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katysax
12-02-2013, 08:22 AM
My first uke was a Koaloha soprano bought at Kapiolani Mall in Honolulu in 1998. Over time I acquired a few more K brand ukes. The custom uke thing blew right over my head. When I found UU, the custom uke aficionados here were speaking a foreign language.

About a year ago a local collector became quite aged, developed dementia, and rapidly sold off his ukes. In the process I bought a few not really knowing what I was buying. Many of his ukes, which I now know were quite valuable, were badly damaged and I passed them up, but among them I bought two Kawikas. One of the Kawikas was casually tossed about with no case but surprisingly undamaged. The other had a case. I also picked up a couple of other lesser known customs.

Wow! Now I know what I have. These are truly amazing ukes. The sound has depth and complexity, sustain, the right amount of volume, clarity. They also have character. Each has a feel and identity of their own. Each of the customs, whether Kawika or others is is some way special. Utlmately I did sell one - a tenor - because I wanted to raise some money to cover this, and because while it was spectacular I really don't care to play tenor much. I have bought a couple of other used customs, had one made for me, and I'm on the list to get one made.

This gets to the point of this post. Now I see why people get UAS over custom ukes and I'm seriously thinking of selling most of my K brand ukes. Each custom has its own story and its own voice. Depending on the builder it may or may not have a level of uniformity or perfection as a K brand uke, but it may also have fit and finish on a higher level. But it is like each one has its own soul.

Doc_J
12-02-2013, 08:53 AM
Well said. I totally understand & agree with what you're saying.

janeray1940
12-02-2013, 09:01 AM
Now I see why people get UAS over custom ukes and I'm seriously thinking of selling most of my K brand ukes. Each custom has its own story and its own voice. Depending on the builder it may or may not have a level of uniformity or perfection as a K brand uke, but it may also have fit and finish on a higher level. But it is like each one has its own soul.

Since getting my one, single custom a year and a half ago I've felt this way from time to time - but then I suddenly find myself playing my Kamakas almost as much as my custom. It's cyclical - although the custom is my one constant, the others get played enough that I can justify keeping them around.

But I will say that the custom soprano cured my UAS almost entirely. I was afraid I'd be all "now I need a concert uke from the same builder! no wait, make that two, one low G and one reentrant!" etc. and - nah. Hasn't happened yet.

mm stan
12-02-2013, 09:47 AM
Yes I know what you mean...I have a few...if you ever want to part with that kawika tenor, let me know....:)

katysax
12-02-2013, 10:11 AM
Stan,

The Kawikas are a concert and a spalted koa pineapple. I don't have a tenor. I did have a tenor Les Reitfors but I sold it to cover the cost of the acquisition of the others. i debate selling the kawika concert. The size, sound and overall feel is not much different form the soprano pineapple and like the pineapple it has only 12 frets. It's spectacular but the pineapple is truly unusual so having both of these seems overkill since the sound and feel is almost identical.

Usually I pass up tenors when I see them for sale. I would have bought a Kawika tenor if he had one and probably would have sold it already.

bborzell
12-02-2013, 12:57 PM
Custom instruments sometimes do not deliver what the buyer had in mind at the time of ordering. Sometimes the tones don't match up with the sonic image that led to the order in the first place. Sometimes a custom will be built at a level of attention to detail that falls short of that from a high quality production instrument.

I own five custom instruments along with another ten or so production instruments. While three of my customs are clearly at the top of the heap, the other two are no better built or tuned than most of my other production instruments

Sometimes customs come with features that might have sounded good at the time, but turn out to be less than desirable in the long run.

I have found that high quality production instruments are often more reliable in fit and finish than some of the customs that are available. It is hard to imagine a "better" instrument for me than my first tenor Pono. That didn't stop me from spending several times what it cost for my second Uke which is a custom. Not that my custom Uke was not worth what I choose to pay for it; it clearly is that valuable to me (with impeccable fit, finish and tone). But, one does not have to buy a custom Uke in order to get outstanding tone and playability. There are just too many high quality production Ukes for anyone to "HAVE" to buy a custom.

