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View Full Version : Why do you like solid Koa? (and one more question)



Icelander53
07-20-2014, 12:38 PM
Well maybe more than one more question lol.

Why do you like solid Koa and who in your opinion makes the best or near the best sounding and playing one? (extra points if it doesn't cost over $1200)

SECOND QUESTION

What is the most unusual tone wood you've liked and what's so hot about it? (same on extra points if it costs a grand or less)

Shorebird
07-20-2014, 12:42 PM
I just like the sound. I suppose one of the K uses would be a good choice

soupking
07-20-2014, 12:49 PM
If price is a factor you should probably specify a preferred scale length, as the price tends to go up (usually) the bigger the uke. Koa is great. In your price range I'd personally pick KoAloha in my experience, as I've owned a number of them and they're consistent from piece to piece, they have the best warranty, and they're a great Hawaiian family to do business with. They're usually the cheapest prices out of the Hawaiian builders, too, overall.

DownUpDave
07-20-2014, 01:57 PM
I like koa because it is the prettiest wood out there..........in my eyes. I love everything about the look, the colour, the flamimg the dark and light grain striping. It sounds real good, KoAloha has the tone I prefer over the other K Brands, at around $1100.00 for a tenor it is not stupid expensive. I guess I get bonus points for that price level

Icelander53
07-20-2014, 02:00 PM
If price is a factor you should probably specify a preferred scale length, as the price tends to go up (usually) the bigger the uke. Koa is great. In your price range I'd personally pick KoAloha in my experience, as I've owned a number of them and they're consistent from piece to piece, they have the best warranty, and they're a great Hawaiian family to do business with. They're usually the cheapest prices out of the Hawaiian builders, too, overall.

Sorry I neglected that. I'm a tenor guy.

janeray1940
07-20-2014, 02:02 PM
Why do you like solid Koa and who in your opinion makes the best or near the best sounding and playing one? (extra points if it doesn't cost over $1200)


The short answer is I like the sound; if pressed as to why, I think it's something about having a good balance of lows and highs compared to other tonewoods I've encountered - which have always seemed too brash (mahogany) or too muddy (mango, myrtle) to my ear. But that's just my ear, and just based on the ukes I've encountered in real life.

As for best sounding and playing - that would be my Kamaka Ohta-San, but it's over $1200 so no bonus points for me. But a standard Kamaka or Koaloha in any size tenor or under will run you $1200 or less, especially in smaller sizes. And you can't go wrong with either.

As for other K brands - I've not yet encountered a Ko'olau so can't speak to those. I've been consistently underwhelmed by Kanile'as, but that might be because I find them difficult to play (chunkier necks than Kamaka or Koaloha) and those bridge pins make me back away in horror :)

Icelander53
07-20-2014, 02:17 PM
Chunky as in Pono like chunky? Cause I do best with a chunky neck.

janeray1940
07-20-2014, 02:25 PM
Chunky as in Pono like chunky? Cause I do best with a chunky neck.

Not sure since I've never encountered a Pono in the wild. But I actually did a comparison measurement of my Kamakas and a borrowed Kanile'a concert uke once, and the neck circumference was something like 1/4" larger than a Kamaka concert if memory serves correctly. Doesn't sound like much, but with my little hands it felt like I was playing a guitar rather than a uke!

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
07-20-2014, 02:40 PM
I like koa for its beauty, for its sound and for its place in ukulele history. I haven't played enough koa ukes from different companies/builders to have a clue which is best. I can say that my Kamaka soprano sounds beautiful, though.

If you're curious about koa ukes, it may be wise to find a used koa uke. If it's not suited for you, you could resell it for a similar price. Oh, and if you start thinking about a soprano, remember my Kamaka is not for sale. :)

Icelander53
07-20-2014, 02:59 PM
Not sure since I've never encountered a Pono in the wild. But I actually did a comparison measurement of my Kamakas and a borrowed Kanile'a concert uke once, and the neck circumference was something like 1/4" larger than a Kamaka concert if memory serves correctly. Doesn't sound like much, but with my little hands it felt like I was playing a guitar rather than a uke!

Sounds nice to me. I have long skinny fingers and fat works nice for me. My Gretsch believe it or not is even fatter than the Pono and it's so nice to handle. I just wish it was a solid wood. (solid top only) It plays wonderfully. Easily as good as the Pono with radiused fretboard but the Pono wins sound wise. I'm really stunned though by it actually and it cost around $220 with pickup. They were making a solid Koa but it's been on backorder for so long that I'm thinking they may not be back. If they do I'll try one. They are inexpensive at just over $400

kwall
07-20-2014, 03:18 PM
If you like your pono wait for the koa pono to come back in stock eh. Something else to check out is the martin t1k great sounds ukulele. Isnt curly koa though so it isnt jaw dropping but still nice looking. i think they go for 500. I am looking at one myself right now played two an they felt great and sound great just doesnt have "sex appeal" as curly koa looks, still great looking though. They are made in mexico so that keeps the cost down

wickedwahine11
07-20-2014, 03:21 PM
I like koa because it is Hawaiian. It is the quintessential uke sound to me, and is often beautiful to look at as well. I think the best sounding koa ukes are made by Chuck Moore, but to stay within your budget constraints, it would be KoAloha for me.

itsme
07-20-2014, 03:43 PM
Disclaimer: I have never owned a koa uke so I can't speak for its sonic qualities. But it sure can be awfully pretty. I think a lot of people are attracted to it just for that reason. It certainly has more of a "bling" factor than many other woods.

