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Thread: Are expensive "high end" ukuleles really worth it for a non-pro player?

  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by VegasGeorge View Post
    I forgot to mention: A high end Uke will not make you a better player. But, a really cheap Uke can discourage your playing, and hold you back.
    One of my teachers once said that a cheap ukulele can make you a better player because it forces you to work much harder to sound good. Of course that you are right if you are not really motivated to sound good, you could just as easily quit in frustration.

  2. #22

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    A Ukulele with decent quality is really important for beginners because thus when you find something wrong, you will know it's most likely because of your skill, not because of the flaws in your Ukulele.
    Decent quality doesn't mean expensive. For your budget $500, you can get a decent Pono.

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eggs_n_Ham View Post
    Hello:

    I'm new to ukulele and trying to "self-learn". I purchased a concert Aklot ukulele from amazon and by all accounts ( as I learn to differentiate sounds and parts of a ukulele), it's a fine little ukulele. The only thing I did to it was change the strings to Martin 600's as the stock Aquilas really hurt my fingers.

    So I was looking at the "next level" ukuleles last night. I watch a lot of "gotaukulele" reviews as well as many others. Amongst the ukuleles I could afford vs what I want (koaloha, kamaka, romero creations), I really like Duke, Ortega, Snail, Flight and Pono. I went back and listened to reviews on youtube about these ukuleles and am wondering: are these ukuleles *really any different, really any better* than a well made inexpensive ukulele?
    At what point do you really hear the difference between a good ukulele and a really fine ukulele? If you had a budget limit of under $500 u.s.d, would you consider any of the ukuleles I've named and if not, what do you recommend?
    Expensive kit for any hobby is almost always overkill and not the best use of money. It ain’t what you’ve got it’s what you do with it that matters. Buying an expensive Uke makes about as much sense as buying a Porsche without knowing how to drive it, you’d be better off to buy a small engined Ford and take some driving lessons. After that the Ford will take you everywhere you want to go and be fast enough too. I would also add that - more so than in some other circumstances - the quality of what Uke you buy is both subjective and only loosely associated with what you pay for it.

    I suggest that you leave your money in the Bank and play what you have for a few years or more. In reality most folk never outgrow a reasonable entry level Uke. A few of my friends have been persuaded to buy a KoAloha Opio - very nice Ukes they are too and I’d quite like one. The thing is only one of those friends has the skill to really use their Opio and she’s a long time Guitar player, the other folk have a lovely sounding and looking instrument but they often use their cheapy instead (particularly if we’re playing outside) and do so without any detriment to their playing. We’ve all been playing for quite a few years and bar the guitar player we all started out as total beginners - some of the beginning together group practice more than others and some have more talent than others but none are held back by a cheaper Uke.

    TLDR: Get skilled first, that takes years, then think about buying better instruments.
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 05-18-2021 at 09:49 PM.

  4. #24
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    Eh . . what's your budget?

    If I win the lottery, I'm buying Collings guitars and K-brand Ukes, 'cuz I've played them and they're Amazing.

    Right now? Well, Kalas are nice . . .

    I'd argue that fancy instruments are actually worse for touring pros. They don't stay nice for very long in a tour truck.
    Concert: Lanikai LU-21C (Southcoast MU)
    Soprano: Kala KA-PWS (Southcoast Machete)
    Baritone "Rennaissance Guitar": Kala KA-SBG (C-Linear with Worth BL-LGs currently.)
    Tenor: Kala ATP-CTG (Southcoast LMU-NW
    Tenor "Low G': Kala KA-FMTG (Southcoast LML-NW
    Tenor: Kala SRT-CTG-E (Southcoast LMU-NW
    Baritone "Nui": Pono NS-10 (Worth B-B)

  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Graham Greenbag View Post
    Expensive kit for any hobby is almost always overkill and not the best use of money. It ain’t what you’ve got it’s what you do with it that matters. Buying an expensive Uke makes about as much sense as buying a Porsche without knowing how to drive it, you’d be better off to buy a small engined Ford and take some driving lessons. After that the Ford will take you everywhere you want to go and be fast enough too. I would also add that - more so than in some other circumstances - the quality of what Uke you buy is both subjective and only loosely associated with what you pay for it.

    I suggest that you leave your money in the Bank and play what you have for a few years or more. In reality most folk never outgrow a reasonable entry level Uke. A few of my friends have been persuaded to buy a KoAloha Opio - very nice Ukes they are too and I’d quite like one. The thing is only one of those friends has the skill to really use their Opio and she’s a long time Guitar player, the other folk have a lovely sounding and looking instrument but they often use their cheapy instead (particularly if we’re playing outside) and do so without any detriment to their playing. We’ve all been playing for quite a few years and bar the guitar player we all started out as total beginners - some of the beginning together group practice more than others and some have more talent than others but none are held back by a cheaper Uke.

    TLDR: Get skilled first, that takes years, then think about buying better instruments.
    I agree with Graham.
    You wrote:
    I'm new to ukulele and trying to "self-learn". I purchased a concert Aklot ukulele from amazon and by all accounts ( as I learn to differentiate sounds and parts of a ukulele), it's a fine little ukulele. The only thing I did to it was change the strings to Martin 600's as the stock Aquilas really hurt my fingers.

    It's clear that you like the Aklot, how it plays, and probably how it sounds. It does not hamper any learning. You don't resent playing it.
    You don't mention the model, but I know that the mahogany Aklot with solid top, dove engraved on the headstock, and dove-shaped string through bridge is well regarded.
    Do what Graham suggests: play what you have for a bit longer, and save up for maybe that Pono or a secondhand Opio later. You might decide you want a linear uke at some point. An Opio tenor would be a fantastic complement to your reentrant concert.