Then again, the context of this discussion was framed by the word "addiction".:o

mm stan
12-03-2013, 05:59 AM
Stan,

The Kawikas are a concert and a spalted koa pineapple. I don't have a tenor. I did have a tenor Les Reitfors but I sold it to cover the cost of the acquisition of the others. i debate selling the kawika concert. The size, sound and overall feel is not much different form the soprano pineapple and like the pineapple it has only 12 frets. It's spectacular but the pineapple is truly unusual so having both of these seems overkill since the sound and feel is almost identical.

Usually I pass up tenors when I see them for sale. I would have bought a Kawika tenor if he had one and probably would have sold it already.
Aloha Katy,
You sound like you have a nice collection, send me a pm first when you want to sell any of your babies so I get first dibbs. :) ...happy Strummings....

SailingUke
12-03-2013, 06:11 AM
I can relate. I was playing a KoAloha super concert when I bought my DaSilva.
When Mike delivered the ukulele I liked it, but honestly did not understand why it was 2x as expensive as my KoAloha.
After a few months I bonded with the instrument and its voice changed and I fell in love with it.
I also have two Mya-Moe's and a Vento, all great sounding. The KoAloha is still one of my favorites, but the DaSilva is just something special.

mkatz
12-03-2013, 06:29 AM
Aloha Katy,
You sound like you have a nice collection, send me a pm first when you want to sell any of your babies so I get first dibbs. :) ...happy Strummings....

Hey Stan, trying to get a jump on Jon? :)

sukie
12-03-2013, 07:21 AM
I am the voice of reason. I have one custom. It is beautiful -- both in playability and looks. Since it came to my house 3 years ago I have not been tempted even a little bit. I love it. We are bonding and we are close to becoming "one".

katysax
12-03-2013, 07:50 AM
Custom instruments sometimes do not deliver what the buyer had in mind at the time of ordering. Sometimes the tones don't match up with the sonic image that led to the order in the first place. Sometimes a custom will be built at a level of attention to detail that falls short of that from a high quality production instrument.

Then again, the context of this discussion was framed by the word "addiction".:o

i completely agree with this. When you get a production uke you can know what you are getting. In fact most of my small builder ukes have what I'll call quirks. The neck in particular seems to be hard to get right. There is a level of crudeness, lack of refinement, in some ways that is hard to explain. You'll find tool marks, unusual angles, and other things you usually won't find in a production uke. The sound might or might not be what you imagine. But the quirks, the mistakes, the oddities are also appealing to me. They are a part of the soul of the instrument. I like my music a little dissonant and a little raw. I find that intriguing in art generally, and a handmade uke is a work of art. Sometimes the skill level and care taken by the luthier is so great that what you get is perfection. I've never seen a Moore Bettah, but I do understand from the Kawikas that I have seen what happens when a luthier achieves perfection. I've also played some custom ukes that were pretty bad. I had a chance to buy a Kanilea that had been made by the builder as a custom before it was a big shop. It was a custom, very blingy. It was also heavy and dead sounding to me. A friend of mine has a Keli'i that was built for him back when the builder was only doing custom, and he doesn't know what to do with it because the sound is dead. I played couple of Leonard Young ukes I thought were truly awful.

Certain builders get a reputation for consistency that makes them more popular, but you can still never know what you will get. As we all know there is variation in production ukes too, but you still have a pretty good idea what you are getting with one.

gyosh
12-03-2013, 08:31 AM
I am the voice of reason. I have one custom. It is beautiful -- both in playability and looks. Since it came to my house 3 years ago I have not been tempted even a little bit. I love it. We are bonding and we are close to becoming "one".

:agree:

I have one custom and it is the last ukulele I will purchase. LOVE it!!

