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View Full Version : New `Ukulele: What to Choose



Little Plink
09-22-2012, 02:36 PM
I've been playing on a cheap little soprano for years now, and after much delay, I'm getting an upgrade. (I've been more focused on learning to play difficult techniques and building up my collection of other instruments in the mean time :/ I'm GASing hard...) The problem I have now is what to choose. My budget is roughly $200 - $600. I could go just a little higher, but it'd have to be really enticing.

I know I want a tenor. I know I want solid wood. Those two are the real essentials for me. I would prefer a cutaway, a pickup, and a slotted headstock, but I don't feel I NEED them. A soft wood (spruce, cedar, redwood, etc) sound board is also preferable, but nonessential, especially where koa is involved.

I've been looking at and listening to Mike Pereira's work, and he seems perfect for me, but just a hair out of budget, with tenors starting at $600.

I'm also looking at Mainland, which is much lower in my budget, with a solid mahogany tenor with a slotted headstock and cutaway at <$300. Another pro of Mainland is that I live only a few hours away from Nashville, Indiana, where Mainland is headquartered, so I could drive up there and try one out for myself. The main con is that they rarely have that model (and most others...) in stock. I emailed Mike a few months ago asking when they would be in stock and he said he had a B-stock model that could be had for an even lower price, but I wasn't ready quite then.

The final builder I'm currently considering is someone you may not have heard of named Toby Chennel.

(find him here: http://www.jazzboxukes.com/)

He makes wonderful archtop `ukuleles for a fairly decent price, with custom tenors at 495 GBP. If I'm not mistaken, that's just over $600, no? I'm not very good with currency conversion.

So what does everyone think? My preference at this point is the just-out-of-reach MP :( If anyone has any suggestions that I might not know about, (I've considered Lanikai, Oscar Schmidt, Luna, etc) then please let me know! Thanks for your time :)

RichM
09-22-2012, 02:40 PM
The final builder I'm currently considering is someone you may not have heard of named Toby Chennel.

(find him here: http://www.jazzboxukes.com/)

He makes wonderful archtop `ukuleles for a fairly decent price, with custom tenors at 495 GBP. If I'm not mistaken, that's just over $600, no? I'm not very good with currency conversion.



I have one of Toby Chennell's archtop ukes and it is something very special. Toby is a very skilled builder. However, 495 works out to around $800 at current exchange, so it's a bit further out of your range that originally planned.

OldePhart
09-22-2012, 02:45 PM
Yeah...$600 for a tenor is just in that "awkward" price range - not quite enough to get something really great and too much to settle for a factory uke.

A soprano for that price your clear choice is a Hawaiian uke or maybe something from Ken Timms or Black Bear, etc. Tenor at that price is a lot tougher. Mainland tenors are great value but probably not quite up to what you're looking for given the high-end of your budget (and I say this being a huge Mainland fan and owning six of them). In my experience Mainland tenors are very good but not great (I've had three, still have two) - their sopranos in my experience are outstanding (I have a mahogany and mango and would let my KoAloha go before either of them).

I think if I was in your shoes I might just keep biding my time, saving up money and especially watching the marketplace. When your budget hits around $800 you're probably looking at getting into a used Hawaiian tenor and then it's just a matter of looking for the right deal to show up in the marketplace. If you're budget hits $1200 before you've found the right axe you're then in a position to start looking at new Hawaiian ukes.

John

PhilUSAFRet
09-22-2012, 05:20 PM
Don't overlook Covered Bridge ukes....well within your price range

wolfchs
09-22-2012, 05:36 PM
I highly recommend this one as I have the non-cutaway and no pick up version and it sounds amazing! It costs $615, $660 with hard case. http://cargo.ukerepublic.com/product/pono-solid-acacia-tenor-deluxe-cutaway
If you want to hear some samples of the sound, check some of my videos (just ignore my singing and poor playing and just focus on the uke sound... Lol) note that mine is tuned Low G
http://www.youtube.com/wolfchs

Little Plink
09-22-2012, 07:09 PM
Thanks for the quick replies everyone. I'd never heard of Covered Bridge, but they look pretty solid. Thanks Phil :)

I looked at some Ponos too, and I eventually decided if I was going to go with a "factory made" uke, I was going to go cheap and get a Mainland. After all, I've heard many great things about them, especially for their price.

