What's the least expensive Ukulele you play regularly?

Peter Frary

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My first 'ukulele was a Kremona Mari I bought Fall 2018—prior to that I borrowed my wife's Pono! Mari's neck is a bit of a broomstick but the sound is lovely, especially when I need a mellow harp-like strum in backing tracks. So I still tickle those slivery strings despite the dad burn super narrow fingerboard.
 

Graham Greenbag

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I'm interested to hear from everyone but the reason for asking was just I was wondering whether the more experienced players move onwards and upwards and never go back to the entry-level ukes, or whether the basic models still offer any sort of charm or pleasure.

To answer my own question, I'm just starting out, and the Flight 310 Concert I picked up for GBP19 actually cost me less than the first ukulele I bought - a Makala Waterman I bought for our children - which got me interested in learning myself, which in turn brought me here...

I’ve been playing for several years now but whether that makes me experienced or good I wouldn’t like to say. How and what I play both give me pleasure and not everyone who has played for a while gets to be good.

My least expensive Uke is a second hand Mahalo U30 which cost me 12 pounds, a basic set-up and a pre-used set of Aquila Super Nylgut strings has given me a nice enough player that: I’ve used a lot, don’t fuss about leaving out and would be happy to take anywhere. I’ve no plans to let my U30 go but would lend it out to a pal or even consider gifting it to someone in need - spread the joy of Uke. If I lost or broke my U30 then I’d almost certainly buy another old one.

My most expensive Uke is a second hand all solid Mahogany Ohana CK35G and it’s nice - sounds even better when one of my able pals plays it too - I won’t be outgrowing it anytime soon / ever. It cost me circa 140 pounds secondhand and I had to invest quite a few hours of time in sorting it out to sound much better ... but now it’s a keeper and I use it a lot. To my ears it doesn’t sound ten times better than my Mahalo but the price versus performance graph for Ukes mostly has a very gentle slope.

I’ve a Kala KA-P that I must have had for five years now, I somehow got a super deal on it and it cost around fifty pounds. A set-up, bone nut and saddle, and decent strings has produced a favoured instrument that’s seen a lot of play. My Kala KA-S got a similar ‘sort out’ and if anything it sounds even better, but for illogical reasons my old KA-P is the one that gets picked up - it’s an old friend. One day I might sell my Kalas - you never know - but my current expectation is to keep and use then until I can no longer play.

Other Ukes have come and gone: not everything works for me, sometimes a reasonable enough instrument is sold to make space for something that should be better, sometimes - surprisingly often - expensive instruments don’t live up to expectations, and some of the cheapies that I’ve bought turned out to be either trash or not quite good enough to be worth me keeping.

So do old and cheaper instruments get forgotten? Well not in my case, play what makes you happy and forget about its price.

Edit. I would normally make a separate post rather than comment in this way but Chris’s post below hits the nail on the head and my (now rescued) original post got screwed up and delayed by ‘forum bugs’.

It was sixteen pounds including postage from Cash Converters. I have played ukes that cost 80 times as much which weren't as nice.

It's too easy to get hung up on the instrument you play. I think it can really hold you back if you aren't careful.

As in the video Chris plays really well and sounds great on a secondhand 16 pound / 20? dollar instrument - wish I could play and sound that well on anything. As indicated that particular instrument isn’t typical of its price point. I’ve certainly found that the relationship between price and sound is far from fixed: whilst the underlying trend is there ‘dearer’ does not always equal better or even as good as ‘cheaper’.

The comment about not getting hung up on price didn’t register with me at first, but it resonates with me now. Ignore the price and pretty much everything else - don’t let those details hold you back - it’s what the instrument sounds and plays like that matters.
 
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chris667

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I posted something earlier but the forum software did for it.

I will post again. I bought this recently


It was sixteen pounds including postage from Cash Converters. I have played ukes that cost 80 times as much which weren't as nice.

It's too easy to get hung up on the instrument you play. I think it can really hold you back if you aren't careful.
 

acmespaceship

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I know people who play Irish whistle. There are gorgeous handmade whistles that cost hundreds of dollars and are carved from exotic and beautiful woods. Some players won't touch them because they don't sound like authentic penny whistles. There's a point where an instrument becomes so refined that it doesn't sound like the real deal.

My dad, an aerospace engineer by trade, once built a harpsichord from a kit for fun (yeah, I know, I said "engineer" didn't I?) He made a bunch of small modifications to the design as he built it, using his understanding of acoustics to give it more sustain and volume. Like changing the angle of the little plastic "quills" that pluck the strings. By the time he was done and began to play it, he realized it didn't sound like a harpsichord anymore. It sounded like a small, anemic pianoforte. Ever since, Dad would tell this story as a cautionary tale. "Improvements" are not always improvements and you have to keep the end goal in mind.

My point (gotta get there eventually) is that sometimes a cheap uke is exactly the sound you want. I love my $80 Kamaka baritone. There must be hundreds of "better" baris out there, but I'm playing back porch blues and it's the right axe for the job.
 
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badhabits

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It's too easy to get hung up on the instrument you play. I think it can really hold you back if you aren't careful.