Icelander53
07-20-2014, 04:04 PM
If you like your pono wait for the koa pono to come back in stock eh. Something else to check out is the martin t1k great sounds ukulele. Isnt curly koa though so it isnt jaw dropping but still nice looking. i think they go for 500. I am looking at one myself right now played two an they felt great and sound great just doesnt have "sex appeal" as curly koa looks, still great looking though. They are made in mexico so that keeps the cost down

I was wondering why there was no Koa Pono. I'll keep my eye on that.

NewKid
07-20-2014, 04:09 PM
I had a lovely Koa concert with Pearwood back and sides by Peter Hurney at Pohaku. It was a punchy, percussive instrument and a unique wood combination. It was well under your $1200 budget.

Dan Uke
07-20-2014, 04:31 PM
I was wondering why there was no Koa Pono. I'll keep my eye on that.

Because the cost for koa is high and their price point wasn't that much lower than the K brands so discontinued.

I like koa because it reminds me of Hawaii.

kwall
07-20-2014, 04:46 PM
I was wondering why there was no Koa Pono. I'll keep my eye on that.


Sorry I must have read a previous post wrong. I thought you said you had an eye on a pono koa but it was not in stock. So I was saying why not get it. But if you do not know of one i do not think one exists :(

Icelander53
07-20-2014, 04:52 PM
Because the cost for koa is high and their price point wasn't that much lower than the K brands so discontinued.

I like koa because it reminds me of Hawaii.

I spent four months tramping the jungles and reefs of the Fiji islands. I don't think I ever saw a ukulele while I was there.

So is it the sound that reminds you or the look?

kwall
07-20-2014, 05:00 PM
I spent four months tramping the jungles and reefs of the Fiji islands. I don't think I ever saw a ukulele while I was there.

So is it the sound that reminds you or the look?

I know this wasnt directed to me but from the different ones ive tried and played the sound is very tropical, sounds funny but that is what they seem. Obvi each wood has a different flavour and therefore different sound.

l3uffer
07-20-2014, 05:07 PM
I can't really speak for the wood itself only because I've had a brief encounter with Kanile'a and KoAloha ukes at USpace in LA, but I can attest to the build quality of KoAloha from my KoAlana soprano... the build quality is really light and a KoAloha koa tenor I think would be highly recommended if you wanted a light, clear, and airy sound along with a well-built ukulele under $1200. As for the sound of koa, I think the Aquila strings I was playing really covered up the warm tone that koa has to offer, but I think a lot of people seek koa for that warmth or maybe just because koa is like the ideal wood for ukuleles hahaha
Speaking of which, I've had my eye on Pepe Romero's All-Koa Grand Tenor still in stock at HMS for $799 -w/ Oahu case- and I'm so surprised that 1) it hasn't been snatched up yet and 2) it's cheaper than the $899 Spruce/Rosewood Grand Tenor that just came in... http://www.theukulelesite.com/romero-creations-solid-koa-grand-tenor-package.html
Pepe builds ukuleles from a classical guitar standpoint, but takes into consideration the differences between the two... I think his ukes come highly recommended
Also, HMS has a KoAloha tenor that is $100 cheaper than normal because of a little scratch on the bottom! http://www.theukulelesite.com/koaloha-koa-tenor-ktm-00-tus-4-1083.html

itsme
07-20-2014, 05:09 PM
"Not in stock" or "Discontinued" don't necessarily mean something is unavailable from somewhere. It's not like they recall them all and burn them. A particular model may still be available long after its official demise.

If nothing else, on the used market. I know the particular Pono tenor I have is no longer available and I bought it from UU's Marketplace.

Dan Uke
07-20-2014, 05:10 PM
I spent four months tramping the jungles and reefs of the Fiji islands. I don't think I ever saw a ukulele while I was there.

So is it the sound that reminds you or the look?

The looks. I could not specifically tell you by the sounds that it's koa wood as I've played many and it seems like koa vary greatly. More the builder than wood imo.

Funny story but in Tahiti, they call the ukulele a kamaka.

DaveY
07-20-2014, 05:19 PM
Not sure since I've never encountered a Pono in the wild. But I actually did a comparison measurement of my Kamakas and a borrowed Kanile'a concert uke once, and the neck circumference was something like 1/4" larger than a Kamaka concert if memory serves correctly. Doesn't sound like much, but with my little hands it felt like I was playing a guitar rather than a uke!


Sounds nice to me. I have long skinny fingers and fat works nice for me. My Gretsch believe it or not is even fatter than the Pono and it's so nice to handle. I just wish it was a solid wood. (solid top only) It plays wonderfully. Easily as good as the Pono with radiused fretboard but the Pono wins sound wise. I'm really stunned though by it actually and it cost around $220 with pickup. They were making a solid Koa but it's been on backorder for so long that I'm thinking they may not be back. If they do I'll try one. They are inexpensive at just over $400

Kanilea tenors have a thin, wide neck -- that is, 1.5" nut width, but "thin" as in not much depth. So it wouldn't be "chunky" like a Pono. I've never played a Kanilea concert, so I don't know about them, but I've played those two tenors.

Icelander53
07-20-2014, 05:41 PM
I wouldn't like it. :(

saltytri
07-20-2014, 05:59 PM
Funny story but in Tahiti, they call the ukulele a kamaka.

