck. (don't know if they still do that.) Neck is thinner in profile and across. The end of the fretboard is nicely scalloped and perhaps it's an illusion but it feels like the frets are spaced a little further apart and the bridge a touch further back. The fretboard feels really wide open and fast. It's a wonderful player's instrument with a good presence in jam session situation. It's the one I seem to grab a little more often than the Kanile'a just because of how it plays. It's got tuning pegs as opposed to geared tuners which have a slight curve to using at first. Overall the finish and wood isn't quite as dramatic as the other, but Koaloha does have a lot of little touches like their headstock and the musubi soundhole and the way they scallop end of the fretboard that set them apart. A player's instrument.

If you do a quick Youtube search you should find more than a few reviews and samples to watch. I know UU member Ken Middleton has done a super review of his Kanile'a and there's factory tours for both on there that are quite amusing.

that's my two cents on what I can offer. I'll go and make some more espresso now. That's a lot of typing and thinking when you're undercaffeinated.

Lawn Jockey
11-15-2008, 02:46 AM
Thanks for your input Lanark. It is well received.

I really want the first uke I buy to be one to keep for a lifetime. With that said, I have added a couple of others to the heap that I am considering.

Both are smaller builders. Kyle Iwamoto, and Ana'ole. Neither turn out huge quantities of ukes per year and the craftsmanship looks to be great. The sound files of the two are exceptional as well.

I am now going completely off the charts here........but this morning I think I'm leaning towards a Ana'ole Custom Longneck Soprano with a master grade flamed redwood top, and premium old growth Brazilian rosewood back and sides. Mahogany neck, ebony fingerboard and bridge, and open geared Grover tuners. The sound file on this uke sounds rich and amazing.

It is a tad more than I want to spend......but I think I can justify it if I spread it over a lifetime.

I know that the tonewoods used on this are not traditional uke tonewoods. However the tone and sustain heard in the sound file are heavenly.

So the hunt continues. Thanks to all who have responded.

Kanaka916
11-15-2008, 03:50 AM
Lawn Jockey, have you visited Ukulele Friend (http://ukulelefriend.com/)? Shawn deals in custom and vintage instruments as well as production models. I recently ran across another builder over the net called Majesty Ukuleles (http://www.majestyukulele.com/_oldsite/the%20latest%20majesty%20contents.html). Sorry, no sound bites are available and prices are a tad more. You can also check Dave Sigman of Little River Ukuleles (http://littleriverukuleles.com/), great action and playability.

I agree with Lanark's comments regarding someone spending the extra bucks to find a quality instrument. As far as preference of a certain builder/brand over another, really comes down to playability, sound and preference. It may take time to find the diamond you're looking for, but eventually . . . Anyway Good Luck in your search for your first one and keep us posted on your decision.

hoosierhiver
11-15-2008, 04:01 AM
Impressed!,your first ukulele and you are going after quality.Here's a site that has some reviews of different ukuleles.

http://ukulelereview.com/

Lawn Jockey
11-15-2008, 04:24 AM
Lawn Jockey, have you visited Ukulele Friend (http://ukulelefriend.com/)? Shawn deals in custom and vintage instruments as well as production models. I recently ran across another builder over the net called Majesty Ukuleles (http://www.majestyukulele.com/_oldsite/the%20latest%20majesty%20contents.html). Sorry, no sound bites are available and prices are a tad more. You can also check Dave Sigman of Little River Ukuleles (http://littleriverukuleles.com/), great action and playability.

I agree with Lanark's comments regarding someone spending the extra bucks to find a quality instrument. As far as preference of a certain builder/brand over another, really comes down to playability, sound and preference. It may take time to find the diamond you're looking for, but eventually . . . Anyway Good Luck in your search for your first one and keep us posted on your decision.

Yes, I have been to Shawn's site. I am awaiting contact with him on a couple of his ukes.

Thanks for the link to Dave Sigman. He apprenticed under Charles Fox....and I know that ilk. I have emailed him to see what he might have in stock right now.

I *should* have decision made by later on today......hopefully.

Lanark
11-15-2008, 05:11 AM
Later on today. Cool. I agonized for something like three months of hardcore obsession before I pulled the trigger.
The ones after that were much easier though. (UAS is in your future, I predict.)

I've been curious about the Ana'ole's. I've still got a custom to eventually get.

And I hope that people don't get me wrong about buying cheaper ukes if that's all you can budget for. I've been there, believe me. (there's a reason I don't eat peanut butter any more...)
But as far as instruments go, you're usually going to get the quality you pay for and it's usually worth your while to just go ahead and pay the extra up front to get the quality instrument. It's going to play and sound better and you're less likely to outgrow it in a matter of months and get more enjoyment out of it in the long haul.

Lawn Jockey
11-15-2008, 05:26 AM
Later on today. Cool. I agonized for something like three months of hardcore obsession before I pulled the trigger.
The ones after that were much easier though. (UAS is in your future, I predict.)

Trust me.....the actual search began over a year ago. I've learned alot (reading/learing) for someone who has never actually picked up a uke yet.

After this search I've just narrowed the field down to only a handful of contenders. Some on the ones in my initial post have fallen by the wayside already.

I'm not going to rush it today. If I can make a conscious decision today I will....if not....I'll wait until I can.

I hope to hear from Mr. Sigman soon so that I can either rule him in/out. Then I'll be down to about four/five that I'll make my choice from.

I guess I don't view these as "custom"......but then again......I'm not all that familiar with uke building. They just seem to have some features that I really want in an instrument (uke or not).

Stay tuned.

Kanaka916
11-15-2008, 07:18 AM
Oh, I forgot to mention that Dave Sigman will be using radius fretboards on his builds. You might wanna confirm that when you speak with but he did mention that when I talked with him in Napa Valley. I dunno if it's a feature you want/need.

Lawn Jockey
11-15-2008, 12:39 PM
Reassessing the situation this evening. After a couple of PM's, a phone call from Shawn and Dave, things are becoming a bit clearer.

Shawn confirmed the PM's I received so the Ana'ole is off the table (it was sold anyway).

I am awaiting pics from Dave.

I have emails out to:

MP Ukes
DaSilva
Tony Graziano
KP Ukes
Road Toad Ukes

Surely.....with all these choices I can't go wrong. :)

Lawn Jockey
11-16-2008, 12:28 PM
I'm almost certain I have settled on a Peter Lieberman (Maui Music) tenor in mango. I really like the features, including the radiused fingerboard and slotted headstock. MGM has been great to work with.....I appreciate all of his help....and the help offered by those here.

Should make a great first uke.......and I should have pictures by tomorrow. :D

Kanaka916
11-17-2008, 02:09 AM
A very good choice for a first uke, you'll enjoy it.

Lawn Jockey
11-19-2008, 02:06 AM
Sorry.........but at the very last minute.....a totally custom uke became available and I changed my mind. I would like to thank MGM for his help throughout the process in any event. He was a huge help.

Here (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=7162) is the thread on my incoming Makani Tenor Of The Phoenix Ukulele.

Sorry to all.

mentalfloss
11-20-2008, 02:49 PM
Good choices Lawn.....you might want to talk to MGM on the phone. I bet he would be able to let you try one out for a few days before you decide. He did with me and of course I kept it.
KoAloha is what I am lusting for right now....a pineapple sunday! WOW....