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View Full Version : I'm sliding towards playability over quality...



byjimini
06-05-2013, 09:48 AM
Hey everyone. :) Just something on my mind recently...

I've three pretty good solid-ukes in a Compass Rose, Kamaka 8 string and Sceptre, all sat in their expensive cases with humidifiers. Meanwhile, my laminate Kala, bought for half price due to some damage around the sound hole, sits next to my desk where it occasionally gets knocked over, banged etc.

Guess which one gets played much, much more?

I took the Kala to a local music festival over the weekend and spent days hot footing it from open mic to open mic, throwing the uke in the case without a care, occasionally leaving it behind the bar whilst nipping home for food etc, and I absolutely loved it. When I have my others with me (not all 3 at once...) I don't like to let them out of my sight, have to un-do the strap when putting away (so the buckle doesn't leave a deep scratch on the body), and the cases are big and bulky and not really suited for travel.

I love my solid-ukes. They cost me an absolute fortune (3k, quite a lot on my wages) and they sound like a dream, but god are they a pain in the arse to live with! I've got humidifiers and insurance, big Fremont cases, worry about knocking them and can't leave them alone in a pub in case someone picks it up to try and drops it. Worst of all, none of them have pickups, so doing gigs is a pain as I can't move around stage when playing. And any luthier I ask to fit one back-tracks when they see what they are.

My Kala on the other hand has laminate Pacific Walnut which looks gorgeous, an active pickup so I don't need to carry a tuner, and cost a snip at 80. There's a bit of flaking around the top of the soundhole which isn't noticeable unless you hold it up to your face.

You know where it's going... I'm thinking of selling the Sceptre and trading the Kamaka for a Kala 8 String with a pickup.

Does anyone else feel this way about their ukes? I'm fed up with the burden of responsibility whenever I take my 'Rose out with me, even though it's insured and whatnot. At 20 times the cost of my Kala, I'd hate to see it get a dent. And with the recent heat we've had, I'd taken them into our coolest room so they're not affected too much (the Kala is still at my desk, getting played).

RichM
06-05-2013, 09:55 AM
I find that I appreciate all of my ukes, from the pricey to the modest. They are all good-sounding, playable instruments. When I go to jams or gatherings, I'm likely to take my Kala or my Mainland. Part of that is, yes, they are less expensive, so I'd feel less of a pang if they got damaged. But they are also both great-sounding ukes that do a great job of cutting through the guitar-heavy sound of my local jam.

There is no honor in owning an expensive instrument, nor shame in owning a cheap one. Play what you like, like what you play.

hawaii 50
06-05-2013, 09:59 AM
Hey everyone. :) Just something on my mind recently...

I've three pretty good solid-ukes in a Compass Rose, Kamaka 8 string and Sceptre, all sat in their expensive cases with humidifiers. Meanwhile, my laminate Kala, bought for half price due to some damage around the sound hole, sits next to my desk where it occasionally gets knocked over, banged etc.

Guess which one gets played much, much more?

I took the Kala to a local music festival over the weekend and spent days hot footing it from open mic to open mic, throwing the uke in the case without a care, occasionally leaving it behind the bar whilst nipping home for food etc, and I absolutely loved it. When I have my others with me (not all 3 at once...) I don't like to let them out of my sight, have to un-do the strap when putting away (so the buckle doesn't leave a deep scratch on the body), and the cases are big and bulky and not really suited for travel.

I love my solid-ukes. They cost me an absolute fortune (3k, quite a lot on my wages) and they sound like a dream, but god are they a pain in the arse to live with! I've got humidifiers and insurance, big Fremont cases, worry about knocking them and can't leave them alone in a pub in case someone picks it up to try and drops it. Worst of all, none of them have pickups, so doing gigs is a pain as I can't move around stage when playing. And any luthier I ask to fit one back-tracks when they see what they are.

My Kala on the other hand has laminate Pacific Walnut which looks gorgeous, an active pickup so I don't need to carry a tuner, and cost a snip at 80. There's a bit of flaking around the top of the soundhole which isn't noticeable unless you hold it up to your face.

You know where it's going... I'm thinking of selling the Sceptre and trading the Kamaka for a Kala 8 String with a pickup.

