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Thread: Should I buy a Better Tenor or have my Cordoba tuned up?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2020
    Posts
    6

    Default Should I buy a Better Tenor or have my Cordoba tuned up?

    Hello, newbie here. I currently have a Cordoba Tenor Cutaway Uke, basically the cheapest one they make its a $150 ukulele (it has a pickup). I like the sound, but the frets stick out, and I find it hard to get some chords to not buzz. It was my first ukulele and there were not alot of choices.
    When I compare it to my spruce long neck Kala soprano (also a $150 uke), I find that the Kala is smoother, easier to play, and just feels better.
    I'm thinking of purchasing a better Tenor, and the Martin has caught my eye. But I do like the cutaway look.
    I'm not going to attempt to file the frets myself, or adjust the action. Would it be better to purchase an upgraded Tenor? Or take this one to a specialist and have it worked on? I would be happy sinking the money into this one if I could get it closer to the Kala.
    Any ukulele I purchase would more than likely be from an internet store. We are pretty much stuck indoors, I am in upstate NY.
    Thanks, Keith

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
    Location
    NorCal
    Posts
    530

    Default

    My thinking is that if finances permit and you play the uke frequently (daily?), get a new one. You already know that there is a difference between your Cordoba and Kala. The Kala should be the baseline for the minimum quality of looks, feel, and sound that you will upgrade to. The difference will be noticed every time you pick up the better uke. It will also motivate you to play (and improve) more.

    I would look to contact someone like Mim directly and get her recommendations. You will have a full proper setup with any uke you purchase from her. This should be better spent than putting money into the Cordoba with no guarantee that it will be improved enough.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Location
    Canada Prairies, brrr ....
    Posts
    887

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    A more expensive uke is not necessarily "better" and you did not state how much more you are willing to spend. You already have identified the problems as being setup related and fret sprout and increasing action can happen to even the most expensive uke over time. So even if you spend $1500 you may end up with the same issues in a year or two. That said I love my higher end ukes for sure. With mass produced ukes from China more money will not necessarily get you a better uke but just more bling and better specs. The real improvement happens if you get a uke from a small family run business that received individual attention when it was built. They Hawaiian K brands are good examples of that.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Capital District, New York
    Posts
    3,733

    Default

    Hi, Keith.

    I've got a Cordoba TM20 (no cutaway or electronics), and I love it. It was perfect out of the box, and I have no desire to get rid of it. (I have 24 ukes)

    When I needed a good uke to bring to an elementary school summer program for the past two years, the Cordoba was it. I was lucky - I had seen two at GC that were barely playable, but had a local shop order one for me, and it was perfect. (which was good, because they had no idea how to do a uke setup.)

    Upstate NY is pretty big. I'm not far from Albany, so if you are in that area, I can suggest two stores for setup - one is where most of the professional musicians I know go to have their instruments worked on. If you are near Rochester, I hear great things about Bernunzio's. I'm told there are good shops in Syracuse.

    My suggestion? Don't limit yourself. If you like the Cordoba, keep it and get it worked on. But don't let that stop you from shopping for, playing, and comparing other ukes. I'll agree that Mim and Uke Republic are good east coast mail order places that will give you personal service. Call them, don't rely on email. Make that initial contact by voice, and you will be golden from there on out. Tell them what you want, and ask what they can do for you.

    And prepare to be dazzled.

    -Kurt
    Banjo Ukes: Southern Cross, Firefly, Stella
    Sopranos: Donaldson, Timms, Moku, Waterman, Bugsgear, Outdoor, Waverly Street, Harmony
    Concerts:Cocobolo $460 &#412, Ohana CK450QEL, CK-65D, Rosewood Vita, Mahogany Vita,
    Donaldson Custom, Epi Les Paul, National Triolian Reso, Republic
    Tenors: Kala KA-KTG-CY, KoAloha Sceptre, Fluke, Cordoba 20TM
    Bass: Fluke Timber

    Am I done?

    ...Maybe?...

    My YouTube Channel

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2020
    Posts
    6

    Default

    All good points. Thanks. There is a local shop around 30 miles away that knows ukes. Ithaca guitar works. He carry’s a pretty large selection of kalas. That is where I bought mine. He also carry’s Martins. He spent quite a while with me that day picking out the Kala. I can also be in Syracuse and Rochester in around 2 hours. I was thinking $500 range.
    I have been playing around 1/2 hour a day this past month and put a low g string on the Córdoba.
    I’m going to take my time with this, no need to hurry, check out the vendors you guys recommended. I can always keep the Córdoba as my car uke. Sometimes I play on lunch break at work. (Well when we used to go to work).
    Keith

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Oahu Isle, Hawaii
    Posts
    451

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    Two things: (1) quality of sound & (2) play-ability of the uke.

    As for sound: Your Cordoba is audio/electric. If you play a uke via a piezo electronic pickup, the quality of sound is 99% related to the quality of the pickup and the amp -- not so much the quality of the uke itself.

    As for play-ability: Your Cordoba needs a good set-up. Even higher priced ukes need set-ups.

    If you're going to play amped, primarily, I suggest keeping the Cordoba & getting a good set-up.

    Otherwise, upgrade to a better uke with solid top. Buy it from a music store that does guaranteed set-ups or, if by mail, from Mim, or Uke Republic, or Elderly, or AlohaCityUkes -- they all include free set-ups with the ukuleles they sell.
    Last edited by bellgamin; 03-28-2020 at 11:11 PM. Reason: syntax

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Honolulu, HI
    Posts
    87

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    $500 can get you an insanely good ukulele. Not a Hawaiian one, but they don’t need to be Hawaiian to be good. ;-)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    3,745

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    If looking to change from the Cordoba, be aware that they typically have a wider 1.5 " or 38mm nut, with wider 30mm string spacing at the nut. If you are used to that, then move to a more standard 35mm nut with slimmer string spread, it may feel & play differently to you, possibly not in a good way. Of course, it may also be just fine, keep that in mind. Most tenor ukes have a standard 35mm nut, some even a bit less. You mentioned possibly looking at a Martin tenor. The one I owned had a 34mm nut. I loved the tone, thenlook, the Martin history, but could not deal with that thin of a nut. I could never understand why they went with that spec on their tenor, when they use 35.7mm nuts and around 30mm string spread on their smaller S1 soprano and C1k concert ukes.
    John

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
    Location
    Finland
    Posts
    282

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    If your budget is around $500 I would personally definitely go for a new tenor. I believe you can get any of the Pono deluxe models for that kind of money and they are one of the best options at that price range, imo. The Martin is good as well if you like the jangly sound but the nut is perplexingly narrow, as Ukecaster mentioned above. Something like the KoAloha Opio models are excellent as well but also a bit more pricy, although not by much.

    Other than those, there are so many excellent brands for that kind of money. My personal favourites, aside from Pono and KoAloha, are Flight and Magic Fluke, but you'd have to check yourself if you liked any of their models. If you fancy the Martin I'm guessing you're after something a bit more traditional. In that case something like Mainland might be a good choice and would even save you a bit of money. Brands like Kala and Ohana are fine but they are so ubiquitous these days that I personally don't care for them.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Blaine, Washington
    Posts
    2,378

    Default

    Doesn't matter what you buy, if it's not setup properly, it'll still be junk unless you got lucky. if you're going to buy, buy from a dealer like Mims, Uke republic HMS etc. where they actually do a setup before sending out. If you want to buy locally, ask if they do a setup before selling or how much a setup would cost. If they say the setup was done at the factory, I'd search elsewhere. Most instruments action is set a little high.

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