Is a high-end Uke a bad idea for a rookie?

I don't think John's advice is unhelpful, but it doesn't apply to all instruments (yes, I know, we're not talking about all instruments here, we're talking about ukes). For example, in the flute world the "beginner" flutes are more forgiving and easier to start out on than the more expensive ones. A beginner might have a very tough go with a $ 5000 Miyazawa, but get along fine (at first, anyway) with a $ 500 student-model Pearl. (Yet another reason I like ukes. Imagine if a Dolphin or Kala KA-S were $ 500! How many uke players would there be???)

Well...I admit...most of my experience is with stringed instruments. And, I know that with some instruments a beginner really can damage them by playing improperly (ruining the reed plate of a harmonica while learning to bend is a pretty common occurrence and "good" harmonicas are more easily damaged than cheap ones). But, even in the case you cite (I know nothing about "real flutes" I only have NAFs) would you rather have a beginner on that $5k Miyazawa or a $100 Chinese eBay special? I bet that even if those expensive flutes are a little more difficult to play a beginner would still be better off starting on one of those than on eBay junk!

I know a couple of folks in the music-store business and every school year they are flat-out inundated with crappy unplayable band instruments that parents bought on eBay for peanuts, then the music teacher rejects them and says they need repair and adjustment to be made playable, and then those parents get angry at the music store for having the nerve to charge them a living wage for repairs to something that wasn't worth buying in the first place. That's the sort of scenario I'm trying to avoid with my advice to parents. A few years ago I happened to be in that music store when a parent was fuming about a repair bill that was less than a hundred dollars on a POC horn they'd gotten off eBay. The woman kept screeching that she was being robbed, that they were charging her more than she paid for it. After paying the bill and illustrating a stunning lack of vocabulary she stormed out and burned rubber out of the parking lot in her European luxury car (Mercedes, if I remember right, but it's been a few years, it might have been a BMW).

After she left my friend in the store told me all the work his repair guy had to do to make the horn playable and he'd clearly taken a loss on the repairs. He said he'd done it for so little because the lady had seemed nice and her kid grief-stricken when they'd first brought the horn in. He doesn't even touch instrument repairs for eBay specials, now.

You know I've changed my mine from my initial response. I still feel you should buy the best you can afford but then you should send it to me for safe keeping and to break it in for you. You keep playing the Kala and when you feel ready and worthy of the instrument, send me an email and I'll send it back to you.

That's what I love about the ukulele community. Everyone bends over backwards to be helpful... :biglaugh:

If you really want to be helpful, take them shopping yourself. Show them what to look for, what to listen for, and what makes some instruments cost so much more than others.

Actually, I've done just that many times. I've also set up dozens of guitars over the years for free and in most cases shown the kid what I was doing and why (mostly electrics 'cause those are dead simple compared to most acoustics). I never will forget the kid with the Ibanez with a Floyd Rose tremolo (gosh what a pain in the arse those things are). Anyway, he'd let his buddy who was an "expert" set it up for him - his buddy lined up all the saddles so they were in a straight line and adjusted the pickups so high they were almost touching the strings. LOL

...I make a comfortable living and take great care of my things, but would it be completely asinine of me to drop 1000-1500 on a Hawaiian Koa Tenor as a rookie player? I'm not worried about the love affair ending, I'm not worried about the financial side, I'm more curious as to the practicality side. Hell if I lost both my arms, I'd be content to hang it on the wall just to stare at.
... I don't want to be "THAT guy". :cool:

Go ahead and be that guy. Ukers don't judge too much and a grand is not too extravagant for a good ukulele. In the long run it's cheaper because you haven't acquired 2 or 3 "gateway instruments" while you're getting warmed up. Enjoy it.

I am that guy, uh girl. I bought two x 'gateway' instruments & found myself contemplating two more, before I realised I should just go for what I want. I was lucky to get 2 x K brands, a Kanilea from the UU marketplace and a KoAloha from ebay. All within 3 months of getting my first Lanikai. Definitely more money than talent at this time and I don't care. I love my ukuleles, they give me such pleasure and sound so good. GO for it!!!
I haven't read all five pages, but as a working musician, I always try to recommend that you get the instrument that makes you want to play, and play on a very regular basis, regardless of the price tag. When you are beginning, you may or may not have the skills or technique to fully appreciate a high-end instrument; that's no reason not to get it. However, the biggest downside I could see in your position is that after playing only four months, you still may not know exactly what you like in an instrument and as such, may buy a high end instrument that, while it's very nice and well made, doesn't inspire you to pick it up all the time and play it.