The Tahitian ukuleles are much more crudely built out of a solid body with a thin wood diaphragm that the bridge sits on. Sort of like a really bad banjo. In Tahiti, any ukulele that has a built-up sound box is called a Kamaka (and is prized because such things are out of reach for many Tahitians). Before I figured this out, I managed to confuse a young women who stopped me as I walked down the main drag in Papeete carrying a uke in a case. She asked me whether I had a Kamaka in the case. I laughed, said, "Non," and pulled out my ukulele to show her. To her, it was a "Kamaka" so she just shook her head and walked away. So much for impressing the locals.

dalamaricus
07-20-2014, 06:43 PM
I nominate purpleheart for the most unusual tone wood that sounds good, although I've never heard one in person. But here is Ken Middleton's review of a purpleheart ukulele by Rob Collins:

http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?94350-ROB-COLLINS-TENOR-Review

PhilUSAFRet
07-21-2014, 01:07 AM
Both my eyes and my ears tell me that for my money, it's a Kanilea with fancy koa. I love the balance of woody bark and bell-like tones and the contrasting woodgrain in upgraded koa is eye candy

strumsilly
07-21-2014, 05:10 AM
If price is a factor you should probably specify a preferred scale length, as the price tends to go up (usually) the bigger the uke. Koa is great. In your price range I'd personally pick KoAloha in my experience, as I've owned a number of them and they're consistent from piece to piece, they have the best warranty, and they're a great Hawaiian family to do business with. They're usually the cheapest prices out of the Hawaiian builders, too, overall.
I agree, having owned 3 of the K brands,they arent the prettiest, but to me they sound the best.

Patrick Madsen
07-21-2014, 05:44 AM
Koa reminds me of a sparkling sea in the sunlight; especially the higher graded loa. I have a Griffin koa under a grand that is spectacular for it's koa grain and roboust sound. I haven't found any other uke with such roboust sound as my G.

For unusual it would have been my Mya Moe with sinker myrtle wood I think it was.

PereBourik
07-21-2014, 06:04 AM
I like Koa for the Hawaii factor, the look, and the bright sound. Here are three to consider:

KoAloha comes in just about your price point. Probably the best value for a great sounding and playing Hawaiian built instrument.

Imua makes great ukuleles but are an under appreciated brand. Softer sounding than the KoAloha, but sweet and rich. My Imua concert gives nothing away to the K brands.

For a Koa bargain consider a Martin T1K. Street price about $600. Seriously. Solid Koa, Built in Mexico to Martin quality (mostly). Martins have a special sound and feel and it can all be there in the T1K. Best if you can play it yourself and choose from a few choices. If you must order from a distance. Look for a dealer with a good reputation. Gryphon Stringed Instruments is a Martin dealer and their knowledge and setup are second to none. (I'm a customer, not an owner.)

Enjoy the search.

janeray1940
07-21-2014, 06:23 AM
For a Koa bargain consider a Martin T1K. Street price about $600. Seriously. Solid Koa, Built in Mexico to Martin quality (mostly). Martins have a special sound and feel and it can all be there in the T1K. Best if you can play it yourself and choose from a few choices.

Agree with all of this - I came very close to buying one from a friend last year, but the tenor neck was just a bit too much uke for my little hands. I was really impressed with the particular one I played.

One other thought I have on koa - in my experience, the plainer the grain, the better the sound. Of my three koa ukes, the plainest one has by far the best tone (exactly as described by Phil above - "balance of woody bark and bell-like tones"!) - but all sound great to me. I've tried a few "premium" koa ukes with a really wavy grain, and while they were lovely to look at, the sound I like just wasn't there.

PereBourik
07-21-2014, 07:53 AM
One other thought I have on koa - in my experience, the plainer the grain, the better the sound. Of my three koa ukes, the plainest one has by far the best tone (exactly as described by Phil above - "balance of woody bark and bell-like tones"!) - but all sound great to me. I've tried a few "premium" koa ukes with a really wavy grain, and while they were lovely to look at, the sound I like just wasn't there.

Hadn't thought of this. I'll have to pay closer attention.

The grain on my Martin T2K is the prettiest Koa of my batch. It looks liquid despite the satin finish. At some angles it seems you can see almost through the whole thickness of the wood. Almost hypnotic.

PereBourik
07-21-2014, 07:55 AM
I should add about Imua Ukulele, the company was formed by Jorma Winkler of Winkler Woods. They are by far the largest distributor of Hawaiian Koa wood. He has first choice of the best wood for his own production.

Pueo
07-21-2014, 08:57 AM
I like Koa for the look and the fact that it is Hawaiian and has historic significance for me. I have two koa ukuleles, a koa Pono tenor which I love (and paid MUCH less that $1200 for) and I have an all-solid koa mini concert by Ukuleles Hawaii by R & L, which I also paid less than $1200 for. That R&L is one of the most beautiful ukuleles I have ever seen, but has no bling other than the wood itself - no rosette, no binding, no inlay, etc. I have posted pictures of it before. There are a few luthiers in Hawaii that make wonderful instruments for much less than the cost of a K brand. There are also some who make amazing instruments that cost much more than a K brand.

