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Thread: First Time Strumming an Ukulele

  1. #1
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    Default First Time Strumming an Ukulele

    The other day I was talking with a person who is totally new to ukulele and stringed instruments. He was "fretting" (pun intended) over which first ukulele to purchase. He has never played a stringed instrument. He has been researching ukuleles on this forum and many others, reading, and watching videos and the data is overwhelming, almost to the point of paralysis, especially if you never played. He found me on here and saw that I distribute Alvin "Pops" Okami's Wow and Star Spangled Banger ukulele. He asked about them, and although the price is really reasonable for a high quality instrument, he asked if "they are too good for a first ukulele."

    That got me thinking to my first purchase back in 2008 and the experience that I had. I will share that now and I wonder if anybody else had the same Kind of experience as me.

    2008 I was in Waikiki and went to Pua Pua Ukulele and wanted to buy an uke to bring home from Hawaii, but so many ukuleles and which one to buy. There were the K-brands, Kala, Lanikai, Cordoba, Makala, and Kohala. They all seemed expensive to me. I loved the look of the K-brands, especially the Kanile'a but what I found was that because I never played a stringed instrument, when I strummed, the $2000 ukulele sounded as bad as the $100 ukulele which really sounded bad. My fingers dug into the strings. Flopped between the strings. Every uke I played sounded dull. The Kamaka sounded like a Makala in my inexperienced hands. I even took 4 free lessons at the store (they did that to get people playing so they could sell an ukulele). By the end of the lessons I knew that Kohala and Makala were not for me but maybe a Kala.

    I ended up buying a Travel Kala-concert with Tenor neck. Went home and played 30 minutes minimum every night and sometimes for hours and within a month, I wanted something better-- more musical -- easier to play, more volume and sustain, better tone. I joined UU and started buying everything I could, just to try them. Well not everything -- every K-Brand and offshoot like Pono and Islander, even Koalana.

    I am wondering if anyone else had that experience and although the general rule is to purchase the best ukulele you can afford-- my question is "are there limits?"
    Last edited by efiscella; 09-14-2019 at 03:10 PM.

  2. #2
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    So sorry. I'd like to get the replies going, but I don't understand the question.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
    So sorry. I'd like to get the replies going, but I don't understand the question.
    I suppose I am asking two questions:

    1. has anyone else had a first experience where they just stunk strummimg the ukulele. Where great ukes sounded as bad as the worst, because of the lack of skill.

    2. Can an ukulele be "too good" to purchase as a first ukulele?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by efiscella View Post
    I suppose I am asking two questions:

    1. has anyone else had a first experience where they just stunk strummimg the ukulele. Where great ukes sounded as bad as the worst, because of the lack of skill.

    2. Can an ukulele be "too good" to purchase as a first ukulele?
    That would depend on how much you play it. If you play something daily, logging on hours and hours of enjoyment ovsr time, the value you have gotten for ths cash can easily justify an expensive uke. Similarly, if a uke is rarely played, the cost can rarely justify the expense, even if it is a cheap ukulele, but especially if it is an expensive one.

  5. #5
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    I think that too inexpensive an ukulele can create a bad experience and discourage a person from pursuing playing. But there are plenty of modestly priced Enyas, Ohanas, Kalas, etc. that sound reasonably good to encourage further playing.

    Can you get too expensive an instrument for a beginner? No, I don't think so. So long as they know enough about handling it properly. Of course the newbie probably won't appreciate the instrument until they grow into it. And most likely, they wonít know what sound they prefer without experience and hearing various instrument builds. So if you buy too expensive, it will be harder to change it.

    I began playing a Luna tenor provided for beginners to try at our club meetings. I decided I wanted my own tenor instrument before the next meeting, and knew that the Luna probably wasn't the one I wanted. I knew absolutely squat about instruments in general, and especially ukuleles in particular. I searched for information online. The UU Forum did not come up in my searches. I read several articles and about the only knowledge I came away with was, that the best wood for ukuleles was Koa! My wife suggested Amazon since I had a couple of gift cards for them. I looked a dozens that were listed. Read the reviews. And settled on a koa tenor from Fender. Mostly because I liked the headstock shape. The koa was laminate. All I can say was that it was "adequate." I later read about "setup" and realized that was probably why playing a barre on the first fret was so difficult.