My Kamaka is special because it's my first and purchased for me by my wife while on vacation. My "custom" pineapple tenor is a uke I built in a class. I'm still amazed that I assembled something that sounds so good. My Kala is my classroom uke and not that I don't care about it, but I would be much less heart broken if it were to get damaged or lost.

My custom was made for me, I had a hand in choosing the wood and specified some of the details of the build, and it exceeded my expectations in both fit and finish . . . and I had very high expectations to begin with.

Thanks again Rick. You are an artist and a craftsman at the top of your field.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
12-03-2013, 09:27 AM
Production ukes tend to be consistent (for better or for worse) because they crank out LOTS of them. A level of perfection and consistency can only be achieved through experience. The last few years have seen a lot of new ukulele builders on the scene. I think an important (perhaps the most important) consideration in buying or evaluating ukes is knowing how much experience the builder has had, how many ukes they've built, etc. Unfortunately there are some newbies that have tainted the custom uke market a bit. They may be a good value but you generally get what you pay for in this world. Lumping all custom built ukuleles in the same category is as unfair as lumping all production ukes, from Chinese made to the Big K companies, together. Whether it's custom or production, every builder should be evaluated on their own individual merits.

pakhan
12-03-2013, 11:55 AM
I believe as with anything, you more or less get good ones and bad ones, in a normal distribution- with a good custom builder you can shift the entire curve in favour of good...

PS. PM sent!

mm stan
12-03-2013, 12:23 PM
Production ukes tend to be consistent (for better or for worse) because they crank out LOTS of them. A level of perfection and consistency can only be achieved through experience. The last few years have seen a lot of new ukulele builders on the scene. I think an important (perhaps the most important) consideration in buying or evaluating ukes is knowing how much experience the builder has had, how many ukes they've built, etc. Unfortunately there are some newbies that have tainted the custom uke market a bit. They may be a good value but you generally get what you pay for in this world. Lumping all custom built ukuleles in the same category is as unfair as lumping all production ukes, from Chinese made to the Big K companies, together. Whether it's custom or production, every builder should be evaluated on their own individual merits.

My thought exactly chuckie...production ukes are built by the thousands, it depends how much quality control and desire the factory has to improve them to be.....as chuckie says, it can go both ways...

JonThysell
12-03-2013, 01:05 PM
Lumping all custom built ukuleles in the same category is as unfair as lumping all production ukes, from Chinese made to the Big K companies, together. Whether it's custom or production, every builder should be evaluated on their own individual merits.

Yes, this, absolutely. I've played some customs that looked way better than they sounded, and picked up some customs that made my wallet offer itself freely. Same thing with production ukes.

Doc_J
12-03-2013, 01:17 PM
In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. I assume the same is true in building ukuleles.

BlackBearUkes
12-03-2013, 02:06 PM
I would also like to add that some buyers expect a custom uke to sound like a billion dollars right off the bench. After all, "I paid a lot of money for the certain vintage sound and that is what I expect from day one". Depending on the woods used, size and design, most ukes take time to develop and come into their own. Like a fine wine, it takes time for the best result.

pakhan
12-03-2013, 02:58 PM
In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. I assume the same is true in building ukuleles.

Hey Doc,

I believe that is true for those who build very individual, customised ukes.... as it needs a lot of experience to gauge how to alter the build to suit the individual set of wood. Although there are some short cuts- like working with someone experienced to help reduce some of the experimental aspects, I think it's pretty accurate.

However, there are some who hit upon the right formula early on and then it is a case of reproducing this using wood which is specially selected to be as similar as the original. In some ways this is like a production line, except on a smaller, more individualised scale.

mm stan
12-03-2013, 03:08 PM
Hey Doc,

I believe that is true for those who build very individual, customised ukes.... as it needs a lot of experience to gauge how to alter the build to suit the individual set of wood. Although there are some short cuts- like working with someone experienced to help reduce some of the experimental aspects, I think it's pretty accurate.