Does anyone else feel this way about their ukes? I'm fed up with the burden of responsibility whenever I take my 'Rose out with me, even though it's insured and whatnot. At 20 times the cost of my Kala, I'd hate to see it get a dent. And with the recent heat we've had, I'd taken them into our coolest room so they're not affected too much (the Kala is still at my desk, getting played).


I understand what you are saying,,I have many nice ukes a Compass Rose included..and I try not to smash them against anything..but
in the end I bought the ukes to play..not to look at them.. so for me that is what I do..i play them like you supposed too..if I smash it against something it hurts but they are meant to be played
Rick Turner builds his ukes to play..i saw him just throw his personal CR all around,,haha

I guess the best thing for you is to let your nice ukes go if you are not enjoying them,,and let someone who really wants to play/enjoy them as they are meant too..sorry

just my 2 cents..

byjimini
06-05-2013, 10:04 AM
Well the Compass Rose is my all-time must-want, and it will never be sold. I absolutely love it, and fear for it when I go out!

I was in the market for an 8-string when the Kamaka popped up on here, and the Sceptre was an impulse buy. It's not that they were expensive, it's because I thought they looked and sounded great.

I hadn't much experience of Kala at the time, having owned a few Ohana's and not being best pleased with them, I just assumed they were pretty much the same.

It's a terrible shame, but I'd hate to have one seriously damaged on a night out, I'd feel sick.

dalamaricus
06-05-2013, 11:03 AM
I'd be scared to buy a really expensive uke because I too would worry about it. I know the instruments are meant to be played, but I would also know that I had a thousand bucks or more in my hands! The extra maintenance can be inconvenient as well--it's nice to just leave a ukulele out and be able to grab it easily. Still, I'll probably get a high end one someday.

Rodney.
06-05-2013, 11:29 AM
On a level that's a couple of $ lower yhan yours: yes, I know what you mean. My Dolphin gets waaaay more playing time than my far more expensive Kala and Islander. It's always with me, while the other two sit in their cases. I even think that if one would be broke/stolen/whatever, the Dolphin would be the only one I would replace immediately. My other ukes sound better than the Dolphin, absolutely, but I can't say they give me more pleasure.

sukie
06-05-2013, 11:57 AM
Everybody is different. I really only play my Moore Bettah. But that is why I had it made. I love to play it. No other ukulele really satisfies me.

greenie44
06-05-2013, 12:09 PM
I keep my favorite uke, a Lanikai 6 string tenor, next to my desk, and a couple of others within easy reach. I definitely play this one more than my Kanile'a tenor, but there are times I use the Kanile'a a lot. My 8 string Pono doesn't get played a lot, but that's because I think of it as a 'specialty' uke.

I'm going on a long trip and I am taking the Kanile'a to see if I can deepen my relationship with it.

mds725
06-05-2013, 01:39 PM
I see your point about the value of ukuleles that you don't mind taking out into the world and having them get a little scraped up. Among other ukuleles, I have Kamaka, Mya-Moe and Compass Rose tenors, but when I was part of a group that played holiday music outdoors a few winters ago, I grabbed my Big Island tenor because I was less worried about the harmful effects of exposing it, as a less expensive ukulele, to San Francisco's cold, damp, and misty winter weather that day.

But I think the word "playability" in the thread heading is confusing. To me, "playability" is how comfortable an ukulele feels in my hands and how easy it is to make music on it, not my willingness to play it in possibly hostile environments. So when it appeared to me that you were setting up a choice between playability and quality, my first thought was that my high quality ukuleles have tons more "playability" than my less expensive (and ostenibly lower quality) ukuleles, and when and why would I have to choose between "playability" and "quality."

If you (the OP) really mean that you choose to play the less expensive ukuleles you're more willing to play than your expensive ukuleles, then one thing you might consider is training yourself to be more willing to play your more expensive ukuleles in environments that you're now reluctant to take them to. I know the risk of injury to an instrument seems more consequential when the instrument is more expensive, but I wonder what the point would be of spending a lot of money on ukuleles I love to play if I end up not playing them because I worry that they might get damaged. maybe your less expensive ukuleles don't seem less "playable" (i.e., less easy/fun to play) than your expensive ones. If that's so, then I suppose I envy you. I continue to hope nothing bad happens to my expensive ukuleles, and I will continue to refrain from exposing them to high risk situations (like playing outdoors in a drizzle), but I can't imagine not taking my favorite ukuleles to meetups or festivals or jams simply to protect them from being out in public.