I also like Milo wood, which is another Hawaiian hardwood that is often used to make ceremonial calabashes (bowls). It is also used to make the to`ere, which is a Tahitian log drum. I have two milo ukuleles, both custom made by a luthier for me here on Oahu, and both cost less than $1200. As far as unusual wood goes, my milo concert is pretty cool, it has milo top and back, and lychee sides. Mr. Emil Bader likes to build with wood he has found himself if possible, and wood that has grown here on Oahu. I did not ask for lychee, I asked for milo, and he just did that on his own. I am happy with it, and I have a very unique instrument.

There are lots of choices out there, and lots of builders. You just have to decide if you want an ukulele for yourself, or if you want something because you have heard it is the best or want others to think you play the best. I would really like to have a Moore Bettah someday, but I just can't afford it right now. I do know that when I do get one though, it will be exactly what I want!

stevejfc
07-21-2014, 10:13 AM
Koa: Warm and pretty. My Kanilea concert is highly figured, with koa sapwood stripes. Very warm and mellow. A real enjoyable player. The LoPrinzi is much plainer koa, but has a brighter, punchier sound.
As an FYI, I checked out the HMS Pepe Romero as I was intrigued by solid koa at $799. On close inspection, it turns out that it is from his "Creations" line, which I believe is built in Vietnam........................., not from his custom built USA studio. Would have been a real steal.

The Big Kahuna
07-21-2014, 11:16 AM
Why I love, and bought, my Koa Kanile'a K1-TP:

It's pretty as f**k
It sounds nice...as far as I can tell
The neck profile is the best I've played
It's made in Hawaii
I bought it in Hawaii
It was a present to myself for my 50th birthday...in Hawaii
Kanile'a don't make a Quilted Maple uke
It's pretty as f**k
I can't stand the Koaloha headstock.
I didn't see a Kamaka I liked.
No amount of alcohol or torture would make me buy a Kamoa.
I'd buy 10 Kamoas before I bought anything that Raymond Rapozo glued together out of hideous lumps of leftover firewood.

69234

Icelander53
07-21-2014, 04:08 PM
But tell us how you feel man!

Icelander53
07-21-2014, 04:15 PM
I like Koa for the look and the fact that it is Hawaiian and has historic significance for me. I have two koa ukuleles, a koa Pono tenor which I love (and paid MUCH less that $1200 for) and I have an all-solid koa mini concert by Ukuleles Hawaii by R & L, which I also paid less than $1200 for. That R&L is one of the most beautiful ukuleles I have ever seen, but has no bling other than the wood itself - no rosette, no binding, no inlay, etc. I have posted pictures of it before. There are a few luthiers in Hawaii that make wonderful instruments for much less than the cost of a K brand. There are also some who make amazing instruments that cost much more than a K brand.

I also like Milo wood, which is another Hawaiian hardwood that is often used to make ceremonial calabashes (bowls). It is also used to make the to`ere, which is a Tahitian log drum. I have two milo ukuleles, both custom made by a luthier for me here on Oahu, and both cost less than $1200. As far as unusual wood goes, my milo concert is pretty cool, it has milo top and back, and lychee sides. Mr. Emil Bader likes to build with wood he has found himself if possible, and wood that has grown here on Oahu. I did not ask for lychee, I asked for milo, and he just did that on his own. I am happy with it, and I have a very unique instrument.

There are lots of choices out there, and lots of builders. You just have to decide if you want an ukulele for yourself, or if you want something because you have heard it is the best or want others to think you play the best. I would really like to have a Moore Bettah someday, but I just can't afford it right now. I do know that when I do get one though, it will be exactly what I want!

I want something that sounds good and plays well (or easily for me) and looks come in last. I love my cedar/mahogany pono. The fat neck works for me. I'm glad to hear you like that pono as I might go for that in Koa. BTW what do you have it strung with if I can ask?

Nickie
07-21-2014, 04:20 PM
I don't know how they did it, but my Ohana koa is the brightest sounding uke I've ever played. It cost less than one of my Kalas, and kicks both of them outta the park. And it's pretty, although not figured or flashy. And it's light, to boot.

Edgeguy
07-21-2014, 05:55 PM
I like koa because it is Hawaiian. It is the quintessential uke sound to me, and is often beautiful to look at as well. I think the best sounding koa ukes are made by Chuck Moore, but to stay within your budget constraints, it would be KoAloha for me.

This pretty much wraps it up for me though I don't know about Moore, but the following he has says it all. KoAloha are an amazing ukulele and their price makes them even better. My KoAloha concert has cured my UAS except for wanting a banjolele.

Radio Flyer
07-21-2014, 08:01 PM
it's the smell!

Icelander53
07-22-2014, 10:31 PM
OK I really hope I'm not being annoying here but I'm trying to get my head around the idea of tonewoods and how they differ. I'm like a dog on scent when I get like this and I can be a little obsessive. So I apologize if that's how this appears. I'm just planning on spending some real cash on another instrument without holding it in person and I'm trying to up my odds of hitting somewhere near the bullseye.

So... Back to Koa. I'm studying all these descriptions of Koa and over and over I hear "the traditional ukulele sound" . I understand that to mean a happy sound, bright, cheerful. But then they say it is a very warm sounding wood. What does that mean in relation to to what they are saying about traditional sound?

Warm compared to what? Spruce? Cedar? Mahogany?

coolkayaker1
07-22-2014, 11:37 PM
Describing a sound with words is like trying to describe the ride quality of a lawn tractor by using guttural utterances created with the tongue and pursed lips: one may get the gist from a series of "raspberries" and vigorous clucks, but until one hops on the tractor for themself, it's all mental ballyhoo.