  6. #26
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    I think there is another difference. I started about 10 years ago with fairly inexpensive ukes - not $50, but a couple of hundred. I still have a few low end ukes (mainly under $100) to have within arm's reach in most of the rooms I spend much time in.

    I also have a few absolutely exquisite customs. And yes, they sound better and are more fun to play, for most songs. (Not all) But the difference is my interaction with the instrument. With my high end ukes, playing them is like a conversation, where I can, intentionally and not intentionally, find nuances and music in all kinds of ways. My low end ukes I make music on. My high end ukes I make music with.

  7. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by VegasGeorge View Post
    I guess I'd answer your question by saying, "It depends ...." If all your looking for is a Uke to learn on, which sounds good, and is easy to play, then you don't need a high priced instrument. Lots of instruments in the $300 to $800 range will suit your purposes just fine. Technically, the "sound" of a Uke may be judged by listening carefully to single notes being plucked, and single chords being strummed. No fancy playing skill is required. In such a test, the high end Ukes will usually sound somewhat better. Not a lot better, but a little better. The quality of the builds between the mid range and high end Ukes may be the same. If you are a connoisseur of fine tone woods, you may find more satisfaction in the high end Ukes. The higher the price of the instrument, the more selective I would expect the builder to be in choosing the woods. For example, not all Koa woods are the same. Some are quite ordinary, while others are quite exceptional. But, they may sound the same. I've never heard anyone claim that gorgeous flamed Koa actually sounds better than simple straight grained Koa. It's just more esthetically pleasing, at least to some, and definitely more expensive. I think the bottom line is very subjective. Some people really love owning an instrument that is itself a work of art. Others just think of their instrument as a tool, and could care less about its physical appearance. Think of Willie Nelson playing his beat up old guitar, Trigger. I wish I had Willie's talent, but I'm not envious of his taste in instruments. I'm sure I'd want something that looked nicer from the outside. So, finally, my advice about buying a Uke. Look at Ohana limited editions and Mainland Ukes. There you will find beauty, good sound quality, and playability all for a mid range price.
    Thanks! Indeed, responsiveness, better sound and quality for longevity of play are main reasons I want a mid-priced ukulele. My little $50 Aklot concert is great but I want a "next level" ukulele to compare and train my ear. I've been looking at Ohana (forgot about Mainland- I was indeed impressed by them!) but I've heard and read mixed reviews regarding quality control with the Ohana brand.

    It's quite daunting when there are so many to choose from!
    Last edited by Eggs_n_Ham; 05-19-2021 at 07:58 AM.

  8. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ms Bean View Post
    I agree with Graham.
    You wrote:
    I'm new to ukulele and trying to "self-learn". I purchased a concert Aklot ukulele from amazon and by all accounts ( as I learn to differentiate sounds and parts of a ukulele), it's a fine little ukulele. The only thing I did to it was change the strings to Martin 600's as the stock Aquilas really hurt my fingers.

    It's clear that you like the Aklot, how it plays, and probably how it sounds. It does not hamper any learning. You don't resent playing it.
    You don't mention the model, but I know that the mahogany Aklot with solid top, dove engraved on the headstock, and dove-shaped string through bridge is well regarded.
    Do what Graham suggests: play what you have for a bit longer, and save up for maybe that Pono or a secondhand Opio later. You might decide you want a linear uke at some point. An Opio tenor would be a fantastic complement to your reentrant concert.
    The Aklot is a mahogany concert that seems to check all the boxes. As it takes me forever to pull the trigger on major purchases, the Aklot will get plenty of attention!

  9. #29
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    Apr 2021
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    Grafton, Wisconsin
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eggs_n_Ham View Post
    Thanks! Indeed, responsiveness, better sound and quality for longevity of play are main reasons I want a mid-priced ukulele. My little $50 Aklot concert is great but I want a "next level" ukulele to compare and train my ear. I've been looking at Ohana (forgot about Mainland- I was indeed impressed by them!) but I've heard and read mixed reviews regarding quality control with the Ohana brand.

    It's quite daunting when there are so many to choose from!
    If you would choose an Ohana get that from Mim. Lot's and lots of choices out there....

  10. #30
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    Main thing is set up of the uke. If it's setup to your liking, quality is just a matter of preference. Being a first step up; you may want to look at used. You can buy a higher quality instrument for the same price you were planning on spending for a new one.

    Tin Ear is right, Ohana makes a great instrument as does Mainland and others. In that price range, most are relatively the same, Made in China with a solid top and laminated back and sides. Big difference is if it's setup before shipping out.

    You may want to note down what you like and don't like on the one you have. Do you like the neck , is it too thin or fat for your liking; radiused fretboard, all solid or is laminate okay? Type of wood and sound you want. Mahogany is mellower than maple, Spruce top and cedar are different. Spruce is brighter sound than cedar. If you're not sure, this is a good place to ask questions.

    If you like a rounder chunky neck, Pono and Kala have that profile. If you want a thinner neck, Oasis, Mainland, Martin shape a thinner neck. I've had at least one of each thru the years and liked them all. I learned my preferences and incorporated them in the next buy. I know I like a thin, fast low action neck with a slight radius but don't mind a flat fretboard. I play my Oasis uke as much as my custom high end instruments. The neck is fast with a good setup and intonation; most everything else is secondary.

    A 2 to 500 dollar range with setup is perfect for a second instrument. You will notice a big difference. Be warned, this won't be your last lol.
    Last edited by Patrick Madsen; 05-19-2021 at 01:06 PM.

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