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Thread: Buying advice for my 1st soprano

  1. #1
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    Default Buying advice for my 1st soprano

    I own 22 ukuleles & not one of them is a soprano.

    I just watched Joe Brown play & sing "I'll See You in My Dreams" with a soprano uke. I loved its twangy soprano sound for that particular type of song so, after all these years, I'm going to buy my 1st soprano.

    However, with my big old clumsy hands -- plus the fact that my hands are 90 years old -- I don't think I can handle a standard soprano-sized neck. So please, bear a hand with the following 3 Q's...............

    QUESTION-1: If I buy a long-necked soprano, set-up re-entry, will it still have that twangy, soprano uke sound? In other words, does a longer neck majorly affect the uke's sound?

    QUESTION-2: I prefer all-solid-mahogany ukes. However, hog tends to be a bit mellow, right? Since I want a twangy soprano uke, should I go sold spruce top with solid hog B&S? Or................?

    QUESTION-3: For my voice range, I usually downtune my ukes 2 semitones to F Bb D G instead of GCEA. Will the downtune majorly affect the soprano's twanginess? (If so, I'l tune it GCEA.)

    P.S. I'm buying online. "Don't get around much any more."
    Last edited by bellgamin; 05-02-2021 at 10:48 PM. Reason: spelling
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  2. #2
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    That Sopranos cannot be played by people with big fingers is mis-information with a grain of truth in it. What is important is the spacing between the strings so opt for a wider neck and check that the strings are then well spaced too.

    Your simplest purchase would be an Islander Soprano and, with your location, you might well be able to try before you buy - a google search shows some Uke shops not too far from you ...
    The Islander’s list price is, I believe, higher than street price. https://www.islanderukulele.com/product/as-4/
    I have too many Ukes already but if not then these would be in my sights too:
    https://lanikaiukuleles.com/product/...prano-ukulele/ ma-p
    https://www.batonrougeguitars.com/uk...un-154023.html v2-sw
    https://www.kiwayasbest.com/html/page46.html ksu-1


    Whatever you get will need to be set-up.

    Student on Cosmos (where you are also a member) might advise you better. He’s about 6’ 6”, plays Soprano and down-tunes his instrument to match his voice. From what I read solid spruce tops on Sopranos are virtually always un-helpful overkill, stay with mahogany or koa. Again Cosmos, but Uncle Rufus there instead, will give you the definitive answer.

    I’m of the view that you don’t need to spend a lot to get a decent sounding instrument, as this is your first Soprano you might well be happy to limit your budget to a reasonable laminate too. Set it up well, make sure that it has good strings on it and away you go; in terms of useful musical output skill is the biggest factor by far, of course YMMV.
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 05-03-2021 at 06:19 AM. Reason: Additional detail added

  3. #3
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    1) Yes, a long neck soprano will almost have an identical sound to a normal soprano. The longer neck gives more sustain so the sound will be marginally fuller but it will still have the typical soprano sound. One response above already mentioned that typically the issue with sopranos is more to do with nut width / string spacing, but if you're absolutely positive that you specifically need space between the frets then a long neck soprano is a good choice.

    2) Mahogany is the perfect tonewood for a twangy soprano, in my opinion. A soft wood top will just make the sound even brighter. Mahogany will still have some mellowness even with sopranos but for me the typical harmonization of mahogany is the thing that gives that quintessential jangly soprano sound.

    3) This is something I don't have experience with myself. I would've thought tuning down would make the sound too warm even on a soprano but there was a opinion contrary to mine above.

    If you give us your budget it would be easier to recommend some specific brands or models.

  4. #4
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    Yes I tried some long neck sopranos and they are great as they have the comfort of concert scale combined with small body and tone of the soprano. Particularly the KoAloha long necks rule, but I have a HanoHano that I picked up for $80 at Good Guys that is fantastic and compares well to ukes at five times the price. Call and see if they have one left. I also owned a proper soprano for a few months and have just donated it to a good cause. I actually tuned it up to D to make it really sound well and that may be something to consider for singing range as well. I think that gCEA is too low for soprano.

  5. #5
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    1. A concert length neck will be as described by Merlin and Dohle. I’ve never tried a tenor neck on a soprano, but I think you’d be drifting too far from the classic sound—and they look awful to me. The long neck should be fine.
    2. Mahogany is key. It’s what Joe has.
    3. Down tuning it is going in the wrong direction. Sopranos aren’t made for that and won’t sound like what you want. Tuning to D, however, could be.

    So happy for you. That’s a great song and showcases the soprano’s charm. I never thought you’d get a soprano!

    You didn’t ask about make and model, so I’ll resist wading in there, particularly since you didn’t state a price range.