You can read one hundred descriptions of Koa for ukuleles from as many players, but you'll never understand it's virtues and shortcomings until you strum it yourself. After forty-odd replies, you are still asking about the sound of Koa; it's not at all annoying, it's merely par for the course for the natural inadequacy of words to describe sounds.

I encourage you to use UU (and your automobile with a full tank of gasoline) and venture out. You live in an area with other UUers and uke groups: seek peers who own Koa ukuleles--as ubiquitous as the common housefly--and tell us how you would describe it, Ice.

You, like us before you, have but one choice: to strum the Koa instrument for yourself.

Icelander53
07-23-2014, 12:19 AM
What was your address again?:cool:

coolkayaker1
07-23-2014, 12:25 AM
You are welcome anytime, my friend, Ice. And I mean that sincerely.

I'd be more than happy to show you the shortcomings of Koa. (Lol)

janeray1940
07-23-2014, 04:45 AM
OK I really hope I'm not being annoying here but I'm trying to get my head around the idea of tonewoods and how they differ. I'm like a dog on scent when I get like this and I can be a little obsessive. So I apologize if that's how this appears. I'm just planning on spending some real cash on another instrument without holding it in person and I'm trying to up my odds of hitting somewhere near the bullseye.

So... Back to Koa. I'm studying all these descriptions of Koa and over and over I hear "the traditional ukulele sound" . I understand that to mean a happy sound, bright, cheerful. But then they say it is a very warm sounding wood. What does that mean in relation to to what they are saying about traditional sound?

Warm compared to what? Spruce? Cedar? Mahogany?

I don't think you're being annoying at all, but I will make one recommendation - if there is a possibility that you can go to a shop, or a ukulele meetup, and try a bunch of different ukes, you really should do that and come to your own conclusions. Reading the posts here, and in the other thread you started, may help narrow it down, but in the end - it's just a bunch of random strangers on the internet offering their opinions, which will range from well-informed to ill-informed and everything in between.

Speaking of ill-informed opinions - here's mine, with regard to koa and "warm." First, I'll just say that I'd probably never consider a wood other than koa or mahogany, and having just sold my last mahogany uke, I think I've concluded that the latter is just not for me. I play only instrumentals, a lot of classical, and yes, a lot of minor keys, and very little strumming. For strumming and tin pan alley chord melodies - I think mahogany is great! But I find it's just too brash sounding for the single-note and campanella arrangements that I spend most of my time with.

Others have talked about koa being "balanced" so I guess I'd agree with that - to my ear, there's a good balance between really clear bell-like tones (that I like to call "sparkly" sounding) and really resonant low tones (that I like to call "dark" sounding). I've owned at least a half-dozen koa ukes, and this has been consistent with all of them. I think I've owned three mahogany ukes, and the "brash" sound I described above has been consistent in all of those - although of those three, the sole vintage 1920s one had the best balance of bell-like highs and dark lows. I'm still drawn to the sound of vintage mahogany for this reason, but I just don't want the hassle of a vintage uke (slipping tuners, intonation issues, cracks, etc).

As for "traditional" sound - I suppose it depends on one's tradition. If it's Hawaiian, then koa. If it's tin pan alley, then mahogany for sure! But that doesn't factor into my fondness for koa at all - although I lived in Hawaii as a kid and dream of going back all the time, I don't even consider sentimental value when buying an instrument. I play little to no Hawaiian music, or even "ukulele" music for that matter. I just play "music," and I've found for the types of songs and arrangements I enjoy, koa works best.

Hope some of that rambling from a random stranger on the Interwebs helped! But really, if at all possible - you need to get your hands on a few high-end koa ukes and see for yourself.

Icelander53
07-23-2014, 06:59 AM
You are welcome anytime, my friend, Ice. And I mean that sincerely.

I'd be more than happy to show you the shortcomings of Koa. (Lol)

:cheers: and ten more words about koa oak aok

Icelander53
07-23-2014, 07:00 AM
I don't think you're being annoying at all, but I will make one recommendation - if there is a possibility that you can go to a shop, or a ukulele meetup, and try a bunch of different ukes, you really should do that and come to your own conclusions. Reading the posts here, and in the other thread you started, may help narrow it down, but in the end - it's just a bunch of random strangers on the internet offering their opinions, which will range from well-informed to ill-informed and everything in between.

Speaking of ill-informed opinions - here's mine, with regard to koa and "warm." First, I'll just say that I'd probably never consider a wood other than koa or mahogany, and having just sold my last mahogany uke, I think I've concluded that the latter is just not for me. I play only instrumentals, a lot of classical, and yes, a lot of minor keys, and very little strumming. For strumming and tin pan alley chord melodies - I think mahogany is great! But I find it's just too brash sounding for the single-note and campanella arrangements that I spend most of my time with.

Others have talked about koa being "balanced" so I guess I'd agree with that - to my ear, there's a good balance between really clear bell-like tones (that I like to call "sparkly" sounding) and really resonant low tones (that I like to call "dark" sounding). I've owned at least a half-dozen koa ukes, and this has been consistent with all of them. I think I've owned three mahogany ukes, and the "brash" sound I described above has been consistent in all of those - although of those three, the sole vintage 1920s one had the best balance of bell-like highs and dark lows. I'm still drawn to the sound of vintage mahogany for this reason, but I just don't want the hassle of a vintage uke (slipping tuners, intonation issues, cracks, etc).

