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Thread: ukulele noob needs advice!

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2020
    Location
    California
    Posts
    3

    Default ukulele noob needs advice!

    I want to try playing ukulele, but I have no clue which one to buy. My first criterium is that it should be cheap. I don't know if I will continue playing, so there is no need to splash money. At the same time I want it to sound ... at least not really bad.
    Any advice?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    Upper Hale, Surrey/Hants border, UK.
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    6,302

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    Kala Dolphin or Shark, would be one of the cheapest ways to try it out.

    (Buy from a reputable dealer, not Amazon.)
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Redmond, WA
    Posts
    477

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    What is your budget? What you consider inexpensive and what I consider inexpensive may be completely different. Aim for inexpensive (low cost for value) not cheap (crap ). Burn some time reading gotaukulele.com for reviews.

    Buying cheap is either a road to frustration and quitting or too expensive since you’ll want to replace soon. There are inexpensive starter ukes in the $50-$200 range that will carry you far.

    If you can, see if there’s a local group you can join and listen and maybe try out a few instruments to see what size sounds best to you. Every group I’ve been to has been very friendly and welcoming that way. If there’s a good local musical instrument store that’s an option too, but I’m leary of mass market guitar store ukes (possibly local bias: my local mega guitar mart has awful ukes and clueless but high pressure sales folks). The good music stores near me tend to be higher end.

    I recommend Mimsukes.com for an inexpensive starter. She’s the only reputable online dealer I’m aware of with extensive inexpensive stock. Anything she sells is reasonable and she checks things out, sets them up, and makes sure they’re playable.

    My first was a cheap Fender which looked much cooler than it played. It turned out expensive since I very quickly replaced it with an Ohana concert from Mim. That one still makes me smile, and I still sometimes play it even though my tastes run towards larger sizes (the best size is purely a matter of personal taste)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Posts
    131

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    Since I'm probably considered by others as a low-level intermediate for playing my first fretboard instrument, I wouldn't take my advice as seriously as some of the great players and teachers in this forum, but I still have some thoughts that might help.

    Buy a relatively inexpensive ukulele from Mim and ask her to set it up with the most "relaxed" strings as low as she can without a buzz, and enjoy practicing and listening to your new instrument.

    Then, start listening to what other ukuleles sound like. Either find others who play or buy a clip on tuner and go to your local music store and tune them all (even the cheapest) and listen to them. You don't need to be able to play anything: Just strum a chord or two and pluck the individual strings at a few places on the fretboard. You'll be amazed at all the different sounds/tones/resonance these little instruments can have - all with the same chord or note sounded. If you're like me, you'll want to have a couple of other ukuleles with all these different "sounds". And once you make that decision, you're on your way to UAS!

    (UAS stands for Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome, a set of symptoms shared by many in the forum. The answer to the question "How many ukuleles is the correct number to own" is: "One more".)

    Good luck with your first purchase.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    CH
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    1,919

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    I would normally recommend to skip the entry level market and go straight for something decent (my go-to would be an all solid wood Pono for around $300). My assumption is that a better instrument will sound better and will therefore make you want to play more, making you a better player quicker. Moreover, in order to justify the higher cost, you might want to practice more often and abstain from quitting all too soon.

    Yet the way you explain your situation, perhaps it would indeed be best to start with something really cheap, yet decent enough. My choice in this segment would be a Kmise Concert which you can get from Aliexpress for around $50 USD, including shipping, a gigbab, and a tuner. In my experience, they are well setup from the factory and WAY nicer than any Makala, Shark or Dolphin (and way cheaper than any of the well-known brands like Kala, Cordoba, Ohana or Luna, where you will always pay extra for the name).

    Good luck with your search, I hope you will stick to the ukulele! It's such a fun and easy to learn instrument.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Location
    Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    326

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    You should also get a tuner and a case. A tuner could be as simple as a free app got you phone/tablet or computer. Some ukuleles will come with a case. If the one you,pick does not have one bargain for one. Mom for an Ohana would be good. You could get some good deals if you get a grade b instrument. These are instruments that have minor flaws in the finish. If you have a local music shop check it out. Some places will allow you to rent if you are not sure you will want to continue. Luck and enjoy!
    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

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Location
    San Francisco Bay Area
    Posts
    381

