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Thread: Question re beginner ukulele price point??

  1. #1

    Default Question re beginner ukulele price point??

    Last week on a whim my wife and I attended a beginner ukulele class. The instructor passed out Makala concerts to everyone and we plunked away for an hour. It was a surprising amount of fun and we have decided to try to learn to play this instrument. We are going to start with one and if there is too much fighting over it we'll add another.

    Of course the first question is which ukulele to buy. I've spent a while searching and browsing and it seems like the most recommended route is to buy a concert (or tenor) instrument choosing between two options:

    1) A Kala or Ohana from a recommended online dealer that will do a quality check and setup, or

    2) An Enya from Amazon made of HPL for under $100, with the intent of returning it if defective, and using it as a "beater" later on if eventually upgrading to a higher quality instrument.

    I'm not sure which would be best for me yet and would like to ask for some more opinion/information that will help me decide.

    Assuming that I do option #1, up to what price point ($100? $200? $300?) will I be able to see "quality" differences that will make a difference to me as a beginner? For example, just throwing out a number, is a beginner likely to be able to appreciate the difference between a $100 instrument and a $200 instrument while the difference between, say, a $200 instrument and a $300 instrument would only be obvious to a more experienced player?

    One of the Amazon reviewers said that the HPL Enya has a radiused fretboard, which is "usually only seen in instruments costing over $500." That sounds impressive, except that I don't know what a "radiused fretboard" is and more importantly I don't know if it would make any difference to a novice. But if it would make a difference, and the Enya has it while sub-$500 Kalas and Ohanas don't, then that seems important.

    I don't have to go really cheap on this and certainly don't want to be held back by an inferior instrument, but on the other hand I've been around long enough to realize that buying a Fender Stratocaster won't make me play like Jimi Hendrix.

    Thanks in advance for your comments!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
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    Raleigh, NC
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    1,983

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    Welcome to the cult, er, community!

    Those Makala dolphins are pretty good entry-level instruments.

    That said, your price point probably should be at a level you're comfortable paying for an instrument from a local uke shop (not a big-box store like GC or Sam Ash) where the owner can help you find the right scale, neck, etc ... or through one of the recommended online merchants here (Mim, Uke Republic, HMS, etc.) who'll do the same, only virtually.

    You could spend $100 from Mim or Uke Republic on an Ohana or a Kala or an Amahi that'll set you up better than the vast majority of beginners who just grab one off the rack at a Guitar Center or buy a cheapie at Amazon.

    If you want to spend more, it's even more imperative you do so with a dealer or a local shop. You can spend hundreds on the wrong uke and much less on the right one with the proper help.

    Hope you find what you love!
    Martin C1K • Vintage 'Mauna Loa' c. 1925 soprano • Famous by Kiwaya FS-1 <yippee!!> • Ohana CK-50WG concert (solid cedar top) • Ohana SK-28 ‘Nunes’ <suh-weet> • Ohana SK-35G solid mahogany soprano <yay!!> • Firefly maple concert banjolele <yee-haw!> • Flea koa soprano • Makala MK-CE concert • Kahuna "Felix the Cat" soprano • Woodrow "Steelers" soprano <eyeroll>

    Raleigh Uke Jam:

    My YouTube page

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by hendulele View Post
    That said, your price point probably should be at a level you're comfortable paying for an instrument from a local uke shop (not a big-box store like GC or Sam Ash) where the owner can help you find the right scale, neck, etc ... or through one of the recommended online merchants here (Mim, Uke Republic, HMS, etc.) who'll do the same, only virtually.

    You could spend $100 from Mim or Uke Republic on an Ohana or a Kala or an Amahi that'll set you up better than the vast majority of beginners who just grab one off the rack at a Guitar Center or buy a cheapie at Amazon.

    If you want to spend more, it's even more imperative you do so with a dealer or a local shop. You can spend hundreds on the wrong uke and much less on the right one with the proper help.
    Thanks for the info! The ukes in the class were mahogany Makalas. I think the teacher said they were about $75.

    There is no local uke shop so anything I buy will be online. How does an online merchant help me find the right scale, neck, etc. -- hand measurements or finger length or something like that?

    Getting the wrong uke would be bad enough but paying hundreds for it would be even worse!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
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    Ames, Iowa
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    I started out with a $65 Makala concert. I have since upgraded, but I still play it quite often, so even though it only cost $65 it is still a good enough ukulele. If you stick with reputable manufacturer you probably are going to get something playable. My advise, there are a lot of ukuleles that are in that $65 - $100 range that are great starter ukes. Save your money and buy a nice upgrade after you have played it a little and have a better feeling for what you like and don't like.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.

    I just want everyone to understand that I am not a ukulele expert, even though it may look at times like I'm pretending to be.

    https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_n...tective+Agency

  5. #5
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    Upper Hale, Surrey/Hants border, UK.
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    A good cheapish uke, Kala KA-S soprano, or KA-C concert - as said above, I'd be cautious about spending a lot to start with, as sometimes you may find a different scale will suit you better, once you have the basics down.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2013
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    NH
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    1,202

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    This might work for setting a "first uke" price point. Take the amount of money you feel is reasonable for an average night out with your wife and double it.
    Kamaka HF3, Tenor
    Eastman EU3C, Concert
    Martin S1, Soprano
    Martin T1K, Tenor

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Location
    Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
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    Where are you?

