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NewKid
02-18-2013, 03:42 PM
What is the law of diminishing returns in terms of ukulele value where you max out on playability and acoustics and paying any more is just for bling? Is it $300 - $800 or more? How do you think this applies to ukulele collections?

GregT
02-18-2013, 03:47 PM
What is the law of diminishing returns in terms of ukulele value where you max out on playability and acoustics and paying any more is just for bling? Is it $300 - $800 or more? How do you think this applies to ukulele collections?

I think you need to supply more qualifiers; what size ukulele, what wood(s), etc.

NewKid
02-18-2013, 03:55 PM
Okay, let's say a mahogany tenor or a koa tenor.

RichM
02-18-2013, 04:01 PM
I think the initial question is a false premise. It implies that at a certain point, the only justification for increased price is increased bling. I don't think that's true. I am very willing the pay an experienced luthier a premium for his or her experience,which is evidenced in every part of the luthier's craft. My Moore Bettah was expensive as ukes go, but every element of the instrument is executed with high integrity and excellence, from the tone to the build quality to the near perfect luthiery to the understated decoration.

Price and quality are not always related. Price is a function of many things, including the builder's direct costs, the amount the builder needs to pay himself so he can eat, and more than anything else, market forces. A high-priced instrument is not necessarily better than a lower-priced one.

As a player, you need to determine (or discover) what is important to you. There are many excellent instrument being made for very reasonable prices, and if you are satisfied with one of these, there is no point in paying more. However, there are many premium instruments that provide a more enjoyable and satisfying playing experience-- often with no bling at all.

Paul December
02-18-2013, 05:04 PM
I believe the Law of Diminishing Returns really kicks-in at $300, and tops-out at $1k.
In other words, you get a noticeably better instrument with ever few $'s up to $300 at which point each additional gain takes bigger chunks of money...
...until you hit $1k, and the gains become nearly immeasurable and really personal taste.

mds725
02-18-2013, 07:27 PM
I think it would help if someone provided a summary of the law of diminishing returns. I learned about it in my economics classes in college, but that was so long ago I'm not sure I could articulate the rule all that well now. And that, in turn, keeps me from weighing in on this thread.

Pundabaya
02-18-2013, 10:54 PM
Simple explanation: the law of diminishing returns is when an increase in your spend does not result in commensurate returns. Lets say you have a small factory. Doubling your workforce may very well increase your production 100%. That's great! Now let's add another 100% of the original workforce! We'll have 3 times the production! But you haven't got enough machines, so your extra staff busy themselves shifting stock, cleaning up, moving raw materials, that sort of thing. Production increases, but only 50% of the original production. So you've tripled your wage bill, and you're running at 2.5 times the original production. Lets add another 100% of your original staff. Well your lines are already running at capacity, but the extra staff help even more with other jobs. Production increases. By 25% of the original capacity. Now your wage bill is 4 times the original cost, with 2.75 times the original production. Still want to increase production? You should buy more equipment! Any more staff will just be standing around all day.

Pundabaya
02-18-2013, 10:59 PM
With respect to ukes, I'd say that it kicks in really low, I mean, is a Kala uke twice the price of a Dolphin really 100% better? Is a uke twice the price of that Kala twice as good, and 4 times better than the Dolphin?

consitter
02-18-2013, 11:55 PM
With respect to ukes, I'd say that it kicks in really low, I mean, is a Kala uke twice the price of a Dolphin really 100% better? Is a uke twice the price of that Kala twice as good, and 4 times better than the Dolphin?

In many respects, especially when you are talking about a dolphin, I would have to say yes.

guitharsis
02-19-2013, 12:44 AM
What is the law of diminishing returns in terms of ukulele value where you max out on playability and acoustics and paying any more is just for bling? Is it $300 - $800 or more? How do you think this applies to ukulele collections?

Not to put a price on but for me the K brands and my G-String are all the uke I would ever need. A more expensive custom uke would not be worth the difference. I don't particularly care for a lot of bling either.

anthonyg
02-19-2013, 01:03 AM
It depends on how good a player you are. The better you are as a player the more expensive the instrument will be before you experience no justifiable gain in a more expensive instrument. I've played a Scott Wise Tenor ukulele that cost a mere $1250 and it was worth every dollar. If you were looking at buying a fine guitar then $1250 is cheap.

Then again if your satisfied with a dolphin then spending $200 on a ukulele is going to seem expensive.

Anthony

consitter
02-19-2013, 01:08 AM
Not to put a price on but for me the K brands and my G-String are all the uke I would ever need. A more expensive custom uke would not be worth the difference. I don't particularly care for a lot of bling either.

