View Full Version : Kiwaya string action / height has spoiled me for other ukes

04-08-2014, 07:27 AM
In the past 6 years, I've owned quite a few concert ukes, a tenor, baritone and now a few sopranos. In those years, I played off and on, but mostly off. I always seem to start playing and then quickly lose interest. That is until just recently when after a long non-playing streak, I just happened to hop online one day to check into the UU forums and saw someone selling a Kiwaya KS-5 soprano. On a whim I bought it, which was strange because I always thought that sopranos were too small for me. But ever since I received that instrument, I've been playing every day. I've come to realize that sopranos are my perfect size. But now I have another problem. So far I keep comparing every soprano I get to the Kiwaya because it's so easy to play. Lately when I get a new instrument, I find that it feels harder to play, so I go right back to that Kiwaya. It's the action / string height that keeps me coming back. It's so low that you barely need to press down. I haven't measured, but the Kiwaya fretboard feels a little roomier than other sopranos I've tried. Maybe I'm imagining that though.

So here's a question... are there other brands (even customs) that have action that is as low as Kiwaya ukes? Or are they just a fluke in the world of ukes? :)

Swampy Steve
04-08-2014, 08:10 AM
a few yrs ago , I had a kiwaya lam. sop. It really barked! I loved everything abou it ,,, except the neck profile seemed so thin,, not the fingerboard width, just the thickness, but I have mits. It was loud.

04-08-2014, 08:12 AM
Most instruments can be set to low action, although it may not suit every instrument. Action is more a function of setup than build quality, although low action may accentuate other flaws a uke has.

04-08-2014, 10:44 AM
I'd say now would be a good time to learn to set up a uke the way you like it. Then, providing the uke likes low action too, you'll feel just as comfortable playing others. But glad you like the Kiwayas, I haven't had the chance to play one.

04-08-2014, 11:01 AM
@Swampy I hadn't thought about the neck thickness as a reason why I like the Kiwayas so much. I'll have to compare it to a my other ones and see.

@peaceweaver that's a great idea. Allen of Barron River Ukes gave me some tips to tweak the custom uke he made for me. I've not yet summed up the courage to try it though :)

mm stan
04-08-2014, 12:22 PM
Good to get a good set up and as it improves intonation, comfort and playability...but it does sometimes lose volume you previously had.
I would send to one of the best luthiiers...not sure where you live though... Next time buy from HMS as they do set ups on all ukes...this is what
makes a big difference in what you receive... mim, uke republic , mainland etc are others to think about..when looking at buying ukes too in
a store...check the action and mentio it to them...not sure where you bought it from, but I'd be careful of who you get work on your new uke..good luck

04-08-2014, 01:22 PM
I have a Kiwaya longneck soprano that I bought from MGM back when he had his eBay store. At the time I liked super low actions and he set it up amazingly low. So much so that about a year ago I actually added a thin shim under the bridge saddle to raise it a little because I didn't have enough clearance for fast finger rolls!

Part of what makes it seem to play so easy though is that the frets are very, very low and narrow compared to those on most modern ukes.


04-08-2014, 02:20 PM
I have Kiwaya ktc-1 and master series concert Koa and the action and set-up on both are just great. The neck profiles are such a nice feel. I feel the same about Loprinzi and one of my most favorite setup which is perfect IMO is my concert Boat Paddle kayak 5 string. I just received a Rebel concert slimline and can't say enough about how thrilled I am about this uke's set up from string height and neck action/profile. Liked everything about the Rebel uke so much that I just ordered the standard concert size. These ukes are worth consideration IMO.

04-08-2014, 02:36 PM
@Oldephart You're right about the frets. I just noticed that tonight when I pulled out a set of calipers and was checking things.

@dsummers I have a LoPrinzi concert and have had a Boat Paddle concert. Both were very nice, but still not as low as the Kiwaya.

04-08-2014, 02:42 PM
There is a benefit to playing ukes with different setups though... When I play one of my ukes that has a little higher action, I think it helps my hand strength and dexterity so that when I go back to the uke with the best action, I feel like I play even better.