    Would it be possible to buy an ukulele through the teacher? Did the teacher make any recommendations?

    If buying online watch for shipping prices.

    You could try checking out Empire
    Music. They ship to USA, Internationally, and Canada. They service schools, and other groups and are reasonably in their prices. They also setup ukuleles to your specifications. (GCEA). Do not get a ukulele with friction pegs.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by Lacole; 06-09-2019 at 09:29 AM.
    LACole
    Laurie Ann Cole

    Northern UK20 Concert Mahogany GCEA Aquila Lava
    2018
    Beaver Creek BCUKEFM-T Tenor Maple Flame gCEA D’addario Pro Arte
    Eddy Finn EF-Moon Concert Mahogany gCEA Aquila SuperNylgut
    Beaver Creek BCUKE-S Soprano Mahogany gCEA D’addario Black Nylon
    2019
    Ohana PKC-25G Concert Mahogany Pineapple gCEA Aquila
    Donner DUC-3 Concert Spruce/Mahogany gCEA Donner

    CPM CT-Q2 chromatic clip on tuner
    Snark SN-4 tuner
    Donner tuner

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Raleigh, NC
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    I'd recommend staying at the $100 or so price point if you're not sure whether you want a soprano, concert, or tenor. If the Makala scale was comfortable, you may want to stick with it.

    Online dealers who primarily (or only) sell ukes can provide you some help with scale, etc. If you're in the U.S. ... I'm a huge Mim fan, and I'm sure Mike at Uke Republic is helpful, too. (Mainland, too, though they're usually all-solids and more costly.) HMS tends to deal in higher-end instruments and they're in Hawaii, which could make shipping costs a bigger deal.

    It's possible to over-think this. My advice is to find an entry-level at one of the online dealers.
    Martin C1K • Vintage 'Mauna Loa' c. 1925 soprano • Famous by Kiwaya FS-1 <yippee!!> • Ohana CK-50WG concert (solid cedar top) • Ohana SK-28 ‘Nunes’ <suh-weet> • Ohana SK-35G solid mahogany soprano <yay!!> • Firefly maple concert banjolele <yee-haw!> • Flea koa soprano • Makala MK-CE concert • Kahuna "Felix the Cat" soprano • Woodrow "Steelers" soprano <eyeroll>

    Raleigh Uke Jam:

    My YouTube page

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rllink View Post
    I started out with a $65 Makala concert. I have since upgraded, but I still play it quite often, so even though it only cost $65 it is still a good enough ukulele. If you stick with reputable manufacturer you probably are going to get something playable. My advise, there are a lot of ukuleles that are in that $65 - $100 range that are great starter ukes. Save your money and buy a nice upgrade after you have played it a little and have a better feeling for what you like and don't like.
    Well it sounds like another way to phrase what you are saying is about $100 gets plenty of uke for a beginner, ie $100 is the "price point" I was asking about. Spending more once likes and dislikes have had time to develop certainly makes a lot of sense!

    Quote Originally Posted by Croaky Keith View Post
    A good cheapish uke, Kala KA-S soprano, or KA-C concert - as said above, I'd be cautious about spending a lot to start with, as sometimes you may find a different scale will suit you better, once you have the basics down.
    Another vote against overspending at the start -- makes a lot of sense!

    Quote Originally Posted by kkimura View Post
    This might work for setting a "first uke" price point. Take the amount of money you feel is reasonable for an average night out with your wife and double it.
    My wife is a cheap date -- one of the reasons that she is my wife!

    Quote Originally Posted by Lacole View Post
    Where are you?

    Would it be possible to buy an ukulele through the teacher? Did the teacher make any recommendations?

    If buying online watch for shipping prices.

    You could try checking out Empire
    Music. They ship to USA, Internationally, and Canada. They service schools, and other groups and are reasonably in their prices. They also setup ukuleles to your specifications. (GCEA). Do not get a ukulele with friction pegs.

    Good luck.
    I'm in the USA. I would love to be able to have input and guidance from the teacher as far as making a pick, but we were on vacation out of town and the encounter was a one time thing. I think that he said that he had been happy with the bunch of Makalas that they were using for the introductory class.

    I'm reminded of another comment the teacher made that I'll share with the group here. He said that studies have shown that singing causes the body to release oxytocin, a hormone produced by both males and females and one that has beneficial effects. So as we clunked along and bumbled off key and probably scared all of the cats for miles around he kept reminding us that we were releasing oxytocin thus all was good!

  10. #10

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    Let me toss out one more question ......

    I read the article on the Wirecutter site about choosing a ukulele, and also read the thread here discussing it. Putting aside the Wirecutter's specific choices, they said that some ukuleles are designed such that the strings are easy to change while on some string changes are much harder.

    What exactly are they referring to as it sounds like that would be a good feature? Are they talking about the ukes that the strings look "looped" upon themselves, or the ones that are fastened down with pins like a guitar?

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