That all comes down to perspective. I'm not talking about the bling either. Having an instrument in your hands that each and every wooden part of it has been hand made and assembled makes a difference. A big difference. Look at my list of ukes. One is retails about $500-600, one retails about $1300-1600, and the other, well, let's just say it costs more than $1600. The Pineapple Sunday is definitely worth the price differenct over the Soprano. It plays much easier, has an awesome sound, and is just nice in all respects. Not saying the soprano doesn't play well, but to me, it's only worth about half as much as the PS.

On to the custom. It's got about a grand worth of bling on it, so we won't factor that in. However, all bracings and the "inner workings" of the uke are hand made and tailored to the sound chamber. Mine has a cutaway, so the bracings are different to maximize the sound coming out of it. It truly makes a difference in the sound of this uke as opposed to the uni-brace that is in the other two. This is a professional grade ukulele. Compare it to a Breedlove guitar, if you are familiar with guitars. You can feel the quality. When you strum this uke, you can feel the resonance in your chest. It's like nothing I've ever played. About 50 man hours went into making this uke. So yeah, I would say it's roughly worth twice as much as my Pineapple Sunday. And all these ukes are from the same company.

But again, this all subjective, and different people will see it different ways. This is just my .02.

Nicko
02-19-2013, 02:08 AM
With respect to ukes, I'd say that it kicks in really low, I mean, is a Kala uke twice the price of a Dolphin really 100% better? Is a uke twice the price of that Kala twice as good, and 4 times better than the Dolphin?

Yes,this is the beginning point of what seems to me to be the correct analysis of the market for ukuleles -- or big league pitchers or chocolate bars or lawn mowers. The proper value of an item is the price that a marketplace will pay for it. Is a $1k uke 10x better than a $100 uke? To the marketplace, yes -- as is evidenced by the fact that a large and diverse market will be happy to pay 10x more for a wide array of reasons. Most of those reasons have little or nothing to do with the marginal improvement in the music produceable from the $1k instrument. Beauty, desire for novelty or status, the availability of disposable income in the market, etc. There are many reasons for buying a premium instrument and most of them have nothing to do with the quality of the music produced. Most people who are buying premium ukes -- I don't mean to offend -- probably are capable of producing nearly the same music with a $100 uke as they are with a $1k uke. But they are getting an experience from the premium that is worth $900 more to them, for whatever reasons.

How much I am willing to pay for a uke is a very complex calculation. Largely an emotional one having to do with everything from my childhood family experiences of wealth and poverty to whether or not I am also an avid hobbyist in another area where I would also like to spend my money. I'd say this analysis has almost nothing to do with the sound coming from a wooden box across which some strings are stretched. It's about a thousand other things.

RichM
02-19-2013, 02:11 AM
With respect to ukes, I'd say that it kicks in really low, I mean, is a Kala uke twice the price of a Dolphin really 100% better? Is a uke twice the price of that Kala twice as good, and 4 times better than the Dolphin?

A cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and value of nothing.

HBolte
02-19-2013, 02:21 AM
What is the law of diminishing returns in terms of ukulele value where you max out on playability and acoustics and paying any more is just for bling? Is it $300 - $800 or more? How do you think this applies to ukulele collections?

Is this an accounting forum? I would not buy a $200 ukulele any more than I would buy a $200 guitar. I look for the sound, feel and beauty of an instrument. To me it's a musical instrument, not an economics lesson.

remy26
02-19-2013, 02:38 AM
I think that many people have hit on a good point in this thread. I think with something like an ukulele there ate many intangibles that come into play. That means that diminishing returns are rather individualized and comes down to the specific buyer/player. Ukuleles are more than just wood, glue and strings, in my opinion. There is an experience associated with them and the price someone is willing to pay for that perfect experience for them is different. Many woul argue that $2000 for a cruise to Hawaii or the Bahamas isn't worth it because they can set up their lawn chair in their backyard and get half the experience for very little of the cost. Others would say that it's nothing like sitting on the beach staring at the ocean. Much harder to measure than something like the factory example.

ksiegel
02-19-2013, 02:46 AM
This is art. The point of diminishing returns kicks in when you don't enjoy what you have.

Taking 2D painting as an example, I've got an absolutely wonderful piece of original Artwork by David Cherry hanging on my bedroom wall. I've also got an equally wonderful watercolor piece by a Peruvian artist on the opposite wall. While I've known David for years and worked with him to buy the painting, the Peruvian artist was selling things at the San Diego Zoo to raise money for a children's art education program he runs in Peru. My wife and I just happened to see his work, and found it captivating. The Cherry piece cost about 40 times what the watercolor did, and took a significant amount of my 1989 income to purchase, while the watercolor was less than a reasonable dinner for two.

I'd never dream of parting with either.

With my ukuleles, I have two that cost nothing (a gift, and a prize) and 11 others ranging from under $100 to the Sceptre. Each one is worth more to me than I paid for it, so there is no applicable law of diminishing returns.