However, there are some who hit upon the right formula early on and then it is a case of reproducing this using wood which is specially selected to be as similar as the original. In some ways this is like a production line, except on a smaller, more individualised scale.
It's easy peasy Terrance,
Get a Moore Bettah and a Beau Hannam...

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
12-03-2013, 03:10 PM
In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. I assume the same is true in building ukuleles.

I think I need to disagree with Mr. Gladwell. If my math is correct 10,000 hours is only about four years. "Mastery" is a big word, I think it takes a lot more time than a few years to achieve, at least for we mortals. If I ever approach that level it'll be time for me to quit and move on. In the time being, I'm still practicing.

haole
12-03-2013, 03:38 PM
Except for professional touring players, I don't think custom uke addiction is going to be very prevalent among members of my generation. :B A good custom is going to cost about eight thousand bucks by the time I pay off my student debt so I've conditioned myself to think realistically and be happy with the nice instruments I have already.

soupking
12-03-2013, 03:39 PM
All of my ukes have their own soul- production or custom. I have to disagree with the entire concept of the thread; just my opinion, though, so please, no hard feelings. I've sold off Kalas to KoAlohas to Compass Roses and Maui Musics... all with one goal in mind: to try others, to explore uncharted territories. The truth is, I miss every single one I've let go, even the Fleas, the Flukes, the Kalas, et al. Tone, playability, feel, fit, finishes, aesthetics… all that matters is what *you* like. There are no hard or fast rules when it comes to owning an instrument.

There's been a huge shift from K-brand love to "custom" love since I joined the Ukulele Underground, or rather, since I first found this place, which was at least a year before I actually joined. Hawaiian ukes used to be "the thing to own" way back when. Somewhere along the way everyone became obsessed with custom this and custom that and I've never understood it. Everyone has their own idea of what the perfect uke is, and their ideas are all right. I just don't think anyone should be discouraged if they don't own that one unattainable custom masterpiece. Chances are you're already playing a uke that's just as good… except for the fact that people aren't fawning all over it and jealous of you. So what? Play your uke, be it a Kala or a Kawika, and play it in good health :D

katysax
12-03-2013, 04:32 PM
All of my ukes have their own soul- production or custom. I have to disagree with the entire concept of the thread; just my opinion, though, so please, no hard feelings. I've sold off Kalas to KoAlohas to Compass Roses and Maui Musics... all with one goal in mind: to try others, to explore uncharted territories. The truth is, I miss every single one I've let go, even the Fleas, the Flukes, the Kalas, et al. Tone, playability, feel, fit, finishes, aesthetics… all that matters is what *you* like. There are no hard or fast rules when it comes to owning an instrument.

There's been a huge shift from K-brand love to "custom" love since I joined the Ukulele Underground, or rather, since I first found this place, which was at least a year before I actually joined. Hawaiian ukes used to be "the thing to own" way back when. Somewhere along the way everyone became obsessed with custom this and custom that and I've never understood it. Everyone has their own idea of what the perfect uke is, and their ideas are all right. I just don't think anyone should be discouraged if they don't own that one unattainable custom masterpiece. Chances are you're already playing a uke that's just as good… except for the fact that people aren't fawning all over it and jealous of you. So what? Play your uke, be it a Kala or a Kawika, and play it in good health :D

Soupking - I am being somewhat tongue in cheek here in starting this thread. I do agree there is something about every uke, or almost every one. And I've got a couple of inexpensive laminated ukes that i love. Part of what causes the custom bug is that there are so many builders and options. UU makes it easy to find other people who are into them and it also makes it easy to trade them around. Buy one, Sell one, Buy one, Sell one. It's just part of the fun. But its possible to have just as much fun looking for the perfect $100 uke. Or, just play and don't worry about the uke itself.

pakhan
12-03-2013, 04:43 PM
It's easy peasy Terrance,
Get a Moore Bettah and a Beau Hannam...

Haha I was gonna say Pu'uwai.....