Skinny Money McGee
06-05-2013, 01:55 PM
Get yourself a Blackbird and you can stop worrying about all those things you talked about.

Hippie Dribble
06-05-2013, 02:01 PM
I see your point about the value of ukuleles that you don't mind taking out into the world and having them get a little scraped up. Among other ukuleles, I have Kamaka, Mya-Moe and Compass Rose tenors, but when I was part of a group that played holiday music outdoors a few winters ago, I grabbed my Big Island tenor because I was less worried about the harmful effects of exposing it, as a less expensive ukulele, to San Francisco's cold, damp, and misty winter weather that day.

But I think the word "playability" in the thread heading is confusing. To me, "playability" is how comfortable an ukulele feels in my hands and how easy it is to make music on it, not my willingness to play it in possibly hostile environments. So when it appeared to me that you were setting up a choice between playability and quality, my first thought was that my high quality ukuleles have tons more "playability" than my less expensive (and ostenibly lower quality) ukuleles, and when and why would I have to choose between "playability" and "quality."

If you (the OP) really mean that you choose to play the less expensive ukuleles you're more willing to play than your expensive ukuleles, then one thing you might consider is training yourself to be more willing to play your more expensive ukuleles in environments that you're now reluctant to take them to. I know the risk of injury to an instrument seems more consequential when the instrument is more expensive, but I wonder what the point would be of spending a lot of money on ukuleles I love to play if I end up not playing them because I worry that they might get damaged. maybe your less expensive ukuleles don't seem less "playable" (i.e., less easy/fun to play) than your expensive ones. If that's so, then I suppose I envy you. I continue to hope nothing bad happens to my expensive ukuleles, and I will continue to refrain from exposing them to high risk situations (like playing outdoors in a drizzle), but I can't imagine not taking my favorite ukuleles to meetups or festivals or jams simply to protect them from being out in public.

Yes, this.

I used to be very precious about my higher quality instruments, but reached exactly the same conclusion as Mark above. Why have a lovely uke and not play it for fear of damaging it? They were built to be played and loved. Dings and surface scratches are a sign of them being loved and used for the purpose for which they were built. Of course one still takes care of them but it breaks my heart to see a uke sit unplayed in a case for months.

The only caveat I guess is if you're strongly considering resale. Otherwise, play em into sawdust. Put a pickup in one of your better sounding, playable ukes and get into it! Alternatively, as Rich suggested, just sell em and you won't have to worry about the portability, damage etc anymore and have some money to show for it.

Jon Moody
06-05-2013, 04:12 PM
Overall, I keep instruments that sound great and play great, and the pricetag is usually secondary. Case in point: I was at Elderly Instruments a week or two back and played a bunch of ukes and the ones that I left with were the ones that sounded great and played really well (given that Elderly sets up nearly all of their ukes, that sets them up for success). They weren't the most expensive either.

Don't get me wrong; I'll still play expensive instruments. My main electric bass that I gig with probably costs more than some peoples' cars, and it's got its share of dings and dents. However, I bought it for it's playability, tone and consistency (in the three years I've had it, only adjusted the truss rod once), which nothing else had at the time, for me.

Don't be afraid of having expensive instruments. As far as I'm concerned, instruments shouldn't be looked at; they should be played.

stevepetergal
06-05-2013, 07:25 PM
I'm exactly the opposite. I got rid of the cheaper ukuleles. When I found them getting in the way of playing the good ones I started to hate them. Now I only have very nice instruments (and one laminate that I only play at work).

What kind of luthier won't install a pickup?

Rick Turner
06-05-2013, 07:43 PM
I casually put my CR on tables at Uke Club, keep it out all the time, toss it onto the carpet, and treat it like it's meant to be used...that is enjoyed, played, and not coddled. I fly with it, take it to festivals, let anyone who wants to play it do so including very young kids. I do this in part to see just how it will hold up, and it looks freakin' great. Yes, there is evidence of strumming a bit on the face, but the fret wear is much more visible than any finish damage from it being knocked around. The poly finish is incredibly tough...much more so than nitro lacquer. I don't use humidifiers, but then I'm in a very uke-friendly climate, but still, if I'm comfortable, the uke will be.

Just enjoy the things. Don't hide them away. Let the wear show a bit. So what? These are musical instruments, not art objects.

