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Thread: Buying advice for my 1st soprano

  1. #11

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    I think the shorter soprano scale length is part of what makes a soprano sound like a soprano.
    The scale length affects how the string vibrates.

    Choice in strings plays a big part too.

  2. #12
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    Out of those three, I would say the Pono. Although it looks ridiculous with that long neck. All out of proportion.

    The KoAloha is probably what everyone will say you should buy, but TBH I don't think that is a good one. Koa ukes are pretty, but I don't like them. I have one which I love, but I wouldn't buy another.

    The Ohanas are very variable. I wouldn't buy one unseen.

    I think most of the interesting sopranos are old, especially at that price. I like the look of the Harmony they have on their website; they want rather a lot for it but it looks to be a nice example. My favourite uke is probably my Harmony. All solid wood, and unlike many old instruments perfect intonation because of that moulded fretboard.

  3. #13
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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!!!
    Three lovely instruments to be sure. I’m not sure about prices and service but that’s a different issue and personal to you. Let’s stick to this store as otherwise, for the budget, its got to be an old Martin copy like the Timms and IIRC Bradford Donaldson (BuzzBD) makes them to order too.

    If money was almost no object then a standard KoAloha Opio Soprano would be pretty much at the top of my list - if money really was no object then I’d upgrade to the standard made in Hawaii version. The special version with a mixed wood top seems needless complexity to me and the standard versions (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=A_a3H9nHeqo) are really nice but have a premium price due to being made in Hawaii (a few friends have the Concert Opio version and one of the guys on Cosmos has the Opio Soprano)
    https://www.southernukulelestore.co....-finish-w-bag/
    https://alohacityukes.com/collection...-acacia-kso-10
    https://alohacityukes.com/collection...made-in-hawaii

    One of UU’s members is selling a Standard Soprano in KoAloha’s standard range, you might like to check on that.
    https://forum.ukuleleunderground.com...leles-for-Sale

    The Ohana sounds lovely and it’s a great looker too. Whether it has the classic Soprano sound I’m not too sure. IIRC Ohana Sopranos have narrow necks and so tightly spaced strings - maybe ask the dealer to do some measurements for you on this particular model. Chris touches on QA, IIRC he used to sell instruments, your dealer might ensure that what was supplied was of the expected high quality.

    Pono’s. Well I used to love long neck Sops but now I’m more doubtful. The shorter scale changes how you play and is part of the Soprano experience. IIRC Pono Sopranos have a slightly shorter than standard scale, that put me off of bidding on one.
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 05-03-2021 at 10:31 PM.

  4. #14
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    The ukes you listed are fine, especially the KoAloha and Pono, but I don't know if they're actually what you're after. The mango and koa combo probably won't give you the twangy sound you want. Those tonewoods will give you a warmer sound even with a soprano body. Don't get me wrong, the KoAloha is excellent quality but I'm just concerned if it's what you actually want. The Ohana definitely isn't, I would say. That wood combination will give you a completely different sound to a jangly mahogany soprano. Nothing wrong with Ohana in itself of course but personally I usually stay away from softwood tops with sopranos unless we're talking about very particular brands or luthiers.

    I had a look at the selection of the shop. They stock Kiwaya which would be the absolute best choice if you're looking for a classic soprano sound, in my opinion. They have a KTS-5 in stock that's all solid mahogany, excellent playability, Gotoh planetary tuners so you don't have to deal with friction tuners. The only issue is that I'm not completely comfortable in recommending that expensive a uke for someone who hasn't played sopranos much. Keeping that in mind, the Pono you mentioned might be the safest bet with that longer neck. Ponos are excellent ukes as well. The only niggle with them is that many people don't like the strings they come with because they can often make the uke sound a bit muted, so you should be prepared to try different strings on it. Sopranos excel with fluorocarbon strings anyway, in my opinion, especially if you're looking for that jangly soprano sound.

  5. #15
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    Based on your comments, I'm 99.9% sure I'm going to go with the Pono. I'm just waiting until I hear from Uncle Rufus at Cosmos -- I contacted him (via PM) per GG's suggestion.

    I was tempted to go with the KoAloha Opio but -- I hadn't noticed this before -- their sops join at 14th with zero frets beyond that. That's a deal breaker because I sometimes do chords by making a barre at 12 while using standard open-chord shapes on 13th-16th frets.

    I would love to get the Kiwaya, especially because it's joined at 12th vice 14th However, Dohle is right -- the Pono probably makes better sense for me as a neophyte sop player.

    I'll let you folks know the outcome of all this fooferall. Thanks for the help!!!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    This just in -- Uncle Rufus also recommends that I go with KoAloha. He is another who doesn't like the looks of Pono's long neck. However, I'm stuck on the Pono because my playing style has gotta have more than 14 frets. I shall order the Pono tomorrow -- it's waaay past my bedtime here in Hawaii.