My advice would be to play as many ukes as you can in various pricetags, if this is possible. By that, you're trying out different woods, styles, etc. so that you can start creating a mental list of "This is what I like" and "This is what I don't care for." That way you're better equipped to find a high end uke that fits your personal and musical needs over just buying one to do it.
I'm sure we all know people that have started some sort of avocation like playing music and after a brief or even lengthy period of time gave it up for whatever reason. That in my mind is the only downside, but even then a portion of your "investment" could be recouped. (Given recent prices in the UU Marketplace, all but the very highest end ukes seem to lose a little of their dollar value at resale.)

Besides, ukuleles, even the most expensive, are relatively inexpensive. Consider the guy down the street from me who has a teenaged son that is a budding bicycle racing stud. He wants a bicycle that is on the NORTH end of $10,000 with additional sets of $3,000 wheels just for training. Not to mention the expensive technical clothing, helmets, shoes, traveling to bike races etc etc. Or my wife with her horse addiction. Not only did the horse cost more than a few thousand dollars, but we had to get a $20,000 trailer and an upgraded pick-up to pull it, then there's the cost of boarding and feed, and the saddles...well I think you get the picture.

Go for it already!
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I'm a beginner and recently bought a Kamaka HF-2+ and I don't regret buying it at all. My first uke that I started out playing was a Fender laminate Koa, and there is a big difference in the sound of my inexpensive uke in comparison to my Kamaka. The kamaka sounds so much fuller and richer in comparison to my fender uke.

If you find a uke that you really want to buy and you can afford it, then go for it. Life is too short!

I was thinking the other day how people go and spend fortunes on gadgets. A top of the line iPhone here in Australia is $999 and nobody would bat an eyelid if you said you'd bought an iphone. But you could spend a similar amount and get yourself a Hawaiian made Koa uke for that kind of money.
I believe it is your money and will be your ukulele. Buy exactly what you want.

I like a nice ukulele myself. It makes me want to play more. And I sound better than I would on a crappy one. Which is not to say a crappy one can't sound good. Jake played my first ukulele. He made it sing. Can I? No.
Go for it! The feel and sound of a 'better' uke encourages you to play. As for wear and tear, ukuleles are made to be played! I would much rather have a coupla dings and knocks than not have had the pleasure of playing them;)
It's beautiful! I love the contrast.

Show us pix when it arrives. :D:D:D

LOL. Not that we're pressuring you to buy it or anything...... :drool:
The advice I'd give you is a little bit different from what most have said. I would be all for buying the best you can afford, but the problem is, since you are a beginner, you don't know yet what you'll consider 'best'. It's true that our tastes may continue to evolve and change, even after we're experienced, but I do think there is a good chance that you won't know what you like until you've had a chance to play for a little while. It took me a while, for example, to determine that I really like radiused fretboards, and that I need 14 frets to the body and that certain tones, although I can appreciate them, aren't for me. If I had a really limited budget and knew I could only buy one really nice ukulele, I'm not sure I would have been best served by spending it all at the outset. The best thing for you to do is to try them out as much as you can. But if that is not possible, you ought to work with a vendor, like Hawaiian Music Supply ( that will help you pinpoint what you're looking for and that has a good return policy. Good luck!
The kind responses have been overwhelming guys, this is a great education. For what its worth, this Uke is currently on my radar:

My most sincere appreciation!


Yay! Buy that and we can be Kanile'a buddies:

If you're planning on buying it from a store on Oahu, and you're expecting to pay around $ 1300 to $ 1400, then buy it from HMS. The same price, their famous setup and one of the best reputations for customer service in the business.
I just sent an a message to the ukulelesite, thanks for the referrals guys. Maybe you guys can score some referral bonuses out of it :eek:
Broadway Music in Orangeville is a Kanilea dealer. Not sure if they have anything at the moment but they can bring one up for you BUT the drawback is that you might not have much options on choosing wood grain or sound testing. The other option is to check out a reputable online reseller like Hawaii Music Supply.

I was at Broadway for the first time on Friday and they had a couple of Kanileas, a long neck concert and a tenor (and sweet little put-away-new 1971 Kamaka soprano). Neither were premium's if I recall but you could get a general feel of them (if not mistaken, the Kanileas have a wider neck?).

I'm in about the same boat as you but plan to stick with my Mainlands for now, and within a year or so make a trip to HMS so I can try before I buy.
Since I'm a rookie, I don't feel qualified to tell you which uke to buy. However, I'm an experienced trumpet player and I can say that playing a "quality" as opposed to "cheap" instrument is a real pleasure. As to damages/dings, the more you play it, the greater the chance for dings, etc.. However, you aren't buying it to just let it set in the case, you want to play as much as your enjoyment of it allows. You are fortunate to be able to play a nice instrument. Go for it! I'm not rich, but I didn't buy the cheapest uke I could find when I started. I'm also very fortunate to have what I do and I have no regrets with starting out with good ukes either.
the only way you know if it's the uke is right for you is that you like to play it alot because it is comfortable to play, sounds good and you pick it up everytime...happy strummings.
takes time to find the right is secondary...ALWAYS :)
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