Rick Turner
06-05-2013, 07:45 PM
OH, mine's a 2006, and I did put a pickup into it. If I play out on stage, I want to be heard...I've worked hard to be a decent player.

Like I say, it's a musical tool.

localmana
06-05-2013, 08:03 PM
Rick,
I remember talking with you in your shop and you said that the uke was made to be played. I "saved" your CR for awhile, using cheaper, less "risky" ukes to play. That was a few years ago. Now, though I still don't take my "good one's" out in public much, I'm playing them more and am getting close to taking them out. The "safe" ones just don't sound as good. I guess I'm prioritizing my enjoyment in the moment over saving it for the future.
Alan

gyosh
06-05-2013, 08:10 PM
I've been showing off my CR to anyone that glances my way:)


And it is getting PLAYED!

mm stan
06-05-2013, 08:21 PM
While I love my chinese ukes...you know I feel comfortable playing them and I learned why..they give me more creativity because they are comfortable to play for two factors.....
one is the comfort of the thin fast neck and thin guage strings such as hilos and maybe the lightness factor too...but I gotta admit the sound factor of some customs cannot be beat and with the set up of some luthiers like Chuckie makes them even better to play....even with chuckie's durable finish, it can take more abuse without those minor bumps, damages from accidents..I believe if a high
end custom is outta your budget range, those chinese ukes offer the most comfort for playing and the creative factor.. and it's where your trade off really is for comfort of playing, tone, and comfort level is keeping your uke in pristine condition.. as for badges of honor vs sound and playing preformance, you know which uke to grab to take to parties and out the door...:)
While others may have commented on another angle, such as their comfort taking high end uke out, those are personal preferences...some treasure their most coveted uke or ukes and I don't
blame them, while others feel that it was bought to be enjoyed and played....everyone has their comfort angle, as to the way they were brought up or because of their high value....I dont
blame any side of the fence for their personal preferences....

byjimini
06-05-2013, 09:37 PM
For gigs I'd use the CR every time, but I can't go leaving it on a table in a pub at a sing around. I've seen too many Martin guitars go flying, one hit the ground so hard the headstock came clean off. Frightening.

Sorry, regarding playability I guess I was trying to sum the ease of playing, as in no tuner to worry about or slight knocks to the instrument.

mikef
06-05-2013, 10:24 PM
I think it's pretty common in any musician's arsenal to have their "studio" gear and their "live" gear. The studio stuff are exquisite "it must never be played" (Nigel Tufnel) instruments that are only used for recording, and the live stuff are the solid and dependable workhorses that get thrown around, thrashed but are oh so carefully maintained so they will never let you down.

I personally don't think price has TOO much of an influence on this, I guess it depends on how much money you have to play with in life. Your prize uke could be revered for personal reasons so it never leaves the house and your live uke could be a two grand diva that you could afford to replace if a roadie sat on it. It's about what works for you and your instruments.

Whenever I'm asked about the quality of instruments I always advise a perfectly set-up and well maintained budget instrument will always be better than an expensive one that isn't looked after (if money was no object of course, then you'd get the best of the best, set-up by the best luthier in the land and have a spare in the Rolls just in case of course).

I've owned a range of instruments (ukes, guitars, basses) and always end up using the "budget-mid price" range as my workhorse instruments... just the right balance of quality, reliability & cost and no fear of taking them out of the case.

oldetymey
06-06-2013, 02:22 AM
I dont have expensive ukes but I treat my Mainland like it was one. It gets wiped down after playing, if I take it somewhere it always get sat down in the case (a fremont like yours). Im careful about it being out in the sun, weather etc...I dont feel like its too much hinderance on my playing it out. Ive just developed good habits about having it out and its become so second nature that it doesnt stress me to have it out. One bonus for me though is being left handed I always have a good excuse not to let others mess with it :) my point is you can still take your prized ukes anywhere it doesnt take much to develop those habits and stay safe

oldetymey
06-06-2013, 02:25 AM
I casually put my CR on tables at Uke Club, keep it out all the time, toss it onto the carpet, and treat it like it's meant to be used...that is enjoyed, played, and not coddled. I fly with it, take it to festivals, let anyone who wants to play it do so including very young kids. I do this in part to see just how it will hold up, and it looks freakin' great. Yes, there is evidence of strumming a bit on the face, but the fret wear is much more visible than any finish damage from it being knocked around. The poly finish is incredibly tough...much more so than nitro lacquer. I don't use humidifiers, but then I'm in a very uke-friendly climate, but still, if I'm comfortable, the uke will be.

