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View Full Version : Downgrading from expensive to still great but affordable ukes



NewKid
01-28-2013, 03:19 AM
Dear Uke Friends,

For those of you who have acquired their dream ukuleles at premium prices of $1,000+ do you find yourself looking for something still nice but much less expensive?

I just saw this Kala Solid Okoume Tenor with a Slothead online at HMS and I have a Collings UT-2K, but the simplicity of the Kala and the affordability is very attractive. Plus it would get a great set-up at HMS.

http://www.theukulelesite.com/ka-smlt-new-lite-series-tenor-slothead-solid-okoume-wood.html

RichM
01-28-2013, 03:58 AM
I have a few high-end ukes, but still take great joy in playing my Kala and my Mainlands. There are some very good reasonably-priced instruments out there.

GKK
01-28-2013, 04:24 AM
I saw that Kala Okoume Uke at HMS's site too, and it looks Awesome!

I hinted to my wife that I wish I could get that for my birthday next month!...

kissing
01-28-2013, 04:27 AM
I've had my taste of top end (a Kamaka $1000+ baritone), but I still enjoy cheaper ukes like the $219 Gretsch acoustic-electric tenor, and the $299 Luna Baritone..

kvehe
01-28-2013, 04:31 AM
I play my less expensive ukes way more than the more expensive ones. In fact, just last night I got out a Kala solid spruce/laminate spalted maple concert that I hadn't played in almost seven months. It sounded great, and was so easy to play! And, yes, I too have had my eye on that Kala okoume tenor.....

PhilUSAFRet
01-28-2013, 04:40 AM
See no reason to downgrade when I can have both. While some ukes are better values than others, regardless of price range, you still pretty much get what you pay for. The trick is to have realistic expectations of what you are getting for the money. As a huge fan of the "law of diminishing returns", at what point are you no longer getting a dollars worth of improvement for a dollar? Ahhhhh, "therein lies the rub."

Nicko
01-28-2013, 05:07 AM
I've recently gotten into my head the idea of using some $$$ I've set aside for UAS to prowl eBay and pick up some pretty inexpensive old instruments and learn how to spruce (the verb, not the wood) them up myself and build up a little collection of older, lower end or rejected instruments. You know...see what I can make of them. Build up a kind of "Toy Story"-ish menagerie of monstrosities and retreads and mash-ups.

I've got my Martin S1 for when I want the pleasure of playing a decent quality new uke. I'd like to pick up a good concert or tenor (though I prefer sopranos). I'm thinking about a Martin C1K in the near future.

But I think it would be a gas -- and a great hobby -- to learn some minor repair/set-up skills while messing about with some inexpensive instruments that I can pick up on eBay, etc. I'm excited about this. And I'll learn quite a bit. I've got some little bit of space in the basement that can be set aside for a small workshop.

I'm psyched...for something other than high-end instruments! I still get to have UAS...but on the cheap. Anybody else do this kind of thing?

sukie
01-28-2013, 05:23 AM
It kills me to play anything but my best.

Lalz
01-28-2013, 05:23 AM
I've recently gotten into my head the idea of using some $$$ I've set aside for UAS to prowl eBay and pick up some pretty inexpensive old instruments and learn how to spruce (the verb, not the wood) them up myself and build up a little collection of older, lower end or rejected instruments. You know...see what I can make of them. Build up a kind of "Toy Story"-ish menagerie of monstrosities and retreads and mash-ups.

I've got my Martin S1 for when I want the pleasure of playing a decent quality new uke. I'd like to pick up a good concert or tenor (though I prefer sopranos). I'm thinking about a Martin C1K in the near future.

But I think it would be a gas -- and a great hobby -- to learn some minor repair/set-up skills while messing about with some inexpensive instruments that I can pick up on eBay, etc. I'm excited about this. And I'll learn quite a bit. I've got some little bit of space in the basement that can be set aside for a small workshop.

I'm psyched...for something other than high-end instruments! I still get to have UAS...but on the cheap. Anybody else do this kind of thing?

I don't buy ukes just to repair them but I do get a kick out of customising all my ukes to some degree: from changing the strings to replacing the saddle/bridge or the tuners, resoldering and shielding connections in the pick-up, etc. So much fun!

Macmuse
01-28-2013, 05:51 AM
I saw that Kala Okoume Uke at HMS's site too, and it looks Awesome!

I hinted to my wife that I wish I could get that for my birthday next month!...