As for "traditional" sound - I suppose it depends on one's tradition. If it's Hawaiian, then koa. If it's tin pan alley, then mahogany for sure! But that doesn't factor into my fondness for koa at all - although I lived in Hawaii as a kid and dream of going back all the time, I don't even consider sentimental value when buying an instrument. I play little to no Hawaiian music, or even "ukulele" music for that matter. I just play "music," and I've found for the types of songs and arrangements I enjoy, koa works best.

Hope some of that rambling from a random stranger on the Interwebs helped! But really, if at all possible - you need to get your hands on a few high-end koa ukes and see for yourself.

that was a really helpful post. I'm going to keep looking at Koa now. Thanks.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
07-23-2014, 07:44 AM
The Tahitian ukuleles are much more crudely built out of a solid body with a thin wood diaphragm that the bridge sits on. Sort of like a really bad banjo. In Tahiti, any ukulele that has a built-up sound box is called a Kamaka (and is prized because such things are out of reach for many Tahitians). Before I figured this out, I managed to confuse a young women who stopped me as I walked down the main drag in Papeete carrying a uke in a case. She asked me whether I had a Kamaka in the case. I laughed, said, "Non," and pulled out my ukulele to show her. To her, it was a "Kamaka" so she just shook her head and walked away. So much for impressing the locals.

In Tahiti a Tahitian uke is called "ukulele". All other traditionally shaped ukes as we know them are called "Kamaka". These Hawaiian style ukes are highly coveted over the Tahitian ukuleles and command a much, much higher price there.

saltytri
07-23-2014, 08:07 AM
In Tahiti a Tahitian uke is called "ukulele". All other traditionally shaped ukes as we know them are called "Kamaka". These Hawaiian style ukes are highly coveted over the Tahitian ukuleles and command a much, much higher price there.

Exactly.

Also, saying that the Tahitian-style ukes are generally a bit crude isn't meant to diminish the locals in any way. The music that they get out of their instruments is absolutely wonderful. It's very different from the Hawaiian style, well-adapted to the instruments, and has a charm second to none. I can listen to it all day long.

hawaii 50
07-23-2014, 08:14 AM
Exactly.

Also, saying that the Tahitian-style ukes are generally a bit crude isn't meant to diminish the locals in any way. The music that they get out of their instruments is absolutely wonderful. It's very different from the Hawaiian style, well-adapted to the instruments, and has a charm second to none. I can listen to it all day long.

here is a video of Chuck's friends from Tahiti
sounds real Hawaiian to me....:)

btw that is an all Koa MB.....


https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10204392006108739&comment_id=10204392147432272&offset=0&total_comments=7

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
07-23-2014, 08:32 AM
Exactly.

Also, saying that the Tahitian-style ukes are generally a bit crude isn't meant to diminish the locals in any way. The music that they get out of their instruments is absolutely wonderful. It's very different from the Hawaiian style, well-adapted to the instruments, and has a charm second to none. I can listen to it all day long.

Yes, there are inexpensive, crude Tahitian ukes and that may be the majority of them just as the majority of traditional (Hawaiian style) ukes are inexpensive imports. But I have a beautiful hand carved uke from the Marquesas that is exquisitely made. I just wish I could get that stem down. I can't even listen that fast! It's infectious music.

Dan Uke
07-23-2014, 08:45 AM
and if you lived in Hawaii before moving to Tahiti, then you make a hybrid like Woody Howard! They sound really full compared to the Tahitian ukes.

saltytri
07-23-2014, 08:50 AM
Get a load of this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w53sZEikQSk

saltytri
07-23-2014, 09:00 AM
and if you lived in Hawaii before moving to Tahiti, then you make a hybrid like Woody Howard! They sound really full compared to the Tahitian ukes.

True. Better yet, he was kind enough to sell me a set of the tou (kou in Hawaii) that he builds with. Someday that will make a special ukulele.

Dan Uke
07-23-2014, 09:23 AM
True. Better yet, he was kind enough to sell me a set of the tou (kou in Hawaii) that he builds with. Someday that will make a special ukulele.

Nice...I bought some loose pearls and got a full shell, which I found out is illegal to bring. hahaha

Pueo
07-23-2014, 10:24 AM
This is my soon-to-be brother-in-law's cousin - Clint Mariteragi. I love his playing on the Tahitian ukulele.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qE7GlXq6pVY

jackwhale
07-23-2014, 12:00 PM
I have two Koa tenors (Pohaku and Collings) and they both sound different. Both offer great dynamic range--I don't feel I have to choke them to get sound out of them. The Pohaku is at the 'sweeter' end of the sound spectrum and the Collings is at the 'brighter' end. I once played a Chuck Moore koa tenor. It sounded wonderful of course, but very different from the other two.

The advice many of us on UU follow is to buy the best ukulele you can afford and spend a LOT of time learning to play music. Some day the uke of your dreams will come along...so start saving.

Icelander53
07-23-2014, 02:34 PM
I can afford any uke I want within reason. Lets say five grand give or take a grand. I just don't think I'd get much more for that then I would for one or two grand. I'm not that much into bling.

At my age I have more money than time. :(

janeray1940
07-23-2014, 02:40 PM
I can afford any uke I want within reason. Lets say five grand give or take a grand I just don't think I'd get much more for that then I would for one or two grand. I'm not that much into bling.

