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Thread: Buying my first ukulele

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
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    Default Buying my first ukulele

    I want to spend $300 or less. I've played guitar my whole life and finally picked up a Ukulele for a few days and absolutely love it.

    I have googled the best Uke brands and Kala seems to be listed at the top of most. I'm looking at two possibilities from Kala.

    One is the Koa wood and the other is Ebony. I prefer the Koa wood but the ebony is tempting because it's so much cheaper.

    Any thoughts on whether the type of wood will affect the sound much? Or is it just aesthetic?

    Here's the products I'm looking at:
    https://kalabrand.com/collections/ha...roducts/ka-kcg

    https://kalabrand.com/collections/st...ducts/ka-eby-c

    Thanks a bunch in advance for your advice!

  2. #2
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    With those Kala laminates it's cosmetic. The exotic wood top of the laminate is almost paper thin it seemed. I learned this when doing some sanding on an ebony topped one after making a minor repair. I think that's pretty standard though with most laminates. Kala makes some good ukes.

    You could get any number of good ukes in the $300 and under range. I'm a big fan of Enya as far as imports go. They can be had from enya-music.com in the USA and also on Amazon.com. I have owned three Enya instruments (two ukes and a guitar) that were all well setup, playable instruments for less than anything else comparable.
    You also owe it to yourself to look at Ohana and some others.

    I'm not sure if you have a place locally you can buy or not. If you buy online, I highly recommend MIM's Ukes on Reverb. You can find Kala, Ohana, and others there.

  3. #3
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    Both of your links are broken, so I can't see which exact ukes you're looking at, but I'm pretty sure that both instruments are laminate construction, so the type of wood really won't have a lot of effect on the sound. All things being equal, go with the one that looks best to you. Kalas are generally good instruments, even the less-expensive laminates. For wood type to have any significant impact, you'd have to go with an all-solid-wood construction, at a considerable increase in price.
    Larry

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  4. #4
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    Something like this:

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Kala-KA-SKT...e/264580349663

    Solid top ukulele tone woods seem to give the best sound and volume.

  5. #5
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    Dec 2019
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    What about spruce? Any thoughts on this one?

    Edit: sorry I meant maple

    https://offerup.co/g9TaH3ZCP2

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill1 View Post
    Look for a solid top and laminate body. I am not sure if you will find a solid Koa top under $300, but you will find some nice cedar, spruce and mahogany. My personal recommendation is to go for Mahagony because it is hard and sounds good and has a long ukulele history.

    Don't forget a pick-up if you plan to play shows or open mikes. And realise that a uke designed for amplification may seem overbuilt and dull until you plug it in and turn up the volume.

    For your first attempt look up a well known shop which checks each uke and includes a set up in the deal. Some shops who are run by UU members are HMS, Mims and Uke Republic.

    If you already frequent a nice guitar shop, talk to the owner or sale staff and see what they can do for you.
    Last edited by HONOMO; 12-29-2019 at 09:25 PM.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the reply. Any thoughts on this one? It's a maple.

    https://offerup.co/g9TaH3ZCP2
    Last edited by HONOMO; 12-29-2019 at 09:26 PM.

  7. #7

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    To be completely honest, I would strongly recommend buying your first uke from a shop that will set up your instrument, unless you know how to set up action and whatnot yourself. It can make a night and day difference. https://www.mimsukes.com/ anything from there will come fully checked and beautifully set up and is highly recommended by everyone here.

    That is US but if you are in EU or UK there is The Southern Ukulele Store too.

    Another option and undoubtedly your best bang for your buck at that price range is Mainland Ukuleles. (https://shop.mainlandukuleles.com/main.sc) Never seen a review that doesn't tout them as astonishing value and their Mahogany or Red Cedar models are absolutely gorgeous sounding. These are all solid so sound great and tone will even improve with time. I don't think much else is better until you get up into the 600-1000's range.

  8. #8
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    Good idea to start with a reasonable budget that is high enough to get you a decent instrument, not just a nice looking toy. However, as others have suggested, in this price range, I'd always opt for solid wood instead of laminate (the latter is mostly just for show). With your budget, you might even want to consider a Pono Acacia model which is about as close to a Koa ukulele from Hawaii as you can get in that price range (Koa is Acacia from Hawaii, Pono is designed by a Hawaiian company, but built in Indonesia).
    Enjoying instruments by - Beau Hannam - Jay Lichty - Jerry Hoffmann - Luis Feu de Mesquita - Kala - Kamaka - Kanile'a - KoAloha - Ko'olau - Moore Bettah - Pono - Romero Creations - and others

  9. #9
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    Kala brand has a good reputation indeed.
    So does Ohana, Islanders and a few others when looking in that price range.

    With the koa model, you are probably paying a bit extra for decorations like gloss finish and slotted headstock. So the sound will probably be fine on either.

    With a $300 budget I would see if I could find an ukulele with at least a solid top, rather than layered.
    They are possible to find.
    Have you considered mahogany? A very traditional wood for ukes.
    Ohana SK30M mahogany super-soprano, Cort UKEBWCOP Blackwood concert, Anuenue African Mahogany Tenor, Fluke Koa Tenor, Hora M1176 spruce Tenor

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by HONOMO View Post
    I want to spend $300 or less. I've played guitar my whole life and finally picked up a Ukulele for a few days and absolutely love it.
    Those Best Ukes lists don't really include the best ukes. They seem to offer the best choice for an occasional player who doesn't want to spend too much money. Kala, Ohana, Cordoba, and Enya make good ukes at reasonable prices. If you want a "Good" uke, look at KoAloha, Kamaka, Kanile'a (from Hawaii), Martin, Klos, and Magic Fluke. Except for the Magic Fluke, prices will be over $300, though. They all make a variety of instruments in different sizes and price ranges.

    Koa is the classic ukulele wood, but it's expensive because it comes exclusively from Hawaii, and those trees cannot be cut down. In practical terms, you would buy a koa uke for the appearance and "prestige." It's the construction, as much as anything, that makes one uke sound better than another.

    Be sure to spend time on this site, available as video and print.

    https://www.gotaukulele.com/

    Good luck, and enjoy the search.
    Last edited by Jerryc41; 12-30-2019 at 01:44 AM.
    Too many ukes, but I can't stop buying!
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