It looks awesome and it sounds pretty sweet too. HMS did a great set up on mine with Low G. I'm about to do a belated New Uke for it shortly. :D

I know some people think the slot head is a pain to string or a fashion statement, but this wonderful tenor is feather light and a full headstock could make it feel out of balance so easily. Of all the ukes I've had the pleasure to hold or play recently the lightness and balance of this is quite wonderful.

haole
01-28-2013, 06:20 AM
Wouldn't mind getting a less-expensive soprano sometime in the future. Being broke has desensitized me to high-end UAS, but something travel-worthy besides my Flea would be nice!

Sporin
01-28-2013, 06:36 AM
My "expensive uke" is an Islander Tenor laminate (expensive is such a relative term), which is my primary instrument, but I still take down my red Dolphin and play it VERY often. I just love the sound on it (Martin600 strings).

katysax
01-28-2013, 06:56 AM
I've got some very premium ukes but I played that Okuome Kala at the local music store and was very impressed with it. I rarely take my most expensive ukes out of the house. My go to uke when I play out is usually my Koalana Concert. It's a fabulous uke at any price.

hmgberg
01-28-2013, 07:17 AM
I've recently gotten into my head the idea of using some $$$ I've set aside for UAS to prowl eBay and pick up some pretty inexpensive old instruments and learn how to spruce (the verb, not the wood) them up myself and build up a little collection of older, lower end or rejected instruments. You know...see what I can make of them. Build up a kind of "Toy Story"-ish menagerie of monstrosities and retreads and mash-ups.

I've got my Martin S1 for when I want the pleasure of playing a decent quality new uke. I'd like to pick up a good concert or tenor (though I prefer sopranos). I'm thinking about a Martin C1K in the near future.

But I think it would be a gas -- and a great hobby -- to learn some minor repair/set-up skills while messing about with some inexpensive instruments that I can pick up on eBay, etc. I'm excited about this. And I'll learn quite a bit. I've got some little bit of space in the basement that can be set aside for a small workshop.

I'm psyched...for something other than high-end instruments! I still get to have UAS...but on the cheap. Anybody else do this kind of thing?

Yes, I've been buying cheap beat up and broken ukes to learn how to repair and restore them. Most of them are not great ukes, never were, but it is fun to work on them. A few have been surprisingly good, though.

haolejohn
01-28-2013, 07:21 AM
remember...you can only play one uke at a time.

Mandarb
01-28-2013, 07:46 AM
It kills me to play anything but my best.

....yep....

rubber necker
01-28-2013, 10:04 AM
It kills me to play anything but my best.



Hi Sukie

how many ukuleles do you own and how often do you play/practice?
thanks

sukie
01-28-2013, 10:46 AM
Lets see...my first was a Hawaiian Ukulele Company concert. I also have a flea, Polk-a-lay-le, plastic Flamingo Uke, a Hilo I pulled out of my friends garbage can, a Lori Espanol concert which was a gift, and my Moore Bettah super concert. I sold my KoAloha concert the minute I got my Moore Bettah.

I will play my Lori's uke while I wait for new strings to settle on my MB. I hate changing strings, so I don't do it often enough.

I practice at least an hour a day. I'm kinda ramping it up right now getting ready for UWC. More like 2 hours. UWC is my recital. But I'm getting kind of old and I don't learn as fast as I used to. Colmes and I started lessons at about the same skill level. He is WAY past me now. And it drives me crazy and I can't do anything about it. Hence the hard work.

RichM
01-28-2013, 10:49 AM
remember...you can only play one uke at a time.

Sort of like saying you can only eat one meal at a time.... :)

Nicko
01-28-2013, 10:53 AM
Sort of like saying you can only eat one meal at a time.... :)

Says who?! Lightweight!

hawaii 50
01-28-2013, 10:55 AM
Sort of like saying you can only eat one meal at a time.... :)


I get tired of eating the same great meal everyday..i like playing different ukes i guess in the same way and sometimes i like a PBJ sandwich haha

wendellfiddler
01-28-2013, 11:48 AM
No, not really, because I try not to own Chinese made instruments - even those that are ostensibly made by US or European companies. The one exception in my instrument collection is a Chinese Erhu - indigenous Chinese. That's cool. It's worth the extra money to me to support US musical instrument builders. I'm actually surprised the issue doesn't come up more often. It's becoming more and more difficult for US, European and Japanese companies to produce quality instruments at anywhere near competitive prices compared with what's made in China and some other Asian countries with ultra cheap labor. The quality is often good, but I just don't like the vibe. I think those instruments would be a good target for a tariff!

wendellfiddler
01-28-2013, 01:38 PM
Collings lower level uke, UT's, are competitive among US made products. And Mya Moe - even more so. I have two Collings and a Mya Moe and another MM ordered. To me, they are all totally worth the money they cost, but it's got to be tough when they can make an ultra fancy Pono in Asia for less than the least expensive, no frills Mya Moe, Collings, or US made (not US "setup") K ukes. It's like Walmart - most of us want good, cheap stuff, but unfortunately there are consequences. Save up, get rid of a couple of off shore made ukes and buy one good US product instead.