Steveperrywriter
12-03-2013, 09:51 PM
I think I need to disagree with Mr. Gladwell. If my math is correct 10,000 hours is only about four years. "Mastery" is a big word, I think it takes a lot more time than a few years to achieve, at least for we mortals. If I ever approach that level it'll be time for me to quit and move on. In the time being, I'm still practicing.

Gladwell is quoting Professor Anders Ericsson, and as I recall it, what he said was that world-class experts at a thing usually had at least 10,000 hours of mindful practice to get to that world-class status. Not necessarily the same as "mastery." The more complex an activity is, the more effort required; Ericsson pointed out that you could learn two-move chess problems in as little as 50 hours and match a world-class player at these; however, that didn't mean you could defeat a world-class player in an actual game.

Practice is only one component, and by itself, not enough; there are other things, such as affinity and talent, which matter more. I believe the main difference between an accomplished pro and a beginner is probably consistency. There are doubtless folks who hit a home run first time at bat, but a guy who hits .350 over a long career is a hall of famer.

I have a great ukulele, sounds good, plays easily, looks terrific, and it is, as far as I know, one of only two the luthier has made. Of course, he has also made hundreds of other stringed instruments, flat-top, arch-top, classical guitars, violins, violas, harps, harp guitars, mountain and hammered dulcimers, so that probably makes a difference.

I think Chuck's comment about mastery is right; that's a road without end.

Steve

mm stan
12-03-2013, 10:34 PM
I think it's when all the stars align....An experienced luthier buys a whole log and cuts it himself, and builds his first ukulele then realizes by himself or his customer the he has the rare
special tone wood and not just one set... he has side by side matching sets to build many ukes... very rarely you will or he will find superior grade tone wood that looks amazing..it's all luck man.
You as a consumer need to pick up on that....of course the builder nor initial buyer may NOT say much initially...you have to be in the right place at the right time and know the luthier...no one knows how a uke will sound or preform until it is strung up...they may have ideas but not certain....and there's the last piece, when the wood itself really opens up if it ever does...good luck hunting..
Not all woods are the same...superior tone wood quality is all luck in the find...forget 5AAA, master grade and all that marketing crap that is just all looks..
In the end, an highly experience luthier and knowledge and his/her luck getting the wood...at this point, it is not even selecting, but luck of the draw of the wood will matter...
his building skills and know how to cut the wood and what design will work the best for it will decide if the uke will be amazing sounding or not....just saying not always it is looks...:)
who ever get one of these is up to the luthier at this point and not luck....it's called being fortunate at the right time and place...

Skrik
12-03-2013, 11:24 PM
I think you need to be a bit philanthropic when getting involved in the custom uke market. It is more about personal relationships and less about glue drips or blemishes in finishes. If you have a good relationship with the maker, you will find a way to deal with any disappointments that is both commercially viable and improves your personal relationships. Of course when you get a pleasant surprise, that will also improve your personal relationships.
If you are just interested in the money and getting something for as low a price as possible, you may not ever enjoy the custom ukulele market.

As with so much, it depends. It depends on the experience, reputation and integrity of the builder. It depends on the price I am paying. It depends on the sound I am getting. It depends on the feel of the instrument in my hands.

A good personal relationship is never going to come from an expensive though unsatisfactory instrument.

hammer40
12-04-2013, 12:13 AM
What's attractive to me about a custom build, is that you get to choose the woods, and any other feature or bling you may desire. The other nice thing is that it will be a little more unique because of those choices. The down side is you are operating on faith to a degree. With a K brand you pretty much know what you're getting, especially in the quality of the build.

Unless it's a well known luthier, with a known reputation for a particular sound and/or a quality of build, it can be hit or miss. I have tried a couple of customs now and was very surprised and disappointed at the quality of workmanship delivered to me. I guess there is no requirement on who can be labeled a "Luthier". I certainly don't expect perfection in a custom, but as the price passes 1K, I do start to expect certain types of blemishes or mistakes should be disappearing as well.

