Non-banjo loud ukes for busking (resonator, 8-string?)

bigsciota

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I do some busking and would like a uke that packs a bit more punch than a standard one. I’ve busked with all 4 body sizes, all OK but too quiet to be heard when it gets busier. I actually normally busk with a 5 string banjo, but the ukes are much more portable for travel and such.

Here’s where people usually say “banjo uke.” I don’t know what it is, though; I love the banjo, I love the ukulele, I really do not like the banjo uke.

So I’ve been looking at resonator and 8 string ukes as another option. The Oscar Schmidt OU28T caught my eye as an inexpensive option, as did the Sound Smith tenor resonator.

My main question is, what’s the volume like on 8 stringers vs resonators? Will the 8 string pack enough of a punch, or is the resonator the top non-banjo dog?

And does anyone have any great suggestions or experience with the models I named above? Not looking for anything too expensive, it’ll be getting knocked around!

Thanks!
 
I’ll be watching to see what more knowledgeable folks suggest. I lead a mixed acoustic jam and dont always want to lug a guitar but my ukes are not loud enough w/o amplification. My mandolin cuts thru but I dont like it for every song. A louder uke would be nice. I’m thinking that the Pono baritone nui (small tenor guitar), the version with steel strings might be the ticket. Unfortunately, they have been out of stock everywhere. I’d ideally like to pick up one used. So anyway, I’d be interested too, in hearing some louder alternatives.
 
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I've got a soprano which actually has decent projection tuned up to D. But I was hoping for something a bit louder, honestly.

I really don't like using amplification, in part because I don't like relying on batteries/electronics but mostly because I'm against amplification while busking. It's too frequently abused, rarely sounds all that great, and ends up giving buskers a bad name. But that's a deep rabbit-hole I don't want to go down right now...
 
Good reso ukes cost a lot, so probably best with an 8 string.
Use a pick.
Position might help; hard wall behind you should focus sound outward, or maybe in a corner(?).
 
8 string tenor ukes are reasonably loud when you strum them. If your picking then they're a little louder but maybe not loud enough without amplification.

Resonator ukes are hit and miss. A good one will be louder but honestly the cheaper ones that I have played weren't really that loud at all.
 
If you play outside in a busy area, I reckon you need amplification. A reso is loud, almost as loud as a banjolele but will not cut through the ambient noise of cars and people.
 
Thanks for the replies, I'll have to try out a few 8 string ukes if I can find a place that stocks them. A pick can definitely help, maybe that + an 8 string would be the right idea. If anyone has an OU28T or OU28TE I'd love to know how well they project, they're at a great price point.
 
Maybe one of those metal body Chinese resonator ukes. It’s a little heavier but it’s loud. Possibly too brash though. It
 
How about any ukulele of your choice, with a pickup installed, and a portable amp?

Resonators, banjo ukes, etc are all louder than a typical uke, but you also get a different sound and playing characteristic. They are also limited in how loud they can be.

With an acoustic-electric, you can control the volume to be as loud or quiet as you want.
 
I know that most people solve the volume issue with amplification, and I've got a few portable amps and PAs that I could use. As I've already said, I do not like using amplification while busking, and furthermore, many areas ban or heavily restrict it (and the ones that don't should, IMO). I'll have to see if any store nearby stocks resonator ukes, just to get a feel for how they might sound.
 
I wonder how difficult it would be to find a tiple. I found mine when a local music store was going out of business and had a yard sale. It's a ten string (steel strings) Regal, made in Chicago and it's mighty loud, but better for strumming than finger-picking. I tune it GCEA (actually it's gG,cCc,eEe,aa)
Tiple on chair.jpg tiple strings at bridge.jpg Tiple headstock.jpg

Or, as @igorthebarbarian suggested, my Johnson concert reso is pretty loud, though not as good for sensitive ballads. I use it in our jug band to compete with National guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin and washboard.
Resos - mine &Teds.jpg
 

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My main question is, what’s the volume like on 8 stringers vs resonators? Will the 8 string pack enough of a punch, or is the resonator the top non-banjo dog?
I don't know anything about an 8 string ukuleles or a resonator ukuleles. I know that resonators are heavy, but that's all. I do some busking however. I used to play a solid mahogany Mainland. I switched to an Ohana Spruce top soprano. I play on an old stone wall with the ocean in the back. (See my avatar.) My wife used to tell me that she could not hear me across the street when I played the mahogany ukulele without an amp. She can hear the spruce top soprano across the street and up the block a ways without an amp. So that is something.
 
I know that most people solve the volume issue with amplification, and I've got a few portable amps and PAs that I could use. As I've already said, I do not like using amplification while busking, and furthermore, many areas ban or heavily restrict it (and the ones that don't should, IMO). I'll have to see if any store nearby stocks resonator ukes, just to get a feel for how they might sound.

