cutting down prices for a custom Tenor

nublele

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Hello! So in my area there are some pretty good uke makers and Im planning to get one if it isn't much expensive.

Do the expensive tuning pegs make the sound better? Or a normal one will do?

Do the slotted headstocks help in sound quality too? Or only appearance? Is it heavier? Cuz im getting a rosewood which is already heavy

Matte and high gloss also have a different price being matte a bit cheaper
Im getting a cedar top so which one will protect it better since its a softwood

I can settle with an ugly uke so long as it sounds magnificent
 
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KohanMike

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Good tuning pegs are not about sounding better, but how well they stay in tune. Lower quality can slip and force you to constantly turn them.

I have both slotted and solid headstock tenors and I don't feel any significant difference in weight. From your other post, you seem to be overly concerned about weight, do you have some kind of physical condition? Ukes are very light comparatively. Are you planning on using a strap? I suggest you do, which makes it far easier to play and hold. Have the builder add strap buttons.

I also have matte and glossy finishes, either one is fine, though glossy tends to need wiping off more. If price is that critical, choose matte.


This is Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly Grove near the Beverly Center
8 tenor cutaway ukes, 4 acoustic bass ukes, 10 solid body bass ukes, 14 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 36)

Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
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nublele

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Yes my right arm has a nerve complication that makes it tired easily so being a bit lighter can be more comfortable, thanks for the insight! So the headstock is purely for the looks?
 

Joyful Uke

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Have you decided on a builder? If so, you might want to direct some of your questions to them. I think that the builder has a lot to do with what the answers will be. And if they're aware of your nerve complication, they might have some suggestions for you that you might not have thought of.

I would guess that a builder would use tuners that are of high enough quality that you wouldn't need to upgrade for any reason. But, again, the builder could tell you what the differences are in the tuners he/she uses.

The builder could probably provide you with sound samples of builds with a matte finish vs. a gloss finish. You could then see if you could detect a difference in sound.

In terms of protection for the wood, I suppose some of that comes down to how careful you are with the ukulele in general. You can ding either one. Lots of people here like to leave their ukuleles out, which makes them more vulnerable to potential mishaps. I always keep mine in the case, (even if I'm just getting up for a minute, it goes in the case and I latch the case), because it's safer for the ukulele, easy to do, and one less thing to worry about.

I'm guessing that whatever you decide, it won't be an ugly ukulele, and will sound great. I hope that you enjoy it.
 

mds725

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Yes my right arm has a nerve complication that makes it tired easily so being a bit lighter can be more comfortable, thanks for the insight! So the headstock is purely for the looks?

There are some ukulele makers and players (and guitar builders and players too) who prefer a slotted headstock because the strings bend at a sharper angle at the nut. Some people believe that this results in a crisper sound from the strings and more sustain, but high end ukes with flat headstocks have always sounded great to me. As for weight, although slotted headstocks have holes cut into them (the slots), they can be heavier because the typical slotted headstock tuning gear requires the headstock to be thicker than a non-slotted headstock, although there are now slotted headstock tuning gears that permit a thinner headstock. In my experience, slotted headstocks are marginally heavier than non-slotted headstocks from the same builder. Search the forum for threads about slotted vs. non-slotted headstocks. You can address any concerns you have about weight by getting a strap button and using a strap, regardless of the headstock you choose.

I hope you're talking about these issues with the person who is going to build your ukulele. It's great to get the opinions of others and it's always possible that a luthier would be resistant to your looking at ways to cut costs, but only the person who is building the uke knows what he or she is capable of and does best, and a good luthier will be objective, in order to be sure that he or she builds the uke you want.
 

merlin666

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I would talk to the luthiers first to see what they have on the menu. If it is a small shop the number of options may be quite limited. With slotted headstock I would be careful, as some like the Kanile'a one are well designed but the majority appear clunky and oversized. As for tuners I am not sure what you mean with expensive ones, so it would help if you provided examples of what you think is cheap or expensive.
 

Cadia

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A slotted headstock can actually increase string tension, and I prefer flat headstocks. But good tuners are important. Gotoh planetary are among my favorites.
 

rafter

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Very roughly, tuners are decent, great, or terrible. Decent tuners are not expensive, so you usually only see terrible tuners on really cheap ukuleles. It's unlikely that a custom tenor will come with terrible tuners. However, really great tuners might be lighter, smoother, more aesthetically pleasing, etc. But they're probably not going to be a real improvement in sound over a decent tuner.

Some people think slotted headstocks slightly improve sound/feel, but it would be difficult for most people to tell the difference. More noticeably, they usually add weight unless offset by things like really light tuners. For what it's worth, there are very high end ukes made without slotted headstocks that sound amazing.

Gloss will protect marginally better than matte. If you want protection, binding can be helpful, though costly. Also, some people place pickguards/scratch plates or protective film on their ukes. But these are all small protections; nothing will protect your uke from drops, bumps, and crashes.

Ditto everyone's comment about communicating your concerns and questions with the builder.
 

merlin666

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If protection like hardwood bindings etc is needed also depends on wood choices. These bindings are usually there to protect softwood tops, and traditional ukes with hardwood tops rarely have binding.
 

clear

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Yes my right arm has a nerve complication that makes it tired easily so being a bit lighter can be more comfortable, thanks for the insight! So the headstock is purely for the looks?

If you use a strap, then this tiny weight difference matters very little.
Matte is less protective, but offers better sound. Since it is cheaper too, I'd go with matte finish myself and just be more careful with the uke.
 

clear

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A slotted headstock can actually increase string tension, and I prefer flat headstocks. But good tuners are important. Gotoh planetary are among my favorites.