At my age I have more money than time. :(

Ha ha, at my age (just this side of 50) I still don't have enough of either :)

Unless one is into bling (I'm not), I don't see any reason to pay more than two grand for a uke, especially when one is still fairly new to playing - because really, going over $2K is going into custom territory, and at this point in your uke journey you may not even know for certain what you really want/need. Even as an experienced player, the one time I ordered a custom I was *so* certain it would be all the uke I needed - fast forward two years and my needs/wants have changed radically!

Two grand gives you a lot of options, especially if you are able to buy in person or from a shop with a liberal return policy.

Icelander53
07-23-2014, 02:47 PM
I agree, I don't know what I'll like until I like it. I did my homework on my Pono and got very lucky. Pono has a couple of acacia ukes at HMS right now that I might be interested in for that low G uke. They won't break the bank and now I know I like the neck and playability of the radiused fretboard so it's a pretty good bet I'll like another pono.

But I have some health issues that might put a limit on my career so I might as well get what I want now within reason while I can enjoy it. .

jackwhale
07-23-2014, 03:34 PM
I agree that $2000 will more than cover any uke you want.

I'm in my mid-seventies and I have never heard the expression, "more money than time". Pretty funny expression.
I'm hoping that isn't true yet but I may never know the answer. :))

Icelander53
07-23-2014, 05:21 PM
Yeah who knows but at my age the odds aren't stacked in my favor anymore. I never wanted a long life anyway. I wanted a good fun one and a quick end. Hopefully with uke in hand so it might as well be a decent one.

DownUpDave
07-24-2014, 02:56 AM
Regarding the sound of koa.......it really depends on the builder. I have been lucky to play a Kamaka, Kanile'a and Koaloha tenors back to back. They all sounded good but different. Sorry to add to the confusion. Plus all three come with different strings which really adds to the sound difference produced. If you don't own a koa instrument you must get one, simple as that. If you love ukulele you just have to have one. Kinda like going to a baseball game, just have to have a hotdog, peanuts in the shell and a beer. Certain things in life "just are because". Koa sounds good

RichM
07-24-2014, 03:12 AM
I had two solid koa ukes from highly respected builders that I didn't like at all and sold.

I currently have three solid koa ukes that I *love* (KoAloha, Maui Music, Pohaku).

It's not the wood, it's the builder.

Edit to add: One of those koa ukes I didn't like is currently the pride and joy of another player. Similarly, one of the koa ukes I'm in love with was a uke another player didn't bond with. So it's not just the wood, it's not just the bulder, it's the player. The heart wants what the heart wants.

Icelander53
07-24-2014, 05:29 AM
That seems to be the case. There are so many factors that go into loving something like a ukulele.

Icelander53
07-24-2014, 05:30 AM
Regarding the sound of koa.......it really depends on the builder. I have been lucky to play a Kamaka, Kanile'a and Koaloha tenors back to back. They all sounded good but different. Sorry to add to the confusion. Plus all three come with different strings which really adds to the sound difference produced. If you don't own a koa instrument you must get one, simple as that. If you love ukulele you just have to have one. Kinda like going to a baseball game, just have to have a hotdog, peanuts in the shell and a beer. Certain things in life "just are because". Koa sounds good

OK OK already! I'm on it.

Kayak Jim
07-24-2014, 06:06 AM
I enjoy having ukes with different woods/builds/strings and appreciate the subtle differences in their sounds. If you have the means to do so you could have a selection, and not all at the "K" level.

Icelander53
07-24-2014, 06:11 AM
Well I have quite a few too many ukes imo. I'd like to cut back to about three really nice ones that I want to play a lot and have similar playing characteristics.

DownUpDave
07-24-2014, 06:42 AM
OK OK already! I'm on it.

:biglaugh::biglaugh::biglaugh:

NewKid
07-24-2014, 07:55 AM
I had two solid koa ukes from highly respected builders that I didn't like at all and sold.

I currently have three solid koa ukes that I *love* (KoAloha, Maui Music, Pohaku).

It's not the wood, it's the builder.

Edit to add: One of those koa ukes I didn't like is currently the pride and joy of another player. Similarly, one of the koa ukes I'm in love with was a uke another player didn't bond with. So it's not just the wood, it's not just the bulder, it's the player. The heart wants what the heart wants.

Great insight Rich. I had the same experience with koa ukes from four top-builders - I just couldn't bond with them and they've all found happier homes. But each instrument is unique so I wouldn't generalize that these builders don't make great koa ukes that I would like.

I like the Woody Allen quote at the end of your post.

Pueo
07-28-2014, 12:18 PM
Hey Icelander, I think I found your next ukulele!
http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?99164-FS-or-Trade-Big-Island-Honu-Rope-Concert

Icelander53
07-28-2014, 01:13 PM
Nice indeed but I'm a tenor guy. I'd have gone for it otherwise. Thanks for thinking of me.

Pueo
07-28-2014, 01:34 PM
Nice indeed but I'm a tenor guy. I'd have gone for it otherwise. Thanks for thinking of me.
Hee Hee I used to say the same thing. Today the ukuleles I play most are both concerts, my Kamoa Grand Concert and my R&L Mini Concert.

Funny I originally thought it was a tenor, I guess I read right past the "concert" in the description.

Icelander53
07-28-2014, 02:08 PM
I've got a ton of tenors so I plan on liking them.:p I have a couple of concert electrics. A Les Paul and a Mahalo surfboard. I really should sell those off but I have a thing for the little Les paul. However I think the Mahalo sounds at least as good an maybe better. Oh and I have a concert firefly which is totally a keeper.