    P.S. I dated a Jewish girl in college for a while. She was very pretty but had an unusually long neck. After we became pals (more than simply "dating") she shared with me that she regarded herself as disfigured & seldom got asked out. I suggested she wear turtle neck blouses or use multi-strand necklace-chokers. She did. Soon she became more popular, plus her parents found out I'm a gentile, so she wouldn't date me any more. As the saying goes: "No good deed goes unpunished."
    Last edited by bellgamin; 05-03-2021 at 11:00 PM. Reason: I heard from Rufus
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  6. #16
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    Just a few thoughts.

    Of course I don’t have the very best of Ukes but in my experience of Sopranos playing high up the neck towards the saddle really isn’t their strength and hence stopping at 12 frets on them is actually quite sensible. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Soprano Ukes and they are capable of fantastic music (for examples see some of Sam Muir’s really stretching stuff), but what they are best at is percussive play within the first five frets. At the moment I mostly use mine for fingerpicking classical music (works well too) but they’re ideal for playing with others at strum and sing sessions - I’m looking forward to getting back to Uke Club sessions.

    If you want the Soprano sound and the Soprano experience then (surely it is best to) pick styles of play and music that are within its strengths or at least not within its weaknesses. For music that requires more than twelve frets then you’ve already got lots of other sizes from your ‘stable’ that you can play instead.

    It’s long since sold but for some years I played a Soprano long neck and loved it, it was compact and had more room for my fingers (obviously at the expensive of being a stretch for some chords that would be easy on a standard Soprano scale) - so it was just right for me at that time. That Uke had Nygluts on it and they worked well, I changed to Martin M600’s and surprisingly didn’t like the result at all. Maybe the Martins, under Concert scale tension, were too powerful for the small soundboard? Whatever, it’s something to watch out for: a Concert scale seems to normally be a workable match for a Soprano body but ‘normally’ is not ‘always’.

    Long neck instruments suit some people, but now I’m more inclined to be a traditionalist and accept what so many other people before me have found to work well. Ukes have evolved to the standard sizes and shapes they are now so why try to buck the trend and reinvent the wheel? Is there an ideal Soprano size and shape? Well I’ve a Kala Pineapple that’s suited me very well, it might be a bit mellow and laid back for some folk but I like it and it was very reasonably priced - for a Soprano mine’s quite loud too. The Lanikai that I mentioned in an earlier post is very like my Pineapple but it has a wider fretboard and wider spaced strings for easier playing, it’s an inexpensive way for your “big old clumsy hands” to try the Soprano scale.
    https://alohacityukes.com/collection...kulele-soprano
    https://lanikaiukuleles.com/product/...prano-ukulele/
    My Pineapple’s safe in a case at the moment but out on the table is a cheap and small body figure eight Soprano, it’s a bit brighter and maybe a little quieter - it still does the job nicely though, a keeper, and I wouldn’t like leaving anything more expensive out.

    You’ll do whatever you do but if you want the true Soprano experience, rather than to simply use a Soprano for all of the music that you normally play, then Uncle Rufus did indeed give you very good advice. Why not think about it some more? Why not compromise a little on what music you’ll use it for and be content to stick within the twelve? I don’t think many people regret buying a KoAloha Opio Soprano.
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 05-04-2021 at 08:25 AM. Reason: Additional detail added

  7. #17
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    I'll agree with Graham that sopranos aren't at their best past the 12th fret unless we're talking about very specific ukes. My soprano Moon Bird for example is surprisingly resonant even beyond the 12th fret. Then again, that thing is a cannon anyway. But in any case, a concert scale neck will alleviate that issue as well. I think a long neck soprano is a nice compromise solution here. Yes, the long neck Pono does look a bit strange but that's mostly because it has a more traditional narrow body. Something like a long neck soprano KoAloha or Cocobolo or a similar uke with a wider lower bout actually looks quite pleasing to me. Looks are tertiary anyway after sound and playability so I wouldn't worry about it that much.

  8. #18
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    Kanile'a standard soprano has 14 frets to the body plus 6 more frets above that.
    https://theukulelesite.com/kanile-a-...1-s-19058.html
    kanile_a_k-1_s_19058-8.jpg

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by bellgamin View Post
    ...That's a deal breaker because I sometimes do chords by making a barre at 12 while using standard open-chord shapes on 13th-16th frets.
    ...
    However, I'm stuck on the Pono because my playing style has gotta have more than 14 frets. I shall order the Pono tomorrow -- it's waaay past my bedtime here ..
    If you play past the 12th fret regularly, then you should get the Pono long neck. A standard soprano doesn't have much room between the frets that high up.

    Perhaps waiting (if that's possible) and see if you can find a KoAloha factory special long neck soprano (these are ukes with factory blems). You can save $200.

  10. #20
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    If you like, I can provide you with a sound sample of the KoAloha long neck soprano if you think if might help.

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