Oh, just so there is no confusion, the two customs I now have, do not fall into that "questionable" luthier catagory, and by a wide, a very wide margin!

CTurner
12-04-2013, 02:58 AM
I have found it is true: the individuality of each custom uke is what I find fascinating. Each has its own voice, style and feel. This is why one person will choose a particular custom over another and it's quite understandable. It's also why I enjoy hearing people describe their ukes and what draws them.

It's also because of individuality and uniqueness that you can be surprised/disappointed with aspects of a custom. Even if you think you know what a particular luthier does, their style and sound, if you have a really specific idea for a custom be sure that is communicated. But for me, the slight uncertainty of knowing <exactly> what a uke will look and sound like is topped by the specialness of its form and sound. I think that is the game.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
12-04-2013, 06:46 AM
One element that needs to be addressed.

If the object is to sound good-

$3000 is better spent on uke lessons rather then a custom uke.

I'd rather listen to a great player on a cheap uke then a cheap player on a great uke.

Of course, a good instrument will enhance and speed up the learning experience.

BTW- id say about 20 years full time to approach a master level in instrument making, assuming your paying attention to what your doing and thinking about it all. I'm half way there at 10 years :)

PS- "Masters" never stop learning.

PPS- The best "learners/masters" pick up tips from the most unlikely of sources.

PPS- A better term would be "Master Learner", as the term "Master" inherently signifies a cessation of learning.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
12-04-2013, 07:02 AM
I think it's when all the stars align....An experienced luthier buys a whole log and cuts it himself, and builds his first ukulele then realizes by himself or his customer the he has the rare
special tone wood and not just one set... he has side by side matching sets to build many ukes... very rarely you will or he will find superior grade tone wood that looks amazing..it's all luck man.
You as a consumer need to pick up on that....of course the builder nor initial buyer may NOT say much initially...you have to be in the right place at the right time and know the luthier...no one knows how a uke will sound or preform until it is strung up...they may have ideas but not certain....and there's the last piece, when the wood itself really opens up if it ever does...good luck hunting..
Not all woods are the same...superior tone wood quality is all luck in the find...forget 5AAA, master grade and all that marketing crap that is just all looks..
In the end, an highly experience luthier and knowledge and his/her luck getting the wood...at this point, it is not even selecting, but luck of the draw of the wood will matter...
his building skills and know how to cut the wood and what design will work the best for it will decide if the uke will be amazing sounding or not....just saying not always it is looks...:)
who ever get one of these is up to the luthier at this point and not luck....it's called being fortunate at the right time and place...


There is no magic wood that will miraculously turn itself into a great instrument. But there are woods that are harder to coax a good tone out of. Some of my best sounding ukes have been built with wood that few people really want.

NewKid
12-04-2013, 08:19 AM
I've had mixed results with my customs: all are very good and one is great.

The great one makes me say to the others, "Why can't you be like that great uke?"

They always reply, "Hey, give us a chance Don Ho. Maybe if you played us more we could get better."

But I think Beau Hannam is right in that if I become a better player, then I can make all my ukes sound better too.

However, I'll be practicing on my great uke.

Steveperrywriter
12-04-2013, 10:28 AM
I started out playing classical guitar. Not classical music particularly, but I liked the nylon strings and wide fretboard. There came a point after years of not-playing when I wanted to get back into it. I upgraded my guitar a little and started doing an hour or two each day. I wasn't very good (still ain't) but having laid hands on a handmade guitar, I realized that a well-made instrument would make learning easier. It did. With a fine guitar, the limiting factor was always going to be me, and I would rather that than the other way around. I might improve …

When I came to uke-ery, I bought a good-qualilty entry-level instrument. Once I realized I was going to continue playing, I started looking for an ukulele that would be better than I was, for the same reason as the guitar. One I probably won't ever get good enough to leave behind.