The tension stays the same (otherwise it'll be out of tune).
 

merlin666

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Probably the best way to reduce cost is to go with the luthiers stock model and woods he has readily available. That's what they do best and anything "Special" will not only add cost but may also push the builder to the limit of their comfort zone.
 
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Probably the best way to reduce cost is to go with the luthiers stock model and woods he has readily available. That's what they do best and anything "Special" will not only add cost but may also push the builder to the limit of their comfort zone.

This is solid advice. Just telling them what you want (as cheap as possible but still good-sounding) and letting them come up with a plan could save quite a bit since you aren’t handcuffing them to specific requirements.
 

Kenn2018

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Clear finishes are, in general, applied to an instrument to protect the wood surface from dirt, skin oils and perspiration from playing and handling the instrument. Sometimes from small spills of water or beer. They also add to the appearance of the instrument by enhancing the grains and color of the wood. Too lightly applied, and the wood may not be protected from moisture. Too heavily applied and it can add weight and stiffness that can muffle the vibrations and sound.

Open pore finish can mean the application is so thin that the pores of the wood are not filled by the finish, or the indents of the pores in the wood are apparent as a texture, but the clear finish is enough to fill inside the pores. Sometime an epoxy filler is used to fill the pores and smooth out the wood grain before it's sanded and the final clear coatings are applied. Stains are also often used to even out the colors and tones of the woods.

There are satin, matte, high gloss and oil finishes.
Matte is a very flat low reflective coating. Makes noise if your sleeve or skin rubs across it.
Satin is close to as semi-gloss. Usually a thinner application is needed than a gloss.
Gloss is a shiny clear coating. Brings out the grain of the wood better than a satin or matte. Can be very thin just enough to seal the pores if the wood.
High gloss is usually made with several coats of a Polyurethane finish. Buffed to a very smooth high gloss.

Nitrocellulose lacquer is a solvent-based finish. Has been used for 80 plus years on guitars. Thinner than polyurethane. Less moisture resistant and durable. Polyurethane, polyester, and other catalyzed water-based coatings. Often UV cured to speed the process. Most durable and moisture resistant. Easy to clean.
Oil finishes are often Tung Oil based such as Tru-Oil. (Mya-Moe Ukuleles used this.) Requires a maintenance rub of lemon oil yearly or so to maintain its protection.
 

ripock

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to be honest, the options the OP mentioned aren't going to make that much of a difference in the cost. In my experience, when I bespeak a uke the biggest upgrades are the cutaway and wood upgrades. I don't think the OP is entering into the spirit of the custom process...at least the process as I know it.
 

VintageGibson

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Back in the last century I was involved in Wedding/Event photography and when approached by a potential client with this penny pinching attitude I would tell them that I was booked up for the date they required. From bitter experience I found them to be never satisfied and continually looking to make silly changes in the hope of saving a few pennies.

Vintage
 

Kenn2018

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Yes my right arm has a nerve complication that makes it tired easily so being a bit lighter can be more comfortable, thanks for the insight! So the headstock is purely for the looks?

I agree, definitely talk to your luthier about your situation and see what he/she can do to help. Here are some considerations:

Ask about the woods. I have a lightweight Ono spruce/rosewood tenor, so it’s not an absolute that Rosewood will be heavy. The type of rosewood and the build is what will determine the weight. Mango is a fairly light wood. Walnut can also be light.

You might want to consider a uke design like the Rebel Creme Brulee. It has a less deep body, but still produces excellent sound.There are several makers that produce “travel” ukuleles with shallower bodies which might be an option. Kala and Ohana come to mind. The added benefit, besides less weight, is that they are very comfortable to play. Ask the luthiers if that is something they can offer.

Another option might be a long-neck concert instead of a tenor to reduce the weight.

Rounded edges on the body, especially the top should be beneficial. This prevents the edge from digging into your arm and putting pressure on the nerves. An arm rest is is even better. Though the tradeoff is a some added weight.

If the builder uses a truss rod in the neck of his tenors, a carbon one will be lighter than a metal one. I don’t know if a walnut or maple fretboard will be significantly lighter than a rosewood or ebony one.


I highly recommend using a strap. Without a strap, your right arm has to hold the body as well as strum and pick, while your left is supporting the neck as you try to fret. A strap frees up your arms so you can concentrate on your playing and not worrying about holding the uke. It would help reduce the work your right arm has to do.

The wider the strap, the more the weight is distributed on your shoulder. I use 2” wide guitar straps on all of my tenors because it is more comfortable to me. NeoTech has guitar straps with some neoprene in it. This allows a little stretch and give which absorbs some of the forces from playing and reduces the stresses on the shoulder. I have one on my very heavy banjo uke and it does help. They also make a harness that is designed for heavy solid electric guitars and basses. It might be adaptable for a ukulele. (Amazon carries them.)

Sitting and playing may allow you to rest a larger uke on your lap as you play. A strap still helps to control the neck. And, bonus!, prevents the uke from falling to the floor when you stand up. (Don’t ask how I know. :p)

Like all advice, take what you think makes sense and discard the rest.
 

Jerryc41

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The wood and the construction technique are what primarily affect the sound. Everything else is icing on the cake. And I like icing. :D

I like geared tuners and a slotted headstock, although they are really more for appearance than sound. The price will often give you an idea of how good a uke sounds. :D