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    Quote Originally Posted by ashleyow View Post
    I want to try playing ukulele, but I have no clue which one to buy. My first criterium is that it should be cheap. I don't know if I will continue playing, so there is no need to splash money. At the same time I want it to sound ... at least not really bad.
    Any advice?
    You may already have the advice you need by now, but in case you're still wondering, I'll pile on. What part of California do you live in? If you're in one of the major metro areas (LA, San Diego, S.F. Bay Area) there are some very good stores that carry a good selection of ukuleles. You can try them and see which one you like.
    Kala KA-TE tenor uke (currently tuned F-Bb-D-G w/Worth Browns)
    Kala APB-CTG baritone uke (currently tuned D-G-B-E w/Martin 22 Baritone strings)
    Ohana BK-35CG baritone uke (tuned A-D-F#-B w/Savarez classical guitar strings)
    Various guitars, banjos, and basses

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Location
    Sparta, Wisconsin, USA
    Posts
    1,894

    Default

    The first thing is to find out what size is right for you. Soprano, concert, tenor or baritone. Many people start with the concert size. If possible try out some instruments to see which suits you best.

    James Hill suggests that you start with the size that allows you to hold the uke in the crook of your arm and your fingers naturally reach the fret board between the top edge of the body and the sound hole.

    There are lots of decent ukuleles to be had for around $50. They will sound and play reasonably well and will allow you to decide if you want to continue. Any cheaper than that and most likely you won't like the way it sounds and it will be difficult to play chords and strum. If you can spend a little more, do so. But don't go crazy.

    Enya, Flight, Makala also offer inexpensive starter ukuleles that are pretty good. Do some research with online reviews of different brands and models.

    I second the ukulele club route. You'll find friendly people and you can hear various instruments. Some even have beginner ukes at the meetings for you to try. Stores can be a bit overwhelming with so many instruments. It's much easier if you have watched some videos and read some reviews and know what to look for. Knowing a little of the lingo helps when you talk to a person at a store.

    Get a tuner. Some places will give you one if you buy a uke from them, or one may be included in the box.

    Most important: Have fun looking. Ask questions and keep an open mind.
    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 don’t begin to know until you begin to try to do.

    —Lou Churchill, Plane & Pilot Magazine

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    the we(s)t coast, Canada
    Posts
    630

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Kenn2018 View Post
    The first thing is to find out what size is right for you. Soprano, concert, tenor or baritone. Many people start with the concert size. If possible try out some instruments to see which suits you best.

    James Hill suggests that you start with the size that allows you to hold the uke in the crook of your arm and your fingers naturally reach the fret board between the top edge of the body and the sound hole.

    There are lots of decent ukuleles to be had for around $50. They will sound and play reasonably well and will allow you to decide if you want to continue. Any cheaper than that and most likely you won't like the way it sounds and it will be difficult to play chords and strum. If you can spend a little more, do so. But don't go crazy.

    Enya, Flight, Makala also offer inexpensive starter ukuleles that are pretty good. Do some research with online reviews of different brands and models.

    I second the ukulele club route. You'll find friendly people and you can hear various instruments. Some even have beginner ukes at the meetings for you to try. Stores can be a bit overwhelming with so many instruments. It's much easier if you have watched some videos and read some reviews and know what to look for. Knowing a little of the lingo helps when you talk to a person at a store.

    Get a tuner. Some places will give you one if you buy a uke from them, or one may be included in the box.

    Most important: Have fun looking. Ask questions and keep an open mind.
    Caveat: Amazon reviews are next to useless for evaluating your ukulele. Find the reviews here, gotaukulele.com or other ukulele specific sites.
    Glenn

  10. #10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Kenn2018 View Post
    Enya, Flight, Makala also offer inexpensive starter ukuleles that are pretty good.
    Speaking as someone who owns one, the Enya Concert Sapele Ukulele KUC-20 is a good starter uke. It works just fine to figure out if playing the uke is something you want to continue doing, and if you do you can spruce it up by swapping out the default strings for something nicer.

    (Full disclosure: it was not my first uke; I bought it because I wanted something low maintenance to leave out or on hand to lend to family and friends. After a few months one of the tuners came slightly loose but that was a five-second fix using a wrench.)
    __̴ı̴̴̡̡̡ ̡͌l̡̡̡ ̡͌l̡*̡̡ ̴̡ı̴̴̡ ̡̡͡|̲̲̲͡͡͡ ̲▫̲͡ ̲̲̲͡͡π̲̲͡͡ ̲̲͡▫̲̲͡͡ ̲|̡̡̡ ̡ ̴̡ı̴̡̡ ̡͌l̡̡̡̡.___

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