Could you perhaps get away with something like this?
https://www.ebay.com/itm/JOYO-JA-01...=item3af923d735:g:q4cAAOSwVtZaINw9:rk:17:pf:0

It's a mini amp that just plugs straight into the instrument's jack - no need for a cable.
That way, it seems like an integral part of the instrument, and not apparently "amplification equipment" to the naked eye ;)
 
Could you perhaps get away with something like this?
https://www.ebay.com/itm/JOYO-JA-01...=item3af923d735:g:q4cAAOSwVtZaINw9:rk:17:pf:0

It's a mini amp that just plugs straight into the instrument's jack - no need for a cable.
That way, it seems like an integral part of the instrument, and not apparently "amplification equipment" to the naked eye ;)

Again, I do not like using amplification. I have that option if I wanted to, and have plenty of portable amps. I don’t like it. That’s why I’m looking for acoustic options.
 
Are you just playing the ukulele or are you singing and playing the ukulele and if your singing then how loud is your voice?
If your only a quiet singer then there is no point in overpowering your voice with a loud instrument.

My experience is that musicians are usually louder to the audience than we think we are. I AM a loud singer and player and I can busk un-amplified in a quiet location although I usually busk with an amplifier so that I can sing with a softer dynamic for some songs and I'm not always singing flat out.

First things first I think you need someone you trust to listen to you perform un-amplified to assess how loud or quiet you are.
 
Are you just playing the ukulele or are you singing and playing the ukulele and if your singing then how loud is your voice?
If your only a quiet singer then there is no point in overpowering your voice with a loud instrument.

My experience is that musicians are usually louder to the audience than we think we are. I AM a loud singer and player and I can busk un-amplified in a quiet location although I usually busk with an amplifier so that I can sing with a softer dynamic for some songs and I'm not always singing flat out.

First things first I think you need someone you trust to listen to you perform un-amplified to assess how loud or quiet you are.

I’m a very loud singer, and have been busking for years with a 5 string banjo. I’m not too worried about a ukulele covering me up.
 
I wonder how difficult it would be to find a tiple. I found mine when a local music store was going out of business and had a yard sale. It's a ten string (steel strings) Regal, made in Chicago and it's mighty loud, but better for strumming than finger-picking. I tune it GCEA (actually it's gG,cCc,eEe,aa)
View attachment 113692 View attachment 113693 View attachment 113694

Or, as @igorthebarbarian suggested, my Johnson concert reso is pretty loud, though not as good for sensitive ballads. I use it in our jug band to compete with National guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin and washboard.
View attachment 113696


I’ve actually had my eyes out for a tiple, but I’m not 100% sold on the sound yet. Good to know that the Johnson reso is loud, they’re not too expensive on the used market and seem quite similar to a lot of the cheaper reso ukes out there.
 
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Thanks for the replies, I'll have to try out a few 8 string ukes if I can find a place that stocks them. A pick can definitely help, maybe that + an 8 string would be the right idea. If anyone has an OU28T or OU28TE I'd love to know how well they project, they're at a great price point.

I've had an OU28T for a long time. It's strung with Aquila NylGuts. As a fun project I installed a tuner/pickup as a convenience, but found I really don't need an amp unless I'm in the middle of a bunch of banjos.

The OU28T is a soft-sounding instrument, or at least mine is, when only finger-strummed. It's no louder than any of my other full-bodied ukes My 6-string is normally louder. When used with a pick, the OU28T's volume level can change quite a bit, however, that's true with all my ukes, 4-6-8 string alike. I use a pick all the time with all of my stringed instruments and have learned over time how to control volume by selective pick use. The pick can make that much of a difference

If one is playing indoors, the pick may provide all the amplification one needs. When outside, depending on environment, things may be different. Perhaps playing with a pick with what one currently has in the instrument stable and evaluating the results should be attempted first. Having the ability to"go amp" when the situation leaves no choice is indeed a convenience.
 
I’m a very loud singer, and have been busking for years with a 5 string banjo. I’m not too worried about a ukulele covering me up.

You need someone you trust to listen to you when you busk to give you feedback on volume and balance.
The banjo may well have been too loud and a ukulele may be better balanced.

If there is one thing that I have learn't (slowly) after nearly 10 years of busking is that the performer is incapable of assessing their own volume and balance. Seriously I hardly hear my own amp when I busk. If I can hear it then its TOO loud. I only have the amp to give me the option to sing and pick softly for some songs. If I just went for it singing loudly and strumming then I don't need an amp even with a 4 string ukulele.
 
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