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Thread: Working my way through ukes...

  1. #1
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    Default Working my way through ukes...

    I've been an instrument enthusiast for many years. I have been diagnosed by my wife as having both BAS and GAS, now I'm showing symptoms of UAS. You all know what that is....

    Anyhow I'm wondering if there is a roadmap to this journey. As to banjos I focused on flatheads, then arch tops, then other tone rings, then onto the woods--walnut, maple, mahogany, etc.

    With guitars--same thing--I worked through the dreads, the OMs, mahogany, spruce, rosewood, etc.

    Is there a similar roadmap for ukes? Right now I'm following my instincts towards mahogany sopranos...which symptom am I likely to contract next?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by diasuke View Post
    I've been an instrument enthusiast for many years. I have been diagnosed by my wife as having both BAS and GAS, now I'm showing symptoms of UAS. You all know what that is....

    Anyhow I'm wondering if there is a roadmap to this journey. As to banjos I focused on flatheads, then arch tops, then other tone rings, then onto the woods--walnut, maple, mahogany, etc.

    With guitars--same thing--I worked through the dreads, the OMs, mahogany, spruce, rosewood, etc.

    Is there a similar roadmap for ukes? Right now I'm following my instincts towards mahogany sopranos...which symptom am I likely to contract next?
    Well, one roadmap commonly followed is to start with one for about $50 - 100. Then get one for around $200 that might be solid wood. After that, post that you are looking for a $300 - 500 one in your size and ask for recommendations. Now you should be in your third month of playing and considering a real nice uke, maybe one of the Ks from Hawaii for $1,000 - 2,000. That should last you through your first year if you stay off this forum and websites like HMS that spread UAS.

  3. #3
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    A few different avenues to go down....niche/function/purpose, body size/scale length, materials/bracing, etc.

    A great all-'hog soprano is a capably versatile instrument. Assuming you're looking to play at home and not every day at the beach or something, I say buy the nicest all-mahogany soprano uke you can find/afford then play the heck out of it until it stops working for you in some important aspect. Not only will you become a much better player this way, but you'll also learn a LOT about what to look for in future 'ukulele.

    I've gone through UAS. The journey is fun but potentially expensive, and in the end, all I discovered was that every uke fulfills specific needs with varying degrees of success. At this point, I don't add to my stable unless there's a particular niche none of my current ukes fill to my satisfaction. Toward this end, I recently bought my first great all-'hog uke. In retrospect, if I'd bought it at the beginning, my UAS would likely have been averted.
    Last edited by bacchettadavid; 05-05-2021 at 01:25 PM.
    "Who hears music, feels his solitude Peopled at once -- for how count heart-beats plain / Unless a company, with hearts which beat, / Come close to the musician, seen or no?" - Robert Browning, "Balaustion's Adventure"

  4. #4
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    UAS takes many forms. I think mine is dying down...I think...

    You could go:
    Sizes (Sopranos-baritones, long neck, large body, etc.)
    Builds/Materials (All solid, same wood, soft top/ hard back, bracing styles, etc.)
    Wood choice (Koa, spruce, mahogany, mango, cedar, POC, etc.)
    Brands (K brands, USA made, Import brands, Custom made, etc.)
    Playing styles (Some do better with finger picking, strumming, electric, etc.)

    In my short but dedicated experience, UAS is often about finding the style you enjoy playing and the instrument that delivers the best sound for that style in your budget. Ukuleles have such a variety that the possibilities are endless! I agree with David, though, and try to have each ukulele fill a certain yet unique spot in my collection. I play all of mine at least twice a week because of that.
    Soprano
    KoAloha Opio - Acacia

    Tenors
    aNueNue AMM3 - Mahogany (Low G)
    aNueNue UT3K Koa Bird - Koa
    aNueNue UT200 Moon Bird - Spruce/Rosewood (Low G)
    Jupiter Ukulele #64 - Cedar/Sycamore (Low G)
    Kanile'a K1-T Premium - Koa
    Kanile'a K1-T5 - Koa
    KoAloha KTM-25 #161 - Koa (Low G)

    Baritone+
    Kanile'a K1-B - Koa
    Pono UL4-30 - Spruce/Rosewood Steel String

  5. #5
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    They biggest difference between ukes is size. So the collection can go from small Soprano to large Baritone or the other way. Once you have all sizes then there are specialty ukes such as 6 and 8 string tenors. Further diversification by building style for example contrast classical Martin mahogany with Hawaiian koa designs, and on top of that the many modern variations.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by KaminTheWeaver View Post
    UAS takes many forms. I think mine is dying down...I think...