    I remember thinking that I would never pay more than $500 for a ukulele. That was ridiculously high.

    I bought an Ohana Cedar/Rosewood at a local shop. And had them setup my Fender. Then a Pono Acacia from Uke Republic. and it was off to the races. I wanted to try different woods and brands. UAS had grabbed, because I was fascinated by the different sound each tenor ukulele produced. That has not changed, though the degree of difference has narrowed.
    There is a subtle yet profound difference between the learning of something and the knowing of that thing.
    You can learn by reading, but you donít begin to know until you begin to try to do.

    óLou Churchill, Plane & Pilot Magazine

  6. #6
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    I am in the extreme minority here, but my feeling is screw beginning ukuleles. They are a waste of money. I started with a $200 one, moved onto a $400 one, now I am happy with my $2000 Kamaka. If I had just bought the Kamaka to begin with it would only been $2000, but as it stands I have spent about $3000 (including the ukuleles I discarded). I know that wasn't exactly your question, but I felt my experience very strongly after reading your post.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ripock View Post
    I am in the extreme minority here, but my feeling is screw beginning ukuleles. They are a waste of money. I started with a $200 one, moved onto a $400 one, now I am happy with my $2000 Kamaka. If I had just bought the Kamaka to begin with it would only been $2000, but as it stands I have spent about $3000 (including the ukuleles I discarded). I know that wasn't exactly your question, but I felt my experience very strongly after reading your post.
    No, that is exactly my question-- thanks

    Actually, back in 1079, I purchased a Kamaka HF-38 at the factory and it sat in a closet for 30 years because I could not play it. It was hard to play and there was no support back then here on the East coast. If it had been an HF-3 there would have been no problem adjusting, but the HF-38 was too difficult for me. Once I got the Kala, and quickly moved from that to Kamaka, Kanilea, and KoAloha, I realized that the HF-38 would never be for me, but at least I had the taste of the sound of a quality uke.

    My original point was that I feel like I wasted my money on the Travel Kala. I should have spent the $500 on quaity uke right from the beginning, but $2,000, how do you know that you are going to stick with it when you are a newbie?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by efiscella View Post
    No, that is exactly my question-- thanks

    Actually, back in 1079, I purchased a Kamaka HF-38 at the factory and it sat in a closet for 30 years because I could not play it. It was hard to play and there was no support back then here on the East coast. If it had been an HF-3 there would have been no problem adjusting, but the HF-38 was too difficult for me. Once I got the Kala, and quickly moved from that to Kamaka, Kanilea, and KoAloha, I realized that the HF-38 would never be for me, but at least I had the taste of the sound of a quality uke.

    My original point was that I feel like I wasted my money on the Travel Kala. I should have spent the $500 on quaity uke right from the beginning, but $2,000, how do you know that you are going to stick with it when you are a newbie?
    If I spend $2000 I am going to stick with it no matter what...even if it clog-dancing to Miley Cyrus.

  9. #9
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    A Newbie going into a Music Store is not going to buy a $2000 uke.

    They will see that for that amount of their hard earn cash the prices of iconic instruments like a Fender Stratocaster or Gibson Les Paul or a Yamaha or Roland keyboard and see the label on a uke that says $2000 and their first thought will be wtf is that price.

    No, a newbie will look cheap and spend perhaps 2 or 3 times the cheapest they and maybe up to $200 thinking that if they spend a bit more the uke will last longer.

    Does owning and playing a $2000 uke make you 10x the player than if you played a $200 uke?
    Col.
    From the UK with a bad case of MIAS.
    Korg PA700, Korg Kross 2, Gibson LP, Fender Jazz Bass,
    + Amps, PA, Boss GT100, mixer.
    Ukes - Kala KA-TEME and Risa ST electric solid body.
    Uke wish list, a Bass, make and model yet to be determined

  10. #10
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    If he wants a decent uke at a reasonable price, I would suggest an Enya concert. He will spend a small amount of money and get something he can use to get started - or continue. If he enjoys it enough to get a better uke, he will at least have some experience.
    Too many ukes, but I can't stop buying!
    https://www.catskillukulelegroup.com/

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