My experience with luthiers who know what they are about has been uniformly good. Didn't much like the wait-a-year aspect, but I understood why and was willing to wait. I think a luthier who is dedicated to his or her craft puts an indefinable something into the instruments s/he builds. Love, spirit, something, and a tool mark here or there? That is offset by the energy that goes into the creation. Yeah, that's woo-woo, but I believe that a craftsman who gets up and loves what he (or she) is doing produces a better product than one who works on a line and clocks in and out without any real joy in the work. Not to say that there aren't some who feel that doing necks all day is a hoot, and nothing wrong with honest labor for pay, but the maker who is artist and craftsman? I'd rather support that. Good for them. Good for me.

Steve

Nickie
12-04-2013, 11:30 AM
Truer words were never spoken, Beau....I can't buy a custom uke, so I'll play the heck outta my cheap Kalas, until I wear them out, or until I get the $$$$ for a nicer uke...not having lots of cash cures UAS and custom uke buying, that's for sure! I got bit by the custome uke bug once, and was not happy, dont think it'll happen again....but I admire you guys and gals that can build a beautiful work of art that plays like a Stradivarius violin!


One element that needs to be addressed.

If the object is to sound good-

$3000 is better spent on uke lessons rather then a custom uke.

I'd rather listen to a great player on a cheap uke then a cheap player on a great uke.

Of course, a good instrument will enhance and speed up the learning experience.

BTW- id say about 20 years full time to approach a master level in instrument making, assuming your paying attention to what your doing and thinking about it all. I'm half way there at 10 years :)

PS- "Masters" never stop learning.

PPS- The best "learners/masters" pick up tips from the most unlikely of sources.

PPS- A better term would be "Master Learner", as the term "Master" inherently signifies a cessation of learning.

katysax
12-04-2013, 12:15 PM
I'm not a great player and not a pro, but I can play for real and make music on a uke. The difference between ukes and the music I make is evident between different ukes. My friends, who don't play and aren't the most discriminate critics, often say it sounds amazing even on the cheapest ukes. But to me I hear the difference in overtones and sustain. I can feel the difference between different body vibrations, different frets and different necks. A better uke doesn't make me a better player and there is probably a degree of diminishing returns. I probably don't sound any different to the listener on my Kawika than on my KoAlana. Both are fine sounding ukes and great to play.

When I was a child my parents bought me a clarinet to learn on. It was of not very good quality. My best friend had a Buffet. To me the difference between playing on those two instruments was night and day. I longed for a good instrument. When I was 14 my parents bought me my first guitar. It was a Zim Gar and truly terrible. I saved my money for a year to buy a Gibson. Those experience have really stuck with me. As an adult I can have any instrument I want, so I get what I want.

mm stan
12-04-2013, 12:29 PM
I've learned the better the luthier, the more consistant his builds are better.... do your homework when choosing luthiers... my best are chuckie and beau... :)
and give them freedom when building..don't shove all your ideas upon them, let the build it their way is the best I've learned... this is not Burger King.. :)

pakhan
12-04-2013, 01:27 PM
and give them freedom when building..don't shove all your ideas upon them, let the build it their way is the best I've learned... this is not Burger King.. :)

Totally agree with you there Stan. Sometimes also I have seen many fall into the features trap where they place greater value on the features on offer than the experience of the luthier.

For example I would rather have a super plain one of Chucks rather than a dressed to the nine's, bevelled, super rare woods uke by a new production company.

hmgberg
12-04-2013, 01:33 PM
I've learned the better the luthier, the more consistant his builds are better.... do your homework when choosing luthiers... my best are chuckie and beau... :)
and give them freedom when building..don't shove all your ideas upon them, let the build it their way is the best I've learned... this is not Burger King.. :)

Stan generously allowed me to play a number of his custom ukuleles. All of the ones I played were very nice, but the stand outs in every way (sound, playability, appearance) were "chuckie" and "beau." I don't have an inkling what they cost, but I'm sure they are worth every penny.