    You could go:
    Sizes (Sopranos-baritones, long neck, large body, etc.)
    Builds/Materials (All solid, same wood, soft top/ hard back, bracing styles, etc.)
    Wood choice (Koa, spruce, mahogany, mango, cedar, POC, etc.)
    Brands (K brands, USA made, Import brands, Custom made, etc.)
    Playing styles (Some do better with finger picking, strumming, electric, etc.)

    In my short but dedicated experience, UAS is often about finding the style you enjoy playing and the instrument that delivers the best sound for that style in your budget. Ukuleles have such a variety that the possibilities are endless! I agree with David, though, and try to have each ukulele fill a certain yet unique spot in my collection. I play all of mine at least twice a week because of that.

    Ok...tell me about this soft top/hard back thing.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill1 View Post
    Mahogany sopranos is a good end point to park instrument buying at.

    Park the wood/instrument journey there and jump into another dimension using them.

    A good starting point could be the Ukulele Music Library at the University of Hawaii, just as an example.

    Start with the material from 1890, and work along to 2021, through things like Ernest Ka'ai Hawaiian Troubadours from the Bird of Paradise around 1912 to the world tour in the mid 1920s. Not always just the story parts, but finding the sheet music and audio material and doing some musical analysis. But if you can find what left of the stories in old newspaper, which has not been destroyed by Wikipedia Editor idiots and such playing games to see who knows the most, because the stories can be interesting. When we can travel again you could replicate the world tour, while you are waiting you could map out the path of Ernest's world tour and the legacy which continues to this day, some of the people in the legacy have no idea that it exists.

    https://www.ukulelemag.com/stories/m...uleles-history
    https://www.ukulelemag.com/stories/n...of-the-ukulele

    Follow the history through the 1960/70s TV ukulele shows/heroes and their demise which was precipitated by the producers who created the Tiny Tim character using a mild mannered ukulele genius who played the part of a ukulele clown.

    Through the dead years that followed, up to people/events like the Mahalo U30 and Jim Beloff in the late 1990s when low cost playable instruments happened and were picked up and played. Through the fallout of the competing companies early this century, until now.

    You can map this journey with your mahogany soprano, musically and through reading about the stories and characters, for almost no significant further financial outlay. But of course it will required some time and effort to find material and learn how it was played.
    Wow. I

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by diasuke View Post
    Ok...tell me about this soft top/hard back thing.
    Ukuleles with soft wood tops like spruce, cedar, or redwood paired with a hardwood back and sides like rosewood, walnut, or ebony produce a slightly different sound than an instrument with all one wood. Aaron Keim explains it best in his video for his customers choosing woods for his instruments.

    https://youtu.be/_eqOQDGV8d0

  9. #9
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    I think some part of UAS comes from the intimate way in which players cradle their Ukes. You can actually hug your Uke, while laying your hands on its curves. In many ways it's a more personal experience than holding a guitar or other larger instrument. That closeness inculcates a fondness, and awakens certain paternalistic feelings toward the little Ukulele. I appreciate the instruments themselves as much as I do the experience of playing them. Another sign of this phenomena is the reaction you get from nonplayers when they ask you about your Ukuleles. You start to explain the different qualities and values, and before you know it, their eyes roll to one side, and they change the subject. It's as if they aren't comfortable hearing what you have to say about your Ukes. They don't understand, and it's that part that they don't understand that tells the story. That's the part where your love for the Uke lives, where your UAS resides.
    "The sole cause of all human misery is the inability of people
    to sit quietly in their rooms." - Blaise Pascal, 1670

  10. #10
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    I would highly recommend moving to a koa ukulele. This will give a great baseline from which your explorations can move. Koa sound may not be the earliest wood that ukes were made of, but it is the one that most consider to be the foundation of the Hawaiian Ukulele sound. Kamaka has been making koa ukes for over 100 years. Then I'd look at Martin mahogany ukes. They were recognized as making some of the best sounding soprano mainland ukes during the golden age of ukuleles. After those, experiment with other woods and combinations of woods. Plus look at different designs & makers. Mass-produced, small cottage shops, custom luthier-made. Country of origin.

    Strings will have the greatest impact on the sound of your ukuleles. Nylon, Composite, Fluorocarbon strings sound very different. The various brands and types within those categories will have more subtle differences.

    The nuances and differences would take several lifetimes to explore. With more coming every year. It's a fun pastime and a great way to make friends and keep your mind active.

    Enjoy your journey.
    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

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