View Full Version : A Trip to Hilo Guitars (UAS-induced NUD x3)

03-21-2014, 06:38 AM
A couple weeks ago my fiancée and I visited the big island for the first time, and following everyone's suggestions I visited Hilo Guitars & Ukuleles.

My initial plan was to find either a good 6 or 8 string, or a guitalele. I'm not a big tenor-size person, but I was interested in adding something non-standard to the stable.

Six some-odd hours across three separate visits and I ended up leaving the islands with three new ukes:


Tenor Islander FNSARM (Solid spruce-top, maple laminate sides and back, slot head, cut-away, ebony bevel arm rest).

After much testing, turns out I didn't actually like the sound of 6/8 strings, and decided I wasn't ready to plop down the wallet for a guitalele. So I tried a dozen other high-end tenors, but again, I wasn't ready to commit to high-end prices for a size I don't really play.

Then I spotted this Islander in the corner. It was love at first strum. The thing is comfortable as a hell, feather light (despite the slot-head) and loud. As in, get everyone's attention in the shop loud. I love the ebony arm rest, the offset fret markers, and the gold tuners.

I tried switching the aquila's out for a SouthCoast low-g set (two wound, two unwound) for slack-key playing, but the uke lost a lot of its initial charm. Now I have SouthCoast Heavy's on it tuned reentrant dgbe, and I again I am astounded. Loud, clear, and that rich ring- I don't think I can go back to gcea on this uke.


Sopranino Kala KA-PU-SSTU "Pocket Uke" (solid sprice top, mahogany laminate back and sides).

I tried to pick up a Kala Pocket Uke a year and a half ago and I quickly put it back- no way I could play something that small. Now a year and a half later, with a lot more practice under my belt, and I wanted to try again.

There's no words to describe how fun it is to play this thing. It's too small to play super accurately, which strangely means I have more fun jamming on it. It introduced me to D tuning, and since buying it I've retuned my old Lanikai soprano to D tuning too, which has gotten that uke out of the "sound rut" it's been in for months.


Concert Kanilea TAT C (Solid koa with tatto engraving).

When I made the decision to buy my first K-brand, it was an even toss-up between this concert or the KoAloha KCM-00. With nothing but online reviews to guide me, I spent weeks agonizing over the decision, and in the end bought the KoAloha. I don't regret that decision at all- that KoAloha is my gold-standard for size, sound, playability, and style.

I still wanted that Kanilea too, I just couldn't justify spending the money. I didn't need two ukes so similar in function.

Now though I split my time playing regular and slack-key tunings, and I've been looking for something smaller than my bari to play slack-key. At first I thought my new tenor would fill the role of a smaller slack-key uke, but as I said above, the tuning really killed that uke's potential. And despite lots of string experimentation on my other smaller ukes, none sounded right with that boomy low-g.

This Kanilea concert is perfect in size and playability for my slack-key noodlings, but low-g just sounded awful. I tried Worths and even everyone's new favorite the Fremont soloist, but something was off, and I know Kanilea's can sing.

So now it's got SouthCoast light linear's tuned to open Eflat (Bb eb g bb) - and hallelujah! It's not a tuning I'd ever considered before, but now I can see why people like it. It does a much better job than open C for slack-key noodling at the concert scale.

Not bad for one week in Hawaii! A big thanks to Brian at Hilo Guitars & Ukuleles for letting me hang out for so long and try out so many ukes. Now that I know what I like, and what to look for, it was awesome to be able to test-drive so many different brands and models so that I could form opinions of them.

:D :D :D

Ok, now that I'm done gushing, it' time for the hard-truths-I-have-too-many-ukes-statement:

I have more ukes than I need, and really, more ukes than I actually want in my stable. I make a point of playing every uke I have in a kind of unbalanced rotation, but with this past winter's humidity dropping to 12% in our apartment, I've had to case them all up, and it's become readily apparent which ukes I want to play and which I don't.

Each uke has to have its purpose, its unique raison d'etre, to stay in my stable. So, while these three new purchases bring me up to sixteen ukes total, I have a solid five that it's finally time to rehome.

So stay tuned in the Uke Marketplace, I have one undergoing some minor repairs, but once I get it back from the shop I'll be posting at least the following five at make-somebody-happy-give-away prices:

Original black Outdoor Uke
Kala Soprano Travel uke (with case)
Melokia solid acacia Pineapple
Makala laminate concert
Pacific thin-body tenor zebrawood laminate

03-21-2014, 06:44 AM
Wait, I almost forgot!

In a moment of pure ukulele serendipity, I was on the beach, rocking on my new Kala Pocket Uke, wearing my fancy Ukulele Hunt t-shirt, when who stops by to say hello, none other than Andy Andrews!


03-21-2014, 08:39 AM
Hahah, congrats! They're great guys, those Hilo Guitars folks. :)

03-21-2014, 09:52 AM
What a wonderful haul for one week! I hope your fiance had a good time too ; )

03-21-2014, 10:34 AM
I dropped in there and came home with my beautiful Vento Tenor.