@katysax, my father took the same approach as did your parents: buy something cheap to learn on. I don't think the first piece of junk guitar I got even had a brand name. It was impossible to play and sounded awful. The way things were going, I would have proven Dad's approach a good one: I stopped playing after a while out of frustration, which I'm sure reinforced the idea that one shouldn't blow money on a kid's whim. The folks had a friend who played guitar and had a pretty nice one he brought to the house one day. It went something like this: guy takes out guitar and plays a Buddy Holly song; parents figuratively wag finger in kid's face saying, "See, if you would practice, you could play like that;" guy asks kid if he wants to try the nice guitar; kid says, "Yessir;" kid plays guitar to shocked looks on parents' faces; next week, kid gets a guitar with a brand name. Yeah, a good player sounds good on a cheaper instrument, but poor player with ambition and a modicum of talent will get better more quickly on a decent instrument.

Katz-in-Boots
12-04-2013, 01:57 PM
Yeah, a good player sounds good on a cheaper instrument, but poor player with ambition and a modicum of talent will get better more quickly on a decent instrument.

I totally agree with this. Cheap, entry level violins, cellos, recorders, flutes, etc can truly hinder learning & result in the learner giving up because they can't make a decent sound. I'd never buy an entry level instrument for someone who wanted to learn. I'm one of those who bought ukuleles far beyond my ability, mainly because I have played string instruments for years and appreciate the difference of a nice tone, resonance & manufacture. I've got two K brands. Customs are out of my league.

Cornfield
12-04-2013, 05:00 PM
I own 3 Kamaka ukes and can say that I love them, however, I just ordered a pair of custom ukes (a tenor and a baritone) from Scott Wise in Margaret River, Australia. His ukuleles are not all bling machines, they are carefully and individually crafted instruments. His prices are very reasonable.
http://www.wiseukulele.com/

mm stan
12-04-2013, 11:10 PM
Another analogy would be...if you had a choice between a ferrari and bug, and you are a begining driver, would you notice the high preformace of the ferarri or be just concentrating on learning to drive initially. the upgrade nuances will be apparent to you later though, maybe that is why we do upgrades so quickly and get UAS as we then understand the difference in a higher grade instrument preformance and tone then.....Also Having a custom taylored suit that fits to your specification and comfort is much better than one off the rack :)

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
12-05-2013, 08:28 AM
A custom uke and a factory uke walk into a bar.
One uke leaves with a girl,
The other uke should have stayed as leafs

byjimini
12-05-2013, 08:55 AM
I'm not particularly fussed over whether a uke is production or custom or whatevers, however it is nice to get around and see what's out there, the different ideas and philosophies that builders have. I personally do a heck of a lot of research before ordering, even emailing Youtube up loaders for a recording of a particular uke. It may sound a little over the top, but a 1500 purchase for me is just over a year's worth of saving, and that's a hell of a long time.

Here's some of my favourites.

KoAloha (http://www.koaloha.com/products/signature/sceptre/) - Just for the Sceptre, really. It looks absolutely mental, I never knew you could achieve this with an acoustic instrument, but it sounds amazing.

Jazzbox Ukes (http://homepage.ntlworld.com/tobias.chennell/purchase.htm) - Such a great idea, and at affordable prices too. I've just put a deposit down for a Sco Dart replica. Some of the work on the back of the body and the headstock is just sweet to look at.

Moore Bettah (http://www.moorebettahukes.com/FORSALE.html) - I'm not sure if his building or just the quality of wood that he uses, but tier way these are stunning to look at. His inlays are to die for.

Boat Paddle (http://www.boatpaddleukuleles.com/instruments.php) - Some great shapes and sizes here, the combination of woods look great.

You can Google image search for Compass Rose ukes.

And then of course you have MyaMoe, which have way too many design favourites to mention.

So yeah, I like to monitor builders and see what they do differently to everyone else.