I guess my real question now is whether to cave and get a Mainland now (hooray for instant gratification!) or to wait it out to get a higher end hand built ukulele. And if the latter, which do I go with? I love the sound and look of both Mike and Toby's ukuleles equally and differently. Or should I get a Covered Bridge? I haven't even heard a sound sample yet, but that can be fixed easily with a quick YouTube search. Do they have a site besides Facebook? What are their rates? Or is there another builder in similar price range that I might prefer?

JamieFromOntario
09-23-2012, 05:01 AM
Hey Little,

Did you see this MP (http://www.buffalobrosguitars.com/images35000-35999/nuc35005-mptenor/index.html) listed at Buffalo Brothers? They even provide a nice gig bag (I know 'cause I just contacted them about a similar MP concert they have in stock).


If the MP is still too much, here's shameless plug for a BlueGrassUke that I have for sale. It meets your softwood top (cedar) requirement, doesn't have a pick up, but neck joins the body at a really high fret so it's almost like a cut-away.
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?69295-Interest-check-Cedar-and-Walnut-BlueGrassUke-Tenor&highlight=bluegrass+cedar

eor
09-23-2012, 06:58 AM
[QUOTE=Little Plink;1052523] . I'd never heard of Covered Bridge, but they look pretty solid. :)

hey

i recently did these.. may help.

pics

http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?69074-nud-Covered-Bridge-Tenor-first-impressions&highlight=covered+bridge

a sound sample



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdkqQVFqXKk&feature=plcp





good luck in your search

eor

OldePhart
09-23-2012, 10:02 AM
I looked at some Ponos too, and I eventually decided if I was going to go with a "factory made" uke, I was going to go cheap and get a Mainland. After all, I've heard many great things about them, especially for their price.


If you must have the instant gratification then it's really hard to go wrong with a Mainland. The only other factory ukes that I think come close are the Ohana and with those I'd make sure that you buy from HMS or Mim or Uke Republic or what have you to make absolutely sure it's properly set up (that's the real difference between Mainland and Ohana, in my book, is Mike and Tookta are pretty good about making sure that they leave the shop nicely playable).

However, in your case it sounds like you have a bigger budget so if you can exercise a little patience you can probably get something that will keep you happier, longer. Don't get me wrong, I like my Mainland tenors, but tenor is not my main axe; if it were I think I'd want something just a little bit lighter and livelier. (Though the two examples I have of Mainland sopranos are superb - they easily compete with my KoAloha in all respects and actually beat it in clarity up the fretboard!)

Patience, grasshopper! Seriously, look at it this way: if you are going to stay with the uke and particularly with the tenor you are eventually going to want a really, really nice one. Every dime you spend on lesser instruments simply pushes that day when you can afford a really nice one further into the future.

John

Little Plink
09-23-2012, 02:26 PM
I'm deeply conflicted... Covered Bridge seems something of a dream come true; a cheap custom builder that makes quality instruments. Could it be? Can someone shed a little more light on these `ukuleles? As their only source of information is through Facebook. Going rates? Overall quality? Turnaround time? Available options? The pictures on their Facebook page look gorgeous, and the soundclips on YouTube sound delightful. Are they as within budget as Phil says?

Furthermore, if Covered Bridge isn't the answer, then Toby Chennell or Mike Pereira? I live about 30 minutes from the only US supplier of Uluru `Ukuleles, and I'll probably head up there to check them out as well as making a day trip to Nashville, Indiana for Mainland, but which do I choose?

In a nutshell:

If not Covered Bridge, then
Mike Pereira or Toby Chennell?

If not either of those, then
Uluru or Mainland? (Those I'll judge for myself since I can try them, but I'd still like to hear opinions)

Thanks for everyone's help! :D

Uncle Leroy
09-23-2012, 02:39 PM
Mainland and Pono are both great choices.