Plainsong
01-28-2013, 01:47 PM
Collings lower level uke, UT's, are competitive among US made products. And Mya Moe - even more so. I have two Collings and a Mya Moe and another MM ordered. To me, they are all totally worth the money they cost, but it's got to be tough when they can make an ultra fancy Pono in Asia for less than the least expensive, no frills Mya Moe, Collings, or US made (not US "setup") K ukes. It's like Walmart - most of us want good, cheap stuff, but unfortunately there are consequences. Save up, get rid of a couple of off shore made ukes and buy one good US product instead.

There's one line of this statement that confuses me. "US made (not US "setup") K ukes." Umm, I've had 3 (edit: no, 4!) K brands, and access to many more. They all come setup from the factories. Now that setup may not be suitable to a certain individual, but you don't get sharp frets and nuts that don't work and all that stuff. They're setup even if you don't buy from a shop that checks. Do you mean to say they're setup elsewhere in the world? That wouldn't make logistical sense to do.. I don't know, I guess I don't understand that part of what you meant.

Otherwise, I agree. It's why I feel bad having an import uke. But still, it sounds and plays like it was worth a lot more.. Betting on that is always a gamble.

Edit to add: Variety is the spice of life. Sure I can understand wanting more than one. Everyone is different, but for me, I can only play so many ukes, before one or two are going to be neglected. Instruments aren't wall candy, they're meant to be played. Having 20 ukes and playing 3 of them... is just consumerism for the sake of consumerism. I guess it's a collector thing I don't understand. But plenty of us get expensive stuff, and then some inexpensive-but-awesome "beater", or two, and play that as happily as the expensive one.

Ain't no shame in that, but I'd try to avoid amassing a huge collection of what will only become landfill. Take your time, and really figure out what ukes you really need to have in your life. It's tough trying to separate "Wow that's cool, I really think that's a good idea, it's gonna be an awesome uke." from "Wow that's really cool, I really think that's a good idea. I NEED THIS IN MY LIFE!"

hmgberg
01-28-2013, 01:48 PM
I get tired of eating the same great meal everyday..i like playing different ukes i guess in the same way and sometimes i like a PBJ sandwich haha

Hmmm...I don't see a peanut butter sandwich listed in your signature. The list is all filet and caviar.

wendellfiddler
01-28-2013, 02:15 PM
There's one line of this statement that confuses me. "US made (not US "setup") K ukes." Umm, I've had 3 K brands, and access to many more. They all come setup from the factories. Now that setup may not be suitable to a certain individual, but you don't get sharp frets and nuts that don't work and all that stuff. They're setup even if you don't buy from a shop that checks. Do you mean to say they're setup elsewhere in the world? That wouldn't make logistical sense to do.. I don't know, I guess I don't understand that part of what you meant.

Otherwise, I agree. It's why I feel bad having an import uke. But still, it sounds and plays like it was worth a lot more.. Betting on that is always a gamble.

Edit to add: Variety is the spice of life. Sure I can understand wanting more than one. Everyone is different, but for me, I can only play so many ukes, before one or two are going to be neglected. Instruments aren't wall candy, they're meant to be played. Having 20 ukes and playing 3 of them... is just consumerism for the sake of consumerism. I guess it's a collector thing I don't understand. But plenty of us get expensive stuff, and then some inexpensive-but-awesome "beater", or two, and play that as happily as the expensive one.

Ain't no shame in that, but I'd try to avoid amassing a huge collection of what will only become landfill. Take your time, and really figure out what ukes you really need to have in your life. It's tough trying to separate "Wow that's cool, I really think that's a good idea, it's gonna be an awesome uke." from "Wow that's really cool, I really think that's a good idea. I NEED THIS IN MY LIFE!"

It's my understand that many musical instruments that are made in Asia get finishing touches in the US. Some just get action adjustments and a review to identify blemishes and others, like some violins, require much more final assembly or setup. Several credible on-line retailers advertise that they make sure the off-shore made ukes they sell are set up correctly before they ship em' to you. Such setup is seldom required for US made instruments unless there has been a severe climate change or something that the instrument has been subject to. However, not the same issue, but shipping cross country can be a problem - especially ground shipping in heat of summer! For that I don't suppose it matters where it was made.