Just enjoy the things. Don't hide them away. Let the wear show a bit. So what? These are musical instruments, not art objects.



Easy for the guy who can just build himself another one to say!
;)

-Emma-
06-06-2013, 02:50 AM
You're not going to get much enjoyment if you don't play them, regardless of their cost.

My Risa uke-solid wasn't expensive, but I absolutely love it. It has been living on my desk for the past few weeks and I play it just about everyday.

I absolutely love my Kamaka, as a beginner player it was an expensive uke for me to buy, but I don't regret it. I love the way it sounds and the Koa is beautiful. I am protective of it though! I have only taken it out a couple of times to the ukulele group that I go to.

armchair_spaceman
06-06-2013, 03:54 AM
On a level that's a couple of $ lower yhan yours: yes, I know what you mean. My Dolphin gets waaaay more playing time than my far more expensive Kala and Islander. It's always with me, while the other two sit in their cases. I even think that if one would be broke/stolen/whatever, the Dolphin would be the only one I would replace immediately. My other ukes sound better than the Dolphin, absolutely, but I can't say they give me more pleasure.

Pretty much ditto for me. I'm very much a noob, not in the compass rose league at all but my kala tenor went away for a couple of weeks on a warranty issue and I bought a cheapo mahalo in the meantime (the one with the smiley face, i let my son choose it for me). Gave it a ghetto setup and some fresh acquilas and it's actually not bad at all, i really quite enjoy it and my son loves noodling around on it too. The Kala that was roughly 10x the price of the smiley face came back but it's not getting much love...thought I was a tenor man but I'm finding it a but of hard work after a couple of weeks with the little guy. If I'm struggling with a tricky progression on the tenor i grab the cheap and cheerful soprano and work it out on on that, then transfer over.

greenie44
06-06-2013, 05:46 AM
In thinking about this, I wonder if the "just play them" attitude also acts as a moderator on unchecked UAS. I know I love to play, but an hour a day is probably the best I can fit in on most days. And I hardly even pick up more than two in this period, unless I am actively searching for some type of sound. Since I have my old stand-by, that means that some of my ukes can go a week or more without being touched. If I really think I have 'em to play 'em, seems like getting more would be counter to this.

Hmmm, am I buying this? Is anyone else? :anyone:

byjimini
06-06-2013, 07:08 AM
Aye, but the Kala cost 80. That's the point.

csibona
06-06-2013, 07:13 AM
I mostly have what I consider expensive ukuleles. I do have a Fluke and I used to play it a lot because the Fluke was strung high G. I had one fancy low G ukulele but that was not suitable for all arrangements. Once I received a high quality high G ukulele I play it instead of the Fluke and am almost considering giving up the Fluke (except it is an excellent travel ukulele). For me, I prefer the sound of the higher quality ukuleles so that's why I play them.

Dan Uke
06-06-2013, 08:09 AM
Besides the beach I will take all my ukes. I did own a flea before but I got spoiled by my other ukes so I sold it.

byjimini
06-06-2013, 08:15 AM
I'd love another Flea, but I couldn't screw any strap buttons on it.

stevepetergal
06-07-2013, 01:48 PM
I casually put my CR on tables at Uke Club, keep it out all the time, toss it onto the carpet, and treat it like it's meant to be used...that is enjoyed, played, and not coddled. I fly with it, take it to festivals, let anyone who wants to play it do so including very young kids. I do this in part to see just how it will hold up, and it looks freakin' great. Yes, there is evidence of strumming a bit on the face, but the fret wear is much more visible than any finish damage from it being knocked around. The poly finish is incredibly tough...much more so than nitro lacquer. I don't use humidifiers, but then I'm in a very uke-friendly climate, but still, if I'm comfortable, the uke will be.

Just enjoy the things. Don't hide them away. Let the wear show a bit. So what? These are musical instruments, not art objects.

I'm with Rick 100%.

mm stan
06-07-2013, 03:27 PM
Tone is foremost to me and Playability is not too far behind....I'm willing to sacafrice some tone for playability....he he