As I stated initially, it is Art. I can put a value on it, but not a price.



-Kurt

Pundabaya
02-19-2013, 07:48 AM
I think that many people have hit on a good point in this thread. I think with something like an ukulele there ate many intangibles that come into play. That means that diminishing returns are rather individualized and comes down to the specific buyer/player. Ukuleles are more than just wood, glue and strings, in my opinion. There is an experience associated with them and the price someone is willing to pay for that perfect experience for them is different. Many woul argue that $2000 for a cruise to Hawaii or the Bahamas isn't worth it because they can set up their lawn chair in their backyard and get half the experience for very little of the cost. Others would say that it's nothing like sitting on the beach staring at the ocean. Much harder to measure than something like the factory example.

A ukulele is basically a box, some strings, and a huge list of intangibles. Personal preference, man. It's amazing. Even the sound, everyone has their own style of playing, and their own likes and dislikes.

The OP's question is a little pointless because as with just about any manufactured thing, you will hit diminishing returns as soon as you hit 'this thing works properly' territory. There are basically two answers, 'when they start working properly,' which is from a strictly utilitarian viewpoint. Then there's 'dunno, depends what you want out of it' which tries to take the 'other stuff' into account.

If there was 'this uke is about the best you can get, anything more is just window dressing' uke meets would be way less interesting.

mds725
02-19-2013, 08:54 AM
How much I am willing to pay for a uke is a very complex calculation. Largely an emotional one having to do with everything from my childhood family experiences of wealth and poverty to whether or not I am also an avid hobbyist in another area where I would also like to spend my money. I'd say this analysis has almost nothing to do with the sound coming from a wooden box across which some strings are stretched. It's about a thousand other things.

This was extremely well said and I agree completely. It can be difficult for economists to factor in idiosyncratic individual motivations for spending money. For example, when I was a kid, my dad owned a clothing store and, naturally, we got our clothes from there. He sold Maverick blue jeans, so that's what we wore, while all my friends wore Levi's blue jeans. When I went off to college, I bought a pair of Levi's, even though I had enough blue jeans and Levi's were more expensive. The additional expense (from free to whatever Levi's cost back then) was worth it to me for reasons other than the pure economics of comparing free Maverick jeans to somewhat expensive Levi's.

I ordered my first Mya-Moe at the 2011 Wine Country Ukulele Festival, which I attended two weeks after breaking the middle finger on my strumming hand in a bicycle accident. I already had two Kamaka tenors (one re-entrant, one linear) and I didn't need another ukulele, but I was pissed off about having a broken finger (the accident was caused by an inattentive passenger who opened a door in front of me) and I suppose I also wanted to prove to myself that I'd heal completely and be back to playing in no time. I'm sure my myrtle tenor was worth what I paid for it, but I know that a lot of my motive for getting it was to treat myself to something nice and ukulele-related ("I deserve a made-to-order ukulele!") and I suppose my subconscious calculation in deciding to spend $1,000+ on an ukulele attributed a big chunk of that money to something other than the objective market value of that ukulele.

acmespaceship
02-19-2013, 01:58 PM
Sometimes an ukulele is a box with strings for playing music. And sometimes it's a magic talisman... a reward because we deserve it... a work of art that pleases us... or a way to keep score. I don't question anyone's right to buy whatever ukes they want, at whatever price, for whatever reason. I do think it's a good idea to be self-aware and not kid ourselves. At my skill level, the music I make on a $1200 custom uke isn't all that much better than the sound of me playing a Fluke -- but my Fluke does sound better than a Dolphin. So my point of diminishing returns is somewhere between a Fluke and a Mya-Moe. Your point will be different. I might still buy a Mya-Moe, but it'll be an indulgence and not a cold-blooded rational investment in better music.

Using that money to buy music lessons would surely be a better investment in my case ;-)

PhilUSAFRet
02-19-2013, 03:06 PM
As I understand it, at some point, you no longer get an additional dollar's worth of uke for every dollar you spend. On a practical level, I used to jusst say Pono, but there are too many contenders out there and the the price of Pono's keeps going up. I think that's another "subjective" to add to a uke shopper's list. I know what it means to me, not sure I can apply it to you.

NewKid
02-19-2013, 03:44 PM
I'm the OP and I do agree that my original premise was flawed. There are so many reasons why we buy these wonderful instruments and price is just one consideration. Thanks to all the posters for your great insights. I've enjoyed reading them all.

csibona
02-19-2013, 04:36 PM
Heck, the interesting part of this to me is that you can put anything in Aldine's hands or James Hill's hands and it will sound better than any instrument in my hands.

Dave-0
02-19-2013, 05:38 PM
It's not about the ukulele????