Duk

haolejohn
01-28-2013, 02:26 PM
I'm not a supporter of buying a bunch of cheap ukes to grow into a quality uke. My very first uke was a piece of crap oscar schmidt. I never played the thing b/c it sounded so bad. I finally saved up and bought a decent import (Mele) and then dabbled in cheap kalas, ohanas, mitchells, etc... but always got rid of these cheaper ukes to buy nicer imports (Ponos and Meles). Then I got my first Hawaiian ukulele (KoAloha) and I was hooked. Cheaper ukes have their purposes. I own a bunch of dolphins, geckos and mainland 2nds (I don't really consider mainland ukes to be cheap) for my classroom. I have a beater mainland concert that is my hiking/camping/take anywhere I don't want to risk my KoAloha or Meles.

I have owned over 20 ukuleles at one time and currently only own 4 personal ukuleles (I don;t count my student ukes in my total). You can only play one uke. Nothing wrong with multiple ukes, but there is something wrong with buying a bunch of cheap ukes when you really want a nice uke. Buy one cheap uke and put the money towards that nice uke until you can afford it. If you can afford it right away, then get the nice uke.

Skottoman
01-28-2013, 02:46 PM
I like all my ukes for their different feel and sound. Regardless of price...

But I consistently enjoy my higher end Hawaiian built ukes, for their noticeable better tone/playability/accuracy.

You do get what you pay for.

Cheers,
Skottoman

NewKid
01-28-2013, 02:53 PM
I play my custom ukes all the time, not very well mostly. I have several low cost ukes as well, but rarely bother with them.
The Collings appears to be a good uke (I have never seen one), but for the same money you can get a maker to make you an instrument to your specifications. No matter how much you spend over $100 on a musical instrument you should find the sound you like. Good looks will generally follow without much ado.
If you are not enjoying a Collings ukulele, I don't think buying another cheaper one is going to fix what ever your problem is. It may be a bit overpriced but it has had some great reviews. I would be looking at trading it or selling it to get something in the same quality range, but also spending a lot of time working out the sound I want and the way I want to use the instrument before choosing the next one. There is too much talk of pretty wood and not enough on playing style and sound.
When I look at the subject Kala,and its price, I compare it to my little Yamaha guitar that is made in Indonesia and has a similar finish and sounds great for a guitar under $200. I think the Kala would be approaching value at around $150 maximum and without the spiel on the pretty wood. If you have $260, HMS has some other much better value instruments on sale. Sites like Mims also has some great instruments in this range.
If you could access the proceeds of the sale of a Collings, HMS site is very exciting. Look at the Hawaiian page. Look at the used and blemished page. Look at the customs page. Yummy sounding ukes made by experts in the USA.

I'm enjoying the Collings and plan on keeping it forever. I was just considering a change in strategy instead of acquiring more high-priced ukes.

Plainsong
01-28-2013, 02:58 PM
Oh, it was the term K Brand that confused me, because those are Hawaiian (US) made. Those come from their factories in good shape, and if they don't.. of course said factory really wants to know about it. :)

I once had a uke shipped at this time of year, from Hawaii to Charleston to Helsinki. Man that was pins and needles time.


It's my understand that many musical instruments that are made in Asia get finishing touches in the US. Some just get action adjustments and a review to identify blemishes and others, like some violins, require much more final assembly or setup. Several credible on-line retailers advertise that they make sure the off-shore made ukes they sell are set up correctly before they ship em' to you. Such setup is seldom required for US made instruments unless there has been a severe climate change or something that the instrument has been subject to. However, not the same issue, but shipping cross country can be a problem - especially ground shipping in heat of summer! For that I don't suppose it matters where it was made.

Duk

dismount
01-28-2013, 05:12 PM
katysax has my opinion, said in another way, If I have a cherry '57 chev in the garage you don't feel right about driving it to the mall and levaing it parked with all the other cars. Same with my ukes. I buy mostly more affordable ones so I can enjoy them where ever I go. All ukes have something different to offer, that is the great part about this hobby. Enjoy the journey without being OCD about ever one of them. Phil

itsme
01-28-2013, 06:02 PM
I've never owned a high-end uke (yet!). But the affordability of some others (Mainland, Ohana, Kala, Cordoba, Flea/Fluke) has enabled me to try various sizes, styles, wood combos, etc. without going broke. Most of my ukes were acquired used.

haolejohn
01-28-2013, 06:10 PM
I've never owned a high-end uke (yet!). But the affordability of some others (Mainland, Ohana, Kala, Cordoba, Flea/Fluke) has enabled me to try various sizes, styles, wood combos, etc. without going broke. Most of my ukes were acquired used.