The Big Island Koa I crave is the traditional plain model No rope or any design anywhere. The one I saw had about the most perfect finish I'd seen on any uke. It sounded nice too.

I'm going to take my time on this Koa tenor purchase. I need to play one to hear if the fuss is all worth it. I think there is Kamaka tenor at the music store in town. I avoided it in the past because I was afraid I might really like and be dissatisfied with what I had, it but I'm ready now. And it would take a lot for me to become dissatisfied with my cedar top pono. A lot I say!

Dan Uke
07-28-2014, 02:18 PM
Nothing wrong with having a lot of one thing. As much as I think I like variety, I have several tenors and one long neck concert, which is a tenor neck. What's worse is they are all currently strung with low G. I keep on telling myself that I'm going to string one re-entrant but they all sound good as is. hahaha





I've got a ton of tenors so I plan on liking them.:p I have a couple of concert electrics. A Les Paul and a Mahalo surfboard. I really should sell those off but I have a thing for the little Les paul. However I think the Mahalo sounds at least as good an maybe better. Oh and I have a concert firefly which is totally a keeper.

The Big Island Koa I crave is the traditional plain model No rope or any design anywhere. The one I saw had about the most perfect finish I'd seen on any uke. It sounded nice too.

I'm going to take my time on this Koa tenor purchase. I need to play one to hear if the fuss is all worth it. I think there is Kamaka tenor at the music store in town. I avoided it in the past because I was afraid I might really like and be dissatisfied with what I had, it but I'm ready now. And it would take a lot for me to become dissatisfied with my cedar top pono. A lot I say!

strumsilly
07-28-2014, 02:45 PM
I like Koa for the Hawaii factor, the look, and the bright sound. Here are three to consider:

KoAloha comes in just about your price point. Probably the best value for a great sounding and playing Hawaiian built instrument.

Imua makes great ukuleles but are an under appreciated brand. Softer sounding than the KoAloha, but sweet and rich. My Imua concert gives nothing away to the K brands.

For a Koa bargain consider a Martin T1K. Street price about $600. Seriously. Solid Koa, Built in Mexico to Martin quality (mostly). Martins have a special sound and feel and it can all be there in the T1K. Best if you can play it yourself and choose from a few choices. If you must order from a distance. Look for a dealer with a good reputation. Gryphon Stringed Instruments is a Martin dealer and their knowledge and setup are second to none. (I'm a customer, not an owner.)

Enjoy the search.
Yes, and the "street" price is less than $500. I think they are a great value in solid koa. for another $150 , if you are patient, you can get a used Koaloha tenor, which is arguably the best sounding K brand tenor. either way, you are a winner.

coolkayaker1
07-28-2014, 02:47 PM
All other things being equal, there is no builder that can make Koa sound like spruce.

strumsilly
07-28-2014, 02:48 PM
I've got a ton of tenors so I plan on liking them.:p I have a couple of concert electrics. A Les Paul and a Mahalo surfboard. I really should sell those off but I have a thing for the little Les paul. However I think the Mahalo sounds at least as good an maybe better. Oh and I have a concert firefly which is totally a keeper.

The Big Island Koa I crave is the traditional plain model No rope or any design anywhere. The one I saw had about the most perfect finish I'd seen on any uke. It sounded nice too.

I'm going to take my time on this Koa tenor purchase. I need to play one to hear if the fuss is all worth it. I think there is Kamaka tenor at the music store in town. I avoided it in the past because I was afraid I might really like and be dissatisfied with what I had, it but I'm ready now. And it would take a lot for me to become dissatisfied with my cedar top pono. A lot I say!
One of the best sounding tenors I've ever owned was a Kala cedartop . I'm sorry I ever sold it. you never know.

Icelander53
07-28-2014, 03:11 PM
Yes, and the "street" price is less than $500. I think they are a great value in solid koa. for another $150 , if you are patient, you can get a used Koaloha tenor, which is arguably the best sounding K brand tenor. either way, you are a winner.

I think I'll work on being patient.

Nickie
07-28-2014, 03:14 PM
Hey Icelander, I think I found your next ukulele!
http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?99164-FS-or-Trade-Big-Island-Honu-Rope-Concert

dang I wish I had the money for this....

stringy
07-28-2014, 05:47 PM
All other things being equal, there is no builder that can make Koa sound like spruce.


AMEN!! Koa is a beautiful Wood, it is just too HARD.

Icelander53
07-28-2014, 06:12 PM
I think that all wood used in the making of ukuleles is beautiful. For various reasons can woods can come in and out of favor due to the subjective whims of the times or scarcity, etc. I'm going to hazard a guess that was maple or cedar to become very scarce it's beauty quotient would skyrocket.

strumsilly
08-01-2014, 04:00 AM
I think that all wood used in the making of ukuleles is beautiful. For various reasons can woods can come in and out of favor due to the subjective whims of the times or scarcity, etc. I'm going to hazard a guess that was maple or cedar to become very scarce it's beauty quotient would skyrocket.
maybe its price would, but some woods have more interesting grain patterns/colors than others. the conifers [cedar, redwood, spruce] make great tops but are fairly straight grained. they are never going to be as interesting[to me] as a nice high grade koa, mahogany, cherry, walnut, rosewood, maple, etc.