  6. #6
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    Here is a good sound comparison of standard soprano vs long-neck vs pineapple soprano. Of course, other brands will sound different. IMHO - getting a better quality instrument is more important with sopranos than with other sizes since cheap sopranos tend to lack vibrance more than the larger sizes.
    https://vimeo.com/52301326

  7. #7
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    Get a proper soprano, made in mahogany.

    You'll grow into it.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by bellgamin View Post
    ..

    QUESTION-1: If I buy a long-necked soprano, set-up re-entry, will it still have that twangy, soprano uke sound? In other words, does a longer neck majorly affect the uke's sound?

    QUESTION-2: I prefer all-solid-mahogany ukes. However, hog tends to be a bit mellow, right? Since I want a twangy soprano uke, should I go sold spruce top with solid hog B&S? Or................?

    QUESTION-3: For my voice range, I usually downtune my ukes 2 semitones to F Bb D G instead of GCEA. Will the downtune majorly affect the soprano's twanginess? (If so, I'l tune it GCEA.)

    P.S. I'm buying online. "Don't get around much any more."
    1. Yes, it'll have the same soprano sound as the body is the same.
    2. I don't think brightness and trangyness are the same, so I don't think a spruce top will make the sound more twangy.
    3. Sopranos have low tensions on the strings already, tuning it down 2 semitones might get fret buzz.

    For sopranos, if you don't play high up on the neck, the string and fret spacing isn't too different than a concert uke. The main adjustment would be that your fretting hand is closer to your body. If you've never tried a soprano, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with their playability.

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    Many thanks to all for the very very helpful comments.

    I visited my favorite online ukulele store -- it's in a Chicago suburb but the owner, Matt, is from Hawaii & has sold me several ukuleles. In each case, the ukuleles were shipped free to Hawaii & had perfect set-ups to my exact specs.

    Each of the 3 choices has a video demo about 3/4 down the page. Please give a listen & tell me what you think. (All 3 ukes are solid wood all over.)

    One of the ukes is a KoAloha. I was reluctant to include it because they name some of their ukes "Pops" -- which I think is no-class for the same reason that I seldom eat in diners that are named, "Eats." However, I include it because it's lovely to look at, sounds good, & has an unusual wood combo.

    KoAloha koa/mango

    The next is an Ohana. I love Ohanas. I also love this one's cedar top/rosewood B&S combo. I have 2 other Ohanas with the same combo -- a baritone & a tenor. They are beautiful to see, a joy to play, and a feast for the ears.

    Ohana cedar/rosewood

    Finally, here's a Pono super soprano, all solid hog. It's the only super in the 3 I have got on my "finals" list. That's because some of your comments convinced me I can play a regular soprano fretboard IF that happens to be the neck on whichever of these 3 ukes wins the race.

    Pono all-hog super
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Again I request you to tell me what you think based primarily on the videos. I like Matt's videos. HMS videos seem to emphasize "look how great I can play," whereas Matt's emphasize, "Listen to this great sounding ukulele."

    Thanks to all for helping!!!
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by bellgamin View Post
    Many thanks to all for the very very helpful comments.

    I visited my favorite online ukulele store -- it's in a Chicago suburb but the owner, Matt, is from Hawaii & has sold me several ukuleles. In each case, the ukuleles were shipped free to Hawaii & had perfect set-ups to my exact specs.

    Each of the 3 choices has a video demo about 3/4 down the page. Please give a listen & tell me what you think. (All 3 ukes are solid wood all over.)

    One of the ukes is a KoAloha. I was reluctant to include it because they name some of their ukes "Pops" -- which I think is no-class for the same reason that I seldom eat in diners that are named, "Eats." However, I include it because it's lovely to look at, sounds good, & has an unusual wood combo.

    KoAloha koa/mango

    The next is an Ohana. I love Ohanas. I also love this one's cedar top/rosewood B&S combo. I have 2 other Ohanas with the same combo -- a baritone & a tenor. They are beautiful to see, a joy to play, and a feast for the ears.

    Ohana cedar/rosewood

    Finally, here's a Pono super soprano, all solid hog. It's the only super in the 3 I have got on my "finals" list. That's because some of your comments convinced me I can play a regular soprano fretboard IF that happens to be the neck on whichever of these 3 ukes wins the race.

    Pono all-hog super
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Again I request you to tell me what you think based primarily on the videos. I like Matt's videos. HMS videos seem to emphasize "look how great I can play," whereas Matt's emphasize, "Listen to this great sounding ukulele."

    Thanks to all for helping!!!
    Pops Okami is the nickname of the founder of Koaloha. He was a respected musician before he started building ukuleles. Now days, his children manage the company, but Pops Okami still makes some of the instruments himself. Are these the instruments that you see named "Pops"?

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