That is the way to go. Used.

haolejohn
01-28-2013, 09:16 PM
If you are going to keep the Collings how can you be downgrading? To me downgrading would be selling the Collings and buying a lesser uke. Keeping the Collings and buying a low cost uke because you have run out of money is more like normal UAS to me.

muy excellente pointe.

Kyle23
01-28-2013, 09:17 PM
I wish I was lucky enough to have a choice haha. Some day though. Some day.

consitter
01-28-2013, 09:23 PM
It kills me to play anything but my best.

I'm with her. I've got one custom and 2 very high end ukes. I've tried Kalas and Ibanezes at the local music store and I'm sorry, they feel like toys in comparison. I couldn't go back if I tried.

Nicko
01-29-2013, 01:48 AM
I'm with her. I've got one custom and 2 very high end ukes. I've tried Kalas and Ibanezes at the local music store and I'm sorry, they feel like toys in comparison. I couldn't go back if I tried.

I think one would have to step down to some kind of charm. There is some merit in precision/high quality being exchanged for charm/personality of inexpensive used/vintage instruments. Don't see why one would exchange quality and precision for merely cheap -- unless it's due to financial considerations, which can be a good and repsonsible decision sometimes, of course.

NewKid
01-29-2013, 02:35 AM
If you are going to keep the Collings how can you be downgrading? To me downgrading would be selling the Collings and buying a lesser uke. Keeping the Collings and buying a low cost uke because you have run out of money is more like normal UAS to me.

You're right. "Downgrading" perhaps not the best word to use. If UAS is normal, its still that.

pakhan
01-29-2013, 02:43 AM
Well sometimes playing out needs micing and some ukes mic/amp better than others. My own personal ukes are quite simple, one for the baby at home, one to bring out and jam with friends. You can only play 1 uke at a time, but there are many times when you can play a uke, so variety is nice, I don't think ukes have to be very expensive, although the better ones do tend to be in the higher price bracket, it's a matter of taste.

I have a friend who loves his crappy plastic soprano, it sounds hollow to me, but works for him. Who am I to argue? That's what I love about ukes!

rmcnelly
01-29-2013, 09:21 AM
Even though I am a novice I got UAS bad and collected a few. I have a nice KoAloha Concert and a Kiwaya KTS-5, both are awesome players and beatifully finished.

But two of my favorite ukes are vintage and were inexpensive and obtained from ebay. They are always my go to ukes and I get great satisfaction when playing them.

A mahogany Harmony Concert which sings with Worth clears on it - absolutely wonderful harmonics and has a very low action (but I had the bridge replaced with a modern one after the original broke (never putting Aquilas on this one again)).

A Japanese built mahogany soprano (I think is is labeled Aloha Royal) which is very lightly built and also sings with Worth CM's on it. The harmonics this one has are really beautiful as is the ukes finish. It's not as nice as it once was after the back began to separate and a local luthier repaired it for me.

hawaii 50
01-29-2013, 09:22 AM
Hmmm...I don't see a peanut butter sandwich listed in your signature. The list is all filet and caviar.



believe me there is peanut butter and jelly in my signature Haha but thanks anyway

costaricadave
01-29-2013, 10:01 AM
I play my Moore Bettah everyday. I had thought about selling my Mainland until I strung it Low G. Now I play it a good bit on the songs more Low G sounding. I also use the Mainland for my run around Uke. I had a Kamaka HF3 and sold it as soon as my MB was done.

wendellfiddler
02-06-2013, 12:46 PM
Even though I am a novice I got UAS bad and collected a few. I have a nice KoAloha Concert and a Kiwaya KTS-5, both are awesome players and beatifully finished.

But two of my favorite ukes are vintage and were inexpensive and obtained from ebay. They are always my go to ukes and I get great satisfaction when playing them.

A mahogany Harmony Concert which sings with Worth clears on it - absolutely wonderful harmonics and has a very low action (but I had the bridge replaced with a modern one after the original broke (never putting Aquilas on this one again)).

A Japanese built mahogany soprano (I think is is labeled Aloha Royal) which is very lightly built and also sings with Worth CM's on it. The harmonics this one has are really beautiful as is the ukes finish. It's not as nice as it once was after the back began to separate and a local luthier repaired it for me.

Aquila strings are very low tension - how were they responsible for breaking your bridge?

rmcnelly
02-06-2013, 12:53 PM
Aquila strings are very low tension - how were they responsible for breaking your bridge?

I can't confirm they were the cause. But the uke sings with the Worth CM's on it. The sound difference is amazing.