That's true, for many things...like golf, (bi)cycling, for example. You'd be surprised how many top players and riders/racers have little clue about the technical aspects of their clubs/bikes. Otoh, many gearheads don't have the game.
 

Jan D

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My $50 soprano Flight travel uke gets frequent attention because it’s so easy to play and sounds great. I love all of my ukes, but the Flight is just a lot of “no worries” fun. :)
 

Croaky Keith

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Kala KA-SLNG, it was the 4th uke I bought, spent most of my learning time using it, & it became my goto uke when I started practicing a tune. :)
 

bunnyf

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10-15 yr old Lanikai LU-21B was my very first uke. Paid about $75 for it new. Still play it regularly. It
 

bunnyf

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The rest that got cut off……it’s a comfortable instrument to play and sounds good. You know what they say about the arrow in your quiver. I’ve paired down from several moderately expensive ukes to just this original uke and a LoPrinzi soprano.
 

GF1

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Thanks to everyone who has replied. I won't dissect any replies, because I think many are great and lose something in the dissection. Please just know I'm grateful for them all. They've made for an interesting read and there's some great insights in there.

Interesting idea for a thread. To the OP, what was your purpose, research? Curiosity?
I'm just hungry for info at the moment, and I'm conscious that my beginner questions might be a bit tired. I thought it would be an interesting spin on the "recommend me a budget uke" question I keep asking, and was hoping for interesting stories and some sentimentality. I got more than I hoped for, which has been great.
 

Wiggy

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Caramel CS419

I play it daily. It's been a very good friend.
 

UkingViking

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To make sense of the answers one should probably also add what is the most expensive uke one plays regularly, to get an idea of the span.

I am boring in that sense. I sold off my laminate beginner, and never moved up to western build solid ukes.

The ukes I play range from approximately 200-600 USD.
From an Ohana SK30M long neck soprano to an aNueNue AMM 3 tenor. I also have a vintage Kamaka, but vintage it was not more expensive than the AMM3.
 
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ripock

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The cheapest uke I play? A 1000 quid custom from Rob Collins (quid always sounds smaller than a pound). I have cheaper instruments such as my cigar box guitar, but you asked about ukes
 

deadpool

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I wasn't about to reply to this thread, but what the he!!. I often play the hated Waterman (concert). It's my travel uke. I did have to file the nut (for low G), sand the saddle for the super high action and put on Fremont Blacklines, but now it seems reasonable, has decent intonation and sounds pretty darn good. Also seems fairly indistrutcable. Haters be dammed!
 

LorenFL

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I wasn't about to reply to this thread, but what the he!!. I often play the hated Waterman (concert). It's my travel uke. I did have to file the nut (for low G), sand the saddle for the super high action and put on Fremont Blacklines, but now it seems reasonable, has decent intonation and sounds pretty darn good. Also seems fairly indestructible. Haters be dammed!

My Waterman Soprano is/was awful. But, I never experienced it new. It was clearly a store demo model or something. I'm pretty sure they made some improvements to the design when they made the Concert model. The big issue is the top flexing and allowing the bridge to dip towards the nut, which wrecks the intonation. If you have one that's not doing that, it's probably great! Probably sounds better Concert vs Soprano, too.

I bought mine to travel, as well. Only paid $30 for it! Maybe someday I'll try to do something to fix the bridge (again). Or maybe I'll just salvage it for hardware to make a garage-built uke?

I loved the IDEA of the Waterman, for sure.
 

chris667

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They're interesting, those Waterman ukes.

You'd think with them being moulded plastic that they would be consistent, but I've played a couple. One was a cheap uke, another was unplayable. If you were a beginner you probably couldn't tell the difference.

Could it be setup? Maybe. Does it matter? Not really!
 

tm3

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Thanks to everyone who has replied. I won't dissect any replies, because I think many are great and lose something in the dissection. Please just know I'm grateful for them all. They've made for an interesting read and there's some great insights in there.

I'm just hungry for info at the moment, and I'm conscious that my beginner questions might be a bit tired. I thought it would be an interesting spin on the "recommend me a budget uke" question I keep asking, and was hoping for interesting stories and some sentimentality. I got more than I hoped for, which has been great.

I get where you are coming from and it's an interesting idea for a thread -- and certainly more "logical" than some others that I have seen here.

As a beginner I also find it interesting to hear the perspective of others and to learn more about the various choices in ukes.

To answer the question, the most played uke by far in my house is actually the most expensive -- my wife's Outdoor Ukulele soprano. It is just so convenient to grab while lounging on the couch or toss in the car or whatever.
 

Kaelrie

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My Enya Nova, because I can take it anywhere without ever worrying about it.
 

Tim E

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Kmise plastic soprano. Plays easily and in tune, actually sounds good. The advantages of the much more expensive are small and mostly aesthetic. It has been modified. I replaced the weird plastic tuning machines with friction tuners. The tuning stability of this uke is impressive.

I know people hold their instruments dearly, but I'm simply not impressed by price. A good instrument is a good instrument, regardless of the cost. I can appreciate craftsmanship and rare materials. But I find the best instruments are not really too correlated with price.
 

hendulele

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A Famous (Kiwaya) FS1 laminate. Got it for $160, a bit less than retail. It’s wonderful.