Little Plink
09-23-2012, 05:56 PM
I've emailed Covered Bridge, and they sent me a speedy reply telling me that a tenor ranges from $550-$750. While I think mine would be at the lower end of the spectrum, I really would rather spend less money if a Mainland or Uluru would make me happy. Covered Bridge owners, is it worth the extra cash or should I just stay cheap? Uluru and Mainland owners, how happy are you with your instruments?

eor
09-24-2012, 02:16 AM
I've emailed Covered Bridge, and they sent me a speedy reply telling me that a tenor ranges from $550-$750. While I think mine would be at the lower end of the spectrum, I really would rather spend less money if a Mainland or Uluru would make me happy. Covered Bridge owners, is it worth the extra cash or should I just stay cheap? Uluru and Mainland owners, how happy are you with your instruments?



hey

there is alot to be said for trying a uke out in person so if you are near mainland that never hurts. and they have a good reputation as a nice uke for the money. I have never played a mainland.

I would suspect that a CB uke would be a significant upgrade to a mainland in every way.

there are two or three uu members who have done reviews of CB ukes.

eugene ukulele and jwietes(sp??) have reviews here.

good luck

Rubio MHS
09-24-2012, 03:26 AM
For your price range and specifications, I'd go with the aNueNue aNN-L3CE Lani III Koa - Tenor - Cutaway Electric. No need to go custom on your second ukulele - that could be your next one.

PedalFreak
09-24-2012, 04:06 AM
I'd listen to what John has been saying. Save up a little more so you can get something nicer. Take it from someone who has settled on instruments in the past. If you settle on something that may "just work for now" you're not gonna be happy.

But if you must get something now, here are my suggestions: get a Pono MT ( I think that is it, entry level mahogany tenor), then continue to save. Or look for a used uke, can get a used koaloha tenor for slightly more than what you've got, and many other nice uke's you could get used.

PedalFreak
09-24-2012, 04:55 AM
Double post

Little Plink
09-24-2012, 11:43 AM
Hey everybody.

Thanks for your input. The `ukulele that I would have Covered Bridge build would run me $650 according to Terry Bullinger. That's a very reasonable and enticing price, but I'm still going to head up to Indiana to play a few Mainlands first. I'll probably get to Batavia tomorrow to play some Ulurus too. Depending on how much I like them, I may go with them or a Covered Bridge. Thanks so much for all your help everyone!

ChrisRCovington
09-24-2012, 12:34 PM
Martin has some new koa tenors made in Mexico and I think they are in your price range. There have been a few reviews here and they sound pretty good.

patfia
09-24-2012, 12:51 PM
I doubt that it's right around the corner but Reno's Music in Fishers, IN has a lot of ukes including Pono and some of the K brands. From the map it looks like it is northeast of Indianapolis. Enjoy your journey. At the same time, I would applaud the Covered Bridge decision as I have one in my sights in the future.

jwieties
09-24-2012, 02:11 PM
Covered Bridge isn't going anywhere and will be happy to make you one at any time. Taking a bit of time and trying a few things out is always a good idea. That said, can't imagine you not being thrilled if you go with Perry and Terry. Amazing ukes regardless of price.
Here's a thread where I posted a little review of mine.
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?60803-New-Covered-Bridge
Here's a video I did that I think captures the sound as well as can be expected from a little point and shoot.
Good luck and have fun.


https://vimeo.com/37142312

Hippie Dribble
09-24-2012, 02:51 PM
hey LP, I tend to avoid factory ukes so I would go with a Covered Bridge myself. Great custom built ukes at a super price.

here's a review I did last week of one of their concerts:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpIEvZKOuak

and here's a couple of songs I've use the same instrument on recently...

"Between The Devil And the Deep Blue Sea" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sULPf_HGybQ
"St James Infirmary" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdx97dBbNmY
"If You're A Viper" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Chad7LH51vg

hoosierhiver
09-28-2012, 05:49 AM
"The main con is that they rarely have that model (and most others...) in stock."

We just got in a bunch of new stock including the slot heads. Mike